First Lite Clothing

December 30, 2012 by  
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FIRST LITE

 

Back to the Basics

 

I feel like, the older I get, the smarter I get.  I’m sure you can find people that would tell you I’m not getting any smarter, but what do they know? Most of them are still wearing their old, traditional camo clothing made from cotton, polyester, and even denim.  Over the last couple years, I have jumped on the band wagon and have been experimenting with some of these new high performance hunting clothing companies.  Let me tell you, there is some great high performance clothing for hunting on the market right now.

 

75 Degrees and the first Lite worked flawlessly!

One such company is a First Lite which is an industry leader out of the Sun Valley, Idaho area.  First Lite is one of the pioneers in high performance hunting clothing.  It all started by wearing merino wool clothing to give them added warmth and freedom of movement on the ski slopes.  They soon fell in love with the attributes of merino wool and wanted to use it on their hunting ventures. The problem was,  merino wool only came in black, so they were forced into wearing a cotton or polyester camouflage over their wool.  They had the same age old problem that most hunters have had.  All the warm clothing was big, bulky, heavy and didn’t breathe very well.  There is nothing worse than being sweaty, wet and cold while skiing and or hunting.  It is miserable and can even cause death!  The solution, start a company that builds state of the art hunting clothing out of merino wool in camouflage patterns.

As we all know it gets cold in Kansas in December! Well the First Lite work perfectly…

 

In 2007, Kenton Carruth and Scott Robinson owners of First Lite, set out on a mission to create clothing that would breath, is light weight and would not restrict the athletes movement.   It all started on the ski slopes and moved into the hunting industry.  From earlier archery season to late season, if you are cold weather deer hunting, they have you covered.  First Lite addressed each of these concerns and faced them head on to come up with what I feel is the perfect combinations for all your hunting adventures.

Texas Mule deer hunting! It can be 60 degrees one day and 20 degrees the next, as was the case on the day I harvested this great buck.

 

Let’s talk about the most important part of your clothing, whether it is early season or late season which is the first layer of clothing next to your skin.  Layering your clothing is the most effective way to achieve the perfect body temperature control in any environment.   The best material to have next to your body, hands down, is merino wool.  Merino wool is much smoother, finer wool when compared to the wool of an ordinary sheep. Not even all merino sheep have wool that is suitable for clothing, especially if it is next to your body.  Only the best merino wool can be used.  Traditional wool, as we all know, is very warm and itchy.  Merino sheep have much softer, finer wool compared to that of their cousin.  These finer strands of Merino wool eliminate the nasty itch caused by traditional wool.  As a matter of fact, when I received my first order of First lite I had to check the collar to see what it was made of.  It did not feel like any other wool I had tried in the past.  It was soft, elastic and fairly light compared to that of other base layers on the market. The collar, to my surprise, read 100% merino wool.

 

A huge attribute to wool is its ability to wick away sweat from your body.  It has the ability to disperse sweat into the millions of fibers and rapidly dry your garment.  The best part about this is, you and your garment remain scent free for longer periods of time.  Body odor is caused by bacteria growing and feeding off your body sweat.  No sweat, no body odor, the wool evaporates and dries quickly not giving bacteria time to grow.  I have tested this very extensively!  These high performance first layers are not cheap, so the average guy can’t afford to run out and buy one for every day of the week.  One base layer is going to have to last you multiple days of wicking away sweat and staying scent free.  Take my word for it, this stuff is amazing and worth every penny.  As Jim Shockey would say (I hope he doesn’t have this trademarked yet) “I trust my life to it”; it’s that good.  With First Lite’s first layers I can guaranty you that you have a much better opportunity to survive a night or two out in the cold, than if you weren’t wearing it.

 

As you can see, I personally, used the heck out of the Llano top, a 170 gram interlocked fabric base layer and the Allegheny 230 gram, mid weight bottom this year.  I tested them from ten degrees to ninety degrees Fahrenheit, and they performed flawlessly. As a base layer or my only layer, First Lite’s merino wool passed everything I could throw at it, including a smell test.  After three days of climbing hills, sweating and filming deer in ninety degree plus temperatures, I took the shirt off and asked my wife to smell it and tell me what she thought.  After a funny look and cautious smell her response was “what, it doesn’t smell like anything” I then told her that I just had taking it off after abusing it for three days in the field.  Her response was ” Wow, we should get you more of this”  I don’t no what she meant by that, but maybe after 12 years of washing my stinky hunting clothes she was ready for a positive change in the smell of my dirty garments.

