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Post Deadly Winter, 2017 Hunting Season

 
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HalfAce
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May-19-17, 
05:56 AM (MST)
"Post Deadly Winter, 2017 Hunting Season"

Hi everybody, my name is Alek. I come from a non-hunting family, so with no one to learn from in regards to anything to do with hunting, I turned to MonsterMuleys. Since I was a teenager, this website and all of its users has taught me SO much over the years, I donít know where I would be today without it. So because of that, I want to return the favor by participating in this yearís HAC. Maybe a person coming from a family that doesnít hunt can learn something through what I post here, and if not, at least I hope to provide some good entertainment for the rest of you who may very well have had a hand in teaching me something.

I am not much of a picture taker, and I regret not making any journal entries of my hunts throughout the years. The only thing I have done is write myself an end of season re-cap, but by the end of the season I have forgot many of the smaller details which make journal entries so fun to read one day down the line. So in return for creating this HAC thread, I hope it teaches/forces me to take more pictures of my outings, helps me start chronicling my hunts, and just maybe puts a little more pressure on me to stay out longer and try even harder!

I'm sure life and work will do a very good job of getting in the way of my scouting & hunting trips as well as posting here, but ill try and keep up with it the best I can. So follow along and lets see what the West has to offer after the deadly winter of 2016-2017.

Thanks for looking and good luck with your 2017 hunts.

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  Table of Contents  

 Subject   Author   Message Date   ID 
 RE: Post Deadl...  HalfAce      Oct-08-17   1 
 RE: Post Deadl...  HalfAce      Oct-11-17   2 
 RE: Post Deadl...  HalfAce      Oct-12-17   3 
  RE: Post Deadl...  HalfAce      Oct-14-17   4 
  RE: Post Deadl...  HalfAce      Oct-14-17   5 
   RE: Post Deadl...  HalfAce      Oct-20-17   6 
    RE: Post Deadl...  HalfAce      Oct-30-17   7 
     RE: Post Deadl...  HalfAce      Nov-01-17   8 
      RE: Post Deadl...  HalfAce      Nov-05-17   9 
      RE: Post Deadl...  HalfAce      Nov-05-17   10 
       RE: Post Deadl...  HalfAce      Nov-11-17   11 
        RE: Post Deadl...  HalfAce      Nov-18-17   12 

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HalfAce
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Oct-08-17, 
07:48 AM (MST)
1. "RE: Post Deadly Winter, 2017 Hunting Season"

Hi Everyone. I'll spare you all the details, but life and work did an EXTREMELY good job of getting in the way of my planned scouting trips and hunts this year.

With such a busy schedule since my initial posting I chose not to put in for any of the earlier season hunts because I knew I would be too busy to make it out. I had no luck in drawing any of the mid & late season draw tags. At first I was a little dis-heartened about not drawing anything, but its all for the better with how little time I have had.

So with that said, I do have 2 tags this season: One Idaho OTC General Season Deer tag, and one Colorado 3rd Season Mule Deer tag that took zero points to "draw". I may pick up one more OTC tag somewhere.

The Idaho season opener is coming up this Tuesday the 10th, and I have been scrambling to get my gear together and head out. I am about to hit the road from CA, but I wanted to make my post here before I leave.

My plan is to hunt some of the country I have hunted in years past as well as check out some new country which I have wanted to look at for quite some time. I will be hunting alone and I plan to hike in and spike camp for 2 to 3 days at a time. I will do my best to report back each time I get to an area with some internet connection.

While I have not done any scouting this year, I am optimistic and very eager to finally get out. I am no trophy hunter by any means, but I plan to look for a mature buck in the great sate of Idaho. Ill check back in with you all later.

See ya, and goodluck out there everyone!


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HalfAce
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Oct-11-17, 
01:27 PM (MST)
2. "RE: Post Deadly Winter, 2017 Hunting Season"

*Founder, may you please check why my post from a few days ago didn't post? It shows in the rep column but not in the thread. Maybe just my phone and bad reception?*

Well, I made it up to Idaho. It took me longer than I expected, a sand storm and a bad car accident on the I-15 North of Vegas held me back about 3.5 hours.

The first evening before the opener I only got about an hour to look around before it got dark. I only put eyes on 5 elk, one of which was a decent 6pt bull, but I don't have an elk tag. Saw no deer that evening.

Morning of the opener I spent some time down in the transition range and saw a few deer. I saw 17 deer in total that morning, only 3 of which were bucks. One 2 pt. and two 3pts, I don't think any of them were older than 1.5 years. Those bucks get to live another day or make someone else happy.

For the evening I hiked into one of my favorite places, about a 3 mile hike one way into some pretty dang rugged country. Only saw 4 does. Didn't see any bucks but did see a pair of pretty fresh tracks left by a larger bodied buck. I decided I'll try some different country on day 2 and come back into the area where I found the buck tracks in a couple days. I stayed in there until dark and didn't see anything in any of the spots where I have seen deer in the past. Didn't feel to lively in there. Maybe a predator had come through there? I'll give it a couple days and let it recharge.

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HalfAce
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Oct-12-17, 
01:27 PM (MST)
3. "RE: Post Deadly Winter, 2017 Hunting Season"

Day 2
I made a pretty decent hike today, trying to get to the area I wanted to check out. I made close to a 2,000 foot elevation gain to get up to a glassing point I wanted to look at the country from. During the off season I love to day dream about hunting deer, sitting up on a high point and scanning the country until a big buck fills up my glass. But the reality of the situation is much different when your sitting high in the rocks, listening to the howling wind making noises as it blows past the edge of your hood, getting wind burn, freezing your butt off, navigating loose scree fields and not seeing a single mature buck to show for it. But, all of those things make it so damn exciting when you do finally see one and get it done. The saying, "If it were easy, then it wouldn't be great" can't be any more true.

