2013 Deer Hunting at Fort Peck, Montana

(10/28/13 - 11/3/13)


What is this web page about?

This web page is about a quick 3 day deer hunting trip to Fort Peck Reservoir in Eastern Montana.   I went with my cousins Chip and Bruce, and a friend Steve Sanders.  Kip and Karen Linder (also cousins) showed up with dinner Sunday night!  Click here for a Google map with Crooked Creek Campground at Fort Peck (ignore some of the other locations in this map).  Click on any picture for a much larger version.  Here is the list of deer and elk hunting trips I have been on in the past:


On to the Pictures and Stories:

I enjoy hunting for a week in Montana every few years, but most of the time I'm a software engineer in Silicon Valley, California.  As such, I like to bring electronics along to make the trip safer and more fun.  :-)  One of my newest "toys" is the "DeLorme InReach SE two way Satellite Communicator" (no cell coverage where we hunt, and it's 50 miles to the nearest town).  The Inreach can do two way satellite text messages, and it tracks my location every 20 minutes LIVE on a map for friends (and rescue teams) to watch.  Below is a picture before I left of some of the electronics I brought.  That's 4 GPS units (one for driving, one for hiking, the DeLorme InReach SE that reports my position, and of course the one built into my phone), a digital camera, a cell phone (HP Veer in center of picture, the smallest smart phone made). Not pictured here I also brought an iPad and a DC to AC converter to allow me to charge all these toys from the cigarette lighter outlet in my rental SUV.


I flew out of San Francisco airport, California through Denver into Billings, Montana on Friday, November 1st, 2013 and arrived into Billings Montana at 5pm.


It is near the start of hunting season in Billings, Montana, here are some hunting rifles that came off the flight with mine.


Another hunting rifle in baggage claim.



This man picks up his hunting rifle from the baggage conveyor belt in the Billings Montana airport.


Another rifle on the luggage conveyor belt, Billings Montana Airport.


Finally, this is my hunting rifle that is on the airport luggage conveyor belt.


Rental car picked up, below is a picture of the drive from the airport into downtown Billings, Montana.


After quickly checking into my hotel room, the next stop is Cabela's in Billings, Montana for some supplies like an extra sleeping bag, a disposable towel, and batteries.  I also stop for firewood at the Albertsons, and at the Albertsons get a couple Styrofoam coolers filled with ice and some food.


Below is the "Cabela's North American Big Game Display" in Billings, Montana.  It's pretty elaborate.


Up and out and driving north out of Billings, Montana at 7:40am as the sun rises. 


I pass through the town of "Roundup, Montana" on my way to Fort Peck Reservoir, Montana. 


As the sun comes up I'm moving along, you can see two GPS in the picture below.  The "car GPS" is attached to the window and shows the speed limit in this area is 70mph, I'm currently going 76 mph.  Below is the morning rush hour and all the traffic you would normally run into at 9am in Montana.  The OTHER GPS is the DeLorme inReach SE which is tracking my position for anybody who is interested.


The turnoff to Winnett, Montana.


In downtown Winnett, Montana there is a nice General Store that sells milk, cheese, sandwiches, a bunch of tools and supplies.  Quite useful, this is about 30 miles from our camp.


Just north of Winnett is the sign to "Crooked Creek".  I turn left at this road and leave the paved road for the next 30 miles of gravel and dirt roads into "Crooked Creek Campground" on the banks of Fort Peck Reservoir.


A few miles down the gravel roads, a sign says "29 miles to Crooked Creek".  It has a few bullet holes in the sign.


Signs leading to Crooked Creek Campground, Fort Peck Lake, Montana.


A sign I've read before, but over the years I finally understand most of the references.  Valentine Road is the road to the left, I'm about to turn onto Dovetail Road and the second to lowest sign says "Two Crow in 18 miles" (that has some horses I took a video of below), and "Horse Camp" is another road in 23 miles.


Driving along on Dovetail Road, it is a very well maintained gravel road.   But it's REALLY lonely out here.




Saw the first two deer of the trip trotting off beside the road.


And another two deer.


Entering the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge.


I arrived into camp about 11am, and it was JUST finished being setup.  Everybody is here and early.  The pile of wood outside the tent below came from my SUV (brought from Billings).  So time for an afternoon deer hunt for a few hours!