I truly believe in this product. How people you know will strip down to their undies to show support to a great product. That would be me!

 

One of my favorite attributes to this base layer is it’s ability to stretch in all directions and go right back to its original shape.  A traditional garment would look like an over sized shirt at the end of four or five days of wear. These are breathable and have an articulate cut that allows for less restriction during movement.  What else can I say about these undergarments, besides they are the best!  If you are not a long bottom kind of guy, you need to try their Red Desert Boxers.  They are the bomb!  They are cut and seams are placed to prevent chafing and rashes, that you would normally get from tradition underwear.  I find myself wearing them even when I’m not hunting.  They are comfy!

A great management buck! I put this gear through its paces and I feel in love with. You can’t go wrong with First Lite gear. You have my word on it!

 

First Lite has all of their clothing in many of the popular camouflage patterns available on the market today.  If you are not a fan of camo, they also have them in a number of solid colors.  With multiple garment configurations and fabric weights in their first layers there is no reason for your core to ever get cold again.

 

This is not a paid endorsement, just my personal beliefs on how great First Lite’s products are.

 

PRO’s:  The best of the best. Breathable, light weight, wicks away moisture, and helps you remain odorless longer. Their clothing is everything you could possibly need!  They have me hooked!

CON’s:  First Lite is a little on the pricey side, but worth every penny.  Other under garments that compete with First Lite are similarly priced.

PRODUCT: I would like to see them expand their product line!  Maybe something that is water proof.  If it’s not raining you will need nothing besides what they offer, except for an excuse to get out in the field.

COMPANY: These guys are great!  I stopped in during an archery deer hunt and they treated me as if they had known me for years. Small company, with small company values. Order your clothes early as they do run out of certain sizes and colors.  They do sell their clothing on the retail market, so it can be readily available in your area.  Ask your nearest retailer for First Lite clothing.

 

First Lite clothing on the cover of Muley Crazy Magazine!

September 14, 2012 by  
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Local Ketchum company graces the cover of Muley Crazy Magazine!

 

First Lite in the spot light….

First Lite, A local Kethum company, hits it big time with the cover of Muley Crazy Magazine, sharing the cover with a 221 inch monster mule deer harvested in southern Utah.  I dropped in to the headquarters of First Lite the other day on my way to hunting camp and the guys were headed out the door to hunt for themselves.  they did stick around for an hour to show me the ropes and what they had on the plate for the upcoming year.  they are working on some great stuff.  Before I left I raided the selves that hid way back in the corner of the building, Didn’t think they would miss it much if they didn’t know it was there.  I grabbed a couple different under garments and a few hats.  I grabbed a Liano in the ASAT camo and wore it for the first three days in camp and loved it.  Marino wool is my new gig.  I love it, soft, wicks away moister, warm in the mornings and cool in the afternoon.  It doesn’t get any better than marino wool as a base layer.

It’s a little on the spendy side but you must way out the benefits you get when you buy their products.  You can wear one of their shirts for three or four days before you have to change it, compared to the average camo that you need to change daily.  Something about marino wool that bacteria does’t grow very well on it.  Therefor, no body oder! Right out of camp I would have to climb 1,000 vertical feet to get to were I was hunting.  By the time I reached the top I was soaking wet and within five minutes I was dry as a bone.  even with the cool morning temps the wool dried very quickly.  I would give this product a 10 out of 10.  The only problem I see is that I don’t have enough of there product.  All in due time though.

Greats  group of guys with a great product.  Check them out at First lite.com  I promise you won’t be disappointed in their products.

 

 

Idaho Fish and Game to kill Thousands of Deer!

November 11, 2011 by  
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Idaho fish and Game commission gave the game department permission to kill thousands of deer on the winter range!

 

Yesterday, the commission approved the killing of 500 doe from the Bennett hills winter range.  The  two hunts of 275 tags each will start in December and run through the end of the month.  This hunt was concocted after a fire tore through the winter range in August of this year.  The first proposal was to kill 2000 head.  The local and the state biologist feel that the lack of feed will stress the deer into having a poor fawn crop or even the possibility of starvation.  These are both possibilities, I agree.  Were I disagree is with the solution.

Killing 500 does is not going to take the stress away from the other deer looking for food!  It is going to stress the deer even more with the thousand plus hunters driving around flinging bullets into the herds. The deer will be on their winter reserves as it is and now  you’re going to chase them for 30 days and through some lead at them.  Makes total since to me.  Yea right!  There will be some deer die, they do every year.  Maybe even a few more, but I’m willing to take my chances that it won’t be 500 more.  It’s not like the winter range was even close to carrying capacity as it was.