Anyway, the story of the day was smoke, Mule Deer Does and Elk.

I don't know the full extent of what's going on with the fires in California, but smoke started to filter into the area late this morning. It made long range spotting conditions tough, but still doable to glass about 1/3 of a mile or so.

In total I saw 23 deer today, but only one was a buck, a young 2 pt. The bigger bucks have to be here somewhere, but for now I'm thinking they are holding tight in thick cover, not showing themselves until they start getting interested in the does. Or last years winter got them? I find that hard to believe, but I am seeing a lot less bucks this season than I did last season. But I won't get one if I don't try.

On a positive note, the elk, man the elk! I didn't draw an elk permit, but I wish I did! Today I saw probably 60-70 elk. Most of which were on public land. Atleast 5 of them were decent Bulls, with two of them being good 6 points and both of those bulls were in kill-able locations. I saw one of the better Bulls when I was very slowly making my way back to the truck for the night after the sun had already set. I was skirting just below the edge of the top of a ridge. About every 15 steps I would glass down into the canyons and aspen below. I glassed up 5 mulie does working the hillside inside an area of burned pine about 120 yards below me. I stayed still for a few minutes just watching them when all of a sudden all of them took off simultaneously. I knew they didn't detect me because the wind was blowing 20 mph in the opposite direction, and I stayed still the whole time I watched them. I didn't know what scared them off so I thought I would stay still for 5 more minutes to see what may come out, hoping it was a buck, but secretly thinking it was a predator of some kind. After about 3 minutes a few cow elk came into view. Then 2 minutes later the rest of the herd and the herd bull made their way out. Eventually they get to about 80 or 90 yards of me. I tried making a cow call with my mouth, but it came out sounding more like a hen turkey. Didn't matter, he turned and bugled in my direction anyways! I would have loved to tag him. Just a perfectly symmetrical 6 point bull, one I would be proud to have. But no elk tag, so what's a guy to do? I wish I took some pictures but I think they would have detected me pulling off my pack trying to get my spotting scope and phone skope put together.

Tomorrow is a new day, and with that always comes the potential opportunity to stumble into Mr. Big or another cool experience... I can't wait!

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HalfAce
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Oct-14-17, 
09:37 AM (MST)
4. "RE: Post Deadly Winter, 2017 Hunting Season"

Hey everyone, I am back home in California.

Day 3 started off on a sour note. I got an email saying I had to return to California, basically because of an emergency issue. But I wont get into it here. Luckily I did have the whole third day (Thursday) to hunt, but would have to be back Friday night.

My plan going into the hunt was to check out various spots throughout the unit ranging from low sage country, to transition country with sage and aspen and on up into the high and steep dark timber country with some open slopes. Once I would check out a spot or two in each, I would focus where I saw more deer or focus on an area where I had seen a bigger buck or some sort of sign and spike out. I did in fact get to check a spot or two in each one of those habitat type areas, but I saw deer in each of them, so that didnít really help narrow down the area I wanted to concentrate on.

So with only the day to hunt, I wanted to split it and check out the aspen and sage country and take a look in the higher country area where I saw the one big set of buck tracks. I spent the first half of the day in the lower aspen / sage and saw 9 deer, all does. I did not cut any large buck tracks; only saw doe tracks all over the place. The area had a lot of side x side and ATV traffic on the opener, but I had the place to myself on day 3 of the season, so that was pretty nice.

For the second half of the day I checked out the spot where I found the one set of big buck tracks. Obviously I cant tell how big his antlers are from his tracks alone, but judging by the size of the track he left he seems like a mature deer. His track is long, splays out about 2 inches apart and the dew claw was imprinted into the dirt just as much as the front portion. I couldnít judge his stride length because he was moving at a decent clip. I think he is still somewhere in that area because I found another set of his tracks (or maybe another mature buck, but I doubt it) which were not there on day 1 of the season, but again, splayed track so he was moving quickly. I set up on a different point to be able to look into nearly all directions from the area where his track was and never saw him. I also did not see any other deer in the immediate area, only 5 deer about 1.5 miles away, 4 does and another year and half old 2 point buck. I stayed until dark and never saw any deer movement in the area of the tracks.

I did glass up more Elk, probably 2 miles away. There was 30+ head spread out over a pretty steep North facing hillside. I did not pay too much attention to them, but did glass over and look at them every time I started feeling bored not seeing any deer. One time I looked over at the Elk again and I noticed a much bigger bull than the small 5 point I originally saw in there. He was really far away, so I wasnít able to judge exactly how big he was, but surely he was over 330. I tried taking a picture but the distance he was at coupled with it starting to get dark and constant wind, I couldnít get a good picture. Gorgeous bull though.

After that, I made my hike out in the dark. I hate hiking down rocky slopes and dark timber in the dark. Doing it solo is spooky. I had my bear spray on my side as I did encounter a bear in there at dusk last season, but luckily didnít see one this year. I made it out safe, packed my stuff in the truck, knocked out in my sleeping bag in the truck bed for about 4 hours, and made the 1,000+ mile drive back home Friday.

Some concluding thoughts about the hunt: I knew the winter of 2016-2017 was bad going into the hunt, but I think it was worse than I even expected. Over 3 full days of hunting I only saw 5 bucks. All of the bucks were 1.5 year old deer. Last season I hunted for only 2 days in the same time frame with worse (warmer) conditions than this year and I saw more bucks each and every day than I did in 3 days combined this year, as well as a few better buck seen last year and not this season.

I will still make it back up there this season, but I am still unsure for how many days and when that would be exactly. I will again hunt the spot where I saw the tracks as well as some other spots. But I am not as optimistic as I was originally, and may look into hunting another general unit as well.