First deer hunt, noon - 4pm, Saturday, November 2nd, 2013.  My DeLorme inReach SE GPS and two way satellite communicator tracks my position updating about every 20 minutes.  Below is the map that was created live (each dot appears as the inReach updates).  I started at the "Camp" and walked in the direction of the arrows.  Click on the map below for a much larger version.   Here is a Google Map Link of Crooked Creek Campground, Fort Peck Reservoir, Montana.


Below is a picture taken JUST as I walk out of camp, I turned around and took this picture.  The silver SUV is my rental, the red pickup truck belongs to Bruce..


TThis is about half way through the hunt (maybe 2 hours in, the furthest point away from camp).  I took a water and cookie break.


A panorama (use the horizontal scrollbar to see the whole thing) of the area I'm hunting in.


This is a beautiful area, you can see Fort Peck Reservoir off in the distance.


A slightly wider version of the same picture.


As I'm almost back at camp, I'm in a dry creek bed.  This has soft grass in it, and below you can see where a bunch of elk or deer made beds and slept here.


As I come over the ridge after walking in a circle for 4 hours, below is our camp.  I left camp going towards the water you see and made a big circle to arrive back here.


I took a drive to go look for Chip and Bruce and Steve, and saw this below.  If you have any idea why the phone company would run lines all the way out here and have these boxes, please contact me at and let me know why?!   It's crazy, there isn't any civilization for 30 miles in any direction, but here are these phone lines (they look like coaxial cable, but they say "Telephone company" on the side).




I ran across these free range horses which I think belong to "Two Crow Ranch".


In the movie below, I start driving towards the horses, which just kind of stare at me wondering what I want.  Click here for a very high quality QuickTime movie (will probably not work on Microsoft Windows computers).  Notice the horses cannot cross the "cow grate" but cars can drive over them comfortably, it's a good system.


Here are some pictures of who was along on the trip in November, 2013.  Below is Bruce Wilson sitting by the stove.


Ralph Wilson the 3rd (our family has always called him "Chip").


Steve Sanders, by the cooking area.


That's me (Brian Wilson) in the white shirt taking a "selfie" with Kip Linder sitting down in the cook's spot.


Chip talking with Karen Linder, who is Kip's wife.  Karen, Ralph (Chip) and Bruce are all brothers and sisters.  Kip and Karen drove several hundred miles from eastern Montana to come say hello.


The next morning (Sunday morning) we head out of camp for a nice big day of deer hunting.  As the sun comes up we almost ALWAYS see deer, so we leave before sunrise to leave the pickup truck just as the sun rises and we can start hunting.


Here I am at sunrise, about to hunt the valley pictured just past my SUV.  That is my backpack and hunting rifle leaned up against the SUV.   Sure enough, just 20 minutes later I spot a buck (male) deer and took a shot, but missed.


The hunt I'm doing is a big circle shown on the map below with blue dots.  (Click on the map for a larger version.)  The blue dots and connecting lines below are all created by the DeLorme inReach SE GPS that was creating these tracks and sending them up to the map servers on the fly as I walked.  The circle below took me about 5 and a half hours to walk, and it's about 5 miles (up and down and over hills and through valleys).


An hour or two into the day, it's a beautiful day, and I even saw deer!


Later in the afternoon,  I'm exploring down where I knew Bruce was hunting.  This is a typical logging road out here.


The final morning, Monday, November 4th, 2013.  From left to right: Steve, Ralph (Chip), and Bruce.  I can only hunt half a day then I have to leave, so this is the last I saw them.


At sunrise, two hunters (Chip and Steve) walking off to go deer hunting. 


Just as I decided I was going to turn back and head out, I hopped up on this flat rock and looked up and saw the doe (female deer) in the picture below staring at me.  There were actually at least two and maybe three deer there, but you can only see one in the picture below.


A closeup of the deer looking at me.


Below is a self portrait, I balanced the camera on a tree branch and put it on a timer.  Sorry for the squinty eyes, I'm staring into the sun.  :-)


I head back to camp, pack up, and here I am driving home from Crooked Creek Campsite, Fort Peck, Montana.


Heading south towards Winnett, and then onto Billings, then fly home!


That's it!  All home safe!



Reminders and Lists of Things to Bring

This section is not for you, but for me, so I can remember things the NEXT time I go hunting in 3 years.  :-) 

NOTE: DIVIDE THE LIST BELOW into "stuff that goes into red waterproof stuff sack for day pack for away from pickup hunting", vs. "stuff that stays in camp".

