July/August 2013 EBJ (Issue 78) - For many of us, the archery opener is a day we look forward to year round. Vacation is scheduled, commitments are dodged and phone calls go unanswered. My escape from civilization usually begins the day before with a long drive to the trailhead, followed by a lengthy hike into the middle of nowhere, and this year was no different. I arrived at the trailhead with plenty of time pack in and locate some bucks for the following days hunt.
About an hour into the hike I spotted two bucks feeding on an open hillside. Both bucks were still in velvet; one was a young 2x3 and the other, a nice non-typical. He had a solid 4-point frame, good mass and three extras on his right side. I took a second to get some video of him, then continued up the trail to glass a few more places before dark. I found a few more bucks that evening, but none were more appealing than the non-typical. It was time for some Mountain House lasagna with a couple Advil PMs for dessert.
The next morning I crawled out of my one-man tent and eagerly awaited first glassing light. The first few hours of glassing produced very little. Finally at 9:00 I spotted four bucks in the bottom of the basin; bedded nearby was the non-typical I was looking for. The bucks made their way across the basin and up the steep hillside where I glassed them the night before. The non-typical remained bedded for most of the morning while the rest of the bucks were up and feeding. Around 11:00 he got up and fed his way up the hill to join the other bucks. He decided to bed at the bottom of the group, at least 50 yards below the other bucks, making a stalk from above nearly impossible. With no other options I decided I would attempt a stalk anyway, even if it meant just getting close and waiting for an opportunity to arise.
I packed up my gear and moved to the ridge directly above the bucks. I took my boots off, slipped on my extra pair of socks, and started to drop in on the group. The hillside was broken up by little patches of pines, which I used as cover to cut the distance to 150 yards. At this point I wasn’t quite sure what to do. There was one patch of trees that would get me 90 yards closer, but getting there would be a gamble. I decided it was worth the risk. I took a few steps and was quickly busted by the closest buck in the group. I froze, hoping his shortterm memory would get the best of him and he would give up on his intent stare and bed back down. But, after a lengthy standoff I could tell he wasn’t about to forget about me. His behavior got the attention of the rest of the group and they decided to bound away.
To my surprise they spooked uphill and to my right instead of downhill and directly away from me. I watched them in my binoculars and quickly noticed there were only four bucks. The nontypical wasn’t with them. He must have slipped out the bottom where I couldn’t see him. With no other options, I decided to sneak down to where the upper bucks were bedded to see if I could spot the non-typical. Now I was only 60 yards from where he was last bedded two hours ago. Through the thick limbs I noticed a patch of grey hair. I raised my binos and was able to see velvet tips through the brush. It was him, and he was bedded broadside looking downhill. Somehow I had managed to spook all of his buddies without spooking him. I guess I’d rather be lucky than good any day.
For a full account of Jason's adventure, go to page 28 in the July/August 2013 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.