This hunt had been on my bucket list for quite a few years now. I had hoped to have a partner, but my hunting buddy in Montana just started a new job and didn't have vacation available. A couple other guys contemplated it but couldn't/didn't make it work, so I opted to do it alone.
The tag arrived from Nevada DOW this summer, and some VERY helpful folks on this site and others helped me in my planning.
Finally, t-0 days arrived and it was time to take the bow for a walk. You can see several essentials there, including the trekking poles, flip flops, and a spotting scope. I literally would spend hours behind the spotter, finding deer I had missed with my binos.
After a little aggravation and an illegal left turn, the Dodge is full of diesel and I'm full of a gut bomb and we're headed east.
I made a last minute stop at Wally World in Twin Falls to get a few items I had forgotten, then hit the highway south for the Silver State.
The rain made visibility very poor, and there was a bad wreck along the way. Fortunately, it looked as if no one was hurt. However, there was a pickup sitting by the side of the road that was missing a front wheel and part of the axle. That can't be good.
Must be rush hour.
They gave me some information on where other hunters were camped, and where they were finding the deer at.
I had initially planned on hiking in about six miles and camping near a lake. However, based upon their recommendation I decided to abort that plan. Instead, I would go in about five miles tonight, and then head further on in tomorrow.
One last look back at the trailhead before the sweating really starts.
I also noticed a perplexing lack of deer in the upper basins, where it looked like the hills should be crawling with them.
Finally, daylight faded and it was time to get to work and get my tent up before any thunderstorms rolled over the mountains. I reached my first night's campsite at 9:00 PM. It took me roughly 2.5 hours to climb 3000 feet from the trailhead. I was feeling great and it was obvious that the summer's conditioning efforts would pay dividends on this trip.
The guys I had talked to at the trailhead said that the night before they pulled out there was a storm that rolled over that had them crying like schoolgirls in their sleeping bags. The Rubies had been hit hard with thunderstorms for about a week in a row, and they said there were some rather harrowing moments.
Dawn broke, and I crawled out of the Big Agnes Inn.
Outfitting dirtbags in the Rubies....
I shook my tent out the best I could and loaded up the Metcalf to go see some new scenery. I filled up with water below camp and off I went.
I visited with three guys, one who had harvested a three point and was headed out tomorrow. The other two were going to load up camp and push west into some more remote country. One other hunter was still out hunting and would also be leaving tomorrow.
They shared information with me about what had been hunted, and I now understood the lack of deer that I had mentioned earlier. This basin had been hammered with hunting pressure.
The good news was that they had not hunted much to the north, and didn't think that anyone was currently hunting there. The only hunters they had seen to the north were the two that I had spoken to at the trailhead yesterday.
They kindly shared some water with me, so I ate some granola and chatted with them while they were loading their packs. I asked them about water, and they did tell me about a snowbank that was off of the top that was flowing enough water to filter out of.
I thanked them for their hospitality and wished them luck. I pushed on about an hour to the north and found where I thought the water source was. The wind was blowing hard, and I thought I could hear water running but was not sure.
I looked around for a place to set up camp, and finally decided that this site would work despite the crappy view.
I used a Panasonic Lumix that I carry for work. I don't know why, but it always has a blurry image on the right side. I am horribly disappointed in this camera and it is going to be returned. I was so bummed when I got home and looked at all of the photos, only to see blurry pictures and poor quality.
Okay, now that I have that off of my chest we can carry on.
I got camp all set up and got my pack ready to go kill something.
Here is a photo of my new Mystery Ranch Metcalf collapsed down into the daypack mode. I really like this pack, a LOT. The spotter strapped to the outside very nicely, making it easy to get to. The person that chose the side zipper on the main bag is a genius.
They had asked if I was sure, and didn't I want to try for them myself. I told them that I hadn't even set up camp yet, and that honestly if I shot a deer then I would feel like I was cheating myself out of the experience and the adventure that I was really after.
That afternoon, I found water and filled up all of my containers. I left one by the trail to pick up on the way back, and pushed on to scout some new country. I glassed a couple of small bucks and some does.