  1. Stop US Mail while gone
  2. Setup Email Auto-Reply
  3. GPS - Load GPS with Maps (I gave my oldest 2 Garmin Rino to Chip)
  4. Compass - backup when technology fails
  5. Hard-Copy Maps (Topos, Roadmaps)
  6. Fire starting materials - Bic lighter, waterproof matches, wax soaked cotton, magnesium strip
  7. First Aid Kit
  8. Silver Space Blanket (emergency warmth)
  9. Camera/Tripod/Camera Charger
  10. Sunglasses
  11. Monocular (like a one-eyed Binocular) for spotting game
  12. Sunblock
  13. Batteries
  14. DC to AC Car Converter
  15. Orange Day Glow Marker Tape (mark trails & kills)
  16. Electric Tape for covering tip of gun barrel (a low tech trick to keep out moisture, mud, etc)
  17. Tents (Dome/Bivy Sack)
  18. Cot
  19. Piece of carpet to stand on near cot
  20. Sleeping Bags (two bags, one for padding on the cot)
  21. Thermarest sleeping pad
  22. Flashlights (Maglite or "Surefire E1B Backup LED", LED keychain, Headlamp)
  23. backpacks - day pack, and overnight and meat pack
  24. camelback water bladder (for backpack, for drinking)
  25. folding chairs (like cloth ones with drink holders)
  26. water bottles
  27. REI water purifier/filter/pump for overnights
  28. Ultra-lightweight butane cook stove for overnights (plus fuel) - Chip borrowed mine for Elk week last time, check if he has it.
  29. Pots and pans for above cook stove
  30. Powerbars
  31. Caffeine Pills - when the day goes late, nothing like powerbars and caffeine to help out!
  32. Individual Coffee Packets (dip in hot water like tea bags)
  33. Dry Stew for overnights
  34. Gun
  35. Bullets for Gun
  36. Hunt Permit
  37. Orange Hunter Vests (one to wear, one fits on day pack, one extra)
  38. game bags
  39. surgical gloves (recommended for field dressing, useful for other things)
  40. nylon parachute cord (to hang game)
  41. Knives (pocket knife, hunting knife or folding hunting knife that also has saw)
  42. sharpening stone
  43. Moleskin/Medical tape for blisters
  44. Toilet Paper (prepared in little day pack bundles with handiwipe and surgical gloves)
  45. Towels
  46. Pillow (now have thermarest travel pillow)
  47. Tupperware containers for under cot - stacked two high, good for organization
  48. Travel Alarm Clock
  49. Small Umbrella
  50. white garbage bags and big black garbage bags - for laundry, and for game meat, etc
  51. tarp or painters plastic square 6' x 10' - great for lining SUV for wood, covering wood, general
  52. glasses & case for glasses
  53. eyedrops
  54. earplugs
  55. iPod & iPod Speakers
  56. reading book
  57. Delorme InReach SE - two way satellite text messenger GPS 
  58. iPad - instead of laptop
  59. MiFi on Verizon internet connection device to allow iPad to get online - worked in Winnett, Montana

Clothing Section:

  1. Hike boots
  2. Gators
  3. Totes
  4. Jackets (North Face Shell, Fleece, Rubber Rain Coat)
  5. Rain Pants
  6. Poncho (it's small, might as well)
  7. Chamois Shirts
  8. Levis
  9. Shirts
  10. Gloves
  11. Orange Hat
  12. Belt
  13. REI high tech long johns

Meals Ideas Section:

Four hunters eat about 1.5 pounds of ground beef in each dinner.

  1. Sloppy Joes
  2. Hamburger Patty, peeled and cubed potatoes, cream of mushroom soup
  3. Tacos
  4. Stew mix (just add beef)
  5. Hamburger Helper
  6. Breakfasts are traditionally eggs, blueberry pancakes, and bacon
  7. Lunches are sandwiches, cookies, more cookies, small candy bars, a ton more cookies.

