Over the decades I have seen pictures of some absolute giants killed on this hunt. Like everything else, change is the only thing that stays the same.
There are many factors, but around 5 years ago the unit took a pretty drastic change for the worse
Rules have changed again, and things are getting back on track.
10 years ago I think holding out for a 180 buck would be reasonable with plenty of time allotted to hunting and scouting.
Fast foreword to 2022, I think holding out for a 165-170 type buck is more realistic for this hunt.
This tag is VERY Limited. Less than 20 tags per year, and takes over 20 years to draw.
My buddy has been shed hunting, scouting, and helping other friends on this hunt for a long time.
He has helped lots of his friends fill their tag on a buck of a lifetime in this hunt.
I had already planned my my vacation days for the 11th through the 20th of November. I don’t remember the thread, but when you commented on when you thought the best time for the rut was I got pretty exited about when we picked our vacation time!
Since I got my drivers license, life revolved around hunting when I wasn’t working.
Having a daughter in 2020 has definitely changed some things. My wife and I both work full time jobs, so stuff has gotten a little more complicated.
I have made every effort to still do all my hunting trips and activities, but try to incorporate my daughter into these things. So far so good, since day one she has enjoyed all my outdoor activities and adventures.
I always archery elk hunt around 20 days per year, but with this special tag I wanted to try to include the family.This was going to be a lot of days of scouting and hunting on top of elk season.
My plan was to have my wife and daughter join us on at least on if the scouting trips in October, and they would meet us for a couple days on the week long trip I had planned in November during the season.
I was only A couple points short of what it would take to draw in 2022, but it could take another 5-7 years for me to actually draw the tag.
I was a little reluctant to put in with a complete stranger, and then spend the month of October scouting. But you never know what will happen with a hunt or life in general in 5-7 years.
I decided I better put in with Mark. We were notified when draw results came out, and we drew our tags.
Tim was communicating with Mark about plans.
We all decided to start scouting and putting out trail cameras the first weekend of October.
September is for elk hunting!
Here’s a link to my elk hunt this year
This was kind of like a lot of stories I have read on bowsite over the years. A couple complete strangers meet up to do a hunt together, you never know how that might go.
We met Mark for the first time, and after chatting and spending the day together I was relieved. He seemed like a really nice guy, very knowledgeable successful hunter, and it felt like we would all get along great! What a relief
On this trip we only had one day, so we got 4 trail cameras set up.
Some of the areas that typically held quite a few deer during October had NO tracks or fresh sign.
We had a few more cameras to put out, and needed to check lots of areas to see wich ones had the most does around. Mark met us for the day Saturday.
One of the spots we put a camera the previous weekend has a good water source and usually holds lots of does. Since the last week there was a pretty good looking 4 point with eye gaurds, and a forky. Not a single doe!
Fun weekend of scouting, shooting bows, and hanging out with friends & family in the evenings.
Pretty deep forks on one side.
The other side has way shorter tines, but way more mass.
A) Hours B) Days C) Weeks
We are not a patient people. ;-)
Tim I and I were going to head over Nov 5-7 to check cameras, and and hopefully see a big buck.
Mark planned on meeting us for a day, but was going to head home after that.
So far on all the scouting trips, and with our seven trail cameras out we had really only seen a few bucks that were in the 160-170 range at most.
Tim also had two friends with muzzle loader tags in mid October that each had several cameras out. They were seeing hardly anything on camera or in person.
Our tag was a a “rut” tag, so we definitely expected big bucks to start showing after Halloween. Still, I was starting to get a little nervous with the lack of good bucks spotted so far.
By the beginning of November in 2020 Tim already had 4-5 170-180+ bucks located
I’ll get some action going and wrap it up tomorrow at the latest!
We did get eyes on the funky 4x4 that I posted above. From 150 yards away he was more impressive than in the trail cam pics. He also had 2 eyegaurds on the heavier side.
I was 99 percent sure I wouldn’t shoot him, but still tries to get in a position where he would walk by me at 30-40 yards. I waited and waited but he didn’t go where I thought.
