And one!

Southwest Arkansas hunter adds Montana mulie to season limit


Arkansas deer hunters are thrilled to "buck out" in the fall, but Tristan Sitzes of Hope tripled with a unique "and one" opportunity in Montana.

Hunters in Arkansas "buck out" when they kill a season bag limit of two bucks. Sitzes killed two monster whitetails in Miller County during archery deer season and modern gun deer season. During the interval, he spent a week in eastern Montana and killed a mature mule deer buck with a tag that he drew on his first application attempt.

MEET ME IN MONTANA

"Me and a buddy put in as a party for a tag out there," Sitzes said. "It was my first year putting in for a general deer tag, which allows me to hunt anywhere in the state. Guys in Montana said it usually takes several years to draw that tag. Fortunately, I got it the first year."

The week before Thanksgiving, Sitzes flew to Billings, Mont. He joined some friends there and went to the far eastern side of the state. It's flat and barren, classic Big Sky country.

"It's much different than what you usually think of when you think of Montana," Sitzes said. "It's similar to Southwest Arkansas minus the trees. You see tons of deer in pastures and fields, and there's nothing you can do about it. There's no way to stalk those deer."

Instead, you have to ambush them in ravines called coulees. Mule deer use them for shelter. They are also the only high ground. Sitzes said the conventional hunting technique is to venture to the edge of a coulee rim and scab the land below with binoculars. You walk and walk until you see deer.

"You would often times see deer well over one-thousand yards away," Sitzes said. "It took me awhile to develop those kind of eyes to find them. Most deer were way far away. We had to close the distance to see if they were bucks or does and then decide if it's worth the stalk or not."

Four days into the hunt, Sitzes said he glassed four ridges. From the fifth ridge he saw four does. He said he was certain a buck was nearby because the rut was in progress.

"I belly crawled down the ridge so I could see the coulee," Sitzes said. "A buck jumped out of the bottom of coulee chasing the does. We were right there on top of them. The deer came out 200 yards away. At about 147 yards, the buck stopped and turned broadside and gave me a shot."

Sitzes shot the buck with a 6.5 Creedmoor. Its rack should have been a 5x4, but two tines had broken off down to 4x3.

"I had been practicing all season to shoot a deer 300 to 400 yards," Sitzes said. "The gun was sighted in for a long shot. I just lucked out and got on top of one."

ARCHERY WHITETAIL

On Oct. 13, Sitzes shot a 10-point whitetail buck with archery equipment in Miller County. He said he had been watching the buck on camera, but the buck was covering some distance during the pre-rut period. Sitzes said he knew the area where the buck bedded, and on Oct. 13 the conditions were right for Sitzes to make a play.

"I had him in a spot, but he never showed back up there," Sitzes said. "Then he popped up over in another spot. I don't think he wanted to be very predictable. You just have to take some guesses where a deer is bedding and hunt that area accordingly."

On the day of the kill, Sitzes got in his stand at 3 p.m. He said the buck was on camera the day before, but he didn't come out until about 7 p.m., about dusk.

"My plan was to get on the stand early and sit for about four hours," Sitzes said. "He showed up at 4 p.m. I was sitting there not paying attention, sweating and swatting mosquitoes. He showed up out of nowhere. I saw him before he saw me. I tightened myself up a little bit. He finally presented himself 19 yards away."

Initially, Sitzes was worried that he had only wounded the buck.

"I got down shortly after I shot to check my arrow to see what kind blood I had," Sitzes said. "I thought I shot him a little high. The blood didn't look great. It was dark, and there was not a lot. I backed out, and went to 4-wheeler. I took down my stand and killed time for a little over hour."

Sitzes found the buck 80 yards away.

"Once I started looking, it didn't take long to find blood," Sitzes said. "There were bubbles in the blood. I knew it was a lung shot."

RIFLE WHITETAIL

Sitzes used a rifle, the same 6.5 Creedmoor that he used for his mulie, to bag his second Arkansas whitetail the day after Thanksgiving. He had been watching a big 7-point buck on camera, and he had a stand near its bedding area. Sitzes enjoyed a productive duck hunt that morning, ate lunch, and went to his deer stand. He was watching the Missouri Tigers beat the Arkansas Razorbacks on his cell phone when the buck stepped out of a thicket.

"An hour before dark, the seven-point popped out 70 yards down the lane," Sitzes said. "There's only one that looked like him, so I didn't hesitate. I shot him 90 yards down the lane. He absorbed the hit, ran 30 yards down lane, tipped over and fell."

Though only a 7-point, the rack's inside spread was 21 1/2 inches.

"It had thick antlers," Sitzes said. "It was bigger than the 10-point in terms of spread and antler mass. The 10-point was my biggest until I killed the 7-point."

At age 27, Sitzes has killed a number of mature bucks. He said desire and effort are the keys to success.

"Ultimately, it comes down to being passionate about deer hunting," Sitzes said. "You hear a lot of different people with ideas and strategies. They can all be successful, but if you're passionate enough and if you hunt hard enough, you will have success. This year the stars aligned for me. It was just about putting in the effort and putting myself in situations to be able to shoot a deer."


CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the weapon Sitzes used to kill a buck.

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