Sure 60,000 acres is a ton of habitat, but deer aren’t stupid they will find food.  The deer only need to move a couple miles one way or the other to find suitable food.  Most of them will gather in the fields to forage on left overs.  It might cause a huge increase in depredation claims but that is part of the game.  It’s nothing new. The fish and Game  can have my tag fees and put it towards a depredation claim.  I will be buying a tag along with hundreds of other concerned hunters just to turn them back in at the next commissioners meeting!

Killing 500 does this year is truly  harvesting 1,500 deer this year because they will be already bread and carrying twins.  Over the next six years that is 26,000 deer that could have been born. Sure you need to factor in that all deer don’t have twins and some deer die ever year due to harvest, winter, predation and other causes.  But, even if you take half that number its 13,000 deer that they are taking away from the sportsmen and women of this great state.

Just my two cents.  I would love to hear yours.

 

For more info on cost of application and how to apply, check out the post on the forum page under Idaho. Lets make a statement and let them know we are done supporting this kind of nonsense.

 

Steve Alderman

Once in a lifetime!

August 28, 2011 by  
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2010 Deer Hunt
by, Blake Tubbs

After hunting for seven days I finally saw the one. It snowed a skiff the night before, which resulted in Jeff and me not getting out of our sleeping bags as early as we should have. We were hiking to our destination and it was already getting light and we still had half a mile to go. As we were heading to our destination, we were moving pretty swiftly and I was pretty irritated at myself for not getting out of bed a half hour earlier. That was until we spooked some deer over a ridge and I saw a buck that I knew was the “one.” If we would have left camp when we intended it would have still been dark and would have never seen that buck.

We immediately ran to the top of the ridge expecting to see it from the top, since it was open sage brush country on the other side. We saw several deer, but not the buck. I knew he had to be there somewhere and continued to look for about 15 minutes. I finally decided to go back down the hill to retrieve my pack from where I had left it and see if I could find the buck’s tracks. His tracks were pretty obvious compared to other deer and I followed them to where we had previously been on top of the ridge. The snow had melted on the other side and we sat there wondering how far away he was by now. We were looking into a really big, open drainage and we kept saying to each other that we should be able to spot him. After standing there for another 10 minutes we heard rustling about 150 yards below us in a patch of 3 to 4 foot tall brush. I was then shocked to see “my buck” run out of that small patch of brush at full speed.

I immediately put my gun up to start blasting, but Jeff pulled the barrel of my gun down saying, “where’s he going to go?” It was wide open country and he was right in the fact that it would have been a tough shot with the buck at full speed and me having a serious case of buck fever. The deer ran until he was about 800 yards out and then just stopped and started to browse all by himself. It was an amazing experience to watch that buck in our binoculars and spotting scope for 30 minutes. As soon as he crested a small ridge and was out of sight about a quarter mile away, I hurried as swiftly and quietly as possible to hopefully catch him just on the other side and within range.
Once near the crest of the ridge, I paused to catch my breath, got on my belly and crawled to the top. He was not where I expected him to be, but was 200 yards to my left with several does. I was able to shift to the left without being noticed and bring the buck down in his tracks with one shot from my Remington model 700 30-06. Jeff watched the whole ordeal unfold through the spotting scope and was worried I might not be able to see the buck since he didn’t go where we expected him to. Jeff was watching the buck when all of a sudden he just disappeared and 3 seconds later Jeff heard a shot.

After we admired the beauty of the magnificent animal, we took care of him and were able to head out for an evening hunt in hope of finding another one. We spotted another really nice buck and watched him in the spotting scope for quite a while before we made a plan to stalk him. Jeff tried to close the gap, but there were too many does to make that possible and he got away. Over the next couple of days we continued to look, but none of the bucks were as nice so we eventually decided to go back to where we’d seen that buck two days before. To our surprise we were able to spot him near the same spot. However, this time we decided to just watch him until he lay down before making a game plan. I didn’t think he would ever lie down, and he never did. We watched him and a 3-point go up into a small finger at the top of his mountain until they were out of our site. There was no chance to make a stalk from where we were, we’d already tried that. So, we decided to drop off the backside of the mountain, get on the other side of the deer’s mountain and climb up from the backside to come up the finger we’d last seen him in.

