The 2010 archery seasons started out like many others. Anticipation was running on high and my senses told me that it was going to be another great year! While putting final touches to my packing list and stuffing it all into my external frame pack I once again realized how nervous I get before going into the backcountry. I reminisce about the year prior and try to think about what I had learned and use that knowledge to improve the next year. With each passing year I learn more and better ways to hunt the backcountry.
I stepped away from my truck and started gaining elevation in a hurry. It had just finished raining and the going was slow, the ground beneath me was very slippery and I only made it halfway to my destination before darkness started to consume the mountain peaks. I stumbled into a young black bear eating berries beside the creek and he didn’t show many signs of fear of this human. I worked my way around him at less than 30 yards and I kept trudging on and he went back to picking berries. A short while later I quickly set up my tent as more rain began to fall and temperatures began to drop.
I awoke early to find snow had now blanketed the ground. I packed up my small camp and pushed on now gaining elevation at a fast rate to reach my designated camping spot high on the mountain side. About mid day I was again viewing some of the most beautiful country I have ever laid my eyes on. It began to snow again but with some anger it seemed this time. Again, I quickly set up camp and dried myself out.
The first four days I was limited to staying close to camp as the clouds were at my elevation and lower. There was no chance of glassing or scouting prior to the archery season opening. The weather was not going to cooperate like the year prior. I had goals of taking a buck over 180” and this weather was narrowing the opportunity.
Needless to say, the weather did finally clear and I was able to find numerous bucks but I had troubles finding the bombers that were there the year before. I had hopes of finding a buck that I nicknamed “Trash-Talker” but he was nowhere to be found. 14 days of archery season and I had 6 days left and decided to pack up camp and try a new spot some 12 miles away that looked promising on the map. Two days later I was in the new area and quickly started glassing up some bucks that had potential but not quite what I was looking for. On the evening of September 13th I first spotted a buck that I nicknamed “Thing 1.” I had only one day to try to kill him with my archery tackle but unfortunately I couldn’t locate him the last day of the archery season.
Now it is the 15th and the day before a trip was made to switch out the bow for the rifle. The darkness was beginning to lighten and I had myself perched high on a mountain peak overlooking the rough nooks and crannies below. Before it was legal shooting light a shot rang out on the next ridge and shortly thereafter deer began to show themselves. I spotted a buck and made tracks and was able to rest my crosshairs on him 200 yards away. But he too needed a year to grow. “Thing 1” was nowhere to be found that morning.
The 15th was my last day to hunt WY and it was the evening hunt or nothing. I hiked back to camp and regrouped, ate a quick lunch and packed some items away for the hike off the mountain for good this year. I was tired, beat down, and 20 pounds lighter than when I first left the truck 17 days earlier. I looked over maps and tried to think like a deer. “If I was and old buck like Thing 1 where would I be?” I narrowed the area down and decided that he couldn’t have moved too far without ever being pressured. I had to take into account the huge number of bears I had been seeing in the area. Various black bears and one grizzly with cubs was in the area.
On the evening of the 15th I was perched up high on my vantage point again overlooking a couple of avalanche chutes that looked promising at best. Shadows began to lengthen as the sun dipped low. The area I was watching was now out of the sun and I knew the big, old wise buck would wait til the sun had set completely before moving out into the open if he was in this area.
“Thing 1” appeared like a ghost! I had just glassed the area and there was nothing there. As I scanned the area again with my binoculars he suddenly was standing in the open looking around and went on to feeding. I ranged him at 525 yards and I had a solid rest and felt good about making that shot but it didn’t seem right. I am a bowhunter through and through and owed it to myself and to the animal to get closer.
I ran out of all necessary cover after dropping some plenty of elevation I was still above the buck. It was dead silent and he had heard me making the descent to get closer to him. I had a hard time finding him but noticed antlers protruding above the small jack pines he was feeding by. I ranged the tree he was next to at 384 yards and he was clearly going to take cover at any moment.
It seemed like an eternity before he decided to move. I had a split second to make the shot. I was again solid on my bipods and ready for the shot. He cleared the trees and I squeezed the trigger, the buck bounded out of sight. The shot felt good but the echo of the report didn’t allow for the tell tale sound of a hit.
As always, emotions hit me just like after any unknowing shot. I waited to descend the rough and steep mountain side to check the area where the buck was standing. After inching my way down the steep side I was finally standing where I last saw him and there was nothing to be found. I took a few steps and noticed a small speck of blood on a branch! A short tracking job later I was looking at a magnificent buck! He had a huge body and respectable velvet covered antlers to go with it! I had met my goal of taking a 180”+ buck!
Darkness had now consumed the land and it wasn’t until just now that I realized that I was standing close to where the grizzly with cubs was that morning! I quickly caped and boned out the buck; not knowing what was lurking in the darkness made me move a bit faster! My legs were burning as I reached camp at 3 am and settled in for a few hours of sleep before I had to pack down the mountain.
It was another rewarding and tough year hunting the backcountry. Why does one do this to his body? To experience the thrill of the hunt! It ain’t nothin but a thing!