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HalfAce
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Oct-14-17, 
09:37 AM (MST)
5. "RE: Post Deadly Winter, 2017 Hunting Season"


Aspen/Sage zone.


Atleast there are a few doe groups around. Great decision made by Idaho F&G for discontinuing some of the doe hunts. They will be vital for the deer to make a comeback.


This is the kind of country where I found that one good set of buck tracks.


Elk Shed on a suuuper steep slope.


Bear den?


Some Elk wandering around on the mountain side.


Itís a really bad pic, but this is the best one I could get of that large bull on day 3. He was still bugling and pushing a cow around. He was the king of the mountain and definitely knew it. When he moved it looked like he was moving in slow motion.


Another shot of him.


Nice Idaho Antelope buck.


Same buck, looking up.


Different buck, pretty wide guy.


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HalfAce
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Oct-20-17, 
06:04 PM (MST)
6. "RE: Post Deadly Winter, 2017 Hunting Season"

It's Friday afternoon and I'm hitting the road headed for Idaho guys! I got most of the things I needed to take care of here back at home. I got a bunch of work done and I finally got the truck loaded up and ready to go. I will check out some of the places I hunted on my first 3 day trip, as well as look in 2 other units. Hopefully nothing comes up back here at home so I can get some more days to stay up there and focus on the hunt and enjoy my free time in the mountains, looking at the beautiful countryside, breathing some fresh air and go on a few good armed nature hikes. I sure am excited for this trip! Looks like some cooler weather and moisture up there today. I can NOT wait to get up there!!! Going solo again. I have a 14 hour drive ahead of me, got the coffee brewing, my lord I love hunting season! Wish me luck, and good luck to all you guys hitting the hills this week.

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HalfAce
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Oct-30-17, 
08:18 AM (MST)
7. "RE: Post Deadly Winter, 2017 Hunting Season"

October 21st (Day 4)
I left from home on Friday at 8pm the 20th on another solo trip. Hit Friday traffic as usual going up through Vegas. I stopped for a 3 hour nap late that night somewhere North of Vegas but continued after the short sleep because I wouldn't get to the unit until after dark the next day if I slept any longer. Luckily, I was able to arrive in the area I wanted to hunt in SE Idaho 2 hours before it got dark. I made a short mile hike in and set up to glass. I was pleasantly surprised that I counted 12 does that night. No bucks spotted but I felt good seeing that amount of does in such a short period of time. I was thinking to myself that there should be a buck somewhere nearby, and that it would only be a matter of time before I saw one. Hiking back to the truck that night was pretty dang tough, I felt like I was dragging my feet the whole way back even though it was moderate terrain. I was exhausted from work that week, the drive up and short night of sleep. To make things worse, I was so exhausted that I didn't even end up falling asleep that night, but I never sleep too well in the bed of the truck.

October 22nd (Day 5)
Although I was very tired, I was excited to get out and get after it! I got ready, and packed my pack before daylight and headed out to the same glassing point I checked out the prior evening. I sat there until 10am and did not glass up a single deer. WeirdÖ So I went with plan B. I hiked a wide loop hiking down the edge of one long main draw and later coming back up another main draw and returning to the truck. In total it was a 5 mile long loop as the crow flies. I did a bunch of zig zagging, looking in each and every little draw which branched off of the main draw. I walked through EVERY brush patch along the way making sure there wasn't any deer bedded in them that I couldn't see after glassing the edges of each patch of cover from the opposing side of the draw. It sucked walking through that kind of stuff. You literally feel like your postholing through knee deep snow, while getting smacked in the face with whip like branches. Any brush or Aspen patches that were too dense to walk into I would just walk their edge, glass into it as far as my binos could see and then throw rocks into them to try and get any deer that may be bedded in the patch to get up and moving in hopes of spooking it out and getting a jump shot. I also walked some shallow depressions in the open sage country which you couldn't see from any road or which were just in a out of the way spot that I thought maybe donít get walked too often. I worked the area hard and tallied up 35+ does for the day walking through that stuff and not a single buck! That evening I hiked to another area and sat and glassed from am new point, looking into an area of extremely tall and dense sage. It was really great looking deer habitat/country. Almost all of the country in this spot was not glassable from any road, the vegetation was dense and 4.5 feet tall in some places, lots of topography, and a water source nearby. I sat until dark and only saw another 4 does. I thought to myself ďwhat the heck is going on here?Ē I thought for sure ide pick up a buck in that area; I snuck in very quietly, I had the wind in my favor the whole time, I hid behind and glassed from behind a sage bush and never sky-lined myself, but it was all for nothing. I thought to myself that maybe the sage was too tall to really see everything that may be in that country, but I did see some does, so I did get to see a sample of what was in the area. Just no buck.

October 23rd (Day 6)
Finally, that night I had a night of some better sleep, so things were already looking up, I was just trying to stay positive. Again I got up well before dawn, hiked in and set up on a new point and started looking around at gray light. It was extremely windy that morning. Nothing spotted from the glassing point, so again I walked the draw, a different draw from the day before. I again worked each little draw branching off the main draw and walking through brush piles again and throwing more rocks. I did this until noon and did not see or jump a single deer. Not even a doe. This area doesn't have too much public land, and I was starting to run out of spots I wanted to check out. I spent the rest of the day driving my truck around the area looking for brush piles and Aspen patches that were on public land. There were few patches of this kind of cover, but all of them close to the road because I had already checked out most of the stuff that was out and away from any roads. Anytime I found one, I walked to edge, and if it was a really thick patch, I'de walk the edge as well as walk through the middle of it on the way back, setting up in the wind so my scent would maybe spook something up. I did this until dark and counted 25 - 30 more does, and for a third straight day, zero bucks. Originally I planned to stay in this unit and hunt it until the evening of the 24th (last day of season) but I lost confidence in the area and was not really enjoying myself anymore not seeing any bucks after putting a lot of effort into trying to find one. I figured I should have seen one buck a day, heck one buck for the three full days I was there, But no, NO bucks, not a two point, not a spike, not even a button buck! I was over it and decided to leave for another unit, the unit I had hunted the first three days of the season. So that night I made a 4 hour drive and arrived in Central Idaho. My luck would turn around, or at least I hoped it would.

