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Apr/May 2011 EHJ (Issue 124) - Dreams of the hunt - the possibilities, hope, and adventure – is what keeps me going every year. Every spring, I fill out hunt applications and fish while I eagerly wait for the results of the draws. My good friend, Mike, called me early one morning and the excitement in his voice was evident. “We drew!” he shouted.
We had entered our names for a lot of tags and multiple species, so after he gave me a little more information, I finally understood that we had drawn a coveted Idaho deer tag. This tag was limited to a handful of nonresidents and we had been lucky enough to grab a couple of them.
Early scouting was tough, but we managed to spot a few nice deer on an excursion in early August. A few deer were big - the biggest was a 36-inch three-point that we watched for the better part of an hour.
October rolled around and a hot, dry Indian summer was a bit concerning to me, since some of this hunt was based on migrating deer. Regardless, we had the tag and the hunt was on. We set up camp in a light drizzle that made it feel more like fall, excitedly talking about the possibilities of a big buck and the adventure that lay ahead.
For me, being able to sleep on the eve of a hunt is always a challenge. Before long, the dawn was breaking and I was dressed and waiting for daylight. The night rain had been a welcome relief and I was optimistic it would make a great opening for the hunt.
The first morning brought a noticeable lack of game, so we changed areas and were again confronted with few deer - although we did find some nice antelope. We moved again and this time saw a few does and a small twopoint. I was feeling some letdown, as all my dreams of a huge buck were coming crashing down quickly.
That afternoon, we decided to drive out to the other side of the unit, where we had seen a few good bucks in August. When we got to the new destination, we saw a few does and another two-point. We again glassed from good vantage points and looked at a lot of ground but saw no animals. As we returned to camp that evening, we were dejected. We passed a burger joint and decided to pull in for an easy meal and a shake. A few other hunters and locals were also there and one hunter gave us some encouragement and a few ideas.
The third day was full of renewed optimism, but ended without any bucks seen. It’s great deer country, but bucks were mysteriously absent, so I decided to call the local game department and talk to the biologist again. I was concerned about the validity of the tag and the prospects of a trophy. “The migration is a little late this year,” was the answer. I guess it made me feel better, and he validated that we were hunting good areas.
Mike and I decided to wait another week and then return for the end of the hunt. I finished work at 11 p.m. and we drove well into the night. The road was icy with snow showers and the temperatures were cold with the forecast calling for more cold. The weather had turned; it was truly fall.
Pulling off the highway, the clock read 3:30 a.m. The car thermometer confirmed the season – a cool 20 degrees, along with a stiff north wind. I pulled out my sleeping bag and tried to get a couple hours of shut-eye in the front seat.
We awakened to a gray sky and ice on the inside of the windshield. What a difference a few weeks had made! As we looked around, we found a good glassing point and began the search. We saw only a few does, so we moved and this time jumped a small buck.
I pulled out my spotting scope and zoomed into a canyon and spotted deer - doe, doe, doe, and then wow! I settled in and began to watch a good buck push the does. “A shooter,” I said to Mike, and soon we were heading off in pursuit.
At 850 yards, we really looked him over and confirmed he was a great buck. We then crested a small ridge at 563 yards and glassed again – he was heavy and had great eyeguards. Our excitement was growing.
Cresting another ridge, Mike peeked over with me just a few feet behind. “He’s gone,” Mike said. I glassed and thought about the landmarks I had seen and remembered a big black rock behind the buck. I told Mike it was below us out of view. He slipped off the ridge and began walking over the small ridge in front. “Get your gun up and get ready,” I whispered.
For a full account of Ian's adventure, go to page 32 in the April/May 2011 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.