I glassed this basin until almost dark and only saw a doe and a fawn in it. On the walk back to camp I was starting to question my decision to walk right by bucks this morning. Was this going to be an omen for the days ahead? I reminded myself that I had eight days to hunt, and that patience really was a virtue.
I picked up my water along the trail and hustled back to the tent. I ate some dinner, had a shot of Waitsburg bourbon (which is the best bourbon I have ever had. It's distilled in the tiny town of Waitsburg, Washington. I'll deliver to you for the nominal fee of a place in your hunting camp) and crawled into the sack.
I made some notes in my journal, pored over my map, and decided to glass the meadow below camp at daybreak and go from there.
I opted to east and look for the group of bucks that I had glassed the first night on the hike in. According to the topo, I could simply drop down and get water, then follow the ridge out to the east about a mile and half.
I dropped about a 1000 feet in elevation, glassing as I went. I saw another small buck down in some cliffs. I shaded up under a whitebark pine tree that was kind enough to grow out of a rock outcropping and provide me with a shaded hide that I could spend the day under.
After about an hour behind the glass, I located a good shooter buck down below me. He was holed up in the mountain mahogany, and was surrounded by does. There was no way I was going to infiltrate the perimeter and get to him. I glassed and waited.
The does were up and milling around, and I decided to drop lower in elevation in hopes of being able to set up an ambush when they began feeding in the evening.
As I was dropping down, I watched a small forked horn walk behind a huge rock outcropping. That was where I wanted to go. I crept around the rock and counted coup on the little buck. His eyes were pretty big when he saw an Optifade object holding a Bowtech 12 yards away from him.
Unfortunately, the deer all fed down the hill in the evening. I waited as long as the thermals allowed it, then bailed out before they got a nose full of my stench.
The little forked horn was bedded at the red arrow. I had moved down below that rock into the meadow where I had hoped the deer would feed up on the same route they had two days ago.
One of them was a very good 3x4 with a nice wide frame. He immediately became the target of my attention. I heated water and ate some oatmeal and drank coffee while glassing from camp. I watched him feed across the meadow with three other bucks. He bedded right in the meadow and I thought to myself, could I be this lucky?
He got up and moved to the north, but he was bedded in a very huntable location. There was a rock outcropping above him that would provide me cover to get within 40 yards or so.
Now, my quandary was that I was very low on water and needed to find some. I could drop down into the drainage below my camp and get water, and there was a very good stream flowing in the bottom. It would also allow me to keep eyes on the buck in case he moved.
I figured he would be staying there for the better part of the day and there was no huge hurry. I decided to go with that plan and dropped down into a cut that would provide me with cover until I hit the timber.
All of a sudden, two spikes fed out of an aspen patch directly above me. I kept crouched down and was able to make it down the dry streambed to the timber. Unfortunately, I blew a deer out of the timber and could not see where it went. Unsure if the deer ran through the bucks, I spent some time glassing until I could confirm they were still bedded.
The descent was further than I thought, and I got down in a jungle of aspens. I had a neat buck that was a 4 point on one side and a funky blade on the other get up in front of me. I would have shot him if he presented the opportunity, but he didn't.
Finally, I reached the creek, filled up with water, and started back up. I glassed again and could see the bucks bedded. The red arrow shows where they were located.
I decided at that point that I may as well try to find them again, so I hot footed across the meadow and stopped at the timber's edge.
I knew that I had to be careful not to bust them, so I crept through the whitebarks ever so slowly. I crept along until I reached a small opening, then sat down for a while.
I could not see or hear anything, and felt that I was too high up. I backed out of the timber a ways and then dropped in elevation before continuing on. Several well worn trails crossed at my elevation.
This is a view looking back up the canyon. I came down the timber on the left.
I sat there for several hours without seeing anything. I had time to reflect on life. I thought about a lot of things. I thought about those that die too young, like Cody Moore. I thought about Bigdan and the hurt, the healing, and the memories.
