WA "High Buck Season"

Guy M

Well-Known Member
Jun 4, 2007
Chelan Co, Washington
Just spent three days up in Washington's Cascades. Backpacked in for the "high buck" season, but alas, only found a doe mulie... Conditions were bad, unusually warm and dry and there was a big, nearly full, moon. No mulie for me, but I sure had fun packing in and giving it another try. Here's a few photos from the trip:

Camp at 7,000' on the ridgeline:

Views from camp:


A mountainside I spent hours glassing each day:

Seems the few deer in the area stayed holed up in the cooler, green forests instead of coming out and offering me a shot. I went in after them, but movement was noisy and I didn't even get a shot... Phooey.

Still, it was a great little three-day trip. Regards, Guy
Great looking pics. Been there, done that. Sometimes they are all over but sometimes you can't find anything and like you said, the weather can make or brake you. At least the country is pretty up there this time of year.

There will be another time and hopefully all your ducks get lined up in a row and you get to pack one out.;)
Thanks for sharing the pictures. Some times that's all we bring back, but the walk, the memories, the country is to me worth it.
nice area!! good to see some fellow Wa LRHers givin it hell!!

ps. if you are done mulie hunting for the year, can I barrow that swaro range finder :)
Nice pics Guy! I really wanted to go out for the high buck hunt, but the weather has been so crappy (for hunting) and my knee is still bugging me. Oh well, I may have to try to sneak out this weekend anyway for a little horseback ride :)
Beautiful country up there for sure ,and hard work getting to see it.

Give a run-down on your equipment and rifle when you get rested up.

Are mountain muley does pretty good table fare ?

What were the nightime temps ?

Thanks for the pictures !!!!!!!!
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Awesome country. The third picture down looks similar to the Sawtooth Wilderness here in Idaho. I have drawn that early tag in unit 39 a couple times but have never been successful. The bucks are there but in country like that if the moon is full and its hot it’s very difficult to be successful if you are looking for the big guy and the bucks are scattered everywhere that time of the year.

Still it’s the perfect time to backpack hunt the high country. Weather is usually not an issue and with the cool nights it’s just great being there.
"Give a run-down on your equipment and rifle when you get rested up.

Are mountain muley does pretty good table fair ?

What were the nightime temps ?"

I'll give it a stab:

Temps were unusually warm last week. I doubt the lows dipped below 40 or 45 degrees. I was very comfortable in just a lightweight sleeping bag and a gore-tex bivvy bag. Didn't bother with a tent this trip.

Table fare - I like 'em, but they do taste different, stronger, than mulies from wheatfield or alfalfa country. I do a good job on the BBQ with the mulie steaks though and my family agrees, they are good.

Pack - an old Kelty frame pack from the late 1970's that I haul out for a couple of weeks every year. It's still in pretty fair shape despite the years. It did take about a decade off while I wore out an internal frame pack.

Bag/sleeping/shelter - an old North Face "superlight" down bag. Doesn't loft as much as it used to though. Lots of years on it too. If I leave the tent behind, like I did this time, I use a gore-tex bivvy bag over the sleeping bag. Those things work pretty well as a windbreak and shed light rain or heavy dew just fine. I'm easy to please for a sleeping pad, mine is just an old ensolite pad, nothing special. When it's real cold, I'll use two to keep off the cold ground. I also generally have a light tarp with me that I can use under the bag, or rig above me for rain shelter.

When I drag a tent along, it's a "three man" (yeah, right) backpacking tent by Mountain Hardwear. Very comfortable, and sturdy and holds up well to blowing rain, snow etc.

Stove - this is a real pleasure to use - it's a little MSR Whisperlite. Danged thing boils a quart of water in about a half a heartbeat compared to most other backpacking stoves. Mine uses white gas, but there are models which will take kerosene or other fuels. Noisy little sucker, but dang it cooks fast! Nice for in the morning or evening when a quick mug of tea or instant coffee and some oatmeal or a freeze-dried backpacker's dinner is needed.

It will go twice a day for a week on that little liter bottle of fuel pictured.

This time I used "aquamira" drops for water purification. Generally I use a Sweetwater water filter/pump.

Boots - lightweight hikers by Vasque. Comfortable & light.

Scope stand is by Al Ewing in Spokane. Great little piece of gear. I'm less pleased with the Leupold/Wind River spotting scope. It's okay, but a bit heavy for packing, and not real useful in low light at dawn or dusk. Am looking for an upgrade.

Rangefinder is a Swarovski - wow - what a great piece of gear! Excellent glass, and it ranges out beyond 1000 yards w/o problem.

Rifle is a Winchester Model 70 Coyote w/laminated stock, 24" light varmint stainless barrel, Jewel trigger. Badger 20 MOA scope base, Leupold 4.5-14x Vari-X III. I had Leupold add M1 elevation and windage turrets. Turner leather "tactical" sling and of course the ubiquitous Harris bipod.

Rifle is a tad heavy for backpacking, but I'm willing to lug it along for the accuracy and ease of shooting accurately. Ammo is handloaded .300 WSM stuff with 190 gr Berger VLD bullets at 2870 fps. Good accuracy to 600 yards. Haven't tried it past that.
Nothing real fancy, just a solid, reliable combination.

I guess that's most of the gear. The big stuff anyway!

Regards, Guy
JMden: This .300 WSM is still un-blooded - I have some experience with it on the target range, but haven't had the opportunity to fill a tag with it. In the past I've typically used my .308, 7mm Rem mag or my .25-06... This is a fairly new toy for me.

This is also my first year of trying the Berger VLD's as hunting bullets. A few friends have used them and convinced me that they work well on game. Also was very impressed with what I read about them from gun-writer John Barsness. So... I can't tell you how they'll work on big game from personal experience. The only bull elk I ever shot, I used a 7mm mag with a handloaded 175 grain Nosler Partition, and it did a fine job.

I THINK these 190 Bergers would work fine on elk, particularly if a guy can get a clear shot into the boiler room, but I don't KNOW it... If that makes sense. I'm trying them on deer first, to see for myself.

I'm using a load the initial owner of the rifle came up with, as I haven't been able to improve at all on it: Norma brass, Federal 215 match primers, 62.4 gr N550. On different days at the range I've clocked it at 2870 & 2950. I don't recall the temperature spread between the two days, but I was surprised at losing about 80 fps. SD for the load is at 13. Accuracy is hovering around 1.5" for three shots at 300 yards from the bipod.

My efforts with Ramshot Hunter and 168 VLD's weren't so great. Hunter and 180 grain Sierras and 180 grain Noslers though worked well. Never got the accuracy I've been seeking with the 168 VLD's. I'm using Hornady dies. My .300 WSM Model 70 has a 24" Winchester factory barrel.

Regards, Guy
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