From the backside it was tough to determine which finger was the right one. After an hour of hiking we crested the top of the mountain and five minutes later I thought we were busted when I saw the 3-point running away from us. After another 10 minutes of walking we found the finger we thought he should be in. All of a sudden Jeff just froze and signaled for me to get down, whispering that the buck was about 200 yards away lying down. I never saw the deer and Jeff could only see him when standing up. I was carrying the spotting scope tripod, so I quietly extended the legs as far as possible and Jeff used it to balance his 300 ultra mag on. It took one shot. The deer was lying underneath a cliff and never got up from his bed. By the time we got him off the mountain we just made it home in time to go trick-or-treating.

LOST AND FOUND

May 11, 2011 by  
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By: Tivon Miller

Was I crazy? The anxiety was killing me! What was I doing passing on a 200” deer even on this hunt? However, 3 weeks before while out scouting with my good friend Jason Sandusky, we found the buck I was looking for.
This particular buck had been the topic of conversation between me and most of my close friends since I found out of my good fortune of drawing the tag I had put in for, for so long. Over the 4th of July weekend, my wife, kids and I were staying with our friends the Mooseman’s. Brian was re-telling a story told the previous October, about a buck that his stepdad had missed in my unit last year. As he was giving me every last detail about the bucks’ antler configuration, it dawned on me that he was talking about the same monster that my brother, was lucky enough to find a shed off of later that winter. After a quick look at the pictures Brian had snapped of the buck it was confirmed it was the same buck. So now all I had to do was go find that deer. We all know how easy that is!


After three or four scouting trips with my 10 year old son Gavin, and buddies Jason and Brent, we had found some great bucks. A few from 180-190”, but not what I wanted yet. Hunting stories filled the air in Brent’s pickup all the way down on Friday. We made our way in the heat of the day to the spot where Brent had shot his buck a couple of years prior. As we turned up the rocky road, it was a spot I was very familiar with. Brent showed me where he got his 200 incher and we continued to another location that we wanted to check. Just before dark we found an upper 180’s buck that topped off a great day. The next morning started off early, as we covered a lot of new country, trying to learn a new part of the unit. At noon we stopped to have lunch in the middle of a two-track road. I unloaded my pack off of the cooler in the back seat and made our sandwiches. An hour later, and 30 dirt road miles away, as I reached back to my pack to get some chap stick on my wind burnt lips. I said, “Oh crap!” “You’ve got to be kidding me!” My backpack with all of my gear, including my Swarovski spotting scope and anything else you need to hunt with was gone. I was freaking out!
Just minutes before neither of us could stop talking about the hunt and all of the possible hot spots, but now hardly a word was spoken. Brent flew down the dirt roads to get me back to my gear, and I wondered if my pack might still be there. As we pulled up to the spot where we had ate lunch just an hour before, the pack was gone! We searched the area off either side of the road, in hopes someone had come along, saw it and hid it just in case the owner came back. But the intense reality set in that someone else had my gear.
The next few days were a wreck. Picturing someone else fondling all my stuff and looking through the digital camera photos of our family memories was almost too much to bear. My wife and I decided to spend all day Monday hanging posters all over the unit, that just a few days before meant so much to me for the fact I held such a great tag. Now it felt like this whole experience was a disaster.
Two weeks later after returning home from an evening archery elk hunt, my sister in law called and said a man called saying he had my pack! A short minute later I was on the phone with a man, I had never met or heard of, making plans to meet up so I could recover my gear. Thanks Dale! I honestly never thought I would see all my stuff again. You are an honest and refreshing individual.
On the dark drive down, with Sandusky, three weeks after the recovery of my pack, I once again found myself thinking of the buck that consumed my thoughts. As we began glassing I knew it was possible the buck could be living in this area. Within a few minutes Jason said, “I got some bucks, get your scope!” In an excited panic, as I dialed my Swarovski in on the bachelor group, I immediately confirmed what I was hoping. It was my buck, and he was awesome! He had taken full advantage of the mild winter, and exceptional water year. He had lost the four in character point off of the back of his right G2, but make up for it with a ton of mass, better looking frame, and even a split eye-guard. Jason and I decided he would score between 200 and 210 as an 8×6! We snuck out of the area knowing the obsession of keeping tabs on him and his five buddies for the next few weeks, would now kick in. I honestly didn’t even want to leave.


