Bison hunting in Montana


Between  February 25 and February 28, I went on a hunting trip to Montana with my father and a couple of his friends. But we weren’t looking for deer, turkeys, or pheasants.

We were searching for the great American beast — bison.

The trip started with a 17 hour drive from Wabasha, Minnesota to Havre, Montana, a small town in the north central part of the state.

I woke up on the morning of February 26 at 6:00. We left our hotel at 7:00 AM and drove to the Fort Belknap Indian reservation where we met our guides for the hunt. Bison must be hunted on the reservation with members of the tribe as guides.  The herd was originally part of the purebred herd from Yellowstone Park.

At this point, I was excited as this was my first time hunting bison. Going into this hunt I had no idea how to hunt the beasts or even where to shoot one. Needless to say, I was very nervous.

Once everybody in our group was ready we went on our first bison stalk. A stalk is an attempt to sneak up on the bison without them seeing or hearing you because you don’t want to spook the prey.

The moment we got out of the car and started walking towards the herd, adrenaline kicked in and my heart started beating rapidly. We had our stalk set up on the side of a hill about 250-300 yards away from the bison herd. Once everyone was in position, we waited until the guide spotted a male bull between the ages of three and four.

When I saw the bull I could shoot, I set my gun, a 375 H&H, on a bipod. I was shaking nervously and tried as best as I could to get a steady shot on the bull standing on the ridge 250 yards away.

I shot once and missed high, then I shot again and the bullet spanked the dirt right under the bull. By the time I was ready for a third shot, the bull was long gone and the herd was spooked. I felt like I was never going to shoot a bison because of my lack of experience shooting rifles.

We set out for our second stalk where we attempted to walk to a hill and creep up the top, hoping to shoot a bull. Once we walked to the top of the hill, a cow spotted us and the herd was spooked. No shots were taken on this stalk.

The herd was headed towards a large hill. We drove around it and set up a stalk above the bison herd about 300 yards away.20160226_133402 (1)

Our guide spotted a bull, so I went into a prone position hoping not to be on top of a cactus. I was calmer on this stalk, and my heart rate slowed. I waited until the bull had no bison behind it and I could see its broadside for a lung shot. I shot and missed high again, but the herd wasn’t spooked.

I waited again until my guide spotted a bull standing alone. When it was in sight, I had my rifle ready. There were high winds with speeds of 30 miles per hour, and I was not leading the bull at all. I took a shot and hit the bull in the front of the chest, right in the jugular vein. I was aiming just above the front legs at the lungs. I had researched and found that this is the best place to aim for a successful shot. However, the wind carried my bullet almost a foot, but the shot struck the target and dropped the bull.

Then I walked up to the bison, saw where the round entered the base of the neck and felt its soft fur. A typical bull weighs about 2,000 pounds. To move the bison we had a truck with hydraulic arms load the bison into the truck bed and take it back to the bobcat.

To clean the animal they skinned the bison then using chains they hung the bison from the legs using the bobcat. Once the animal was skinned and the head was cut off they cut open the rib cage using a saw and let the organs of the bison fall out. After this they proceeded to cut the animal in half, straight down the spine. Now the animal was to be quartered out.

The legs were to be made into steaks and the ribs were to be made into hamburger. We cleaned the ribs and loaded the legs into the bed of our truck. Because we wanted to mount the head, we had to skin the face of the bison for the taxidermist. Now that our work was done it was time for a 17 hour ride home though the night. When we got home we immediately took the head and the hide to the taxidermist for the head to be mounted and the hide made into a blanket. Then we cleaned one leg at my cabin and took the rest to Ledebuhr’s to be processed into steaks and hamburger.

I had heard that buffalo is like a better beef….it is.