We also got a glimpse of a 3x4 that appeared to be decent at a quick look. I figured if he was a 4x4 he would have been near 170, so maybe low to mid 160’s buck. He was about 24-25 inches wide.
There were quite a few new bucks on our cameras.
LOTS of 3x4 bucks and a few 140ish 4 points.
We headed home hoping some new bucks would show on the next trip.
On our scouting trips and the first trip of the season Mark and I had discussed what we we both looking for to fill out tag. Mark really wanted an OLD buck with some character. He didn’t seem super concerned about score either, but I imagined it would take a kind of funky 170 plus buck to fulfill his goal.
I was really wanting a really good looking 4 point. I’m not to concerned with score, but knew I would be really happy with 170ish good looking 4 point
He sat the blind for a while, but said the deer that were coming by were acting strange, and the wind was swirling.
Him and his hood friend Mitch decided to head to another blind where the really good looking 4X4 had been hanging out a lot.
We had both started to think this buck would be really tempting I person the week or so before this trip.
The 4 point pictured above came in for a drink of water, but mark couldn’t get a shot. He said it was definitely a better buck in person than we thought. He guessed right at low 170s
“Monster buck, pull your bow back!”
I guess he picked the wrong day to look for does in a new canyon!
As stated above, Mark really wanted an older buck with character. I think he got just what he wanted.
Tim and I were both at work still when he texted us the photos. We couldn’t wait to get over there the next morning.
Tim and I were both super happy for Mark.
It was a really old buck, and had a lot of funky stuff going on.
I guess blow flies can get larvae into the velvet and mess up the horns when they are growing. Several points had this and a couple strange holes in the main beams also.
Later in the evening he texted Tim and said he would meet up with us the next afternoon or morning. He was going to stay till Wednesday or Thursday to help look for a big buck for me!
Tim and I were both pumped to see his buck in person, and to hang out with mark on this hunt.
I’m sure everyone has close friends that would be gone the second they filled their tag, or would start having excuses to leave.
As I posted in the begini g neither Tim or I had ever met Mark before we started scouting for the hunt in the beginning of October.
The 3 of us hit it off and had a great time on each of our scouting trips.
We were looking foreword to seeing his deer, and this stretch of the hunt.
There were some new bucks showing up on the trail cameras. We spent most of Saturday checking all of those and glassing.
There was more does at quite a few spots, and lots of the new bucks would be good in another year or two, but nothing that was really getting me excited.
We planned to head over to an area where we had seen the 3x4 that I thought might be in the 160s just to try to get a better look.
Usually I’m pretty good with judging deer or elk, but I was starting to second guess myself.
It just didn’t make sense we weren’t seeing more good bucks on this hunt.
We found that 3x4 with a bunch of does.
My initial thoughts of him were probably actually thinking he was actually bigger than he really was. This time I got to glass him a lot more. He was pretty wide, but none of his time really had the height to make him a hood buck. He did hav decent mass, but not as much as I thought from the quick look I hit the week before.
There were probably 30-40 does here now and several new bucks.
This ridge is right above the draw Mark killed his buck in on friday.
The rut action was starting to get good!
Mark found a new buck in that area I put a stalk on a couple times. We all thought he would be around 190. He was a beautiful heavy wife 4x4 with eye guards. I got witching 60 yards twice, but could never seal the deal. While following him and his does, I ended up dropping down into the draw where mark killed his. Afte the 190 buck and his does got ahead of me an d out of sight I hustled to where I thought I could intercept them.
He never showed up, but I did run into the buck mark saw right before he shot his.
He had around 12 does, and one he was extremely interested in. There was also a small buck trying to sneak in for some action.
It was pretty amazing watching that buck keep the whole group together, keep track of that one doe, and make sure the little buck stayed away. I watched this from a couple hundred yards before he moved them up and out a ridge. That experience was definitely a high light if the hunt.
What was I thinking!
Now I was a little bit nervous thinking he was going to run off before I could get a shot.
I pulled my bow back on him for the 3rd time and settled my 30 yard pin behind his shoulder.