Three unsuccessful scouting trips later, with my brother and buddy Adam, since locating the buck, we had yet to turn him up. On each trip we found all of his buddies, but not him. What the heck! He had disappeared. I knew he had to be here under one of these rocks, but I didn’t want to tromp all over his home and run him out. In the back of my mind I wondered if he had been harvested by a muzzleloader hunter. I figured if someone had known about him I should have at least seen them on the opener. Two days later I would return with the camper, and spend my last couple days trying to locate my buck.
Once the camper was unhooked and somewhat leveled, I headed to another part of the unit looking for a mid 190’s typical; I had only heard of. What in the heck was I thinking? On the drive to look for this new buck, all I could think about was my buck. I can’t find my buck if I’m looking for some new buck! Too late now! It would be dark before I got back. Tomorrow morning and evening would be devoted to relocating the 8 by 6.
The alarm went off and I thought…”In 24 hours the hunt of my life starts.” “It would be nice to find my buck today”. I picked the hillside apart over and over from a mile away, looking at all of the country my buck could be hiding in. Just as I was getting ready to move a half mile to the north, there he was. Thank God! A doe and fawn had passed by his bed and he couldn’t resist checking her out. Thankfully, that’s what gave him away. After just a couple minutes, he hurried his way around to the west slope to put himself back in the shade. I immediately called my brother to let him know the good news! At two o’clock he moved only 100 yards from the spot he had been all morning. He tucked himself between some sage and rim rock, and although I stayed until dark with my brother now by my side. We did not see him again.
Sandusky and I made our way up the mountain in the dark and I couldn’t help but wonder what this day held. Darkness gave way to opening morning as we glassed the country below. A handful of small bucks and does filtered up the mountain while we gradually made our way towards my buck’s hideout from the day before. Our glasses went to serious work for the next couple of hours, but we couldn’t turn him up. A while later we talked to Cliff and he had seen a group of bucks around the corner from us with one really good buck in the group. Once we got him spotted, we agreed, it was a great buck, probably right at 200”! Was I crazy? What was I doing passing a 200” deer? I have never killed a 200” deer. I knew what buck I wanted and it was only opening day. I couldn’t give up on my buck already. As I was having a close heart to heart with myself, it was interrupted by Sandusky, hissing, “Tivon get over here, I got a good buck!” With my tripod legs still fully extended I ran, jumping over rocks trying to get to where I could get a look at the buck. When the pistol grip settled, I was happy to see my buck lying underneath a pile of rocks, surrounded by thick sage brush. I quickly realized why I passed the other buck. If all the years of general season had taught me anything, it was to never give up on your goals. We spent the next few minutes videoing the buck and we quickly devised a plan on how to get within range of him.
All the way back down the mountain, I prayed the buck would stay put. We occasionally peeked over rocks ever so slowly to keep him landmarked. An hour later and 167 yards away, I could see his right antler poking out from his bed in the thick sage. I had so many different scenarios playing out in my mind. At one point, during the wait I even considered walking in the thick sage brush and jump shooting him like a jack rabbit, but I knew that was the wrong thing to do. As I was taking pictures of the antler we could see from our vantage point, all of the sudden he was up. Immediately I was on my belly, behind my rifle scope, and as he made his way out of the brush I could see his antler tips and flashes of his grey hide. I looked for a small opening he might step into. There he was! My Kimber 7mm 08 put him down just as fast as he showed up, and the hunt was over!
The short wind sprint over to my buck that I had been thinking about all summer was the best feeling of my hunting career. I couldn’t help but feel some remorse for the fallen buck. I thought of how many times he might have used this bedding area to avoid danger. I have been very fortunate to harvest some very nice general season bucks, and this was the icing on the cake! Every detail about my buck will be forever etched in my mind. The mass was awesome! As I picked his head up off the ground I noticed he had broken a couple of inches off two of his extras on the left side in the fall. Between pictures and video we would be able to get his antlers back to their original state. He had a mid 190’s frame with a unique fishhook like right main beam. The extra on the left side took me back in time to the winter range, when my brother picked up the left antler. He is a 27 inch wide 8 by 6 that ended up scoring 211 once the points were fixed by Dan Morrow at High Country Taxidermy!
Sharing that hunt with my brother and Sandusky on that afternoon, taking photos and video of the whole experience is something I will never forget. Thanks you guys! And thanks to all my other good friends who helped me on my quest. After both my pack and my buck ended up being lost and found, I feel very fortunate to have relocated both.

Another couple Idaho Giants!

January 23, 2011 by  
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Idaho Produces!

I don’t know much about this first deer!  The Hunter is supposed to be a gentleman named Bill Lowe and the deer was Harvest here in southern Idaho!  What a beast of a deer.  His deer is well over 300 lbs on the hoof.  Take a look at the size of the body on this deer.  This buck looks like he will tape in  t over 205 inches.  If anybody know any more info we would love to hear about it.  Thanks in advance.