Looking back: The weather was warm, and the bucks probably went nocturnal. I just donít know where the heck they may have went? Or maybe the winter really did do a number on them... But there had to be a couple around. Itís not possible that I would see 30 to 40 doeís a day and not a single 2 pt buck. But it happened. Thatís the first time I have ever been in doe's like that but got totally 100% skunked on buck sightings.

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HalfAce
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Nov-01-17, 
07:32 PM (MST)
8. "RE: Post Deadly Winter, 2017 Hunting Season"

October 24th (Day 7)
I arrived at the trail head later at night on the 23rd and I knocked out in the bed of my truck. Gray light came, and I found myself sitting at a glassing point checking out the transition country in the unit. I sat on point glassing until right around 10 am and only turned up one lone doe. It was quite a bit different from the first day of the season when I saw 15+ deer including 3 bucks from this very same spot. I noticed a big band of domestic sheep in the area not long after gray light. Along with the sheep were sheep dogs and sheepherders riding alongside them on horseback. I figured that the sheep and dogs may have spooked whatever deer may have been in there and so I left in search of greener pastures.

I drove up to a higher county area where I had seen the larger sized buck tracks from the previous trip. I hiked in the 3 miles and sat and glassed until dark and counted 6 Elk with one bull which was still bugling, as well as 4 deer. One of the deer was a buck, a very small 1.5 year old 2 pt. as well as a doe with two fawns. I guess my luck had turned around after all! Once it got dark I started my descent. It's some steep country and getting down off the mountain took some time. After getting down off the steep part of the mountain, I got on the trail and was making my hike back to the truck when all of a sudden I jumped something really close to the trail. I couldnít see them but two animals took off crashing through the forest. It took me a second to realize what it was, but after a few seconds I knew it was two Mule Deer by the sound of their stotting. One of them sounded reeeaaally heavy breaking downed tree branches and I could hear the sound of heavy hooves sinking into the wet earth as it ran away; the sound you can almost feel in your chest. At one point I heard what sounded like an antler glance off the side of a dry tree branch. These things really made a lot of noise going through the trees! The two deer made a half circle and came back toward me. They ran up by the side of me, just at the edge of where my headlamp light still could make out the silhouette of their body. They were for sure mule deer and one was a larger bodied buck, but I just couldnít make out the antlers in the dark. Before I hiked into this area mid day, I was debating taking my tent and camp gear in because I was wondering if I should spend a night in there. But I decided against it thinking I should instead be on the move looking for an area where there were more deer and then concentrating on it. After I jumped the two deer in the dark, I regretted my decision to not camp in there that night. I had not planned on hunting this area the next day after only seeing the first 4 deer, but after seeing and hearing these two animals plowing through the dark forest it was an easy decision for where I would start my day in the morning...

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HalfAce
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Nov-05-17, 
10:53 AM (MST)
9. "RE: Post Deadly Winter, 2017 Hunting Season"

October 25th (Day 8)
I started my hike from the trailhead at dark, but a little later than usual because I didnít want to sit on my glassing rock that morning. The area where I had jumped the two deer in the dark was in an area that is thick with pine/aspen, and impossible to glass from my usual glassing point as it sits at the convergence of two drainages. So I chose to try more of a spot and stalk method that morning. As I got within a quarter mile of where the deer were the night before, I really slowed down. I even stopped at one point just to let it light up a little more because it was just too dark to still see anything in the shadows. After waiting probably 10 minutes I started sneaking slowly into the area. I glassed through the trees trying to pick up on a deer before it would see me. I made it to the area where the deer crossed in front of me the night before, and I found the tracks. I continued out into the open, now glassing into the rocks and slopes up above me. I tore the area up with my binos as I made about 10 steps, and then stopped to glass and continued on like this for some time.

After seeing nothing, I continued on to the drainage I usually focus most of my efforts (very close to where I jumped the two deer in the dark) looking down into from the glassing point. I stopped and glassed all sides as I made my way up the drainage. When I got to about the middle of the drainage I looked up and scanned a patch of pine on a North facing slope. There! Two deer filled up my binos. They were a bit of a ways out and I couldnít yet see antlers but I was able to at least see that one animal was larger in body than the other. At that moment I got very excited. I made my way up to a rocky knoll, dropped my gear and crawled on my hands and knees to a point where I would be able to shoot from, trying to stay as quite as possible. Before the season, I was wondering what kind of things I can do to try and become a better hunter. One of those goals for improvement was not allowing myself to get too excited in the moment, and being able to control my urge to want to rush up to a spot to shoot from making too much noise along the way. Well I was able to accomplish that, though it was not easy. I made it to a decent spot to shoot from, but first I had to relocate the deer. I found the doe quickly, feeding along on the steep slope, and she was not alerted to anything unusual, great. I quickly scanned the area and picked up the buck. My level of excitement immediately droppedÖ The buck was the same 2 point I glassed up from the evening before. I also found the same two fawns that were with this buck and doe the day before as well. I sat there glassing the drainage for probably close to another hour and no other deer ever materialized.

So I left the drainage and worked an adjacent smaller drainage looking for the buck and doe I jumped the night before, and never saw anything else. So I made my way back to the trailhead, glassing all the area around me just about until the start of trailhead, never seeing anything else. I liked that there were still some deer in the area, although not many. I decided I would come back and try this spot one more time in a couple days as a last hoorah.

