A Bit of Mountain High


Well, the last Newsletter covered a bit of the local huntin' exploits resulting in a good load of table fare (a young Bull Moose), but no trophy Ram again this year, but if the Good Lord is willing, just maybe I will have enough "gas in the tank" for one last sheep hunt and one can always hope for more than one. Well no matter, there is no reason to tempt fate, what will be, will be and there is no sensible reason to worry about the future - it hasn't become the present as of yet - smile. The old saying "One Day at a Time" will have to suffice here.

With Sheep Season fading in the rear view mirror, it was time to get serious about finding a good Mule Deer buck. Prior to taking the immature bull, we had seen plenty of Mule Deer does and smaller bucks, but none of the "big" boys were making it easy for us - smile. I like getting up in the mountains early, well before first light and situated in a place with good observation in all directions. If the night has been devoid of a moon or there has been heavy overcast, then the tendency is to see the deer later in the morning. We have spotted does and smaller bucks out feeding until around 10:00 am. It didn't seem as though the rut had started and the local weather was mild with a lot of fog & rain. I enjoy hunting in the fog, as it covers my movement, as I slowly make my way through the timber. I also find the animals more relaxed in the inclement weather for some reason? Most likely their smelling, hearing & sight senses are somewhat diminished.

I was seeing lots of deer and in the month of October, any buck is legal, but come 01 November, only four point (one side and not counting a brow tine) or better are on the menu. I had been dedicated to getting situated well before first light and this had only produced sporadic sightings of small forks and does. Four-point season (November) was now in effect and I was due to depart for Alberta for the annual Whitetail hunt with my friends over there. There was no presure though, for if I didn't take a Mule Deer buck prior to departure, I still had 10 days to hunt here, upon our return.

This day I decided to venture farther into the back country, where the deer had not seen too many humans before daylight. I was able to do this with the aid of my trusty Yamaha 450 ATV. I know the terrain quite well in the daylight and as the trip progressed, I checked off the landmarks to keep me orientated, as to my exact position. I am sure most of you would rely upon a GPS, but I am what would be considered by most as "computer-related gizmos" challenged - smile. I am very comfortable alone in the wild, either by day or night. Soon I arrived at the place where I thought I would stand the best chance at seeing a mature four-point buck. I parked the ATV in the bush and hiked for several minutes to the the rise, which would act as my vantage point. It is ironic how time seems to drag on when one is waiting for daylight to break, but once it does, the time seems to fly by. I was surprised to glass the area with my Leica 10x42 Geovid binos and not see any animals either in the open or along the tree-line. I was well concealed and there was hardly any wind. I have relied on my Leica binos for the past several hunting seasons, as they provide a clear picture both at early and last light conditions, especially with my aging eyes.

I diligently remained motionless in my current position for about two hours and as it neared 0930, I decided to head down the mountain (about a 45 minute ATV ride), as I had some business to attend to at lunch time. I was about half way through the ride and just starting the downward part of the trip, when I rounded a corner and noticed a doe standing in a meadow, which I had named the "field of no deer". I had passed this steep sloped meadow a hundred times previously and had never seen a deer in it. Well, there was no doubt she was well aware of my presence, but was certainly not spooked. I immediately shut my ATV off and eased off the seat with my trusty Browning X-Bolt in 270 WSM, topped with a Leupold Ultra-light 2x7 scope in hand and moved to the shoulder of the logging road. Here I was able to become concealed and with the sharp bank, I was able to perfectly position myself to observe the doe and her surroundings. Using my Leica 10x42 Geovid binos, I was able to determine her to be 195 yards from my current position. She soon lost interest in me and resumed feeding on the lush grasses abounding in the field. After about five minutes, her head shot up and she looked over her shoulder, back into the woods behind her. Well, this definitely took the matter to the next level. Over the years and many, many deer hunts, I had come to realize that a doe with fawns always positioned them in front of her in order to keep close watch on them and to ensure, should danger appear from behind, they would be able to have a good head start. When during either the pre-rut or the rut, if a doe looked back the way she had come or when stationary, it usually indicated there was a buck lurking in the cover behind her. All that remains is "just how big is he??" & "Will he come out of the sanction of the cover concealing him??" So, we are not guaranteed success, just speculation!!

