August/September 2013 EHJ (Issue 138) - For years I have been amazed with the quality of deer to be found in every outdoor magazine and hunting program, deer taken on private ranches with the help of guides, deer taken in well known areas with the use of tags that might take a decade or longer to draw. As a regular guy with a regular job, those hunts are beyond my means at this stage of my life. I was drawn to the do-it-yourself, backcountry-style hunts depicted in the Eastmans’ hunting journals – regular guys working their tails off and earning their trophies.
With a baby on the way, I knew my annual October hunt across the state wasn’t in the cards. With my over-the-counter tag, I was able to hunt in mid- September closer to home. I decided to really crack down and learn a portion of wilderness along the Cascade Mountains range. I quickly found it to be the most beautiful country I had ever seen.
My good friend and co-worker, Michael Porter, agreed to join me on this adventure. He had grown up enjoying the outdoors but had never been hunting. His summer included the added task of passing his hunter safety class, finding a hunting rifle, and learning how to use it!
Over the summer, we completed five scouting trips into the area, an area that was chosen for no other reason than it looked hard to get to. I wanted to find those carefree bucks feeding out in the open above timberline that you read about. I read and re-read everything I could find on these high country mule deer. Despite our efforts, the scouting trips only turned up one small buck and a handful of does.
My trail camera told a different story. In one nine-day stretch, I had six bucks stop by for a photo, three of them deer that I would love to take home with me, and a fourth that was really something special. With seven scoreable points on one side and six on the other, this buck was easily the largest deer I had seen in Washington State.
In the moments between work and taking care of my increasingly pregnant wife, this buck and where he lived dominated my thoughts. How was I going to make this happen? I wanted something more to go on than just a hope that I was in the right place at the right time. But time was not on my side, and the short season was quickly approaching.
September 12, 2012, was my last day of work before opening day. I had already dropped my patrol car off at the office and jumped in with Michael for the short ride to my house. At about that time, another trooper advised that he was in pursuit of a motorcycle on Interstate 90. We happened to be in the area and located the motorcyclist as he was hiding in a residential neighborhood. The pursuit continued, this time on foot, over fences and through back yards. He couldn’t outrun the K9, and was eventually caught. As the adrenaline wore off, the pain in my knee set in. As I limped into the house, I feared that my wilderness buck hunt was over before it began.
For a full account of Dan's adventure, go to page 48 in the August/September 2013 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.