Idaho, 2008, DIY, Public Land
Blood, sweat, tears, and the agony of success was complete. Elation beyond words came over me as I made the final creek crossing, not caring if my boots were soaked. I had only a few hundred yards to go as I huffed and grunted on the last pitch. Making my way to the road, I was soaring with the stars for the final victory walk. The mystical gray ghost of the woods had fallen during magic hour that morning. Now, he was completely deboned, caped, and riding alongside every piece of gear used to survive in the high country on a DIY backpacking hunt. Every cubic inch was maxed out with meat, head, antlers, and spike camp. As I removed the load, estimated at around 160 lbs., the unthinkable had been done. Fulfillment and peace of mind were mine to remember.
For those of you who follow Eastmans’ Hunting Journal, their tips, tactics, and advice, and are fellow backpack hunters, you know these emotions I speak of. The experience of the hunt and the dedication it takes to do it on foot and on public land is rewarding enough, even when you take off a pack only full of gear.
As I hold the massive antlers of this buck of a lifetime and admire his 9x7 rack, the memory lives from within. I am fortunate to live in the Yellowstone ecosystem, but just because I live in the heart of wild country doesn’t mean it’s easy. The approach to spike camp was straight up, and all of the gear, rations, and water had to be taken in one trip. This is when scouting pays off big. I knew the best access to the area where I had watched this buck during August, when he unknowingly revealed his lair.
It was October 9, and the next morning was the opener for this area. My mind wandered. Had he changed his habits? Had some other hunters pushed him out of the area during the earlier seasons?
The alarm sounded before morning light, and I did not have far to go. I am a believer in camping as close to your hunting location as possible. Spiking out in a secluded area close to your quarry makes absolute sense to me. The short approach time in the mornings and evenings allows hunting at first and last light to be more effective.
The anticipation burned deep as I approached the upper basins. The morning was gusty and cold near the top of the 10,000-foot peak.
For a full account of Chad's adventure, go to page 14 in the August/September 2009 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.