Predator or Prey

By Kari Hirschberger
Washington, 2011, DIY, Public Land

Kari Hirschberger - Predator or PreyOctober/November 2012 EHJ (Issue 133) - The beginning of my solo DIY wilderness mule deer hunt probably started similarly to most; with a little grunting and sweating and second thoughts about the items I chose to bring and those I left behind. As I hiked up an unmaintained trail into Washington’s Lake Chelan Recreation Area four days before the season was to open, I had no idea my wilderness hunting experience was about to change significantly from most of my fellow hunting enthusiasts. Sunday night, I had conquered roughly 3,400 vertical feet and 6.6 trail miles to the boundary of the recreation area. I slept under the glowing full moon, debating whether I should hike the remaining mile and a half by moonlight or wait for the morning sun to make my final ascent to a ridgeline where I would be able to view two pristine alpine basins. Recognizing I may unwittingly push some animals in the darkness, patience conquered my excitement and I closed my eyes waiting for the rosy glow from the east.

At first light, I hiked the remainder of the distance and set up for multiple days of glassing. From early morning to roughly 1:00 p.m., I scanned the meadows and granite cliffs for any signs of life. The occasional gray jay or raven came to visit, but other than their presence I was unable to find any signs of life. Just as I was starting to question my spotting skills, I discovered a dead 4x5 mule deer in the bottom of the western basin. Not desiring my presence to be known to animals I had yet to discover, I decided to delay investigation. I still had not located a single deer by 4:00 p.m.; curiosity outweighed logic at this juncture and I simply had to admire those horns at a closer distance. I marked a rock and a red clump of grass as landmarks, and descended into the larch timber.

I arrived at the rock only to find the deer carcass missing! Perhaps…I am not at the same angle… perhaps it is around the rock further. I stepped around the rock to discover pieces of deer pulled into some kind of predator den. In what seemed like a moment, multiple things happened: I recognized I should not be in that location and started backing away, I scanned the rock for any signs of movement, I looked for the deer carcass, and spotted two very unhappy gray wolves approaching quickly from roughly 40 yards away. I threw my hands up and started screaming. "SCAT! GET OUT OF HERE! GET AWAY!” Their approach continued. I grabbed a rock and threw it. "SHOO! GET THE HECK OUT OF HERE!” The wolves were relentless in their approach. Finally, they stopped, but they did not run. You idiot; you’re next to their den… of course they aren’t going to leave! This allowed me to retreat back to my spotting scope for a few pictures. Knowing full well that my experience would not be considered founded without proof, I collected GPS coordinates and snapped a few hurried photos of the wolves through my spotting scope as they hesitated near the rock. It was now roughly 4:30 p.m. and I recognized I was not going to be able to stay in the vicinity this evening, especially since the wolves were now pursuing me up the ridgeline.

Kari Hirschberger - Predator or Prey

For a full account of Kari's adventure, go to page 32 in the October/November 2012 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.