Re: Follow up on the \'Once-in-a-lifetime\' Trophy Deer Hunt
Rather than tracking the buck straight over the hill, We decided to be clever and carefully circle around the hill from a somewhat downwind direction (as much as possible). As we came around the hill, we carefully glassed, then took a step or two, glassed some more, looking at the shadows under each and every cedar tree and looking for antlers above each piece of tall sagebrush. We came around the hill very slowly and carefully, but did not see the buck anywhere. After giving it some time, incase he materialized somewhere, We went over and cut his tracks in the snow and began following them. He went over the hill, down the other side, across a short flat, up a small ridge, and behind a red-rock formation (about the size of a semi trailer) just below the ridgeline. The red-rock formation was unique in that it had a hole (window) through it that was about 16” in diameter and was located about four feet off the ground. There were numerous holes in the rock formation that were just hollowed out and did not penetrate through the formation, but were indistinguishable from the window-like hole. You guessed it; I tracked the buck behind the rock formation, where he stood, watching his backtrack through the hole, busting us. He slipped over the ridge, unseen. After tracking him over the ridge a few hundred yards, his trail completely ended. That really stumped me. I carefully checked to see if he had backtracked, but he didn’t. The ground was nearly completely covered with snow. I began extending the search outward, looking for tracks. I couldn’t find any. Finally, I figured it out; he had jumped onto a small boulder that was not covered with snow, then he jumped from rock to rock for about 100 yards (about 12” to 24” rocks without snow), not leaving a single track. Then he jumped about 15 feet into/onto a large sagebrush. From there he jumped into a deep, muddy wash. I watched the wash for a while, to see if I could catch him sneaking out of it. No luck. I went in after him. I tracked him up the wash about a quarter mile, until it went into some thick cedars, where he jumped out of the wash and into the cover of the cedars. I almost didn’t make it out of the wash, as the walls were muddy and slick, nearly vertical, and about 15 high. On my first attempt, the bush at the top of the wash that I was using to pull myself out with was uprooted, dropping me back to the bottom and covering me in mud. From there, he angled up and across Potter Mountain, keeping the wind at his back and staying in the cedars. He never once slowed his pace or stopped.
At one point we stopped to rest and watched Wiley with a rabbit in his mouth walk about 20 yards below us. When he saw us, he dropped the rabbit, ran about a hundred yards, then sat down and watched us as if he were waiting for us to leave so he could go get his rabbit. I would have enjoyed sharing some lead and copper with him, but didn’t want to hurt my chances of finding my buck. A few ridges later, a very nice 6-point bull elk crossed about 80-yards below us. When he saw us, he just stood there for nearly a minute, and then casually strolled off. We continued tracking the buck. He back tracked a few times and pulled a few other tricks, but he never slowed down. Eventually, he crossed over the top of Potter Mountain. We continued following him. After about 5 tough miles, his tracks dropped into what I will refer to as no-man’s-land (a steep, thick, rugged, red-rock and cedar infested hole, without a road or trail anywhere around). We were thirsty and running out of daylight, so we called it and headed back to the truck, discouraged, defeated, outsmarted, and outfoxed. The walk back was miserable. The snow had begun to melt, thawing the mud underneath it. We slipped and slid the whole way back. This time, Wiley was nowhere to be seen. I would have enjoyed sharing some of my frustration with him. We saw a few smaller bucks (two and three points) on the way back. They were not spooked at all.
In retrospect, I feel privileged to have even seen this magestic buck. He was way to clever for a hunter like me to take, short of lucking out. I am convinced that he will die of old age.
Once we arrived at the truck, the fun really began. The snow had melted enough to really make the roads sloppy and the mud in this area is truly amazing. The fresh road grading made things worse since there were not ruts in the road, thus when the road sloped even a little you would begin to slide sideways off of the road. Once off the road, the mud got really deep. The next couple hours were filled with white-knuckle mud digging and a few near misses (sliding into deep ditches, off hillsides, not making it up hills, etc). We were really wondering if we would even make it out of there. We passed several abandoned vehicles that had not made it out, some even had chains on. We decided to forego this hunting area the next day, hoping that the mud would dry out before the season ended.
Re: Follow up on the \'Once-in-a-lifetime\' Trophy Deer Hunt
Part 6: Almost the end!
The next day a friend volunteered to join us on the hunt, lending his eyes (and high-end optics) to help find the deer. I decided to go back to Little Mountain where we had seen the nice buck the evening before the season. The mud is not usually as bad in this area. We left my friend’s truck at the highway, so he could leave in the afternoon. We arrived at the area where the buck was supposed to be well before legal light. By the time the sun started coming up, we still had not seen anything, not even a doe. Some people on 4-wheelers passed us on the way down the mountain and said that they also had not seen anything and that by the footprints it looked like there had been a mass migration. The deer had moved down and to the south. We cut over to the next ridge (Current Creek Ridge) and headed down. We did not see any deer until we got to the main road (very low). We saw a few does and small bucks. They were at the lower edge of the cedars and partly in the sagebrush. Then a few miles later we saw another herd right out in the sagebrush flats. We put the glass to them and almost immediately saw a pretty nice 4-point. He was about 26” wide, somewhat heavy, but barely forked on the front forks. He was 480 yards from us. He was starting to curl his lips and rut with the does. I agonized over whether I should take him or not. I knew that my friend thought I should, and I also knew that I was running out of season. I pretty much made up my mind to let him go and come back and try to find him in a day or two if couldn’t find a better one by then. At that point, he stopped rutting, looked over at us and took off (like he had just came to his senses). We spent the rest of the morning trying to figure out where the majority of the deer that were in the area had migrated to. We couldn’t find them anywhere. We finally gave up and decided to try another area. On the way back to my friend’s truck we passed some hunters with the deer that I had passed up earlier tied to their trailer. We were 99% sure it was the same deer. It hit me at that point that I probably should have taken it. Oh well.