This second buck was harvest by Oscar Williamson Jr.  in southern Idaho this year.  This buck grosses over 215 inches.  What a great buck!  I really love those light colored antlers.  You have to love a big old desert buck.  Congrats goes out to Oscar Jr, Oscar Sr, and Bryce DeForest for taking such an awesome trophy.  Sure would like a copy of the photo with all of you  that were involved.  A Special Congrats goes out to Oscar Jr.  on keeping his composure and anchoring down such a great deer.

Josh Gibbs, son of past Fish and Game commissioner and current representative of Idaho, Marcus Gibbs, harvested a toad buck this year in Idaho’s famed unit 45.  Josh was hunting with outfitter Dan Butler of Spring Cove Outfitters when he took this buck of a lifetime.  Talk about having luck on his side. Josh hunted hard for one day and was headed back to the ranch house when out of no where a monster 223 inch buck was standing on the side of the road.  Josh missed it with the first few shots, but was able to chase it over the hill where he put an end to his hunt.  How come I can’t get that lucky?  Congrat’s Josh on a great Idaho deer and short, but sweet hunt!

Catch Josh’s story in the up coming issue of muley Crazy magazine.  It will be great to see a couple different angles of this giant.  Here is another picture that I received last night.

What a dream buck!  He sure looks bigger than 223 to me!  Congrats again Josh!

December 16, 2010 by  
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Keeping Hope Alive

Joebob Lewis-Idaho-DIY-General hunt-Public land

A couple of friends of mine called me up one day in October of 2008. Dennis Owsley had taken a monster non-typical mule deer during the rifle hunt. His buck taped out at a gross score of 217 non-typical. What amazed me the most was the fact that he had taken this buck on public land, and in a general hunt unit. Most bucks of this stature come from Idaho’s premiere draw hunts. Still in disbelief, I had to take a look at his magnificent buck, so they were kind enough to bring it over.  I held the antlers in my hands, drooled a little, and thought to myself…why can’t I ever get a buck like that? I have been a resident of Idaho for about 13 years. It did not take me long to figure out which units were well known for producing 200 inch trophy bucks.  Year after year I have applied for the draw hunt of my dreams. I have been lucky enough to draw the tag once during the 13 year period.  The point I am trying to make is that it is very tough to draw those hunts.

I typically hunt deer during the archery seasons with hopes of increasing my chances of bagging a trophy animal. I usually dread hunting general rifle seasons due to the increased number of hunters, and the decrease in sightings of mature bucks.  Due to work and school, I did not get much hunting in last year. This year was different, thanks to Dennis’s buck. His luck inspired me to do a little more scouting in a unit that is a general rifle hunt for deer. I decided that I would hunt deer during the general rifle season. After about two weeks of hard hunting, I had found a nice 4×4 muley that I considered a shooter buck. Unfortunately, the buck was out of range, and I didn’t have enough daylight left to put a stalk on him. I simply watched him bed down in some timber high up on the ridgeline across from me. I came back in the next morning, and was not able to locate the buck again.

My time was up for that trip. I had to go back to living the dream of work and school. While I was in town, the weather that I had hoped for rolled into the hills. It snowed off and on for about 3 days straight. Anxiety was getting the best of me, and I was having a hard time focusing at work. The weekend finally rolled back around and I hit the road. Since the high country received so much snow, I decided to hunt a little lower in elevation. I knew that the deer would probably be on the move. I arrived at my camp spot just in time to get everything set up before dark. I went through my pack and restocked it with water, an MRE, and everything else that I needed for the next day’s hunt.

The morning of October 28 arrived. Alarm clock buzzing, I bounced up and ate a quick breakfast before hitting the trail. I had plans of hunting until dark. I hiked about 4 miles in the dark before deciding to take a break. I wanted to start my hunt just below the snow line. I found a nice tree to snuggle up against, and shut my eyes for a quick snooze, waiting for daylight. The wind was moderate, but very cold. The snow was frozen, which made it nearly impossible to put the sneak on anything. Once I could see where I was going, I found a nice place to set up my spotting scope and start glassing. Within half an hour, I spotted a nice 4×4. He was about 3 ridgelines over so it was difficult to determine his size, but with 4 days of the season left I decided he was big enough. I started the stalk. It took me about 2 hours to reach the spot where I had seen the buck feeding.  When I got there, all that I was able to find were a group of about 7 doe. They just happened to be right in line with where I needed to go so I had to reroute a little. During that time the wind had changed directions on me. My sweaty stench was blowing right towards the group of doe. As expected, they started filing out of the brush single file in the opposite direction.