I was a happy hunter.
Bet that was a shock compared to walking up to a coastal blacktail.
Later in the day shortly before dark Tim’s phone rang and a guy had got Tim’s number from some one.
He was 71 years old and had been applying for this hunt with his brother every year. Last year during elk season his brother got Covid and died. His brother was his hunting partner. This year he finally drew the tag, and was hunting solo.
He hadn’t been seeing many deer the last 4 or 5 days.
He was just looking for a suggestion on some different areas to check out. He was sleeping in the front seat of his tacoma, and it had been down to 14 degrees the last couple nights. He was on the other side of the unit.
It took us about two seconds to decide this would be a great guy to give a hand. We had the whole rest of the week off, so might as well keep hunting deer in the rut!
Tim sent him a pin drop and told him to meet us there at 6am Wednesday morning.
I still can’t believe how great everything went on the scouting trips and during the hunt.
For some reason I usually have the kind of trips where you have to endure a certain amount t of pain and suffering before I get the success and good parts.
This was a new experience for me to have us filling tags and getting some great bucks just like we wanted so early on the actual hunt.
Looking forward to the rest!
Good on you guys as well, for helping out that other gentleman. Any updates on how he did?
His friend Mitch that was with him when he killed his buck lives about an hour from the start of where we were hunting. Mitch and Mark were out looking around for a big buck for me when I had shot mine. They met up with Tim and me to check my deer out.
After photos and taking care of my deer Tim and I followed them to Mitch’s house. We still hadn’t seen Marks buck in person, and had to check it out before Mark headed home.
It really is a pretty incredible buck in person.
While there we also got to check out Mitch’s trophy room. He had some incredible mule deer he’s killed. It was a really cool part of this trip to check out his photos, stories, and trophies.
You wouldn’t know it just talking to him, but it was obvious he was a very successful extremely driven hunter. He had just recently returned from a Muskox and carabou hunt in Greenland I believe. The photos and stories of that trip were incredible.
This was one more fun part of this adventure.
I didn’t come home until late Saturday the 19th.
I just need to have Tim reach out to the gentleman in the third part of this story to get permission to post photos ect. I don’t have his number.
I didn’t really think about that ahead of time!
Back to the hunt.
The previous night Tim and I were racking our brains trying to decide what would give Steve the best chance at a good buck.
Originally we were planning on having him sit in a blind we had set up near where we had him meet us. There was multiple bucks checking the does here. There was also new bucks showing up all over, so who knows what might appear.
It was around 14 degrees that morning, we had a single burner buddy heater to put in the blind with him. I had tried it a couple days before and was surprised how well it worked.
While he was hunting that area, we were going to pull a blind and camera from a ridge top where there wasn’t much going on. The plan was to move it over by where I had almost got a shot at the 190 buck. There was a small knob with a cluster of trees, and dead trees laying on the ground that was above two large canyons. There was always does all around this knob, and a really good amount of different bucks coming up to check the does. We would get this all set up, so he could sit there the rest of the day after the morning hunt at the first spot.
The evening before I shot my buck, Mark had watched this spot for the last hour or so of day light. He saw 4 different bucks come up out of the canyon, circle that area checking for a hot doe, and head back down Into the canyon they came from. It seemed they weren’t finding a hot doe, so we’re basically repeatedly checking this area trying to be there when a doe was ready. There was so many different little groups of 5-6 does around, it seemed like the bucks didn’t want to stick with one group waiting for does to be ready. They just kept moving and checking all the different groups of does.
We told Steve about the blind we thought he should sit in and our plan to set up a new blind for the afternoon.
Tim and I both had a strong feeling the either the 190 buck or the other big one I almost got a shot at Monday evening would be over on that ridge where all the does were Where we intended to set up the new blind.
We told Steve, we thought it may be a good idea to just head over there and glass at first light.
He liked the idea of heading over there versus jumping in the blind, so off we went.
It didn’t take long, and we found a group of does bedded, and the big buck I almost got a shot at before dark Monday night was bedded with them.
