Two Smokepoles, Two Days, and Two Smoker Bucks

By Fred Borges

Two Smokepoles, Two Days, and Two Smoker BucksFred Borges
Idaho, 2007, DIY, Public Land

Mule deer hunting in the high desert country of Idaho is something I look forward to every year. The rimrock and sage that make up this country hold a lot of memories of past hunts with family and friends. I’ve been lucky enough to draw a couple of rifle tags here and take a few nice bucks over the years. My wife had a muzzleloader tag in 2006, and took her first buck ever, a big non-typical, on the second to last day of the hunt. Seven days of hunting had changed her view on how much work it was. I also believe it surprised her how much she enjoyed hunting mule deer in this country.

My nephew J.D. and I discussed where we wanted to apply and decided on a muzzleloader hunt in a unit neither of us had hunted before. Luckily, we both pulled tags. My schedule wouldn’t permit a lot of scouting time, so this duty was placed on J.D. since his job put him close to the area. Over the next three months, scouting trips were made each week. Not a lot of bucks were spotted, and none of quality. We knew that some great bucks had been taken there over the past few years and that deer would be migrating into the area, and this is what we were hoping for.

In 2007, Idaho regulations changed and you had to have a muzzleloader with an exposed pivoting hammer. This was not an issue for me because my mine met the requirement, but for J.D., it meant his inline wasn’t legal. He borrowed an old TC Hawken from his dad, and with some help from a friend and 1-½ pounds of powder, they finally had a load that would shoot accurately. With open sights, your range is definitely cut down. We knew we would need to close the distance to make a clean shot.

Heavy rain turned the dry desert into a slick, gooey mess for our first day of hunting. We made it to our destination, though, and daylight found us glassing from a vantage point. This proved to be a challenge due to the ever-changing fog conditions. Eventually, we located a nice 160-class four-point but decided to move on. The remainder of the day failed to produce anything that got our hearts racing.

The next Saturday, J.D., his friend Gene, and I headed to a new spot to set up and glass. This spot overlooked a multitude of large draws that funneled down to agricultural areas. At first light, we could see a lot of deer on the move. The rut was definitely starting but again, no big deer were spotted.

At 9:30 a.m., I spotted a buck that got our attention. The morning sun was just touching the ridge he was on with his does, and he looked impressive. Since I spotted him, I had first option. We could see he had a big typical frame with some extras; I would be foolish not to go after him.

Two Smokepoles, Two Days, and Two Smoker Bucks

For a full account of Fred's adventure, go to page 32 in the October/November 2009 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.