Idaho, 2009, DIY, Public Land
As usual, the night before opening day was a sleepless one for me, but this time it was for entirely different reasons. It could have been the yard sale quality mattress with questionably clean sheets, or the desk clerk at our dive motel who offered us the hourly rate when we tried to negotiate prices for the night. But mainly, it was because I had completely lost track of the buck that was my goal for this hunt. It was a sickening feeling since I had devoted ten of the last 12 weekends scouting for tomorrow morning, and now I had no idea what I was going to do.
I first located the buck that I nicknamed “Lefty” in mid August. The name came from his incredible left side and his horribly split left ear. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only person watching him that day. Brian, who I came to know during the course of the hunt, was also laying eyes on Lefty for the first time that day.
As I approached him, he was huddled over a spotting scope taking a closer look. He seemed equally as disappointed to meet his future competition. We exchanged business cards and promised that we’d contact each other if either of us was lucky enough to kill him.
I was able to keep tabs on Lefty for the next four weekends in the same location. I admit that most of my obsession with checking on the buck was to see if there were any other hunters watching as well. I envisioned opening day being a madhouse of hunters, all pursuing the same buck. To my surprise, I never saw another person checking the entire season.
On the fourth weekend I stumbled upon a great 85-inch shed antler. I carried it around for about ten minutes before I realized it was Lefty’s left antler, further reinforcing the name. I was scouting a different area at the time, so it took me awhile to realize it was his antler.
Just before finding the shed, I jumped a tall narrow 5x5 that I thought would go 195. He looked like a high 180s 4x4 with 7-8 inches in extras. I figured he would be a great backup buck and that no one would find him in the hellhole he was in.
That evening I went back to check on Lefty. He was up and feeding for the evening so I watched him until dark. His newly polished white antlers seemed to glow in the dark and it was pretty cool watching him while holding one of his sheds. Confident that he wasn’t going far, I left to scout another area, not knowing that day was the last day I would see him for awhile.
The following weekend started out like every other weekend that summer. I loaded a cooler and was out the door. I had resorted to sleeping in the cab of my Tacoma because it was easier to stay mobile, without the hassle of setting up camp every weekend. Most of my scouting consisted of day trips, so I usually made it back to the comfort of the passenger seat each night.
I got off work early Friday night with hopes of getting up on the mountain in time to see Lefty. I was able to locate all the young bucks of the bachelor group with ease, but there was no sign of Lefty or the other mature buck in the group, a 30-inch 4x3. I headed home a little disappointed but confident I would relocate Lefty before the opener.
Two weeks went by without any sign of him. I searched for the 195 buck as well, with no luck. My confidence was fading until the Sunday night before opening day, when I located the 30-inch 4x3. He had moved over a mile away to a steeper, more secluded location. This gave me hope that Lefty wasn’t too far away.
The hunt opened on a Thursday, so I took off the first part of the week to continue scouting and set up camp. The winds were howling all week and I returned to camp one evening to find my tent lying in a pile on top of my ATV 20 feet from its original location. Despite being full of gear and completely staked down, the tent still took flight in heavy winds. That night I anchored the tent to my pickup and tried to sleep, but after eight hours of listening to the rain fly flapping in the wind, I gave up on the tent and went back to my pickup.
For a full account of Jason's adventure, go to page 14 in the August/September 2010 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.