December/January 2013 EHJ (Issue 134) - There is nothing like pulling into a place you have never been before and being able to recognize each mountain, ridge, and creek, and knowing the name of each and how the ground lays. For the last five months I had spent every spare minute studying maps and doing countless hours of Internet scouting for this opportunity. The time was finally here, and it was everything I was hoping it would be. But, one thing was missing. I was by myself, as my buddy, Casey, had a death in the family and had to stay home a couple more days.
My hunting season up to this point had not been stellar. My archery elk season in Washington and Idaho had been a bust. It seemed as though whatever could go wrong for me did, and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Things started to look up come deer season. I was lucky enough to hunt with my dad for the opening weekend of rifle season in Washington chasing blacktails. The first morning we were a few miles in behind a closed gate and split up. About an hour later I broke the radio silence with, "Hey dad, big buck down!” Although my elk season had been tough, I was hoping it would be my year for deer as I set up camp miles from home.
My first morning in Idaho was a beautiful, clear, crisp morning and I headed out on a closed road I had been told held a good buck. After glassing for about an hour I had not seen a thing, so I continued out the road to the draw the buck was last seen.
As I came around the hill the wind was perfectly wrong, and I heard hooves as 25 head of elk scampered across the hillside — not exactly what I was hoping for. I then looked down to see another herd of elk in the bottom of the canyon. Within a few minutes, they had spooked as well. There was not a deer to be found where this big buck was supposed to be. I continued on the road, climbing to the top of the mountain where I could look for miles. All I spotted were more elk. It was close to 11:00 a.m. when I spotted a few deer off the road in the timber.
One turned out to be a nice buck that was maybe 25 or 26-inches wide, but just a three-point. After looking closer, he was nice, tall, and heavy, but with forks on opposite tines. I watched him for over an hour and even got some great video of him, but being that it was the first day, I decide to pass on the "Ugly-3”.
Perhaps my expectations had been set a little high, but the first day turned out to be a letdown. You never know what to expect when going someplace new, but I thought I would see more deer. I was still high-spirited as my Internet scouting told me where another good buck had been earlier in the year. He could not be too far.
That assumption turned out to be false, as day two was more of the same. Casey rolled into camp at about 1:00 a.m., eager for a good report, but all I had was disappointing news.
The next morning we headed out to where I had seen some deer the night before. We spotted a couple of decent bucks, but nothing worth going after. We got back to camp that night and I showed Casey the video of the Ugly-3. After seeing it, he started to give me second thoughts.
We decided to split up and go our own directions the next morning in an effort to cover more ground and hopefully find something worth shooting. I decided to head back out the closed road from the first day to see if I could find that good buck, and if nothing else, take a second look at the Ugly-3.
I sat and waited for daylight as the rain pelted my rain jacket. It finally got light and the rain started to let up. I began glassing the hillsides through the fog but turned up nothing. I got moving pretty fast and began to warm up. I stopped to shed a layer and in the process something caught my eye above me.
I put up the binoculars and saw a big body deer disappear behind a tree. I took off on a dead sprint down the road to get a better vantage point, but I could not spot him again. The hillside was too thick and steep to hike up. Had I just blown my chance for the day? Was this going to be a repeat of my archery elk season? I honestly felt jaded. I realized it was only day four, but why could I not get a break to go my way?
For a full account of Jeff's adventure, go to page 32 in the December/January 2013 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.