February/March 2013 EHJ (Issue 135) - This was my twentieth year hunting in the high country of Wyoming. It’s part of the true wilderness that is still left, and it’s different each time I’m up there. It can change in an instant, whether it’s cold and snowy or hot and dry. But, the things that make it the best are the occasional moose walking through camp stirring up the horses or the possibility of running into a bear or two. And, to beat it all—there aren’t a lot of hunters.
My cousin Ray Clark and I have had some wonderful times in the high country. We try and plan our hunts to the point where either one of us, or one of our boys, draws a tag. This year was our year. We both had the luck of drawing out. We have some favorite basins we love to hunt, and have named each basin after one of us who has come out with a monster. When the draw results came out in July the phone calls between friends started and the planning began. Our friends Jared, Roger, and Joe weren’t fortunate enough to draw tags,but they wanted to come along for the hunt anyway. We have taken several good deer over the years in the high country, and each year we hope someone gets a good one. We have always seen a few great bucks, but bringing them home is a whole different story.
When I found out I drew my tag I kept telling my boys this year was the year. It was time to shoot a really good buck. They gave me a hard time and said I would shoot the first four-point I saw, but I held strong and said I would get a big one or go home empty-handed.
It didn’t seem like hunting season was here because of the unreasonably warm and dry weather. Shorts and T-shirts aren’t usually on the packing list. Opening weekend was soon upon us and we headed up for the first two days of the hunt. We usually like to go late in the hunt, but I thought we could try the first two days and see if we could find a good buck. That didn’t quite work out for us. We saw people instead of bucks and had hot weather, which wasn’t a good combination. We headed back up a week later to really give it a go. We weren’t very optimistic. The weather hadn’t changed and no storms were in sight.
The first night of the hunt, Jared and I hiked into a nice basin that my 13-year-old son Davis and I had found the weekend before. We started glassing and found deer everywhere. We saw a lot of does and a few small bucks but we didn’t see any shooters. The deer were very active and we were starting to get a little more excited.
We got up early the next morning and started up the trail well before light. Everything was just right when we got to one of the basins we love to hunt. Jared and I headed up on another ridge to glass my favorite basin. Ray, Roger and Joe tied up the horses and started glassing the cliffs for any sign of big bucks. We all had high expectations because Ray had taken a really nice buck several years ago in that basin and his son Casey shot a great buck in those same cliffs as well.
Jared and I continued glassing the basin, but we didn’t see a single deer. We couldn’t believe it. That had never been the case. Frustrated, we hiked back to the others to see if they had seen anything in the cliffs. Roger then told us he saw a group of bucks that headed into the pines. He thought there might have been one decent buck in the group so we decided to split up and see what we could find. Ray went over the back ridge just in case the bucks tried to escape. Jared and I hiked into that basin and glassed the cliffs and pines for any sign of the bucks. We saw nothing. The four bucks Roger saw were gone.
Frustrated again, I looked at Jared and said, "Do you know what time it is? It’s Pepsi and pudding time.”
There is nothing better than a Pepsi and Snack Pack at 10,000 feet after a hard morning hunt. We sat down and took our backpacks off, pulled out our snacks and relaxed for a minute. Moments later, I happened to look up into the cliffs and saw a great buck standing there.
For a full account of John's adventure, go to page 18 in the February/March 2013 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.