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Author Topic: Wetwoodhunter's deer season (finished)  (Read 8038 times)

Offline Wetwoodshunter

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Wetwoodhunter's deer season (finished)
« on: December 08, 2020, 09:22:23 AM »
Here is the way this is going to work. I have been thinking about how or if I wanted to post on my hunt for the last month, and I have finally decided how I want to do it. I am going to post a part of the story each day. If you want to hang onto every word or section and think about what will happen next tag this post and read the next section every day. If you would rather read it all at once. Come back and check on this thread around December 20th.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

As a transplant to the group I knew only one of the fateful four that were headed out into the mountains in search of mule deer and rocky mountain elk. Although I had never met the other two that accompanied this journey the friendships and memories forged within the mountains will linger through my lifetime. The success of the group within this adventure was only possible due to the dedication, knowledge and drive of its members working as team. I could not, and never would have been able to accomplish what we were able to do without the fellow hunters. This is my perspective of the events that transpired, but I owe it all to Hirshey, BetterDerrick and Blubberhunter. Due to new life changes, Hirshey was not with us on this hunt but she was with us in spirt every step of the way and played an important role in the logistical planning and execution of this hunt.

I arrived at BetterDerrick and Hirshey’s house, emotions were high and bags had been packed we scrambled through gear lists and double-checked that we had everything packed. Apparently, there is a list, a special list named “Don’t die in the west” I had packed the majority of what I thought I needed but did not realize that I needed duplicates of many items. Hirshey proceeded to go through her gear closet and complete my loadout with all of the essential items to battle the harsh elements.

BetterDerrick, who I had just met for the first time, went to print his tags and found out that during the tag procurement process had not selected a deer tag and only the state hunting license. The air thickened as disappointment filled the room, a sense of disbelief fell on me as I realized that there was the possibility that he would call the trip, which only lasted for a few minutes. BetterDerrick declared that we were going to make the most of it and that not having a tag was not going to hold us back. Unbeknownst to him the failure to acquire a tag rededicated him to become camp master, an eagle eye spotter and our heavy load specialist.
« Last Edit: December 16, 2020, 04:01:22 PM by Wetwoodshunter »

Offline Wetwoodshunter

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Re: Wetwood hunters deer season
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2020, 09:29:00 AM »
Two mornings later we had picked up our fourth member, who we were taking on his first experience at a western hunt. Originally he had not planned on coming and did not have any tags, the only tags in the group were between Blubberhunter and me. We both had mule deer tags in our pockets and I was lucky enough to have drawn an elk tag for any branched bull. According to the two veterans to this unit the mule deer tags were a given but there was a slim possibility to successfully harvest of an elk.

We arrived at first lite to our packer which we had scheduled months in advance to be met with a remark that they had not expected us to arrive for a few more days due to a scheduling misunderstanding. They hoped that they would get us in during the afternoon but as it looked they were fully booked for the day. The prospects of burning my coveted hunting days slipping through my fingers as I rotted in a hotel room filled my mind. Crestfallen we headed out to breakfast and dejectedly discussed how we were going to overcome the loss of two hunting days.

One crusty gas station hamburger later the phone rang, it was the packer.  They had scrambled and figured out a way to get us in and needed us back immediately.  As we arrived they stated that they were going to get start getting us in as soon as we had all of our gear unloaded and prepped to be loaded. Opposed to losing a few days of hunting the packers had pulled some strings and we were on our way only half a day after we had originally hoped for. By three in the afternoon we had arrived from the location that we identified as our base camp.

We sprang into action, BetterDerrick and TheBigGuy sprang into action split off from Blubberhunter and me and started to collect firewood and water. Blubberhunter and I started to unload all of the gear and put up the basecamp teepee and secured camp. Originally, we had planned on getting base camp set up and hiking into the wilderness a further 6-8 miles and setting up a spike camp but due to arriving later than expected we decided to take a few shots with our rifles and settle in for the night.

In our rush to leave one of the base camp bins with the majority of BlubberHunter’s base camp gear had been left at Hirshey’s house. He pieced together other gear that was available or duplicates and made do with what we had. In that gear was the majority of the camera equipment, all of his ammo for the 6.5 creed, almost all of his ammo for his backup gun, and all of his luxury items.  I guess I will never know what other gems were in that kit and how the events that were about to take place would have unfolded with them.

When we went shooting both BetterDerrick and my rifle were dead on, BlubblerHunter’s rifle would not group and we had no idea what was going on. He had boomeranged from another hunt and was planning on having this as a backup rifle but it must have taken a beating on the way out, or the way in. As he spent some of his precious remaining ammunition to try and remedy the problem it only compounded. The windage and elevation adjustments seemed to have no effect on predicting where the bullets sprayed the paper. With seven round left the rifle was kind of on, minute of vitals at 200 yards. I realized at this time the importance of checking you rifle once you get into your hunting location.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2020, 06:25:41 AM by Wetwoodshunter »

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Re: Wetwood hunters deer season
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2020, 09:29:19 AM »
As morning crept over us, the four of us were along a river in search of an optimum place to cross with our pack raft. I was in the front hiking in my own world drawing in the crisp ten degree air when I noticed that nobody was behind me anymore. I waited for what felt like eternity but only minutes had transpired before I dropped my pack and lazily trotted the way I had come from. BetterDerrick met me on the trail, with no pack on, and notified me that they had spotted a bull across the river about four miles out. I quickly retrieved my pack and met up with the rest of my group as they were ferrying all of the gear and each other to the opposite bank.

On the other side of the river I purged my pack of everything but my essential equipment. As Blubberhunter and I were dumping gear we formulated a plan that him and I would go up the mountain and hopefully catch up with the bull and BetterDerrick and TheBigGuy would make their way up the drainage that we had crossed to and find a suitable location for a spike camp.

Blubberhunter and I began the long journey up the mountain after the elk. Low through the drainage we trekked through the lair of a cougar who had claimed the lives of many an unsuspecting elk or deer that wandered into its trap. We came out of the littering of deadheads as we ascended and the terrain changed from sloping game trails to steep shale hillsides that we summited. I have hiked in many places in my life but never before have I met mountains as steep and unforgiving as these. Impossibly, Blubberhunter kept moving without taking many breaks, my legs screamed, I forced myself to keep up, trailing only twenty steps behind. Whenever he took a break it gave me the opportunity to catch up, as I made it near him he continued, unwilling to slow him down I pushed with my entire being. I kept thinking about the goal, the bull that awaited us at the summit.

In three hours the two of us gained the 4,000 ft. elevation difference between where we had spotted the elk. We formulated a plan and dropped over the backside of the ridge keeping the wind in our favor as we made a stock. We were still a few ridges over from the last known location of the bull and had not had eyes on him once since we had begun our ascent. Within a half hour we had circled around the final ridges and oriented ourselves so that the wind was howling in our faces, the snow stung as it impacted any unprotected skin. As we crept onto a rocky outcropping obscured by pines Blubberhunter relocated the cows, within minutes the bull was rediscovered not more than two hundred yards from where he had stood earlier that morning. We needed ground we were still about 700 yards from him and in thirty five mile per hour wind my capabilities as a shooter were not remotely good enough to take that kind of shot.

The packs laid in the freshly piling snow as we dropped away from our vantage point. My pocket was heavy with the reassurance that I had more than enough rounds to take the elk. As we crept closer the wind howled into our faces, everything was perfectly in our favor. We summited the ridge to gain a view of the bull and once again relocated him as he fed up a draw with only his shoulders and tines visible we realized that we had closed the distance to about 450 yards. His six cows grazed lazily and headed directly at us with their backs to the wind. I set up for a shot and waited, we had easily and hour before dark and the cows and bull were feeding closer to us with every minute. He fed into about 400 yards at his closest pausing perfectly broadside for me multiple times without a care in the world.

The cows slightly turned feeding still feeding towards us and then obscured by a ravine all of the elk completely disappeared. We waited, Blubberhunter and I picked apart the countryside looking for any sign of elk it seemed that they were nowhere to be seen, but they had to be there somewhere. Minutes dragged by as I questioned why I had not taken the first shot opportunity that I was reasonably comfortable with, seemingly like an aspiration conjured out of the wind at 250 yards broadside a cow appeared. Instinctively, I pulled my gloves off and propped them on a boulder to make a nice rest for my rifle. I trained my crosshairs on the cow as it fed slowly down the trail. A second, then a third cow appeared behind it. At first the tines of the bull appeared following the same path of the cows and as he came into view he stopped perfectly with a 4” tree obscuring his vitals. Blubberhunter whispered to me not knowing if I could see him, I was locked on, I needed him to take two steps. Slowly, the bull lifted his head and took a step forward, then another. The smell of gunpowder scented the air, audibly the metallic clink of the bolt on my rifle cycled ejecting the spent round as the bull looked bewildered. He started to turn downhill and made half a step as the second round left the muzzle of my rifle. His front legs gave on him, he strained and stood, the third round struck harder than a Mike Tyson knockout. Blubberhunter reached over with his fist and whispered, “You got him, now the work begins”.