I thought about my own parents, who have both been long gone. I thought about how they both lost their battle with depression, and how sad it is that my dad could have never allowed himself to do a trip like this because of his self imposed ideas about what one should do with life. I thought about how sad it was, that even if he was still around he would have never done anything like this.
I thought about my girls, and how I hoped that someday they would share this with me. I thanked God for my health and the opportunity to do this trip. I realized how fortunate many of us are to be able to enjoy the richness with which we have been blessed.
I continued to glass, and finally saw this guy. After watching him a while, I thought he looked very much like one of the bucks with the big 3x4 I had seen that morning. I knew I had to keep glassing as he was likely very close by.
He pawed the ground, then flopped down like a big Labrador Retriever after he's eaten dinner.
That plan quickly disintegrated though, as I saw two deer get up in the chute that I would need to go up in order to get the elevation I needed.
The red stars depict where the deer were. Frank would be behind the pine tree on the left.
He was now within 100 yards of Frank the Tank.
I began easing my way out across the bench and set up where I thought they would cross. I sat there a while, and watched two forked horns cross the bench across from me at 75 yards. I quickly realized they would not cross there and I needed to back out and work my way down further.
I slowly backed out and moved down. Now, I could see the 3x4 feeding with several other bucks, with Frank in the back. They were moving down the slope, so I hustled around to where I thought they would cross. I nocked an arrow and eased over a rise.
Directly below me I could see antlers in the aspens. I was seconds too late. Five bucks were coming up out of the creek and they were 60 yards out. The big 3x4 stopped broadside below me, feeding. I didn't like the shot and watched them move on below me towards the big meadow below my camp.
Frank was still on the other side of the creek. I ranged him at 70 yards. He was feeding, and I slowly cut the distance to 60 yards. He turned and headed towards the creek, and I readied myself for what would be a 50 yard broadside shot at the creek bottom.
However, Frank got nervous and stopped. I tried to reposition myself as I could feel the thermals shifting. Frank decided he didn't like the situation and began moving away. Here is a crappy photo I snapped before backing out.
Frank is in the middle, although it's very blurry.
When I got to camp, Frank, the 3x4, and one other buck were 200 yards below camp.
I had another shot of bourbon, ate dinner, and enjoyed a Nevada sunset.
There was no sign of Frank or the 3x4, and I wondered if they got a nose full in the evening and vacated the premises. I decided to get water and look into the canyon to the east.
I quickly glassed three bucks. One was a good 3x4 and he was feeding where the red star is. He fed for a while, then quickly headed back around the hill for unknown parts. I decided to quickly filter water, then head for the south facing slope and see if I could glass him there.
I finally gave up and headed around to the spine of the ridge. As I broke around the edge. It dawned on me that there were a few trees on the spine that I had not glassed. I had seen big dug out deer beds there a couple of days ago.
A sinking feeling came over me about the same time the buck jumped out from under the uppermost tree and bounded over the hill.
I threw my hat on the ground in disgust, as the deer would have been in a very huntable location. The rocks and slope aspect would have allowed me to easily get within 40 yards of his bedding area.
I had hoped to find the buck that I glassed a couple of days ago down in the mahoganies. I found deer, but no bucks worthy of much attention. I felt like a high school boy, the night before prom that doesn't have a date yet.
Here it was almost 11:00 and I'm trying to figure out what to do. I decided that maybe I would try a stalk on the bucks that had already seen me if they had settled down and were stil there.
I worked back to where I could glass the canyon they were in. All of a sudden I can see them, now three bucks, and they are feeding right out in the open. I've noticed a peculiar quirk with these deer in that they aren't afraid to get up at midday and move a LOT. I've watched several bunches move a quarter to a half mile right in the middle of the day, and these are no different.
They fed down the canyon and bedded under a lone mahogany tree. I quickly assessed the situation and decided that I can sneak these deer. There is a 4x4 in the bunch, that has shallow forks but is a really dark color and would be worthy an arrow.
This is looking down one of the rock chutes.