I got back to the truck ate some cliff bars, apples and salami (good mix huh?) and headed out to an area I had never been to before. This area I would consider transition country, with a mix of grass, sage, brush patches and aspen stands. All of the brush and Aspen are located on North facing hill country type slopes. It is a 3.5 mile hike one way just to get the area where I can set up to glass these pockets. I made the hike in only to be passed up by two guys on dirt bikes. I made it to the point I wanted to glass from, but the main area I wanted to look at was one more ridge over, but I would have to pass up looking at one whole ridgeline worth of good looking brush and Aspen pockets just to be able to look at the main area. So, being mid day and having the time, instead of passing up that ridgeline of brush and Aspen, I busted brush! I walked 4 long patches over an area probably a third of a mile long. I walked the top edge of the brush, with the wind pushing my scent through the area. I must have thrown two hundred rocks in all as I made my way through the area. Most of the time I stayed just above the patch trying to keep the high ground and trying to have the advantage of being able to see down into it and past it. But at times I did walk down into the thick stuff in case it was too thick to see into or feeling like maybe the rocks werenít doing their job scaring up a deer. Again, walking through that stuff almost felt like I was postholing through knee high snow and I had plenty of branches slapping me in the face along the way. I tallied up a grand total of ZERO deer. I am glad I decided to check that area out because now I could get a lot closer to the main area of brush & Aspen I wanted o glass, and there was a lot more of it. I found what I thought was the best point to glass from to be able to see as many of the brushy areas as possible. I sat down, and stayed down for probably 4 more hours waiting for dark to roll around. Long story short, I never saw one deer come out of any of that stuff. I stayed until I couldnít see 10 yards in front of me. I walked the 3.5 miles back to the truck that night dejected.


October 26th & 27th (Day 9 & 10)
I relocated that night and started my day on the other side of the unit. Again I started at dark and spent the morning in a spot new to me and actually saw a group of 6 does on the move, South. This restored my confidence a little bit. I walked the area, glassed and busted brush for a couple hours and didnít see any other deer than those 6 does.

The time had come. I decided to hit a completely different general unit. This unit is as low as the country in this area. It is just sage and lava rock and extremely tough to hunt because its very flat, but deceptively flat. Deer can appear out of nowhere, and then can disappear into the contours of the landscape in a matter of a single step. Going into this season, I knew if I ended up in this unit that my hunt was basically over.

I drove out to the unit and did a little bit of driving the roads, basically looking for water and deer tracks in or on the side of the road. I drove into a general area I had been looking at on google earth and found some deer sign next to the road. I decided to try that area for the evening.

I hiked in about a mile and half. Walking on lava rock is a chore. Every step is a potential rolled ankle. I set up on a rock that gave me a slightly higher view than the surrounding area. I sat there for a couple hours glassing the horizon with the binos when I scanned over a white rump. Deer! Stupid me, I didnít set up my spotter! So I hurried to get it set up and on the deer. It only took me about 30 seconds and by the time I was looking into the direction of the deer, it was gone. By this time it was maybe 45 minutes before sunset, and the deer I saw was atleast ĺ of a mile away over some gnarly lava flows. But, not knowing if it was a buck or a doe was killing me. Plus, it had not been a very productive season so I decided I had to go take a look. I rushed over to try and get a look at the deer. I made it to the landmark/rock I wanted to get to that was near where I saw the deer just after sunset, but still light enough to glass and see pretty well. I got up on the rock ad started glassing in the direction where I saw the deer. And there he was. The best buck I had seen in 9 days of hunting. A 24-25 inch wide 3x4. I set up on him and looked at him through my rifle scope. I was tempted to take the shot because of just how much I hunted, but I decided to pass on him. After I passed, the buck walked down into a cut in the landscape and I did not see him again. Itís absolutely amazing how he disappeared like a ghost. At that very moment I knew I was going home empty handed. This year i bought two OTC deer tags in the state of Idaho, and I could have easily filled one tag with a buck like that, and then went on looking for an exceptional one. But seeing how few deer I saw after all the effort I put in, I just didnít have it in me to shoot him, especially since I wasnít THAT excited about him. The last winter definitely killed off a lot of the deer, and why try and suppress the mule deer rebound? At least those are my thoughts, and I am okay with it now sitting here at home. There is more to the story, how I got cliffed out on the hike back to the truck that night, and I did hunt one more full day the next day, looking in the area where I had jumped the two deer in the dark one more time, and I also hunted that desert spot the next afternoon until dark seeing a bunch of does. But i called it a trip after day 10, and drove back home with both tags un-notched. But I am happy, and I learned a lot. Plus, I found a few really nice bull Elk I will probably try hunt next fall.

But all is not lost for this year! I am trying to wrap this report up because I leave for Colorado at o:dark-thirty tomorrow morning. I have a 3rd season tag that I am very excited about, and Iím going at it solo again. This is my last hunt of the fall, and I canít believe my season is almost over when it feels like it just began. Itís a little bitter sweet, but this is definitely one of those leaving the best for last scenarios.

Even though I struck out twice in Idaho, ill be looking for a good one in Colorado. I hope I can get it done. Third times the charm right? Be safe out there and goodluck.

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HalfAce
(864 posts)
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Nov-05-17, 
10:53 AM (MST)
10. "RE: Post Deadly Winter, 2017 Hunting Season"

Here is a picture I took the next day of the area where I found the buck in the desert. Just a gnarly rough area, and I suspect that's exactly why he was there. The photo really does not do the area justice.

Here is another shot. The picture may not show it, but the cracks in the ground in this area are really deep. I could not see the bottom of some of these cracks. These things were everywhere out there. Pretty trippy to be walking in a flat area like that and then possibly fall deep into a crevasse. You REALLY have to watch where you step in the dark.