The night set in and was accompanied by a significant drop in temperature, ice seemingly appeared on everything instantaneously as the wind howled. The two of us worked swiftly breaking down the bull and distributing him between game bags. As we pulled the hind quarters off holding onto them was like holding onto tendons made of icicles, never before have I felt something so bone chilling through my nitrite gloves. The last of the meat was stripped off the bull and the game bags, save two, were securely hung in a tree. Swinging high in the tree the frigid wind and extreme low temperatures would surely freeze our elk in no time.

Loaded with all we could muster we began our descent. It was impossibly dark except for the glow of our headlamps. Descending the hill we were not able to pick routes like we had on the way up. The scrub brush tore at my hips and legs as we descended, every step was earned. At least five times I made friends with the ground tumbling as the altitude spun away due to a deadfall or shrub catching my tired legs. An hour and a half after we had had departed we had only made it a third of a mile, but had dropped 2,000 feet in elevation, we still had at least four miles and another couple thousand vertical feet to get back to base camp.

As we sat and realized that the journey home would be long, I made the realization that I must not have zipped up a pocket in my backpack and I had lost all of my food within it. Although, he only had enough for himself Blubberhunter shared what little he had left. Rejuvenated as much as you can be with a heavy pack, freezing temperatures and a looming multiple hour hike out, we descended further into the abyss.

(In the as they lay photo at the very bottom about 4 miles away is where he was spotted from)
« Last Edit: December 11, 2020, 08:48:13 AM by Wetwoodshunter »

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Re: Wetwood hunters deer season
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2020, 09:29:35 AM »
The day ticked into the next. As we made to the bottom of a draw a thicket of impassable obstacles appeared out of nowhere snagging every fiber of my pack and entangling the elk rack on my back. One step forward was followed by two back, and accompanied with a whole world of obscenities.  At one point I had snagged a small tree so thoroughly that when it whipped back it took me off my feet and I laid there, panting in the mud, staring at the stars. Blubblehunter, who was just ahead of me nearly was choking back the laughter trying to encourage me with words through the thicket. When I thought that I couldn’t make it another step we broke free and onto an elk highway. We were off of the steep stuff and made serious time compared to before on this gently sloped highway down to the rivers edge.

We made it to the river at about 2 A.M. and were about a half mile above where we had crossed the day before, my god that was a day ago. This was such an unexpected and glorious way to spend the day and late into the night. Blubberhunter’s pack laid next to him as he sprawled out on the river cobble catching his breath. I nearly collapsed as I reached him and slumped my bag on a rock. It was almost like we had made it but we still had quite the journey to get back to base camp.

Abandoning our packs we started to head down the river towards where we expected the pacraft to be. We made our way down the ice covered river cobble, slipping and sliding as we went. The cobble turned into a high rocky cutbank and as we came to a sheer rock face and it looked as if we were going to get cliffed out.  Our options were to head back up the river until we found a spot where we could climb or to try and get past this obstacle. With only the light of our headlamps we hung to the rocky ledge and circumnavigated it making our way downstream. It was slow work, my fingers scraping at pure rock that had been shaped by millennia of flowing water and ice. At times the only possible way to move forward was to plant a trekking pole into the creek bed and brace yourself against the river bottom and the face as if you were climbing an elevator shaft. The substrate pushed back but mother nature allowed us to pass.

Impossibly, we made past the first set of cliffs and decided not to test our luck and ascended around another set in the dead of night. When we made it to where we had dropped all of our equipment the previous morning it was about 3 A.M.  Famished, we raided our gear pile for some snacks and then made our way down to where we had left the boat. We had no idea where it really was due to hightailing it up the mountain after the bull that now was parceled out across miles of terrain. Our directions from BetterDerrick was something like, “A log is the marker, look behind.” Fifteen minutes past as we waded through thick brush looking for the packraft behind a giant downed tree. In desperation I started to hike up the river towards the cliffs, within 5 minutes I spotted a stick no more than 4” in diameter which was standing upright from the point of a rocky pyramid, the raft was found.

We loaded ourselves into the pacraft, Blubberhunter with the oar and myself perched precariously in the front and slowly crossed the river. The night crossing was eerie as we had only the light of my headlamp in the front of the boat glinting off rocks and the chunks of ice that had broken free from ice dams upstream. A small eddie allowed for as graceful a landing as two baffoons can do at 3 something or other in the morning trying to get out of a boat not entirely built for two.

A well established game trail greeted us after we climbed off the rocky riverbank. One foot in front of the other we continued our trek in the direction of our packs we had abandoned. After a solid few minutes, the reflection of accumulating frost on the elks rack shown across the river like a beacon. Blubberhunter loaded himself back into the pacraft and unceremoniously recovered our gear. Standing on the riverbank waiting I realized how tired and cold I really was, as I stood I was forced to shift weight continuously between my feet to alleviate the soreness creeping through the souls of my boots. In reality, my life was easy, I was standing on a river bank, my buddy was kneeling in an icy river on a thin piece of rubber packing across the elk that I just had drag my butt all the way up a mountain shoot. I guess my actions really brought us into this situation, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

By the time our packs and gear were back on the base camp side of the universe it was 4 A.M. Nearly dead with fatigue, we trudged towards basecamp and at last dropped our packs for the last time of the night, or I guess morning, at around 5:30 A.M.  We quickly made a meal of high quality mountain house and liquid IVs and most likely passed out as soon as our heads hit the sleeping bags.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2020, 08:54:23 AM by Wetwoodshunter »

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Re: Wetwood hunters deer season
« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2020, 09:29:48 AM »
About 4 hours later, we made contact through our inreaches with BetterDerrick and TheBigGuy, neither of which had deer tags. The plan was that they would ascend from spike camp, which was only 3,000 vertical feet below where I had killed the bull. BlubberHunter and I would need to cross the river and ascend the 4,500 foot climb from our base camp and come across the ridgelines from the other direction and meet up with them at the bull.
When Blubberhunter wasn’t looking I raided the food stashes and picked out some choice victory items for when we would all be reunited up at the top of the hill. My body protested as we put our packs back on and started on our way upriver looking for an acceptable place to cross.  With every step, my muscles and joints loosened and although tired we had to get back to the top of the mountain. We were sore, but we were moving.

Once we found a spot to cross we inflated the packraft and teetered our way to the other side. As we went across I noticed any water that made it into the bottom of the raft would instantly freeze creating a thin delicate crust. I could only imagine how cold impossibly cold life would be if we made a mistake and ended up going in the drink. Once across to the other bank we secured the raft and started making our ascent. I took my place at the end of the two man train, trailing as fast as I could. After about twenty minutes of ascent BlubberHunter turned and started hiking down to me. As he reached me he told me, “We have to go back, TheBigGuy cannot make it up the hill.  They need me to get them across the river and back to base camp.”

Whether it was by design that the wilderness had offered me a relatively easy day or not I was welcome to the opportunity to let my body recover. Also, knowing that in the low teens the elk meat was probably in the best location it could be was reassuring.

After I was ferried across the river once again, I started on my way back to base camp, pack empty and bull on the hill. BlubberHunter had gotten back into the pacraft and floated off downriver to rescue our companions. I filled the hours waiting for them to return with camp chores and reliving the experiences of the previous night through my head.

Once we were reunited again we all took turns with the kill bottle and told stories about what had transpired the previous day. When we were chasing dreams, BetterDerrick and TheBigGuy had made there way up a drainage and found a flat enough spot to put spike camp. It sounded like the location that was chosen was suitable for a tent but potentially not for humans. They had spent the rest of the day cleaning up the area and making a trail to a nearby spring. They had made the camp as best as they could, but any way out of camp you had the choice of gaining altitude only to immediately lose it or battle through a thicket like we had brawled through the previous night. Either way, it sounded like heaven and I was eternally grateful that these boys had taken care of us when we were off gallivanting around the countryside.

