GLASGOW, Mont. While many hunters visit northeastern Montana to pursue the region's trophy mule deer, those willing to venture down from the sagebrush-covered high plains to the cottonwood-lined river bottoms will likely encounter the Hi-line's heavy-antlered whitetail.
For easy hunting access and an abundance of game, hunters should look towards the meandering banks of the Milk River, for example, as it crosses Phillips and Valley counties along Highway 2 before pouring into the Missouri River outside of Nashua, Mont.
The land surrounding the steep cut banks and chocolate-colored water of the Milk provides ample cover and forage for bucks to grow large.
With a mild winter and a cool, wet spring and summer, hunters should expect good numbers of whitetail this season, said Harold Wentland, big game manager for the Montana FWP office in Glasgow (406-228-3710).
"This year's numbers look really good," Wentland said. "There's a lot of deer out there and there should be some really nice bucks, too."
According to Wentland, whitetail hunters should concentrate their efforts on the stretch of river flowing from Malta east to Glasgow and the mouth.
The 75-mile stretch features oxbow bends and tall cottonwood groves dispersed among the region's abundant wheat fields and CRP land.
"The whitetail hunting should be good from Malta all the way to Glasgow," Wentland said, "with the greatest concentration of whitetail deer on (the east) end of the river."
While hunters can find deer along the Milk west of Phillips County, he adds, the landscape upstream favors mule deer over whitetail.
Hunters should concentrate their efforts pursuing Milk River whitetail in early morning and late evening, when the deer venture out from the cottonwoods to feed in the fields.
During the day, the deer retreat to the safety of the river bottom and stalking becomes more difficult.
During the first weeks of the season and before the rut begins in full swing around the last week in October hunters can spot the Milk River's large, weary bucks near the tree line.
"The only questionable thing about a whitetail hunt along the Milk is access," Wentland said. "It can be kind of spotty in places."
Wentland recommends hunters contact private landowners before venturing out. He also suggests utilizing the state's Block Management Program, where hunters can sign in for free to gain access to private property along the Milk River.
Hunters should locate sign-in boxes ahead of time and familiarize themselves with the landowner's property boundaries indicated by maps or posted signs.
Malta and Glasgow serve as the two major hubs for whitetail hunts along the Milk River, but hunters can find food, fuel and lodging in the smaller communities of Hinsdale and Saco.
The general big game season runs Oct. 23Nov. 27. Residents need only a Deer A tag to hunt Milk River whitetail bucks.
Out-of-state hunters are limited to pursuing antlerless whitetail in the northeast corner of the state.
Purchase a Deer B/antlerless whitetail permit ($75 plus a $9.25 conservation license) at any Montana licensing agent or online at fwp.state.mt.us.
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