Realtree Outdoors 2008 Episode 1
On episode 1 of Realtree Outdoors, David Blanton returns to a recently discovered gem in north/central Montana Northern Rocky Outfitters. Although this outfit is new to the Realtree Team, it has instantly become a favorite. Known mostly for its mule deer- and elk-hunting opportunities, Northern Rocky Outfitters sparked Blanton's interest for its abundant whitetail population, which feeds in the ranch's irrigated alfalfa fields.
The outfit conducts hunts on two large, exclusive properties: The Cascade Ranch and the West Butte Ranch. The beautiful Cascade ranch, located at the north end of the Big Belt Mountains, hosts a strong population of mule deer, whitetail, elk, antelope and black bear. The West Butte Ranch borders Alberta, Canada, in west/central Montana and boasts an unparalleled trophy quality of deer.
Blanton had experienced success during his first hunt at Northern Rocky Outfitters with owner Rich Birdsell two years ago, so when he returned last summer with Realtree producer Dan Johnson, he knew just enough about the property to know how to scout it and hang stands.
"We studied the aerial photos and spent three days strategically hanging the stands throughout the property," Blanton says. "We couldn't wait to return the first of October to see if our scouting and planning would pay off."
Blanton returned to camp in October to a different setting. The lush green landscape of summer had turned dry and brown due to drought conditions. During the five days that David hunted, he encountered some unpredictable weather. Snow, sleet and rain put a severe damper on his hunt, not to mention that deer numbers had fallen since the previous year.
"I credit the low deer numbers to a combination of factors," Blanton says. "The Agriculture fields where the deer had congregated the previous year were not as green, and I was hunting later in the year, so the deer had relocated for the rut. The bucks had dispersed and were in the process of moving from their late summer feeding pattern into their rutting pattern."
Despite the poor weather conditions and the diminished number of deer, Blanton did have a shot at a nice buck, but a breakdown of communication with his cameraman caused him to miss the shot opportunity.
"On the third day of the hunt, the cameraman and I were sitting in the stand when a couple of nice bucks began making their way toward us. I drew on the larger of the two, but the cameraman held me off from shooting believing that the other buck in the draw was bigger. By the time he realized that the buck I had drawn on was the biggest, the big deer had moved out of shooting range. That miscommunication cost me a shot at that buck, but that kind of thing happens, especially when you're hunting on camera."
Despite the missed opportunity, Blanton had a great trip and says he will definitely return.
"The whitetails on the ranch have experienced almost no hunting pressure, so there's remarkable opportunity for some great deer there," Blanton says. "I can't wait to go back."
For more information on Northern Rocky Outfitters, call 406-756-2544, or check out www.northernrockiesoutfit.com.