This morning, BetterDerrick had gotten up early, probably about the same time as BlubberHunter and I made it back to base camp. He took a different path than he had taken the other day from spike camp down to where we had left our gear and scooped up a backpack full of sheds along the way. Like a true Sherpa he loaded all the gear that we had purged the day before and slogged his way up to spike camp. His pack with the newly acquired sheds must have been over 100 lbs. By this selfless act even though we were not able to get the elk off the mountain he had saved us a day of hunting.
« Last Edit: December 12, 2020, 06:53:51 AM by Wetwoodshunter »

Offline Wetwoodshunter

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Re: Wetwood hunters deer season
« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2020, 09:30:02 AM »
The next morning I woke way earlier than everyone else. I was completely rested and rejuvenated, but famished. I fired up the woodstove in the hot tent and proceeded to cook up last nights leftovers stirring a frozen block of pad thai around a small pan. I sat there wishing I was on my way up the hill, hoping that we would have enough time to get the bull down the mountain and then get ourselves to spike.

An hour or so after I was up and out, BetterDerrick moaned at me that if I wanted to wake everyone up stop scraping a freaking pan and cook us out of our sleeping bags. I loaded the woodstove up, the stove box turned cherry red, the tent boiled easily into the low hundreds. Out of their cocoons they came, BetterDerrick first and then TheBigGuy. BlubberHunter laid in his bag unwilling to make his way out. TheBigMan sat there above him on a cooler wearing not quite what you would expect someone to be wearing directly above you when you woke up. As BlubberHunter emerged and looked up a low he exclaimed, “OHHHHHH, nope, I’m just not going to come out ever now” and pulled the sleeping bag tighter over his face. TheBigGay just sat there, smiling.

BetterDerrick, Blubberhunter and I were loaded light, TheBigGuy decided not to attempt the hike. None of us had rifles on our packs, I had been told that if I took a rifle up to where I had shot that elk and shot a deer that they were just going to leave me. With only a deadslead, and some food and water we trekked to where BlubberHunter and I had crossed the river the day before.

Once on the other side I took off first heading up the hill towards where I had shot the elk. Within a few minutes BetterDerrick passed me, and then BlubberHunter. These two Sherpas were feeding off each other, pushing each other harder and seeing who could climb the 4,500 vertical feet the fastest. I was pushing as hard as I could, counting 80 steps and stopping for two deep breaths. The terrain was soft pumice like rock, as steep as it was for every step you would lose at least a few inches of ground. Every rock I saw was used as a stepping stone, I had to make my steps count. Sweat poured down my face and back, my friends above me getting smaller in the distance, gapping me little by little. I pushed harder, as I neared a ridgetop and had to cross some blowdown that was the last straw, I puked. After three deep breaths I refocused myself and kept moving. After I summited the mountains shoulder the boys were sitting there taking a break, fifteen glorious minutes passed as we looked at the other ridgelines looking for deer.

From this point forward we followed the ridgeline on the way up. Hiking the ridge we covered ground relatively quicker until we hit shale patches and rock. The boys crossed these without a hitch, I made my way as best I could. But we all knew where the elk was, swinging in the frigid air from a tree.

I made a quick stop at the rocks that I had shot my elk from and soaked it all in for a few minutes. I guess the spot had some sort of new sentimental value to me. Once we had made it to the elk it was midday The boys greeted me as I made it there shortly behind them and pointed out a herd of elk that BetterDerrick had spotted about 6 miles away, although it was 6 miles out they may have been in another country the good news was my tag was swinging in a tree a few feet in front of us.

The frozen bowling balls of elk were stuffed into our backpacks. We climbed up to the saddle of a ridge and dropped down the way that we had come. Giddy with the weight of the elk on my back and knowing that we were headed back down to camp the hike down seemed much better than the way up. We took a slightly different route side hilling down so we could survey a new drainage for deer. As we went we bumped a little 4 pt buck from his home and multiple does skirted out of our way.

Going down was much easier except for one large scree field that we needed to cross. BetterDerrick and I had dropped lower than BlubberHunter and we had to be careful not to go across the scree field at the same pace as him. As we hiked rocks cascaded down below us and we had to choose our steps very carefully as not to become part of the slides.

After we made it past the fields the gradually sloping mountain shoulder greeted us and we began descending again towards the river. I lost sight of both of the boys and out of nowhere I heard laughter form a thousand feet below. The mountainside was made of a fine sand-like gravel that both of them were half surfing at a full sprint going down the mountainside, dust trails hung in the air in their wakes. BlubberHunter did a barrel roll, scooping up a shed and kept running at full speed, all while wearing a pack filled with elk. I joined the fun and ran down the slope as fast as I could. It was surreal, my feet would sink in 3-4 inches and slide a foot down the mountain like on a soft cushion, and we descended 2,000 vertical feet in probably less than 10 minutes.

Hours later we returned to camp. We went to work hanging meat and filling our faces. Once the chores we discussed going to spike vs. staying at base camp for the night. Base camp was nice and comfy that night.
« Last Edit: December 13, 2020, 05:43:27 AM by Wetwoodshunter »

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Re: Wetwood hunters deer season
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2020, 09:30:28 AM »
The following morning we were up with the sun and moving. Our packs were light due to BetterDerrick packing everything we needed up to spike for us. The air nipped at us as we all headed to the crossing. Our plan for the day was the BetterDerrick and TheBigGuy were going to head to spike and do whatever they wanted for the day and BlubberHunter and I were going to head up the hills above spike and do some deer hunting.

We made it across the river with no issue, other than a fit of laughter as I watched TheBigMan and BlubberHunter cross. I wish I had taken a video, BlubberHunter was in the pacraft paddling away as TheBigMan, nearly a 260 lb. dude, crouched in the front nearly sinking the front of the pacraft. He looked like a scared cat being dangled over a bathtub looking at every rock or log like something that could save him. Every so often a wave would overcome the pacraft and dump water into the bottom of the raft soaking BlubberHunter and TheBigMan’s legs. As soon as we all made it across we started up the hill. BetterDerrick and TheBigMan went towards spike and BlubberHunter and I started hiking into the unknown.
 
Climbing out of the riverbank we needed to pick our way through some rocky cliff faces with cracks large enough for a human to slip through. I was following BlubberHunter until I lost him up above me and then I hit a game trail that gained altitude but intersected a different part of the bench above. I pushed myself at a moderate pace working my way to the top and onto the false ridgeline. There was still no sign of BlubberHunter, I pushed harder and was flying up the shoulder covering ground on a trail, scanning and searching and still could not locate him.

I saw a large hump that was on the way to the top of the ridgeline and figured that once I got to the top of that hump I would be able to spot him. I pushed as hard as I could up to the top of that hump and surveyed everything in front of me. I looked behind and still, no sign of him he had disappeared into nothingness. I took a long drink of liquid IV from my Nalgene and assessed where to go next now that I was hunting alone. As soon as I stood up my inreach buzzed with a message from BetterDerrick that said, “STOP ******* HIKING”. I turned and looked behind me, picking apart the landscape looking for humans, not deer. I spotted BlubberHunter at least a quarter mile behind me, I had somehow come out in front of him in the rock garden and turned on the afterburners trying to catch up.

From my vantage point on the shoulder I picked apart miles of country with my binoculars as I waited for him to catch up with me. Once he made it to me we spent a few minutes talking about how he had gotten cliffed out and had to go back and finally found my footprints and followed the game trail that lead right up and out through the rock garden. We made a plan that we would side hill for a little bit and as we made it over each fold we would look for deer in every coulee.

Around the hillsides we went gaining altitude and covering ground for hours. In every coulee there was prime habitat but we were not seeing deer except for at the very tops. As we made it to a giant pyramid shaped rock we decided to gain the ridge and started to hike straight up the hill. After about an hour of climb I heard BlubberHunter owl call behind me and turned to see him pointing.

Two bucks were spinning heads locked in the nearby drainage. I unslung my rifle from my pack and creeped over to a rock covered ledge. As I crawled through the tall grass I watched as the littler buck accepted his defeat and sauntered up the hillside and stood looking longingly at the three does. The larger of the two bucks turned broadside and immediately bedded about 250 yards from where we both lay prone. Looking at him through the binoculars we could see he was a basket rack 4x4, the buck that had lost the fight looked like a 3x3 that was not quite as large framed.

BlubberHunter leaned in and whispered, “What do you say we end this right now and do a 1,2,3 shoot, you take the big one I’ll take a little one.” I looked at him and smiled knowing that neither of these deer would have lead from us slung at them.
 
