I want to tell you about a Montana deer outfitter who is well situated to provide some good hunts despite last year's severe winterkill. The outfitter is Bill McAfee of Tamarack Lodge in northwestern Montana. I wrote about McAfee's bear hunts this month in the sister publication to this one, U.S. Hunting Report. Here, I want to talk about his whitetail deer hunts, which are downright outstanding. Tamarack is located in the mountains and not out on the plains, so McAfee's hunting grounds are protected to a certain extent from major die-offs. That doesn't mean he escaped winterkill entirely. In fact, roughly 25 percent of the deer herd on his ranch perished last winter. Fortunately, he went into the winter with his herds at all-time highs. The upshot is, when I called him recently, he was looking forward to this hunting season. Most of McAfee's clients take bucks in the 140-point class, with heavy bases and four or five points per side, but they bag more than their share of bigger bucks, too. Last year, for example, his two best bucks scored 167 and 168 points and he had another four bucks that scored over 160 points. All but two of his 28 hunters last year were successful. McAfee says whitetail clients can expect to have a shooting opportunity and 80 percent of them will tag their buck.
The country he hunts, in the Yaak Valley and the Kootenai National Forest, is some of the most beautiful in this state. This is timber country with ample openings and numerous clearcuts, but it's also crisscrossed by miles of logging roads offering access to the big bucks. One thing that has really improved deer hunting in this area is its inclusion in the Grizzly Recovery Program, which mandated closing many roads into the backcountry. McAfee took advantage of this by expanding his horse operation and even using a horse-drawn wagon. This allows hunters who are not in the best physical condition to hunt these big bucks. Tamarack's guides spend a lot of time in the field to pattern the bucks so they can be hunted near scrapes,........(continued)