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HalfAce
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Nov-11-17, 
04:34 PM (MST)
11. "RE: Post Deadly Winter, 2017 Hunting Season"

Well, I got back home late last night. My hunting season is over, and itís a little depressing to say that!

I had three deer tags this season and ended up going 1 for 3. Years ago I had to fill all my tags, and if I did not fill my tags, I felt it was a wasted opportunity. Now days I just enjoy the adventure and try and squeeze as much fun out of each hunt while looking for a mature animal.

With that said, I had a blast in Colorado and it was a real solo adventure! I hunted hard, burned boot rubber, had some sketchy situations and I returned home busted, aching & tired.

Iíll follow through in my posts in the same fashion as before, in the form of daily journal entries.

November 6th (Day 11)
I left from home Sunday morning the 4th of November. I stopped 2 hours short of my destination that night and got a room at a motel. I woke up very early the next morning to complete the last leg of the drive and to get up on the mountain and start hunting at gray light. I specifically arrived two days after the season had started in hopes that the hunting pressure would be reduced because of guys leaving after hunting opening weekend. But I donít think that helped at all. I have NEVER in my life seen so many people out hunting and I have hunted a lot of general season units! There were hunters on nearly every ridge and people were getting after it going deep, by foot, by horse, or taking SxSís and ATVís where they should not have been going. Anyway, I started my hike toward a spot I wanted to check out, and not 45 minutes into my hike I spotted a group of 8 or 9 does with 3 bucks mixed in the group. One 2 point, a 25 inch 5x5 (with matching inlines coming of his G-3ís) but he was kind of light on mass and looked to be maybe a 3.5 year old deer with some great genetics, and the third buck was a deep forked 4x5 which had one cheater coming off of his left side, he had decent mass and looked to be probably a 4.5 year old buck. The only problem with the 4x5 was that he was narrow, probably 23 inches wide and I have been wanting to get a wide buck for the longest time. So with that, I passed on them both, plus, I was not even an hour into my hunt and I didnít want it to be over THAT quickly. I did take a short video of the 4x5, and on my phone I can see the buck relatively clearly, but for some reason on a computer screen it comes out too bright and itís hard to see. But Iím a hunter and not a cameraman/photographer! I did not get video of the 5x5 but he was also a good buck, probably in the mid 160ís. I want to post video but I would have to load them to YouTube, I will try to figure it out later. I have a few pictures but they don't do him justice.


I continued my hike and saw more does and bucks along the way, I eventually lost count of the deer I saw. But I do remember seeing 9 bucks by noon, which is one more buck than I saw in 10 days of hunting in Idaho this year! So itís very apparent that the winter was much milder in CO this past winter than it was in Idaho, at least it seemed that way in the area I was at.

I continued on and I found another group of does and glassed up a big bodied, narrow racked but heavy 3x3 hanging out about 200-300 yards away from the does. Here is a picture of him hiding in the sage. Can you find him?

How about now?

Here he is out in the open.


If I can figure out how to post a video of him I will sometime later.

I got to the spot I wanted to glass from and only saw 4 does, no bucks. So I continued on taking a look around in the country, glassing up does and smaller bucks the rest of the day. Hereís another buck. Kind of a funky picture. Which ones the buck and which ones the doe?

Here's a crotch cricket 2 point.

That evening ended with no big mature buck sightings.


November 7th (Day 12)
I have had some darn good luck Mule deer hunting on November 7th in years past, and I was excited to see what the day would bring. But since I had been seeing so many hunters out and about, I decided the night before that I wanted to grab my heavy winter gear and instead of sleeping in the bed of the truck, I would hike deep into a nasty hole and spend the night in my teepee. I wanted to get away from the pressure and see what I could turn up. I loaded my pack with all my stuff and it probably weighted close to 70 lbs with my teepee, the stove, the -40F sleeping bag, winter sleeping pad, spotting scope with tripod and my 300 RUM. It wasnít a fun weight, but all of the gear was essential to me for finding deer and for surviving the night!

There wasnít much snow and temperatures were relatively mild, so I wanted to see if there were deer at higher elevation. There were! I started my hike at about 10,400 feet, crested a rim at over 10,800 feet, as I hiked down to about 9,700 feet I spotted a 22 inch 4x4 running through the aspens at well over 10,000 feet looking for does, and I saw 3 bull elk, one 6x6 and two 5x5ís all within 150 yards of me (I may have to buy some Elk tags next year because i have had some incredible luck finding some good bulls in Idaho and Colorado this year that I would love to take home) and then hiked down into 9,700 feet where I set up camp. As I was finishing setting up my camp the snow started to fallÖ

That evening I glassed up probably 15 does and 3 bucks. All three bucks were 2 points. I was a little bummed that after soo much effort to get into this steep and deep hole that I only found two points. But, I figured I would have better luck in the morning as I usually seem to see some good stuff early in the gray light of the morning.

November 8th (Day 13)
So I turned in to the teepee after dark and tried to light a fire. But the wood I found was covered in snow and was tough to light and tough to stay lit. It would only slowly smolder. That night it snowed for about 4 hours, and I had to constantly hit the sides of the teepee to make the snow fall off of it so it wouldnít cave me in. It got cold too! I donít know how cold but I figured in the single digits. I did not fall asleep that night, I basically laid in my sleeping bag and kept sliding off my pad because the flattest spot I could find was still slopped enough to slide me off if I moved around much. I stuffed full mountain house bags under the pad and wood branches that I had gathered for firewood under the pad as well to try and keep me from sliding off, it worked but only a little bit. So basically I laid there for 13 hours waiting for the sun to come up, and boy was I happy when it did. But there is a big difference in how a person can take the temperature in the morning when waking up and walking 200 yards to your glassing point not having any time to hike and warm up vs. hiking in a few miles and warming yourself up from the hike. I couldnít feel my toes for a few hours that morning while glassing.