We backed out and started up the hill, I made it to the next ridgeline first and dropped to my knees immediately as I had peered over the top. I waived BlubberHunter up to me and waited until I got up there and pointed to what I had seen… hunters. We were in the middle of nowhere, up the side of a mountain, had climbed a random shoulder and walked within 50 yards of two hunters that had a spotting scope out and were glassing in our opposite direction. They had no idea we were there or that two deer were fighting not more than 400 yards from where they were glassing. I stood and started walking towards them and as they noticed us I waved, I think they were as surprised to see us as we were them.

In our conversation we asked them how long they had been up here and they replied that they had been up on this ridge a few days now and had only seen a few deer. BlubberHunter replied, “Well what kind of deer are you looking for would you shoot a 4x4.” The other guy replied, “Heck yea I would shoot a 4x4 we have 3 tags to fill and 2 more days.” He pointed and as we turned we saw their two spike tents in the draw below us, not more than 50 yards uphill from the bucks. I turned the spotting scope 180 degrees without moving the tripod and put it right on the bedded 4x4. We told them that if they walked down the hill the way we came where they could sneak out to it and have a 250 yard shot at it in the draw. We jokingly asked if they needed help packing it to their spike and went on our way.

With the knowledge that two more people were on the mountaintop to the left, where we had spotted the elk from a few days before we ascended in a different direction to a forced plan B. I was hiking fast, 100 plus steps to a two breath break at this point. My mountain legs had arrived. As I circled around some rocks, I looked to the side and saw a 6 point elk shed just laying in the sun waiting to be discovered. I walked over there and scooped it up, no more than 8” away laid the matching antler obscured by tufts of grass. After a short victory dance I marked the location and left them hoping to come back for them later.

As we ridged out only a few hours from dark we found one of the best looking bowls I had ever seen. The bowl was over a mile wide and from our two vantage points we could see into multiple fold that should have all held deer. We picked it apart from end to end until twilight was nearly arriving. Accompanied with twilight came the deer, two does appeared out of the drainage and were moving with a purpose being followed by a buck. Both BlubberHunter and I mirrored the buck and made sure that we were in position if we wanted to take him. We started to drop altitude making our move and closed the distance to 400 yards. Upon further look, we had made the right call with our moves to get on him, but he was what you call a last day buck, and not quite the buck we were both looking for.

Darkness fell and we started to make our way back to camp. The topo maps showed that if we followed the ridgeline down we could come all the way back to the spot that I had waited for BlubberHunter to catch up for me earlier in the day we would have a straight shot down to camp. We hiked swiftly knowing that the earlier we got back to camp the longer we would get to sleep. To my delight, we met no large obstacles on the way home. Even better coming into spike camp there was one of those small sandlike slopes that we were able to run down in the dead of night dropping the last 500 vertical feet.

Reunited at last in spike camp, around eleven, we relived the day over mountain house. While BlubberHunter and I were out hunting the other boys had gone shed hunting and also cleared out some more brush around spike. The camp was glorious, the only trail was the trail to water. Every other step was a fight with the impassable thicket, only days before there had been no spot for a tent and BetterDerrick and TheBigGuy had forced a camp of impenetrable wilderness.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2020, 11:13:51 AM by Wetwoodshunter »

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Re: Wetwood hunters deer season
« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2020, 09:30:41 AM »
Today was the day, knowing that there were a few hunters up one of the mountains that we wanted to hunt our hands were forced to go up drainage and explore some new ground. BetterDerrick, BlubberHunter and I all fought our way out of camp at first lite and broke our way through the creek bottom heading up into the hills. With every step the bushes were pulling at my pack and trying to restrain me from making it up the mountain. When I couldn’t take it any longer I noticed a shoot from a landslide that had come down into the creek bed. I split from the other two and went on my own up the chute, little did I know that this choice would make it so that I wouldn’t meet up with the other two until about dark.

Climbing the chute, I grasped every small tree that I could find and powered up the rocks as they cascaded down below my feet. I willed my way up the slope, making sure that I didn’t tumble as there would be no stopping if I made a misstep. Once I made it up the chute the rest of the hike was easy, well as easy as these mountains could be. My legs had reached the point where they really didn’t care that with every step I was gaining significant altitude. I climbed a few thousand vertical feet making my way up as high as this shoulder would take me knowing that the deer were still living near the ridgetops and surrounding draws.

At around 11:00 AM I had gained almost 4,000 vertical feet from camp and looked back down into the drainages. Every draw had the opportunity to hold a caliber buck that I was looking for. I went over every hill with the anticipation that I may walk right into a masher buck or potentially spot him from a mile away bedded. Finally, I looked at my inreach and saw the ping from where BlubberHunter and better Derrick were, I currently I was about 3,000 vertical feet higher than them but they had made it a few ridges further around the mountain. I shot them a message and we made a rendezvous point that eventually we would meet up at the top of the mountain, as we hunted towards each other.

Moving further up I decided to take a break and do some glassing in a beautiful looking draw. As I sat, I realized how cold it really was and was forced to break my hat, puffy and gloves out of my backpack. It had to be in the single digits. I sat picking apart the hillside thinking to myself if I were a mule deer where would I want to be. If I were the king of the mountain, where is my thrown. One deer, two deer, three deer four, they were everywhere today. I scanned each group of does, most groups had 3-4 does to them but I only saw one buck as I sat near shivering to death eating some snacks. I packed up my gear, disrobed to my base layers and started to hike to the top to get a better look at the buck that was packing more weight than anything I had seen yet on this trip. I closed the distance to about 300 yards as he chased does right below a giant cliff. Through the binos I could tell he was decent. I laid my backpack down and rested my rifle. Turning my scope to 18x I started to look at his point. Four on the right, 3 on the left, about 20” wide but equally as tall. I thought to myself, this is an ok buck, if I didn’t have as much time left to hunt as I did I would take you.

I started moving again up to the top of the mountain and ridged out a few hundred feet higher than the buck was that I had just watched. I was careful not to bump them in case I wanted to come back in a few days and make a play on him if he was living on this mountaintop. I sat and glassed some new area off the backside as I snacked on more of my lunch. When I went to put my cold weather gear back on I was crushed, my hat was gone. Not just any hat though, the specific hat as stupid as it sounds had been with me on four successful elk hunts, a caribou hunt and a few years of deer hunting. Crestfallen, I circled back down the mountain to where I had looked at the buck through my rifle to go look for it. With no luck, and losing daylight messing around looking for a stupid hat I resolved that it was gone, turned and made my way back to the ridgetop making my way over to where I was going to meet up with BlubberHunter and BetterDerrick.

I passed multiple deer on the way there looking and once again, groups of does had no bucks with them. It looked like the mule deer that we were after were not rutting them yet. When I made it to the boys, BlubberHunter gave me the low down. They had bumped a shooter buck on their way up and were chomping at the bit to get after him. On the way up when they bumped him the buck ran and he stood broadside at 150 yards. The buck was a 4x4, tall and respectably wide. BlubberHunter had bumped him out of his bed and when the buck was standing there broadside instead of shooting had went for the rangefinder. In the time it took him to range the buck the buck had lazily walked off into the trees and there was not shot opportunity after that. BlubberHunter was kicking himself for taking the rangefinder out and ranging a deer that was inside of 200 yard knowing that ranging him wouldn’t have made any bit of difference on the shot.

We made a plan of attack, BlubberHunter wanted me to get on the buck and I would come down the ridgeline directly onto the deer’s bed in the hopes that he had circled back. Both of the boys would comb their way down through the timber that the buck had gone into in the hopes that either they would see him and BlubberHunter would get a shot or they would push him out directly into me.

We descended with only a half hour of shooting light left, the boys disappearing out of my view. I crept slowly down the ridge, ten steps at a time glassing so hard not even a grasshopper would have gone unnoticed. Then, I saw them. Three deer off the ridge slightly to the right. One was definitely a buck but his head was low behind a tree. I lost the ridgeline and skirted my way across a bench trying to get myself into position, 400, 300, 200, 120 yards and I came back into view of the buck, my backpack discarded thirty yards behind as I crawled up to a stump. I raised my rifle in anticipation as I saw the buck in all his glory for the first time, he was a large bodied 3 pt.

I pushed the safety back into the safe position on my rifle, and then BANG! Two seconds passed, BANG, BANG. The surrounding mountainsides had erupted with gunfire a few hundred yards, and a few hundred feet lower in elevation behind me. I looked at my rifle not realizing exactly what had happened and then realized it wasn’t it shooting, it must have been BlubberHunter.

