Jan/Feb 2011 EBJ (Issue 63)
Oregon, 2010, DIY, Public Land
- Mountain bucks - the old knobbyhorned, sway-backed, gray-faced bruisers – make their way into the dreams of hunters with regularity. They stand on jagged alpine ridges, holding their antlers skylined while squinting into oncoming mountain storms. They fill their bellies with tender flora all through the day; and they lie under whitebark pine trees with their heavy-antlered heads bobbing in midday slumber. This is exactly how I dream of them and this is exactly what I witness every year in Oregon’s pristine high country.
By the third week of archery season, when most hunters were racing for the good elk hunting areas, I was climbing a mountain with my friend, Nick Best. We were headed into one of my favorite mule deer honey holes. It’s not an easy place to access, let alone hunt. But with a good set of legs and a mind for decoding buck behavior, it’s a hunt that can produce big deer every year.
On our backs rode food, water, shelter, and tools for the hunt; all this in quantity to last four or more days. It was Nick’s first time on this sort of hunt, and while walking behind him, I could see his pack nearly splitting at the seams. What luxuries he had in there I will never know.
Our glassing post was only 1.9 miles within the wilderness boundary but over 3,100 feet above what I call “ground level”. You always know where ground level is, even at night, for this is where the roar of fresh water rises, where campfires burn, and where I stare during the cold, restless nights.
The sun rose the first morning and found us crouched behind spotting scopes, tediously scanning the basin below. It was a slow morning and our fingers stung as we pressed them against the cold metal of our tripods. By 10 a.m. we began to wear down, and we wondered if we shouldn’t just crawl back into our mummy bags to warm up. Doing so would surely eliminate any hope of finding a buck, so we held our posts.
Getting desperate, I started looking in the real nasty stuff - the cliffy, crumbly, hoof-busting stuff no animal with any common sense would go into. As I scanned an area, an impulse ripped through my body and my hands locked up the scope. I must have seen something; now where is it? There! Halfway behind a tree stood a dreamer buck - only half his face and one massive antler stuck out. The gnarly, high elevation trees were thick, though, and after only a few minutes he disappeared.
For a full account of Joe's adventure, go to page 24 in the January/February 2011 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.