Here is what my teepee looked like inside that night.

And this is how it looked the next morning.

I glassed until about 10 am that morning and only spotted about 8 or 9 does and one 2 point buck. I was over it, so I broke camp slowly made my way back to the truck. Along the way I cut some fresh buck tracks at over 10,000 feet, but I was not going to attempt to follow the tracks with my heavy pack on and knowing I had over 1,000 feet of elevation to make up in shin high snow after a night of no sleep.

I spotted this small buck bedded in the aspens on my way up.

Winter wonderland.

Pictures never do justice to how steep a mountain side is.

Once I made it to the top I was pretty happy to have the worst of the hike over with! (and to be alive)

I drove down the mountain with all 4 tires chained up so I wouldnít slide off the road (one guy did) and although I was tired and wanted to rest, I got my pack repacked and hiked in 2.5 miles to hunt and glass until dark. On the way in I spotted some deer but nothing worth taking a picture of. I got to my glassing point about an hour and 15 minutes before sunset. About 15 minutes in I spotted a buck. He was all alone and he looked to have a big body. He was definitely the most mature and biggest bodied deer I had seen on my trip up until that point. He was a 4x4 with tall back forks, had good mass, a real pretty boxy frame, maybe a 25-26 inch spread, but his front forks were real weak. I sat there for a while wondering if I should shoot, and I was considering shooting him, but I remembered thinking that if I had to think about shooting a buck, then heís not the right buck for me. So I passed on him, and minutes later he slowly walked into the aspen and brush never to be seen again.

Here are a few pictures of him.


(Again, if I figure out how to post a video I will)

After he walked out of my life I was wondering if I made the right decisionÖ


I did.

(to be continued)

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HalfAce
(864 posts)
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Nov-18-17, 
07:52 AM (MST)
12. "RE: Post Deadly Winter, 2017 Hunting Season"

I sat there wondering if I made a good decision passing on that big bodied 4x4. I wasnít too worried about it though, because I knew I just ensured myself that I could hunt longer and likely get to look over a few more bucks, but still, I thought he was a pretty dang good buck was going back and forth about it... The 4x4 had disappeared into the Aspens at 4:05 pm. After he was gone I sat there for a little while wondering if it was a good idea for me hiking in that far after not getting a minute of sleep the night before and putting a lot of effort trying to get out of the steep and deep hole earlier that day. But, knowing it was now the best hour of the day for spotting deer, I knew I was staying until dark.

Twenty minutes go by and I was scanning another hillside 2/3rds of a mile away and I noticed three Mule deer does standing on the edge of some Aspens looking out onto the open sage covered hillside where I figured they wanted to go. The lead doe took her time looking out into the open, and then she would turn her head to look back into the dense Aspen. After a few minutes she felt comfortable enough to head out into the sage. The two other deer joined her and headed out into the open as well. Then another doe came out, followed by another doe, and then another one. After a few minutes there were 9 does / fawns milling around in the sage.

I didnít even have time to think about that there may be a buck with the does before I saw a heavy but young 3x4 walk out into the sage looking to follow the does around.

I thought he was a pretty cool buck and I was surprised by how fat he was. He looked young in the face and didnít have a gigantic neck (at least as much as I can tell from .67 of a mile away) but he had a pot belly and just dwarfed some of the does in the group there. I wanted to get a picture of him so I opened up my pack and pulled out my phone. I took a picture or two of him but he was too far for my Vortex viper to get a clear shot, amplified even more so because of the somewhat fading light. It was 4:29 pm at this point. I put my phone in video mode and tried to record a short clip of him doing his thing there in the sage mixing it up with the does. I looked down at my phone briefly to watch him and make sure I followed him with the scope since he was moving around a lot. After I got the scope back on him I wanted to take another wider view/look through my binos.

I looked in the direction of the deer, found them and watched the group through my binos. I was able to make out the 3x4 in the group but could barely make out his antlers with my 10ís; I could just tell which deer he was by how much bigger he was than the does. On the periphery of the view in my binoculars I saw something moving in. I glanced over and immediately saw antlers and a big bodied thick necked buck making a straight line for the 3x4 with his ears folded back! I threw my phone off the spotter to take a look with my eyes and not through a stupid phone! I instantly saw that he dwarfed the buck that I thought was dwarfing the does! I did NOT need to sit there and think about him. This was the one!!!

For a split second i had to calm myself down. I had to think about it. Itís now 4:37, the sun sets at 4:55 and I have more than half a mile of sage fields to navigate, the buck is rutting, following does and trying to kick the other bucks ass, he may go in the entirely wrong direction from me, and Iím freakin tiredÖ It takes me half a second to make up my mind. ďI am NOT going to sit here and wait for tomorrowĒ, I though. I broke down my spotter and literally threw it in my pack and ran!

I donít like working myself up and running to get into shooting position, but in this situation I had to. When I took off in the direction of the deer the sun was already dipping below the horizon. There was also a layer of clouds on the horizon which pretty much hide the sun completely and I figured it would shorten my good visible light by quite a few minutes. I ran and didnít stop until I neared the top of the adjacent hill from where I originally spotted the buck from. I got to a point where I was able to see across an Aspen filled creek bottom/draw which separated me from where I last seen the buck. I eagerly glassed the other side. But I was breathing hard and my breath and sweat was fogging up my glass! I wiped off the condensation and looked across. No deerÖ Soon the glass got foggy again and I had to clear it off with my finger. I had to keep doing this every few seconds. One time I looked up and glassed and found a deer standing next to a lone willow type bush. I could see it had antlers. But I saw no does, so I wasnít sure yet if this was the 3x4 and he got run off by the big buck or if it was the big buck, or maybe it was a 3rd buck I had not originally noticed or what was going on.