My attention was still focused on where I had spotted the 4×4. I could care less about the doe moving on. I glanced back at the group one last time and noticed one deer that was considerably larger. I pulled up my binoculars and saw a nice heavy horned buck walk over the hill. I didn’t get to look him over long, but I could tell he was nice. I felt pretty ignorant for not paying more attention. I too was like a buck in heat, focused more on what I wanted rather than paying attention to my surroundings. I tried relocating them, but they dropped down the other side into heavy timber. I decided not to push them even further. The 4×4 was nowhere to be found, and I just missed out on an even bigger buck. It was time to take a break and re-group. I found a spot under a large pine where the ground was thawed and facing into the sun. It was the perfect spot to have lunch. I set the spotting scope back up and started eating my rations. I was happy to have my scope with me that day. Although it was a lot of extra weight, the scope was extremely useful in the area that I was hunting. There were a lot of wide open spaces. It saved me a lot of energy in the long run.  Deer were everywhere that morning. I was completely surrounded. I saw countless 2 points and 3 points. There was too much action going on that day to settle for anything less than a 4×4.

Disrupting my quiet little lunch, shots rang out through the canyon. Three shots were fired. That’s all that I needed to get my motivation back. I packed up and slowly started hiking deeper into the canyon. I passed on many 3 points and smaller 4 points throughout the day. At this point, I was well into the snow line. I started seeing larger bucks once I got deeper into the snow level. Around 3pm I spotted 3 bucks across the canyon from me.  There was a nice 4×4, 3×4, and 2×2 running with about 5 doe. The 4x was a decent buck that I was interested in shooting. I closed the distance quickly and quietly. The sun had softened up the snow enough to take some of the crunch out of it. I closed the distance as far as I could. It was wide open hill side beyond my final resting point, so I held up next to a burnt pine. The 4×4 and 4×3 were bedded down in a thick pocket of burnt timber.

The entire area at this point was an old burn area. The bucks were strategically positioned in a way that made it impossible to get any closer. One was facing east, the other facing west, both on lookout, and they were right in the middle of the hill surrounded by snow. I ranged them at 480 yards. The shot was much further than I prefer, but it was doable. I leaned my pack up against the tree and rest my rifle across the top. I still had about 3 hours of daylight, so the waiting game had begun. I started munching on a bag of Doritos while I watched the bucks.  An hour passed and both bucks finally stood up. Game on! I sat down in the wet snow and positioned myself for the shot. The larger buck started pushing the smaller one around in the trees. I was getting frustrated because they wouldn’t stand still and present me with a good shot.

Suddenly they both stopped in their tracks and focused their attention downhill. I lowered my rifle to see what they were looking at. About 60 yards below them, a deer stood up that dwarfed them both in body size. As I looked through the optics, I knew that this was an enormous buck. I didn’t have time to count up all the points. There was no need. He was twice as big as the 4x that I was trying to shoot, and that’s all I needed to know.

I brought up my cross-hairs, and readied myself to fire. I shot at this buck 3 times, and missed every single one. (Although I fired my rifle before season, it was not enough to prepare me for this buck. I’m not one of those lucky guys that gets to chase 200 inch bucks around every year, so when I am lucky enough to stumble across one, I tend to get a bad case of buck fever.) In a state of panic, I chambered one more shell. At that distance, the buck did not know where the shots were coming from. He trotted further out into the open and presented the perfect shot! My fourth shot made good contact. The buck buckled and took off. I knew that he was hit. I lost him in the timber and was worried that he had run over the top. I had a little over 2 hours of daylight left and wanted to take advantage of that, so I quickly worked my way to the deer’s last known location. I went down one mountain, and up the side of the other. When I reached the spot where I had last seen the buck, he was nowhere in sight. I did not bother looking for blood right away. I was more interested in finding him before he went over the top. I scanned the burnt timber, and slowly continued my way up.

The wind started drifting my way and a very distinct smell stopped me in my tracks! My heart was pounding as I slowly turned my head in the direction of the musty smell. There on the hillside laid a huge buck! This thing was way bigger than I expected. Usually it’s the other way around. His right antler was sticking up and I noticed the kicker right away. His left antler was buried in the snow. My heart almost dropped. My first thought was that I had shot off his antler. When I lifted his head, I was overwhelmed with excitement. I could not believe what was lying in front of me. It was one of those moments that seemed too good to be true. He had 5 antlers on one side, and 7 on the other with 5 inch brow tines.  He later taped out at a gross score of 213-3/4. He has 13 inches in extra points. His greatest width was 30 inches. It was the happiest moment of my hunting career! This was the buck of my dreams! I did it all on my own, on public grounds, during a general rifle hunt. This was the kind of buck you look for in those trophy draw hunts. The fact that this buck was taken in a general hunt and non-guided makes it that much more special to me.  There is hope out there!