After lunch we headed to Aspen Mountain. On the way there we spotted Wiley again about 150 yards off the road in a clearing. I stepped out of the truck and off of the road (to be legal) and took aim. By this time he was on the run and I was off-hand, since the brush was too tall to get a rest. On the first shot I lead him too much and hit just in front of him. He seemed confused and stopped to look at me. Meanwhile I was having trouble loading the next shell from the magazine and had to reach down and push it in. By then he was on the run again. This time I didn’t lead him enough and hit behind him. I had the same problem loading the next shell, but managed to get one more shot off. Another miss… I picked up the brass, and took a look at the last shell in the magazine. It was very obvious why I was having trouble feeding the rounds. The tips were absolutely mangled from the recoil. Then I remembered that, to this point, I had only single fed rounds when shooting this particular rifle, oops.
Now I understand why everyone with the big 338’s uses the SMK’s and the Accubonds. At least I learned this lesson on Wiley and not on a huge buck. Of course, it would be a mute point if the first shot were placed properly. Missing Wiley three times was not good for my self-confidence, and I began regretting passing up the buck in the morning again.
We checked a few places off of the main road around Aspen Mountain, but did not see any deer. We then decided to try to get around to the backside of the mountain where we had seen some nice bucks before the storm. The roads were seriously drifted and we struggled to get to where we wanted to be. We managed to get to a good look out point and glass for an hour or so. The bucks were not anywhere to be seen (or any deer for that sake). We decided to move further down and around the mountain. As we did so, we came over a point and hit a large drift head on, traveling down hill. The snow was going over the hood of the truck and we were on the verge of getting seriously stuck, I goosed the accelerator hard and managed to fight our way through it. Then it hit me that we were going to have to go back through it, traveling uphill, not good… We glassed from a few other vantage points and finally found some deer shortly before sunset. They were also down much lower than they had previously been. There was a decent 3-point about 300 yards from us, on our side of the canyon (Spring Creek Canyon), but he was too small. There were lots of does and small bucks about 1000 yards from us in the bottom of the canyon. Then we saw some larger bucks across the canyon a little over a mile away. One of them looked pretty nice, but there was no way to get to them before dark.
We decided to chain up and fight our way back through the snowdrift. It was about a 300-yard long drift, uphill, and nearly 3 feet deep. Did I mention that I hate chains! Once chained we hit the drift going about 25 mile per hour and fought our way up it. About two thirds of the way through it I heard the front left chain slapping around underneath the truck, but couldn’t stop without getting severely stuck. We barely made it through the drift. When I crawled under the truck to inspect the damage from the chains I was greeted with an unpleasant mess. The wheel speed sensor cable (for the ABS brakes) was shredded and the chains were badly tangled. 45-minutes later I finally managed to untangle the chains from the axel/steering assembly/suspension system and get on our way. The ride out was much more muddy and slick than the ride in. At one point we had to go down a steep hill with a few switchbacks. It was extremely sloppy and slick. We were carefully creeping down the hill with the wheels barely turning when we began to slide side ways towards a sheer drop off. I had no choice but to turn the wheels the other direction and hit the gas. We avoided the drop off, but were now going down the hill much too fast. The brakes weren’t helping much (too slick). We were sliding all over. We came across some shallow ruts in the road and gladly dropped into them. That turned out to be a bad idea because 50 yards later the ruts went straight towards the side of the hill, were there was a narrow, four foot deep ditch, between the road and the steep hill side. We couldn’t escape the ruts. We went into the ditch and hit the hillside hard. The truck was 45 degrees side ways, leaning against the hill with the driver side tires in the ditch and the passenger side tires in the air. The wife was in tears and yelling something about this not being very fun (duh). I grabbed a flashlight, crawled out the passenger door, and took a look at our predicament. Oh, of course there was not any cell coverage; never is when you really need it. I walked down the road a saw that the ditch ended about 100 yards further down. Because we were facing downhill I decided to turn the wheels into the hillside, spin the wheels, and try to side hill with the left tire and straddle the ditch. It worked except that we scraped the hillside nearly the whole way down. The wife didn’t think this was very fun either. Once out of the ditch we inspected the damage. The door panel looked like it was dented in badly, it was pretty much was concave, and it would barely shut and latch. The front left panel was also dented in. The truck was also making some funny (not really) sounds. We barely made it back to the highway and had a few other near slide-offs. Once on the highway the truck began to shake badly. On the interstate I took it up to 70 mph (just wanted to get home sooner). It was shaking like a jackhammer, and then suddenly I heard 3 loud pops. I pulled over to see what the noise was about and realized that the shaking had somehow popped the dented panels back out! There were only a few small creases where the dents had been. The door even shut like normal. How’s that for luck? We stopped by the car wash and sprayed the mud out of the rims and the shaking lessened, but did not go away.
By now I was convinced that I should have just shot the buck that I had seen in the morning skipped all of the mud and snow. I decided to start the end-of-the-season countdown the next day. It goes like this: Tomorrow anything that is a four-point and is at least as wide as its’ ears is a shooter. The next day, three-points are game. And the day after that, the last day of the season, is about putting meat in the freezer.
Re: Follow up on the \'Once-in-a-lifetime\' Trophy Deer Hunt
Tick, tick, tick, and yet another week has gone by. Still no pictures and no conclusion to the story. Dude you started this story on October 31st, that's over a month ago! How long does it take to say "I got him" and "here's the picture"?