I side hilled down through the deadfall heading to the patch of trees with all the hooping and hollering coming out of them. As I made my way there the light left for the night and if it wasn’t already cold enough the real cold started to set in. Dropping elevation I made my way to where I thought that the boys were and then I saw a beacon of light coming from someone’s headlamp. I walked down slowly to them, and BlubberHunter looking like Tigger came bounding up the hill, screaming at the top of his lungs, “No ground shrinkage, no ground shrinkage.” I started getting a tingling feeling as we got closer together, I raised my hand to give him a high five and he frowned, and looked at me and said, “No high fives, I shot a doe. What am I going to do? She is laying right over there by BetterDerrick.” Knowing my friend, and listening to the celebration that had occurred I knew this to be a lie. I walked over to the “doe” and saw a completely mature mule deer that my buddy had just taken minutes before last light.

The adrenaline of my friend taking a super nice animal hit as well as the cold as the night air settled in. We knew were now in for a long night as we had a deer down miles and miles away from spike camp. BetterDerrick made a warmup fire, we had a short picture session and BlubberHunter and I got to work. As we worked BlubberHunter told me how it went down. As I had skirted off to the side, the buck that he had taken could have only been a few hundred yards below me. Even though they had bumped him earlier in the day he had come back to the exact same location and was laid to rest not more than one hundred yards from where the missed opportunity was earlier. They both relentlessly teased me about how if I had just followed the plan this would have been my buck, but I didn’t care in the least bit. Look at him, I was there, I made a stock one of the most considerate people in the world took a great animal.

With the three of us parceling out a deer the meat was flying off the carcass and into game bags. We had the whole deer broken down no longer than a half hour from when we started. The bags were heavy as he was a mature buck but we spit them as equally as we could between our three backpacks.

Once we had the fire out and were relatively rested and refueled we debated how we wanted to head back to spike camp. The options were, side hill across the drainage and gain the ridgeline about 1,000 vertical feet just to lose it again. Option 2 was go straight down the drainage that we were on and through a bunch of deadfall that the boys had come through on the way up. The third option was sidehill to the next drainage and then drop down the shoulder all the way to the bottom and follow the creek down through the thicket to spike camp. With BetterDerrick and BlubberHunter fighting for the lead we crossed to the next shoulder and started our descent. We knew this was going to be a long night, we had no idea what that really meant at the time.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2020, 01:51:46 PM by Wetwoodshunter »

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Re: Wetwood hunters deer season
« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2020, 09:30:57 AM »
The three of us with heavy packs and high on the previous events of the night side hilled over to another shoulder. On the way over we crossed a patch of blowdowns that was nearly impassable. Through sheer willpower we picked our way around, over, and under the deadfall.  In a few places we passed our backpacks to the others in our group in order to get over timber that was chest high and impassable otherwise. At last we broke free from the deadfall and it was smooth sailing.

As we started to lose elevation a few ridgelines over from where BlubberHunter had shot his deer we stumbled upon an innumerable amount of sheds. BetterDerrick and BlubberHunter raced for the lead, I learned quickly the first person who called them out had full rights to claim the sheds. Our already heavy packs got heavier with every step.

With a little over 3,000 ft of elevation lost we came to the end of the shoulder and the mountainside steepened into a bowl. We were cruising along and then out of nowhere, I was looking at the sky, then the ground, sky again, ground, I recall hearing shouting. As I laid there on my back looking up the hill I saw the two that I had been trailing about 20 feet above me. I laid with my pack wedged between myself and a giant deadfall. Without that log who knows how far I would have gone. I stood up and BlubberHunter cheered, “9 out of 10, the flips were great but you didn’t stick the landing.” I stood there silently assessing the damage I had done to myself and my gear. Everything checked out on my body, somehow so full of adrenaline nothing even hurt at this point. My gun on the other hand who knows if it would even shoot, I wasn’t sure if I had hit it on anything hard or not on my expedited trip down the hill.

Once I was moving again we skirted over to as flat a spot as we could find and then took a break. We unpacked my backpack and redistributed some of the weight that I was carrying into both BetterDerrick and BlubberHunters pack. I felt bad that both of them were carrying more than a fair share, but physically I think the weight of my pack and the severe slope was the cause of my earlier fall. Sitting together they jokingly rated my fall and declared that I was in second place to a nasty fall by the huntress that had not been able to come.

When we came to the creek at the bottom, still miles above spike camp BlubberHunter told us that he had been secretly out of water for the last 4 hours and was going to get a drink. The previous year he had gotten giardia twice! BetterDerrick basically restrained him from going to the creek but he longingly talked about how crisp and clean that water would be with the ice crystals swimming through it. I handed him my last four ounces of water and he graciously took half. I felt like at least at this point I had a little to contribute.

According to the map the creek gradually would drop and make our way all the way to spike camp. We were still further up the drainage than both of the boys had travelled earlier in the day. Slowly, we lost more altitude trudging through the frozen muck near the brook. Rocky canyons started to form around us and only the light of the moon and our headlamps reflected off the dull rock and icicles that hung above us.  The river narrowed getting faster and the walls steepened as if by design every time we thought we were going to get stuck and have to turn around a crevice would be found that was large enough to scrape our way through.  At one point we slid down a log that took us fifteen vertical feet down to the bottom of a waterfall. Once at the bottom we realized we started to look around for a way out and what we found was concerning, instead of a way out we found dead animals. One after the other, deadheads, sheads, does, a stud 6 point bull. Everything that had come into this hole had never made it out. It was truly amazing, I have never seen anything like it.

We searched for a way out for at least thirty minutes.  BetterDerrick left his pack with BlubberHunter and I and made his way off downstream into the darkness. We both started to make plans for staying the night where we were at the bottom of the waterfall or if possible trying to go up the nearly vertical tree we had come down. At this point I had never been so happy that I had an inreach with me because in the even we were really stuck within a few days maybe someone with rappelling gear could have gotten us out.

When BetterDerrick came back, he declared that he thought he found a passable way out. He had climbed up and out but it was steep, and steep to him may be too steep for a mountain goat. As we made it to the cliff he had climbed I went first with my pack as the other watched. I four wheel crawled and clawed my way up the mountainside watching out for a deadfall that was perched precariously on loose rock and in danger of tumbling right down to the bottom. Rocks cascaded down below me, at one point the whole hill was going with me and I lost 10 feet before my grasp on a small shrub stopped my controlled slide. When I made it to the top I got as far away from the edge as I could back onto a 45 degree slope which was as good as flat ground compared to what I had just come up. After dropping my pack, I crawled back over to the edge and reached down. They were able to pass me gear for the last few feet before they made it up the steepest part. BetterDerrick was living his best life, he was so pumped at how gruelingly difficult this pack out was. I on the other hand was just glad to almost be back to camp, from the waterfall we only had a few miles to go.

The path became familiar to the others and our pace quickened. The boys continued their shed game, BlubberHunter toting a 6x6 deadhead that somehow he had climbed up the cliff with on his shoulders. BetterDerrick in the lead picking through the sheds and only keeping about 1/5 or matched sets. We easily could have had a hundred pounds of added bone per person if we had scooped everything we passed. Instead as we went they made piles of whites and only attached this years browns to their packs.

We made it to camp at about 4 A.M. TheBigMan was fast asleep, but had refilled all the water skins, made sure that there was enough firewood to burn the stove the rest of the night and set up camp the best he could for us. He peaked out of his sleeping bag as he heard us stirring around him, and asked us what seemed like a million questions as I drifted off to sleep.
« Last Edit: December 15, 2020, 06:50:58 AM by Wetwoodshunter »

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Re: Wetwood hunters deer season
« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2020, 09:31:10 AM »
With four hours of sleep I was up and moving again. BetterDerrick and TheBigMan had been the first ones up this morning. The previous day when we were hunting a family emergency had necessitated TheBigMan to get extracted. He had contacted out packer who just happened to be coming through near our basecamp this afternoon. The problem being that we had to meet him by noon at base camp. In order to make this timeline we were going to need to cover some serious ground fast.

BlubberHunter and I got up like a shot and sprung into action, although the three of us had hiked all night we needed to get TheBigMan out and also had the possibility of getting my elk and BlubberHunters deer out at the same time. TheBigGuy and BetterDerrick had packed all of the unneeded spike camp gear into the fourth pack while we had caught a few extra minutes of sleep. BetterDerrick also strapped as many of the loose sheds as he could carry to his pack to making sure that every step counts. Luckily, none of us had unloaded our packs from the night before which saved us precious minutes.

