November/December 2012 EBJ (Issue 74) - Early summer to many people may mean boating, BBQ and baseball, but to me, the month of June has always meant the first look at that year’s velvet mulies. It’s not easy or convenient to make early season pack-in scouting trips, but that’s exactly why I’ve always enjoyed them - no crowds, no pressure, just the challenge and excitement of searching for the buck that gives you a reason to go back.
For the past decade, my bow seasons have begun with getting in shape for the high country and generally start well before the snow starts to melt. In the months of March and April, I focus my efforts on becoming as prepared as possible for the long season ahead. This includes running, circuit training, pick-up basketball and pretty much anything that helps me work up a sweat and get my body going strong again after winter. Packing into the backcountry can be both glamorous and rewarding, but it doesn’t come without a physical cost and while being in the best shape possible won’t eliminate the pain, it definitely starts a bowhunter on the right track to success.
As I mentioned earlier, even though my training begins at the tail end of winter, the snowpack in the high country generally prevents real backcountry work until at least early June. Utah’s 2010- 2011 winter produced record snowpack, which prevented the early June scouting trips that usually mark the unofficial start of my scouting season. My longtime hunting partner and friend, Jake and I shouldered our packs and headed into some of our favorite basins for the first time all year on June 25. Even as late in the year as it was, Jake and I spent hours on the way in breaking through thighdeep snowdrifts and fighting late runoff.
Once we reached one of our normal glassing locations on the peak, it was easy to see that most of the deer were still living lower on the mountain due to the above-average late snowpack. In the high country, mule deer patterns change often and I feel like it’s important to stay realistic about the expectations of a buck continuing to show himself throughout the season.
As the year wore on and the snow started to melt, I was happy to find bucks showing up in the high country basins that I’d been watching. The heavy snowpack seemed to keep the deer at lower elevations for longer than normal and 2011 was not my best scouting year in terms of deer numbers for this reason. The snow created great vegetation and browse in the lower country while slowing the growth in the higher country. This meant the deer had no reason to go high as they normally would have. I made a total of 15 trips into a few of my favorite areas over the course of the summer. I feel like multiple scouting trips are a great advantage if a bowhunter expects to be successful. These trips allow me to familiarize myself with everything from feeding and bedding areas to deer travel routes, and even prevailing wind directions at different times of the day. Overnight trips on the mountain throughout the summer aren’t always convenient or fun but the chance to spend both an evening and a morning in a given area can be time well spent.
In addition to my summer scouting habits, I also make shooting practice a high priority. Generally speaking, I’ll make the time to shoot at least once a day throughout the spring and summer, right on through and continuing into the archery season. Even though, like any bowhunter, I prefer to take close range shots at game, I like to practice at extended distances. Long-range practice not only teaches you to realize how important good form is to making a quality shot, but it also makes those 40-yard opportunities seem like chip shots. Shooting, in my opinion, is one of the most important factors to success, because over the course of a season most every bowhunter will be given at least one chance at taking an animal and the practice you put in is the key to making these chances count. When it comes to shooting, you can only expect to get out what you put in.
For a full account of Austin's adventure, go to page 18 in the November/December 2012 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.