Here was my shopping list from this trip that I showed up in camp with:

  1. Albertsons - 15 pounds hamburger
  2. Albertsons - 1 big bag of potatoes
  3. Albertsons - 8 big onions
  4. Albertsons -  2 head lettuce (for lunch sandwiches also)
  5. Albertsons -  24 hamburger buns
  6. Albertsons -  3 or 4 loaves of sliced bread
  7. Albertsons -  case of diet mountain dew
  8. Albertsons -  3 or 4 bags of ice in styrofoam cooler or Cabelas cooler
  9. Albertsons -  toilet paper (rabbit!)
  10. Albertsons -  garbage bags
  11. Albertsons -  sparkling water (plastic bottles that fit in backpack instead of soda)
  12. MiniMart Across from Cabelas -  firewood - as much as back of rental SUV holds (line with painter's plastic before loading)
  13. Cabelas - Ice Chest (52 gallon), pillow, disposable blanket or sleeping bag, towel to throw away, game bags, butane for small cook stove

For lunch: 1/4 pound cold cuts per sandwich (ham, turkey), swiss cheese, squeeze mayo, sliced bread, individually wrapped safeway cookies (whatever they got), little candy bars, possibly apples although rarely seem to eat them

EARLY - buy paper mixing bowls, sugar cane fiber? (washing pancake mixing bowls gets old!)
Oct 25 (Thu) - FedEx a bag to "Clocktower Best Western"  ($42 by the slowest FedEx)
 .... 8 days ...
Nov 1st (Fri) - depart SFO 9:25am, fly to Billings, Montana -> arrive 4:36pm, shop Cabelas, stay Clock Tower Best Western
Nov 2nd (Sat) - wheels up at 7am, drive to Winnett by 9:30am, then to Crooked Creek arriving by 11am.  Get an afternoon hunt in.
Nov 3rd (Sun) - hunt
Nov 4th (Mon) - hunt the morning (if something happens, fly out a day later)
                           11:30am - wheels up out of camp and drive to Winnett (2.5 hours)
                           2pm - drive to Billings (2 hours)
                           4pm - shower, send package home
                           6pm - arrive at airport
                           7:41pm - flight departs for home
                           11:55pm - home

Things to Remember Section:

  1. Mail cot (no cot if I rent an RV) and one bag ahead to hotel address to "Brian Wilson Reservation #123456, c/o Clock Tower Best Western, etc....", $31 FedEx "slowest", click here for picture of 70 pound box.  On way home, might be worth mailing *all* luggage to travel lighter on way home.
  2. Next Time - Rent an RV!  "Cruise America in Billings, MT" rents an RV for $500/week.  Don't need cot in this case.  Or a "Travel Trailer" from Pierce RV Supercenter.
  3. Buy Paper Mixing Bowls (pancake mix) - might be sugar cane fiber?  Search for "32 oz sugar cane fiber bowl", one brand is "Stalkmarket".  Alternative is 48 oz popcorn cups or soup containers.
  4. Consider a higher tech gun upgrade?  Image stabilizing like binoculars, or "Precision Guided Firearms" or rifle scope that takes pictures.
  5. Group packing into "SeaToSummit DryBags" - click to see what goes into orange daypack, etc.
  6. Bring laser pointer - to point at things in the dark and at dusk (be careful not to hit deer in eyes)
  7. Hunting belt starting to fray, have problems, might need replacement?
  8. Bring "portable outdoor shower", Amazon has some inexpensive ones.  Ability to bathe up in camp would be nice.
  9. Bring disposable pancake mixing bowls.  Washing dried pancake batter out of mixing bowl every day gets old.
  10. Motion detector LED lights worked well (Mr Beams MB 723), we have three in camping supplies now?  Might bring new ones.
  11. Need new LED headlamp, old one held together by electrical tape
  12. The Coleman 8 D-cell battery 580 lumens LED lantern I bought at Cabelas last trip was VERY GOOD, almost as bright as regular white gas.  Could not find a second one.
  13. Game bags?  Left 2 more behind last trip.
  14. Look into system to boost MiFi internet signal, barely could get half of one bar on Verizon at Crooked Creek in Fort Peck?
  15. These fail in cold mornings, try harder -> 8 inch long "bic style" lighter for white gas lamps, tired of stupid old fashioned matches.
  16. Success two trips ago -> Modify an orange vest with Velcro or zipper pockets to keep more stuff safer
  17. More metal coffee mugs for breakfast, we only have 4 we like (and 4 are double-walled and too large)
  18. Get address of homeless shelter to donate used Cabela's extra sleeping bag before flying home.
  19. Rent satellite phone?  Satellite phone cost $5 / day, Iridium, rented from http://www.outfittersatellite.com
  20. Replaces above satellite phone -> buy DeLorme InReach two way satellite pager, or "ePIRB" Personal Locator Beacon or "SPOT" to call for help.
  21. Invite Nathanael and Mark Hoffmann, might be interested, Randy also?


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