As we scarfed breakfast down and filled our water bottles I took the opportunity to look around spike camp for my first time in the daylight. We took the last opportunity we would have to take a group picture before our numbers would dwindle.

We absolutely flew up the hills out of spike, at this point hiking out of spike, we had beaten into the soft rocks what resembled a trail from the few trips in and out to the boat over the last few days. We crested the bench where I had and started to drop through the crests that we had come through just a few days ago. As I dropped down the hill behind them I heard them yelling back and forth as they ran down hill with heavy packs, “And now I’m in the lead!” A short few seconds later, “Suck my dust!” I took my time and picked my steps knowing that I was the last one over in the boat anyway.

When I made it to the other side both TheBigGuy and BetterDerrick were gone. TheBigMan had been the first to cross and needed to make time back to basecamp, there was no dilly dallying around. Once on the other side, BlubberHunter and I secured the raft and briskly made our way back towards base camp. When we got there the other two were already loading up. They had cut down of the elk quarters and were getting the frozen atlas stones of meat packaged for the journey ahead. Almost as soon as we had gotten there and unloaded the deer from BlubberHunter and my pack, the packer and TheBigGuy departed.

And then there were three, we quickly stuffed our faces and took whatever luxury we needed from base camp. Our packs were all relatively light due to not needing to pack any more food up to spike where BlubberHunter and I had only at this point spent two nights. Plus, why would we pack our own food if BetterDerrick would do it for us while we chased down an elk.

I had brought my rifle down with me off the mountain and took the opportunity to find a clear spot in the flats to take a few shots. I lined up, not knowing if the fall from earlier this morning, or maybe it way yesterday had rendered it useless. The boom of the rifle resounded through the otherwise quite hills. My target which was a small 2” rock at about 100 yards disintegrated into nothingness.
 
With all the confidence in the world in my rifle and refueled of real food from base camp we departed once again to the hills. The sun set on our way back to spike, we crossed the river once again in the dead of night.

On our journey we made a plan. Tomorrow we were going to go big, deeper than we had been on this trip into mountains unknown. We were going to go as high as we could, where the deer lived, if we didn’t find a good buck we would be way up in the wilderness at dark. We were resolved to make something happen, and tonight being back into camp at a reasonable time we had a great night of sleep to prepare for a big day tomorrow. The plan was we were going to go further and harder than we had ever gone before.
« Last Edit: December 16, 2020, 05:49:12 AM by Wetwoodshunter »

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Re: Wetwood hunters deer season
« Reply #10 on: December 08, 2020, 09:31:21 AM »
I rose an hour before the other two. In the light of my headlamp I spent the morning filling all of the water skins and reloading my pack with fuel for the trip. Once my pack and my stomach were loaded up we started off into the mountains again. The three of us had decided to cross the creek near camp and immediately climb up the mountain to gain the ridge. Thankful I was not battling the impassable thicket below, I paced myself working my way to the ridgeline about a three hours hike above me. 

I turned and realized that neither of the other two were behind me, at least in the last few hundred yards. I stopped and started to glass around the countryside as well as behind for any sign of them. Eventually, both of them appeared hiking up the hill. As they noticed me watching them through my binos, they ducked behind a log and pretended to pop out like jack in the boxes. I returned the favor with my best Elmer Fudd.

Once they reached me I learned what had taken so long. Apparently, on the way up I had passed right by a bear. The bear had proceeded to turn the other way and go downhill right into where BlubberHunter and BetterDerrick had been hiking up. They watched the bear pass and head right into our spike camp and start climbing out of it on the other side. Definitely a cool experience for them to help top off an already successful trip.

An hour later as we stopped for a break BetterDerrick walked over to me and shoved something at me. I looked down at the wool hat that I had so much history with sitting in my hands. My luck had turned, today was the day, with my lucky hat zipped securely in my backpack the bucks were in trouble.

As we ridged out we worked our way along the ridgeline playing a complicated game of leapfrog. BetterDerrick, BlubberHunter and I would take turns advancing to new ground and picking the countryside apart. When deer were spotted we would converge if one of them looked like a good prospect. As we came over a ridgetop I saw a few does close by make their way into the timber. I dropped my pack and circled in for a better look. As I entered the timber the few does turned into at least 10 of them as I picked apart the forest.

Then I saw him, his body was heavy compared to any of the does that he was with. His head was low obscuring any chance at getting a good look at his antlers. At about 70 yards he was perfectly broadside, my crosshairs focused directly in his crease. As soon as he lifted my head, I pushed the safety back to safe and stood up. He was a good buck, a solid 3x3 but not even in the same league as BlubberHunters.

I collected my pack and started to move back towards where the others has moved ahead glassing. When I caught up to them they were busy looking at another buck. This buck was perfectly symmetrical, he stood with his does not 100 yards away staring us down. He clearly had no idea what to think of us. The conversation turned to African hunting and how I had the opportunity of a lifetime. The dic dic like mule deer stood staring into my soul, both BlubberHunter and BetterDerrick were ribbing me up and down that I had to shoot this deer. Never in my life would I have the opportunity to take a buck that was so symmetrical, so tender with milk on his lips, and easy to pack back to camp. Even at this point if I took him where we stood we might have had a chance at making it back to camp before midnight.

Pushing on we climbed ridge after ridge, only to drop whatever elevation was needed to survey the folds and climb once again to the next peaks. At every opportunity to see new area we crawled out onto rocky ledges always hoping that a buck would be hiding under our feet. The wind had picked up on the unprotected peaks, it howled so hard that the trees creaked and branches were tearing off the dead timber. At last, we had made it so far and it was so miserable, that all three of us had decided that the best course of action was to start hunting our way back towards camp. It was nearly an hour before dark and we had been relentlessly hiking away from it all day.

As we worked our way across an open hilltop on the furthest peak that we had made it to we decided to push into the thick timber and see if there were any deer taking refuge from the wind. We still hunted, our way into the timber. Losing elevation little by little and picking apart the forest I looked to my left and BlubberHunter melted into the ground lying flat on his back basically doing the upside down worm and making moose antlers with his hands at me. He was perfectly obscured by a large deadfall from the direction that he was pointing. Leaving my pack, I belly crawled down to him and peered over the edge of the deadfall.

On the other side of the deadfall about 50 feet away was the largest mule deer I had seen in my life. There was no question that this buck was the king of the mountain. He was staring directly at us on high alert. BlubberHunter whispered to me, “Shoot him in the neck.” I raised my rifle, which was still at 18x, and stared through the scope at the massively wide and deep set of antlers that were sprouting out the top of his dome. At that point I completely and utterly lost my mind, I squeezed the trigger and missed.
 
I watched the buck of a lifetime jump vertical a few feet and then sprinted as fast as it could into the timber. As I tried to put my crosshairs on him as he ran my scope at 18x and less than 40 yards it wasn’t possible.

He was lost, there are times in your life when you make a shot and don’t know if it was a good hit, and times in your life when you know it was a clean miss. This was the latter, and I’m going to own it here. Seeing the largest buck I had ever seen changed me, although I couldn’t tell you the amount of deer, elk or bears that I have harvested over the years this one I have never experienced the level of sheer disconnect between my brain and my body. All the practice, all the experience that I have ever had was thrown out the window. I clearly rushed, if I had taken two more seconds to prop and elbow on a knee or rest my gun on the log, take an extra breath to clear my mind I surely would have caused a different outcome.

Looking back, I can replay the incident clearly in my head. As he stood there and I had my rifle raised, shooting offhand, I was looking at his rack, not his neck. Awestruck by what I was seeing I haphazardly had gone through the motions of taking a shot that any hunter should have easily been able to make. The image frozen in my brain was the crosshairs, when the gun went off there is no question that I was holding the crosshairs barely grazing the left side of the deer’s neck. I had forgotten a simple step, aim small miss small, in fact I can’t even say that I aimed at all. My stomach was sick, I couldn’t believe myself that I had spent this much effort, saw not one of the best bucks but undoubtedly the largest buck I had seen I my life and utterly failed in the moment of truth. In my head, I relentlessly berated myself for not only letting myself down but the others that accompanied this journey.
« Last Edit: December 16, 2020, 10:02:52 AM by Wetwoodshunter »

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Re: Wetwood hunters deer season
« Reply #11 on: December 08, 2020, 09:31:39 AM »
My ability to wallow in my own self-pity only lasted three long seconds. BlubberHunter was sprinting down the mountainside in the direction that the buck had gone. Not realizing what was happening, BetterDerrick shot right past me and yelled “RUN.” In tow I was sprinting down the mountain after them.