I climbed back up and picked a different route, only to get cliffed out. I climbed back up AGAIN, and finally was able to work my way down. A doe was standing to my left, and I finally said screw it and figured I could get below her before she winded me and she wouldn't bust the bucks. It worked, and before I knew it I was positioned alongside a big rock.
The bucks were bedded 50 yards down the hill below me under the tree. The drawback to my position was this. In order to shoot, I would have to move alongside the rock. One of the bucks was looking uphill towards me. I would have no choice but to wait until they were up.
The 4x4 stood up and milled around at one point, and I could have mustered a shot except for the buck looking directly at me.
I sat there for two hours waiting. Word to the wise, don't eat trail mix while sitting on some bucks. I got a piece of almond caught in my throat and had an unstoppable urge to cough. Finally, I had to just lean over and put my face in my arm and cough.
Fortunately, the deer didn't hear me. Unfortunately, when they did get up at 4:00, they fed directly away from and didn't turn broadside until they were 75 yards out.
The bucks are inside the red circle.
I backed out a ways and assessed.
Nevada is a wonderful state, it's simply a sea of desert and mountains. I wonder if I can see the mountains where Randy Newberg (aka Big Fin) and his son are hunting.
As usual, it was a couple of shots of bourbon, dinner, a few notes in the journal, and strategizing for tomorrow.
As usual, it was a couple of shots of bourbon, dinner, a few notes in the journal, and strategizing for tomorrow.
The only animals I saw were mountain goats.
He was a pretty good 3x3 and was in a very huntable location. However, that quickly changed when he got up and relocated under a pine tree with no cover for 100 yards in any direction.
It was hilarious watching this buck. He was standing on a rock with his head wedged in a crevice feeding on some browse that was in there.
The wind was in my favor, and I knew that as long as I went very slow I should be able to hunt my way down it without blowing any deer out. It would have been preferable to glass it first, but that would entail a lengthy hike and the wind was wrong to do this.
I stuck with my plan and worked my way down the ridge. I had a staredown with a blue grouse at 10 feet. However, I couldn't remember if I needed an upland stamp for grouse in Nevada, or if the season was even open. After some deliberation and fondling of the judo arrow, I decided to err on the side of caution and allowed him to live.
I was able to weave my way between several does without incident. Suddenly, I saw antlers below me.
There were two 3x3 bucks bedded. I dumped my pack and slithered down another ten yards before I felt that I needed to stop. The bucks were 50 yards below me. I waited.
At 3:20 the bucks both got up. Unfortunately, the angle of the hill didn't allow me a good shot.
The red circle shows where the bucks were bedded.
Nothing. WTF? Where in the world did they go?
It looks like I was foiled again.
I backed up and worked to my left through a gap in the rocks. Suddenly, I could see the tips of antlers in front of me. The smaller 3x3 was only 12 yards in front of me feeding!
With an arrow nocked, I waited. I could now see the bigger 3x3 below him, feeding to my left across the hill. I could only see the top half of his body.
I waited, and the smaller buck fed out and across in front of me. His bigger buddy came up the hill slightly and joined him.
I drew, and the smaller buck looked at me. I waited, and he resumed feeding. When the bigger buck gave me the opportunity, I put my 30 yard pin on him and let fly.
This angle is looking back up the hill to the gap in the rocks from where I shot.
The elevation was perfect and I could see that he was bleeding. He walked behind a rock and I eased over to where I could look down the hill. He was bedded beneath a pine tree.
After an hour, his head was still up and I began to get concerned. The wind suddenly shifted and he stood up and looked in my direction. He slowly walked off towards the creek.
He bedded once on the other side of the creek and then for no reason jumped up and started running. He couldn't run up hill at all, and slowly kept working his way down the hil towards the bottom.
I prayed that he would not do a death sprint into the aspen jungles down low.
The exit wound was right above the bottom of his rib cage, but was further back than I would have liked. I had obviously misjudged the angle at which he was quartered away. His offside leg was covered in blood and I knew that it was only a matter of time.
Finally, he stopped beneath a mahogany tree (red circle). I could see him lay down, and then saw him roll down the hill. I gave a sigh of relief and gave thanks to the Lord.