In a minute or two I got more composed and was able to see through the binos longer without them fogging up as much. Setting up the spotter and trying and set the tripod legs in tall sage and on a side hill didnít sound like a good option. The sun had completely set by now and I was feeling really rushed for time and I just wanted to identify if this was the right buck or not! Also, I didnít want to take any more time than I needed; I am sure most of you guys already know that these bucks, when not with does donít usually stand around in the wide open showing themselves off for the world to see for very long. I put down my rifle, threw off my pack and got tight to a rock to steady my hand to see if I could identify the buck with my binos. I steadied, and I was able to see a G-3 on the right side, where the 3x4 did not have a G-3 on his right side. Itís him!

I grabbed my gun and rangefinder, ranged the buck, 380 yards. The only problem here was the sage was too tall for me to shoot off my pack, and the rock I was next to was laying in a way that didnít offer a good rest, at least it was not angled well in the direction where the buck was at. I looked up ahead and saw a rock about 5 yards in front of me that looked like it would make a better rest. I crawled through the sage and up to the rock un-noticed. I try and find a good shooting position on the rock, and while it didnít feel all that great I was able to get in a position where I felt steady and confident enough to take a shot. There were no other rocks up ahead of me, so this one would have to do. I aim and fireÖ and miss!

The buck takes off and gets into the Aspens. Itís a tangled mess in there and I can barely make him out, at times losing sight of him completely. He moves, then stops, then moves, then stops. This goes on for minutes. At one point he stops for a longer period of time but his vitals are completely covered by Aspen trunks. He stands for probably a minute (seems calm at this point) and then moves forwards at a normal walking pace. At this point light is fading fast. He gets into a small area of less dense aspen and I see him, all of him. I range him at 389 yards. I get on the gun and watch him through the scope, he stops, slightly quartering away, and I shoot. The buck flips sideways, goes down briefly, and disappears out of sight.

I donít know what I was feeling at that point. Surely very excited and also very happy. Excited because of how all of this went down, having to run so far, losing sight of the group of deer, then re-finding only one deer and it being the buck, shooting and missing, then re-locating him in the trees and getting one more chance at a shot, which would very obviously be my last chance at this buck because of the time of day and just how thick of cover he was in. I was also happy because he was the biggest buck I had seen not only in the days I was in Colorado, but also the best buck I had seen all season long, including hunting 10 days in Idaho. But, I also had one burning question: was he the right buck? I didnít look at him through to spotter to verify. I did see that he had a G-3 on the right side, but once he got in the Aspens I couldnít be 100% sure if I was watching THE buck or if in my haste I picked out movement, and hoped it was the buck I was after but in reality it may have been the other buck, the 3x4, or a completely new buck?

After I got myself and my gear put together, I put on my headlamp, I walked down into the now dark draw, crossed the creek and through the Aspen chocked bottom. I came out on the other side fully intending to find the buck. I climbed up the hill and started looked for his tracks out in the open but there were deer tracks everywhere, both buck and doe tracks. I tried to head into the Aspens in the area where I thought the buck went into, but it was WAY more dense in there from ground level than it was from looking across the draw, and I had absolutely no idea where he may have crossed into the Aspens because I had nothing to go on, it was pitch black now. I figured it wasnít a good idea to be walking through blow down and thick vegetation 3 miles from the truck all alone at night looking for a dead deer. So I turned around and headed back to the truck. I made it back that night, and went to sleep. Or shall I say I tried to sleep. I should have slept like a baby because I didnít sleep the night before, but I didnít fall asleep this second night for one minute. I wasnít sure anymore if I got the right deer, I wasnít sure if the deer was down or if it was a bad hit and it ran off. I also didnít like the fact that I left the deer overnight and did not at least gut it.

Morning came, and I was heading back in there in the dark wanting to find the buck ASAP. The one good thing about that night was that the temperature was low. The truck thermometer showed it was 11 degrees that morning, and the area the buck was last seen in was a North facing slope which had a good amount of snow covering the ground, so I had two positives going for me as far as cooling the deer.

I got to the area where I saw the buck (In the spot he was standing where I missed my first shot) before the sun cracked over the horizon. I started looking for the buck in the Aspens, I zigged and zagged a large area of the Aspen covered hillside. I started low, then went high, then went left, then went right, did some more zigging and zagging. No buck, no blood. So I got out of the Aspens, and went back to the one lone willow type looking bush I mentioned earlier. I found his track, but lost them in the tall sage and grass, some spots had snow and some spots didnít. I made a line, following a straight line in the direction where I last saw his tracks and again went deep into the Aspens. Again nothing.

Here is how thick it was in places.

Here is a more open area in the Aspens where I thought the buck may be. Lots of blow down here, and no buck.

Well balanced coyote.

I started to do a grid search and I was just walking up the hill on a straight line when I found him! It was the right buck. I walked within 10 feet of him and barely made him out in this thick brush. There was snow on the ground and still, he was camouflaged well enough that I almost had to step on him to find him. In all, I spent 2.5 hours searching for him that morning. I found where he was shot and where he slid down the hill and I NEVER found a single drop of blood besides the one drop of blood that was right next to him. Thatís my first ever experience like that. So just because there is no blood does not mean you donít have a dead animal on the ground.

My lips were so cracked it was painful to smile!

It took me all of that day and two trips to get him out, totaling 12 miles hiked, 6 with meat on my back. I made it out with the second load of meat well after dark that night, tired, but grateful for the buck I was fortunate to take and the season, albeit a pretty tough one, that I had.

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