After she returned to feeding for a short time, once again her head snapped up and she looked back into the woods behind her. I think both my heart rate and my blood pressure went up a notch or two - smile. Still no buck though? Was I wasting my time? I did have business to attend to back in town. I decided to let this scenario play itself out and soon was rewarded by movement in the tree-line slightly above her. Well, it was worth the wait, as a nice mature four point Mule Deer buck threaded his way through the sparse trees along the edge of the mature forest. He started to walk down towards the doe and was not presenting me with a good shot. Suddenly, the doe seemed interested more in him than the succulent grasses she had been feeding on. I had a frontal shot only and figured as soon as the doe reached him, they both would melt into the forest, never to be seen again. So, I took the shot. When the trigger broke and the 140 grain Nosler AccuBond left the barrel, I was compensated by the resounding whack of a bullet hitting flesh. Both the buck and doe headed down the slope at break-neck speed. I did notice the buck favouring his left front leg. so, I decided to remain where I was to give him some time to bed, before going after him. Years of experience hunting both Mule Deer and Whitetails during the rut has taught me one thing above all others and that is when the testosterone is pumping through a buck's system, they can endure horrendous damage from a bullet and cover distance quite rapidly. Once the shock wears off they usually bed and expire, some never found until spring when the scavengers have feasted on the remains and dragged the antlers into plain view.

Soon I detected movement and saw three does running up the steep slope into the mature timber above the meadow. Next thing I noticed was a large animal standing beside a tree near where I had initially shot the buck. I slowly eased my Leica 10x42 Geovid binos to my eyes, not wanting to alert any other does which just may be lurking in the brush. Well, I was looking at the buck I had just shot and for some reason he had turned in the brush and being the rut, had probably decided to follow his harem? He was facing uphill and probably was not aware of my presence, as I was still well hidden in the cover beside the logging road. The range was 215 yards and my 140 grain Nosler Accubond bullet was physically sighted in to hit right on at 200 yards. I held the crosshairs right between his shoulders and gently squeezed the trigger. The rifle jumped at the shot and when I was able to see the area where he had been standing, that locale was devoid of any living thing? My instinct told me to jump up and quickly climb to look in the vicinity where he had been standing, but my experience told me to wait and see if anything moved. After a long five minutes, I decided to climb up where he had been standing. I returned to my ATV and removed the keys and started the steep assent. Thankfully, sheep season was not too long ago and my legs were still in pretty good shape. Being 68 years of age, the cardio will never be the same as it was even 10 years ago. I had quadruple bypass surgery 13 years ago and always carry my nitro (have never had to use it to date). I guess I am mature enough to have finally recognized my limitations and I took my time scaling the steep meadow. I traversed the sharp incline and soon was rewarded by reaching the tree where the buck had been standing when I delivered the second shot. To my astonishment, not only was there no buck lying there, but absolutely no sign of a hit? I glanced back towards my ATV and was unable to see it. I was in the wrong place!! I started to slowly move across the top of the field, about ten yards below the trees. I was now approaching the area where he must have been standing, when all of a sudden there was a commotion just above me and taking several steps toward that area, I witnessed the buck trying to get to his feet. A quick third shot through the lungs and he soon expired.

Well, he certainly was a nice deer and soon the reality of my predicament sunk in. Here I was, on my own with a Mule Deer having a live body weight well over two hundred pounds. Well, this was not the first time I had been in this situation, as I have taken most of my trophy deer while hunting solo. Fortunately, I was uphill of my ATV, so I was able to drag him from his final resting place and position him where the field dressing would be fairly easy. Once this task was completed, I was able to drag him down the steep hill and position him slightly above the logging road. Next I retrieved my ATV and backed it in to the vertical shoulder of the road. I carry two 50' coils of rope, but their use was not necessary in this case. I stripped all my equipment from the ATV, then let out the winch and looped it around a sturdy tree and then around the buck's antlers. Now that he was anchored, I pushed him down the steep incline. Once he started to move and reach the end of the winch cable, I moved down to the ATV and slowly by releasing more cable had him level with the ATV. Next I used my dry-box to crerate a ramp and soon had the buck secured to the back of the ATV.

After many successful and more unsuccessful hunting trips, the one aspect I have to stress emphatically and that is to be prepared; be prepared for the unexpected, be prepared if successful on the hunt (includes getting the animal out of the bush, what you are going to do with it - butcher it yourself or have a professional butcher do it, are you going to get it mounted - if so, you should have an idea as to how to cape it out) and finally be safe out there as in a lot of cases we hunt far from help, should an accident take place.

Next article is on our Alberta Whitetail hunt with friends over there.