As I began working my way up the ridge, I nocked an arrow and eased my way up. I could smell him before I saw him.
As he lay....
I did a necropsy to find out what I had hit. My entrance hit the top lobe of the lung, and the exit hit the bottom lobe on the far side. What I had thought was gut shot was actually from the esophagus where the broadhead severed it.
It was a double lung shot, albeit a somewhat poor one. Had my arrow been a few inches further forward the buck probably would have died in minutes. As it was, it took him 1.5 hours from shot to fall.
It was a steep climb out, and I was very thankful for trekking poles. It took me an hour and a half to cover the mile back to camp.
I reached camp and finished off the last of the bourbon. I ate some lentil curry soup that was awful, all the while thinking that it wouldn't look that much different when it came out.
I crawled into bed, debating about whether to head for the trail head tomorrow or take a rest day. It rained and blew during the night.
I quickly broke camp and began loading my pack. I had decided that I was far enough in that I would do it in one trip instead of two. When I got the Metcalf loaded up it was heavy. Slow and steady wins the race Tigger....
The descent was only slighty easier. At one point, I took a break and dumped my pack. However, the hill wasn't steep enough for me to get under my pack and stand up, and I couldn't get it on by just hoisting it up. Finally, I found a wash that I could set my pack on and get it buckled before standing up.
The switchbacks were endless. Normally, I consider it very poor form to cut switchbacks. However, I think this trail crew got paid by the mile and not the hour. I began shamelessly cutting swithbacks whenever I could.
The thunderheads rolled in, and I was glad I had made the decision to come out today.
What a feeling of exhilaration and accomplishment it was when I dropped my pack for the last time.
I swapped my boots for flip flops, loaded my gear and headed for Wells. I got a Whopper with cheese, fries, and a large chocolate shake. It took me about 3 minutes to devour it all. I had a hard time eating all of my food on this trip, and I knew I had lost weight.
I was supposed to go to Ogden and meet my wife, as my nephew was getting married on Saturday. I was shocked when she told me that a cousin of hers had been killed in a freak accident.
He had been a safety crew member at a demolition derby at the county fair. He had run out to check on a driver when a car went on its side. The car tipped over on him without warning, crushing him. He died on the helicopter flight to the hospital.
I drove as far as I could before I knew I had to pull over and sleep. I laid there that night thinking about how unpredictable life is. I thought about how a hunt like this is entirely meaningless in the grand scheme of life, but yet it is the essence of living.
I thought about how life is full of opportunities to be taken, moments to be seized, and lives to be touched. I missed my hunting buddy immensely and wished he could have been here with me.
Hug your spouse, your kids, your family, and your friends. Never miss an opportunity to tell them that you love them. Live life with abandon, and never overlook the moments in time when you can have a profound impact on someone else's life.
May your season be blessed with unforgettable moments.
Thanks for sharing with us all.
Good luck, Robb
Thanks for sharing.
I have had 3 Lumix cameras over the years. The first one drowned, the second was crushed by my butt. The third still is going strong. None had the blurry pictures so I think you got a klunker.
Sorry to your wife and you on her cousin's death.
SteveB X 2!!!
A very well written narrative, complete with gratitude for what you have......well done. If you have more hunt stories like this, don't wait to post them on here.
Absolutely. You put into words what is at the core of so many of us.
Thank you for a fantastic write up of something that has been on my bucket list for years.
Next time you need a partner, I would love to apply for the job.
It is Muscovite....a potassium aluminosilicate that breaks down into clay particles rather easily through chemical weathering. It is a very common mineral that can be found in igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks.
We have mica in western ND (Badlands) also.
"I laid there that night thinking about how unpredictable life is. I thought about how a hunt like this is entirely meaningless in the grand scheme of life, but yet it is the essence of living."
Brilliant statement and spot on. You have captured in a few words, how many of us feel.
This story is the epitome of why Bowsite is #1. That is how is it done. Quality contribution, not idle commentary.
Thanks for sharing this great hunt!
