A Chip and A Chair – My 2012 Deer Hunt Part 1
As I watched the news everyday during the summer months of 2012, I knew the inevitable was coming. The talk of the scorching wild fires in the heart of the largest game management unit in Idaho had me crossing my fingers for some unlikely July and August rain. The forest service’s fire boundary monitoring page was being constantly “refreshed” on my computer. Finally, I was at work and received a text from my hunting buddy’s dad. He informed me that the spot where I had killed my buck in 2011 was burned to the ground along with the large surrounding area. Bummed was an understatement, not just for my selfish attitude of having a place to hunt but also for the poor animals that were sent packing from their early season homes.
Due to my full time work and class schedule, I was unable to scout for a new deer spot before the season opened on October 10th. For those of you that are new to hunting general tags in Idaho, it is not easy obtaining new quality places to hunt without proper scouting before, during and after the hunting seasons. I am by no means an expert or have Idaho dialed in the least bit, but that is part of the mystique of hunting. You can never honestly perfect hunting in its entirety.
The lack of information others are willing to lend can be discouraging for the rookie of a new unit. With that being said, you must be thankful of those that are gracious enough to point you in any direction at all. Joe, an old buddy of mine from my high school soccer days was generous enough to send me to an area in another very popular close to town general unit. He had managed to take a small buck the fall before there, but that was the extent of his knowledge. I did not want to be viewed as someone looking for a hand out and some GPS coordinates. For two weeks, I scouted the large drainage he circled via Google Earth.
Now the country looked like it had potential from the map, but you don’t know if you don’t go. I scoured the area for road less spots, closed ATV trails, water sources and potential safe zones for the deer. Contrary to my previous beliefs, backpacking ten miles into the backcountry isn’t always necessary to find game. The tactic I used this year was to find small pockets where deer could get away from pressure and group up in overlooked places by road hunters. Some of these small draws were within just a mile or two of the nearest maintained dirt bike trail. Basically, I picked two glassing points on the map with a shot in the dark. My first trip was solo and limited to one day so mileage and meat spoilage was a factor in the warm early season conditions. My hopes were running high, I had a spot picked out and opening day off of work. Anything more would be icing on the cake.
At 4:00 A.M on the morning of October 10th, 2012, I was on the freeway geared up with a 2 hour drive ahead of me for an armed hiking and bird watching trip. I left a couple members of my family with the GPS coordinates of where I would be parked and hunting. Those coordinates would come into play later on in the story. Upon reaching my destination, the road was gated and completely closed off to anything motorized two miles short of where I planned to park and begin hiking. This is a good and bad thing. I love getting away from the crowds and road hunters, but I was short on time with daylight fast approaching. I would not reach my glassing point on foot until three hours after sunrise.
The weather was hot and dry, and I missed the most crucial part of the day. My optimism teetered as I proceded hiking off trail up the side of the small mountain. It was a mellow 1,000 foot vertical climb to the best glassing point in the entire area. About half way up, being careful to watch my step, I hear the bounding of something decent sized. I peer up to see a doe and a yearling headed away from me at a good pace, but not sprinting. I searched for a buck, but to no avail. About fifty more paces up the hill, I was startled by the bounding of something even heavier.
This time I was ready and chambered a round instantly, just in case. I turned to my right and a nice four point buck that was bedded with the does waited for me to get within 10 yards before trotting up and over the ridge top to my right! The elusiveness and intelligence of mature bucks never ceases to amaze me. I sprinted the twenty yards to where he crested the ridge and began his descent! I threw my pack down and was ready in a prone position ranging objects near him as he sprinted away. If he stopped, I would be ready if the shot presented itself. He did not slow a bit until he entered the thick timber some 700 yards below me. I was bummed, only because he sported a rack that was quite a bit wider than his ears and easily cleared the three point goal I had set for this season. But I was completely rejuvenated by knowing that there were at least a few deer in the area! It is amazing how you can transition mentally from such valleys to such peaks in the matter of seconds. That is another beauty of hunting to me. A simple sighting of some game, whether I have a tag for it or not, keeps me recharged until the next trip.
The rest of my day consisted of a mandatory mid day nap in the sun, some glassing and a slow paced hike back to the car. On the way out I had kicked up four or five groups of does and yearlings, but no bucks showed themselves. The most exciting part of the day was that my Google Earth scouting was paying off. The four point buck was bedded not one hundred yards from the exact GPS coordinates I had randomly picked to glass from! I couldn’t wait to give Joe the excellent report when I re-entered cell service on my drive back to Boise.