The steep grade of the mountain that we were on made it so that with every step we were covering at least fifteen feet. My knees and ankles were pounding, my body somehow held up as we dropped easily 1,000 feet in elevation in the direction that the buck had gone. We had no idea where he was or if there was even a chance to relocate them. My lungs, felt ready to burst, never in my life had I ever thought I might be trying to run down a deer on the mountainside. I bent over, head between my legs gasping for air as we made a plan.

The buck had run down, there was no question about that. I had the only tag, the coveted last tag and if spotted I was obviously the shooter. BetterDerrick would side hill to the next drainage over to my right, BlubberHunter would do the same to the drainage to my left. As minutes passed, precious minutes until darkness fell we swiftly worked our way down the mountain looking behind every tree that we could.

After a solid thirty minutes of looking, and I had lost all hope I heard a loud owl hooting off to my right. As swiftly and silently as I could I bounded over towards the owl and crested the shoulder about 60 yards above it. Below me the owl hooted, “HOOOOOOOT, hoot, HOOOOT, HHHooooot.” As I scanned across the draw I saw him, the same buck that I had missed stood about 130 yards away half obscured behind a tree.

The buck was locked on the funny looking owl, that unmistakable resembled BetterDerrick. I leveled my rifle, gasping for air. At this point BlubberHunter had made it to me, he had watched me take off sprinting in the opposite direction from him. He calmly said, “Control your breathing.” I rested my elbow on my knee, my rifle posed looking in the direction of the deer. After my earlier kerfuffle with the magnification, I dialed it down to 6x. The buck slowly started to make his way up the hill, quartering away.

My rifle coughed, the owl cried, “HOOOOOOT, HOOOOOOOT, HIT, HIT, HIT, HIT.” In less than a second, I jacked another round in the gun and made the following observation. My bullet had crippled him, the deer immediately turned from going uphill to down, he was walking on three legs his offside front from where I shot immobile. The second round left the chamber and dead center made its mark in a 4” sapling I had not noticed trying to put the follow-up shot in him. Meanwhile the owl screeched, “SHOOT AGAIN!” I looked at BlubberHunter and calmly said, “I’m out of bullets.”

BlubberHunter sighed, knowing that someone had to make the climb to the packs. I quickly described where they were inside my bag so that he could grab them and get back to me as quickly as possible. Then he started his way up the 1,500 feet of elevation that we had dropped in total from either stalking or sprinting.
BetterDerrick came up to me at this point and we watched the area where the buck had gone into an unobservable patch of trees. I had no idea where he was in there, but at this point had not seen him come out. We watched and waited, the anticipation that he would come busting out of there.

Rocks stirred and the hillside started sliding down out of the group of trees and the buck that I had connected with appeared. His head was down, both front legs were on the ground, his back legs pushing him forward but gravity taking him down the hill. He slid headfirst down a chute and into a fallen tree. From my vantage point I could see him laying there. As I watched not willing to take my eyes off of him for even a second, BetterDerrick headed up the hill to meet up with BlubberHunter and get our packs.

The next thirty minutes were some of the longest in my life. As I watched the buck never moved, I was unsure if he was breathing or just laying there resting. I made no attempt to move or to go over and check, the last thing that I wanted was to bump him right before dark. Too many stories of hunters getting too excited and walking up on their deer or elk crossed my mind, I myself had almost lost a bull I arrowed this way.

Voices, approached coming down the mountainside. I looked up to see the two of them working their way down. BlubberHunter with my backpack across his belly like a kangaroo. As they reached me I fished out three bullets and loaded my rifle. I told one of them to stay and guide me to the buck after I pointed him back out to them. I’m not sure which one stayed.
 
As I walked up on him I could barely believe my eyes, my shot had been true going through both lungs. The HammerHunter had shed a petal that must have glanced off a rib and then broke through the offside scapular bone. It was amazing that he had made it as long as he did, a true mountain monarch.

Walking up from behind, he was impossibly wide, I would find out later exactly 31”, he was heavier than any deer I had harvested too, and in encroaching twilight his antlers looked dark. I scanned his mass and noticed a kicker for the first time, and then a matching one on the other side, eye guards no that wasn’t right, he had a double sets of eye guards on both sides. The main beam on his left side was bladed too, this deer had everything. I must have been just standing there staring at him for what seemed like minutes with my mouth open. I looked at the boys who had come in behind me and I said, “Look at him, we just ran down the buck of a lifetime.”

I think that all three of us were awestruck not only about sheer size of the buck but also the events that transpired that caused our paths to cross twice within the same day. Easily, he could have slipped off into the woods and this journey would have had and alternate outcome.

Once again the three of us went to work after the night had claimed the light. Tonight, there would be no warmup fire the hill was much too steep for it. With nothing really to stand on other than the slope we went to work breaking him down.

During the process we debated what our next steps were, we had to get him somewhere weather it was base camp or spike camp. We had two routes we could take to spike and one that would take us to base that was just a few miles longer, none of us had marked where the waterfall canyon was. We had a vote and decided to head back to base camp. In order to do so we had to gain the ridgeline with the buck tucked away in our packs and then drop down the other side. We estimated that it was at least a nine mile trek, but at least the buck would be at his final destination.

We climbed, it took us an hour and a half to get to where I had originally dropped our packs and I had taken my poor shot. Once at the top we went onto the backside and dropped into the unknown. The journey was impossibly long, if this had been the first day I am not sure we would have made it. My legs screamed, my ankles pounded and I wasn’t the only one. When we had made it about halfway down we were all playing leapfrog with who was in the lead. I came around a corner and BetterDerrick was laying on a log staring at the sky, we needed a break and he had run completely out of food.

I shared what little I had left to both of the others and they ribbed me once again at why I needed to shoot this deer when I could have taken a perfectly good dic dic earlier in the day. If I had done so we would be basking in the hot tent eating our freeze dried goods sipping on something strong. After the much needed physical and mental break we began the journey.

At this point BetterDerrick took off increasing his pace. BlubberHunter and I followed watching his headlamp a few hundred yards in front of us. “You broke him. I have never seen him tired.” BlubberHunter declared. We walked in silence, my feet pounded so hard, I wasn’t really conscious of the distance we had traveled or had left to go I was just staring at my feet and they were taking me there, step by step.

We came at last to the river. In our haste to get to basecamp and the glory of taking my buck we had forgotten the small fact that basecamp was on the other side of the river. I thought that we were going to stay the night, I was wrong.

Without a second thought, in the single digit temperatures. BlubberHunter whipped off his pants and took off waist deep into the water. His headlamp shone on the offside shore. BetterDerrick and I looked at each other in disbelief at what our “friend” had just done. The water actually wasn’t that bad and felt warmer than the air until you got out.

Cold to the bone on the other side of the river I told them both to leave me. At this point we had to hike, we purged our packs of meat and hung them in a tree near the riverbank. We were not far from our destination, maybe a mile away and the easiest of the hiking of the night, but the chill of the water from the crossing had sapped my desire to hike at their pace, especially since their packs were empty and I still had the head and hide. With empty packs they were gone easily covering the ground at twice my speed. Hiking alone at my own pace, I started to enjoy myself again, this wasn’t all that bad, type two fun.

The stars shone so bright through the night sky that I was able to turn my headlamp off on the flattest stretches and soak it all in. As I rounded my last corner around 6 A.M. the lights of the hot tent shown through the trees, I was minutes away from home. In its entirety we travelled a total of 17.4 miles, gained 13,084 ft elevation and lost 14,068 ft elevation in what would end up being a 19.5 hour hike from the start of today’s hunt. I discarded my pack and crashed into the tent collapsing into my sleeping bag.

Impossibly sore, I woke only three hours after I had made it back to camp. There was no possible way to go back to sleep so I forced a fire into the firebox and went on my way out to drag home a load of firewood.

As I stepped out into the morning I looked at my pack, and once again, the largest buck I have ever seen looked back. High on success, I went about the morning cheerfully getting my gear ready for another trip since I knew today was going to be another long one. The plan for today was going to be getting all of spike camp back to base camp and also if possible the meat back too from the opposite direction.

As we made it to where we had left the raft once again it was on the other side of the river. Today, BlubberHunter had brought a second set of shoes. He quickly crossed, in what looked like the shallowest place possible and after putting on dry clothes ferried BetterDerrick and me across.