I'll say it again....this is the best part of Bowsite!
Sorry about the accident.
Thanks for sharing a terrific adventure.
Thanks for taking the time to tell the story, great write up. Like most hunts, wish they didn't have to end so soon! Congrats!
I do not want to miss your next!!!!!
Stopping to "smell the roses" and reflecting on what is really important in life, is surely a breath of fresh air.
My best, Paul
Paul, your threads over the years of high country mule deer hunting have been the driving force behind this hunt. Thank you.
Cityhunter, I love the Bowtech. In all honesty, I probably could have easily made the 60 yard shot at Frank the Tank, but I just can't comprehend taking a shot like that unless conditions are perfect.
Treewalker, "outfitting dirtbags everywhere" is Big Agnes' slogan. It was merely a play on that.
Amoebus, I could have set up a collection tarp, but it didn't rain with enough regularity that it would have made a difference.
I have to say thanks to BB, as his threads over the years have motivated to take a camera and USE it. For many years I have neglected to take the time to stop and take a picture. One day I realized how few photos I had of all of my travels in some incredibly beautiful parts of the world.
Since then, I have made it a point to take scads of photos. Last year my buddy and I were hoofing it up the mountain after a bugling bull. I stopped to take a picture of the aspen grove we were crossing through and my buddy looked at me with a bewildered WTF? look. I laughed and told him I was stopping to smell the flowers. He laughed and said "if I had done that a few years ago you'd have kicked my ass.
Sorry to hear of the family loss, seems life just keeps on chugging down the trail no matter what, never takes a break. But sounds like you have the outlook and attitude to take it all on.
Well, that and the bourbon..... =D thanks again.
Congratulations on your buck!
Sure glad that I opened it! Great thread JLS! Like others have posted, thanks for putting a little perspective on things.
Also, congrats on your buck & your experiences.
What a great write up and story, I just had to read it twice. Congratulations on a fine hunt and story.
Very nice write up with a bunch of great reflection. Congrats on a very successful hunt.
I up the skull and had planned on doing a European mount, complete with velvet. I had been letting the skull sit in hot, not quite boiling water for several days and had cleaned all the flesh off. I put it in a clean bucket of rinse water this morning and decided I'd let it sit in there during the day, then I'd rinse it again tonight and let it dry.
As I was getting ready to leave for work, I thought about setting it up on top of the BBQ, but then decided there was no need because the dogs wouldn't be out in the yard between now and then.
I got home from work and took the girls to the store for some school supplies. When I got home, I saw my skull sitting in pieces and the velvet in shambles. It turns out that the girls had put the dogs out in the yard and left them out there, despite standing orders that the dogs aren't left outside unattended.
My German Wirehair pup promptly found the deer head and made it his for over an hour. When my oldest daughter saw my face she began apologizing profusely. She could tell I was P-I-S-S-E-D.
I gave myself a moment, kicked a bucket, then went inside. I found her sitting in the corner sobbing. I gave her a hug and told her that it was a deer head, and nothing more. I reiterated that the dogs shouldn't be put outside and left, but that I shared equal blame for leaving it where the dogs could get it.
I constantly harp on my girls about perspective, grace, forgiveness, and leading by example. Well, it was time for dad to walk the walk here. After a couple of big hugs, I told her that the way for her to make it up to me was to save up her money and buy me a Nevada deer tag next year....
....she smiled and laughed through all of the tears and smudged mascara, and my wife snorted and said "I don't think so".
Great story and write-up, even the post add on. Thanks for inviting us along and sharing.
Thanks so much for taking us along!
Had a friend that had a trophy that experienced a similar fate. He bowkilled a 450lb black bear with a huge melon. Green scored way above B&C minimum. Left it on a work bench in his garage & his dog pulled it down & chewed the cheek bones off it!
Now for you pup,(Henry? if I remember), at least it wasn't the rotting water. He would never smell the same! I know I would be giving him any dog "kisses"!
your a good father
Thanks, great write up!! I can't wait to get out to NV myself!
Also, what spotter did you use?