I stayed out, Steve and Tim started working over towards the buck.
It wasn’t long and Steve was at full draw.
The buck ran a little ways after the shot, and just stood next to a dead tree hunched up looking around.
I lost sight of them so wasn’t sure what was going on. I drive around to a little dirt road about half a mile away ti glass the back of the know where the buck had gone. After about an hour I never saw a single deer, Tim called me and had me come back to where I had dropped them off in the morning after first spotting the buck.
The wind had switched when they were at the top of the knob trying to keep an eye on the buck.
They saw it go down towards a finger that separated two larger canyons. On the way back to meet up with me Steve spotted it bedded under some tree limbs at about 70 yards. It jumped up and ran further down out of sight. They didn’t know the buck was there, and were trying g to just get back to meet me.
Unfortunately things don’t always go perfect.
We all decided it would be best to leave, and come back around 2. We figured the buck would be dead by then, and we could do some grid searches of the area to find it.
Steve was going to go look around a little draw just to the north, Tim and I were going to spread out and head a little further south.
Tim and I met back up with about 40 minutes of day light left, looking around just trying to think where the buck may have went. We both figured he probably bedded somewhere in a thicket and we had walked past it.
A couple crows flew by us as we were talking. Off and on I had heard a single crow about half a mile away up on a flat ridge top. I told Tim about that and we decided we better go investigate.
This was quite always past where we ever would of thought the buck possibly could have gone.
It was the buck Steve shot, bedded down. We weren’t sure if he had seen us and we backed out the way we came, not wanting to spook the buck.
Tim called Steve to tel him we found the buck.
After talking it over, we all 3 thought the best course of action was to leave and come back at first light.
The day time temps were in the high 20’s and lows over night were supposed to be around 14 degrees.
Obviously sneaking in and getting a finishing arrow was the first thought that came to all of our minds, but it just seemed like the type of situation where we had a pretty high chance of just spooking the buck off with the limited amount of daylight left.
If he ran off as far as the last time, there was a good chance he’d be really tuff to find.
The three of us got along great, for some guys that just met that morning. We tried to stay positive and be ready to sneak in where he was bedded last.
In the morning we woke up to freezing rain. It was quite the adventure getting out to where we left off the day before.
After about a mile hike from the truck we were sneaking g to where we spotted the buck last, searching with our binos for any little piece of hi through all the thick branches.
We were glassing right where he was the evening before and he was gone.
He had moved about 20 yards away and died.
In the end I feel we dealt with the situation the best way we could, and resulted in finding the buck, with no meat being spoiled.
I know reading others stories over all the years has helped me make decisions, so maybe this could help someone in the future in a similar circumstance.
It was nice meeting him, and we had a good time the couple days we hunted together. I think we all had a good time and enjoyed it.
While we were packing the deer out the freezing rain got worse once we hit the pavement. We opted to take a long way around to avoid some very long and steep ups and downs. It was probably a good hour and a half longer drive, but steep hills in freezing rain with huge cliffs didn’t sound fun.
My wife was heading over with our daughter. We planned on staying a couple more days to go enjoy watching deer in the rut. We also had cameras and ground blinds to pick up at a bunch of different spots.
It was fun to watch and my daughter had a blast watching deer and helping us get cameras and groundblinds rounded up.
In the end I think we got 3 of the 6 biggest bucks we had on camera or saw in person.
It was a pretty memorable hunt from start to finish.
How you guys helped out a complete stranger to me was the best part of the story.
Congrats on all the great bucks taken and the memories to last a lifetime.
Thanks for sharing!
The spirit of the thrill of the chase and helping others was great
I'm not a very good deer hunter to say the least, but this one had me on the edge of the seat and wanting to get after them more on our late season hunt.
I’ve been told my stories can be a little long winded!!!
You mentioned: "I’m sure everyone has close friends that would be gone the second they filled their tag, or would start having excuses to leave." Yes this is true but the one "friend" that did that no longer hunts with us and hunts by himself.
Thanks for the excellent recaps and pics as well!