At spike we split up packing, as soon as BetterDerrick had finished packing he was off up the creek after the piles of sheds that we had left in our wake days before. BlubberHunter and I broke down the rest of the camp and started to move all of it up to the top of the hill. I waited alone at the top as BlubberHunter went back down to the remnants of spike for a half load of gear that was left behind.

Darkness fell next to my fire as I waited, it seemed impossibly long that I had been up on the hillside. The boys arrived, BetterDerrick was absolutely covered with sheds. We redistributed a little weight and were on our way once again, losing altitude to use the pacraft for the last time.

On the side of the river with base camp, we left all the sheds behind as our packs were already overloaded without them. We blasted our way back to basecamp knowing that there was going to have to be two trips to the crossing tonight. Once I made it back the other two had already unloaded and they were on their way.

I stayed behind raiding the cooler for whatever it was worth. Maybe I was hungry, maybe it was the best food ever but it took me two solid hours of cooking over hot tents stove to put dinner for three together. I cobbled together mule deer burgers, with two grilled cheeses sandwiches for each of their buns, atop the burgers was bacon from Texas boars Hirshey had harvested. I melted in an entire brick of cheese between everything making one greasy mass. They were at least as tall as they were wide when I was finished, a guaranteed heart attack in the making. I have never seen two sets of eyes so appreciative when the boys returned.

The last day is always bittersweet. We woke to a cold tent in the morning knowing that we had to pack the stove away and went along with our business. BlubberHunter went up the river with the boat to where we had left the meat swinging from a tree. He had the pacraft and paddled from where it was left to as close to camp as he could get.

Today our backs got a break. There were no long hikes, no mountainous hills the hardest work would be loading our gear and pulling the deadsled loaded with my deer a mere 500 yards up a dried riverbed.

As the packer approached and our gear lay in a tidy pile our time in the mountains was coming to a close. We were all out of tags, we were all out of energy, and we had memories to last a lifetime. As we rode off into the afternoon, our belongings in tow I thought to myself how appreciative I was to be included by this group. I can’t wait for the next adventure.
« Last Edit: December 16, 2020, 04:27:12 PM by Wetwoodshunter »

Online fishngamereaper

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season
« Reply #12 on: December 08, 2020, 09:42:31 AM »
  :tup:
Glad you decided to post. The story deserves telling.

Offline Skyvalhunter

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season
« Reply #13 on: December 08, 2020, 09:46:00 AM »
Section?

Offline Wetwoodshunter

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season
« Reply #14 on: December 08, 2020, 09:48:38 AM »
Section?

I'm going to replace them with story sections or pictures. So they are all at the top. I didn't knw any other way to do it other than ask a mod or just hit modify.

Offline elkrack

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season
« Reply #15 on: December 08, 2020, 10:31:58 AM »
Good thinkin  :tup:
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Offline Onewhohikes

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season
« Reply #16 on: December 10, 2020, 07:49:11 AM »
Section?

I'm going to replace them with story sections or pictures. So they are all at the top. I didn't knw any other way to do it other than ask a mod or just hit modify.
You just edit your original post to add more to the story

Offline Wetwoodshunter

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season
« Reply #17 on: December 10, 2020, 09:24:22 AM »
Section?

I'm going to replace them with story sections or pictures. So they are all at the top. I didn't knw any other way to do it other than ask a mod or just hit modify.
You just edit your original post to add more to the story

I could do that but there is a maximum amount of pictures for each post.

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season
« Reply #18 on: December 10, 2020, 10:20:00 AM »
Great storytelling! Can’t wait for future sections!
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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season
« Reply #19 on: December 11, 2020, 05:35:54 AM »
look fine

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season
« Reply #20 on: December 11, 2020, 07:08:09 AM »
Pics look normal, that country really is that steep.  :chuckle:

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season
« Reply #21 on: December 12, 2020, 05:04:10 PM »
.
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Offline Dan-o

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season
« Reply #22 on: December 13, 2020, 09:51:14 AM »
Tag.

Awesome so far.
Member:   Yakstrakgutp (or whatever we are)
I love the BFRO!!!
I wonder how many people will touch their nose to their screen trying to read this...

Offline Sandberm

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season
« Reply #23 on: December 13, 2020, 10:46:30 AM »
I read the first few entries and am enjoying the hunt.

In regards to the forgotten tag and tote...isn't the most frustrating thing in the world to think you are prepared and find out you forgot something?  :bash: Even though your hunting partner forgot his tag I couldn't imagine him not going anyways. 80% of the fun in a group hunt is being with the group.

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season
« Reply #24 on: December 14, 2020, 05:28:46 AM »
Tag.

Awesome so far.

Thanks Dan-o, trying my best.

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season
« Reply #25 on: December 14, 2020, 05:30:43 AM »
I read the first few entries and am enjoying the hunt.

In regards to the forgotten tag and tote...isn't the most frustrating thing in the world to think you are prepared and find out you forgot something?  :bash: Even though your hunting partner forgot his tag I couldn't imagine him not going anyways. 80% of the fun in a group hunt is being with the group.

So frustrating missing things. The worst ever was Brushcrawler and I did a hunt in AK for Caribou with and outfitted camp and the outfitter forgot to leave us a stove and propane! Cold MTN house for 3 days sucked.

Offline Onewhohikes

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season
« Reply #26 on: December 14, 2020, 06:09:15 AM »
Are you sure that's your worst? :chuckle:

Offline Sandberm

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season
« Reply #27 on: December 14, 2020, 07:01:40 AM »
Are you sure that's your worst? :chuckle:

Uh oh. Past couple months, "Worst" is a trigger word for a pile-on at hunt wa  :tung: :chuckle:

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season
« Reply #28 on: December 16, 2020, 10:06:20 AM »
Hopefully will put the dic dic on the ground tomorrow!  :chuckle:
I hope you guys and gals are enjoying this as much as I am writing it.

Offline KillerBeee

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season
« Reply #29 on: December 16, 2020, 10:56:00 AM »
Looks like that was quite the extreme adventure. Enjoying the write up and great to hear from you.

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season (finished)
« Reply #30 on: December 16, 2020, 04:01:48 PM »
Thanks everyone for tagging along!

Offline Buzz2401

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season (finished)
« Reply #31 on: December 16, 2020, 04:41:53 PM »
Awesome buck congratz on a great adventure and the buck of a lifetime.

Offline teanawayslayer

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season (finished)
« Reply #32 on: December 16, 2020, 05:00:16 PM »
Great write up bud! Did Kari proof read it lol?  It was a good read!
Happiness is being in the woods!!!

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season (finished)
« Reply #33 on: December 16, 2020, 05:11:05 PM »
Great write up bud! Did Kari proof read it lol?  It was a good read!

I don't think Kari has even seen it.

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season (finished)
« Reply #34 on: December 16, 2020, 06:06:57 PM »
 :tup: good stuff man.. congrats...heck of an adventure.

Looks like the huntress needs to get back out there, if anything to keep you guys in line. :chuckle:


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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season (finished)
« Reply #35 on: December 16, 2020, 08:28:23 PM »
Great story and phenomenal deer! Glad you got your lucky hat back too.
There is not enough wilderness left in the world, or in the hearts of men.

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season (finished)
« Reply #36 on: December 16, 2020, 09:02:04 PM »
Awesome write up and pics! congrats on the adventure and animals!

Offline Onewhohikes

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season (finished)
« Reply #37 on: December 17, 2020, 05:44:55 AM »
Sorry I couldn't keep up

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season (finished)
« Reply #38 on: December 17, 2020, 06:48:35 AM »
Best thing I’ve read in a long time! What an adventure! Great write up and thanks for sharing!
“Just give me a comfortable couch, a dog, a good book, and a woman. Then if you can get the dog to go somewhere and read the book, I might have a little fun.”
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Offline rosscrazyelk

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season (finished)
« Reply #39 on: December 19, 2020, 09:19:02 AM »
I am not much of a reader but I enjoyed this
If its brown knock it down

Offline Mark Brenckle

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season (finished)
« Reply #40 on: December 20, 2020, 11:15:27 AM »
Fantastic

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Re: Wetwoodhunter's deer season (finished)
« Reply #41 on: April 01, 2021, 12:31:23 PM »
Very nice buck.

 :tup: I love seeing guys get after it :tup:

You can make today the good ole days with some research, hard work, and time in the field. You guys did all of that.


Nice work

 


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