I was by myself, so that made picture taking a little more challenging. I set my point-and-shoot camera on my tripod with a 10 second timer. Trying to get scramble through the snow and pose both myself and the deer in 10 seconds was pretty entertaining. After the photo shoot, I skinned out the giant and loaded the antlers onto my pack. I was all geared up for the long journey back to camp. I went to pick up my pack, and lost my footing in the snow. I fell onto one of the antlers and ripped my hand open. Stitches were needed, but luckily I had a first aid kit in my pack. That would just have to do for the night. I thought of the line from Jesse “The body” Ventura in the movie Predator…”I ain’t got time to bleed!” I guess the old buck got the last bite! When I got back to camp around 10pm, my hunting buddy Dan had arrived. He arrived a day earlier than expected. I was pretty exhausted from a hard day’s work, but he was all pumped up to hunt the next morning.

We went in bright and early on the morning of the 29th. The weekend warriors were starting to arrive, so that put a little pressure on our hunt that morning. I took Dan to the spot where I had spotted the initial 4×4 the day before. We spotted him around 8:30am. Surprisingly, he was almost in the same location. Dan made a successful shot, and that wrapped up an awesome season! We de-boned both of our deer, and spent the rest of the day packing them out. Although your odds of bagging a 200 inch buck are higher in a well-controlled draw hunt, it is possible to find big bucks with an over-the-counter tag. Hopefully this story will inspire other hunters to work hard and keep hope alive! You don’t necessarily have to draw a tag in order to bag a big buck; it just takes a lot of hard work and twice as much luck!

Hunting for Lefty!

November 11, 2010 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

Story by Jason Wright

I first located the buck that I nicknamed “Lefty” in mid August.  The name came from his incredible left side and his horribly split left ear.  Unfortunately I wasn’t the only person watching him that day.  Brian, (who I came to know during the course of the hunt) was also laying eyes on Lefty for the first time that day.  As I approached him he was bent over a spotting scope taking a closer look.    After a long chat, we exchanged phone numbers and promised that we’d contact each other if either one of us were lucky enough to take him.  I was able to keep tabs on Lefty for the next 4 weekends in the same location.  I admit that most of my obsession with checking on Lefty was to see if there were any other hunters watching as well.  I envisioned opening day being a mad house of hunters all pursuing the same buck.  To my surprise I never saw another person the entire season.

On the fourth weekend while scouting a different area I located a tall narrow 5 x 5 that I thought would go 195”.  He looked like a high 180’s four point with 7-8 inches in extras.  I figured he would be a great back-up buck and that no one would find him in the remote desert he called home.  Minutes later I stumbled upon a great 85 inch shed antler.  While searching for the match I realized this shed was Lefty’s left antler; further reinforcing the name. That evening I went back to check on Lefty.  He was up and feeding for the evening so I watched him until dark.  His newly polished white antlers seemed to glow in the dark, and I have to admit it was pretty cool watching him as I was holding one of his sheds.  Confident that he wasn’t going far I left to scout another area, not knowing today was the last day I would see him for awhile.

The next weekend started like every other; I got off work early Friday night with hopes of getting up on the mountain in time to see Lefty.   After glassing until dark with no sign of him I returned to the truck for the night.  I had resorted to sleeping in the cab of my Tacoma because it was easier to stay mobile, without setting up camp every weekend.  Saturday morning I was able to locate all the young bucks of the bachelor group with ease, but no sign of Lefty or the other mature buck in the group, a 30” wide 4 by 3.  I returned home disappointed but confident I would relocate Lefty before the opener.

Two weeks went by and still no sign of him.  I searched for the 195”  back-up buck as well with no luck.  My confidence was fading until the Sunday night before opening day I located the 30 inch 4 by 3.  He had moved 1.5 miles away, to a steeper more secluded location giving me hope that his buddy, Lefty, was nearby.  The hunt opened on a Thursday, so I decided take off the first part of the week to continue scouting and set up camp for the remainder of the hunt.  The winds were howling all week and I returned to camp one evening to find my tent lying in a pile on top of my ATV about 20 feet from its original location.  Despite being full of gear and completely staked down, the tent still took flight in the powerful winds.  That night I anchored the tent to my pickup, ATV, and every nearby rock and tried to get some sleep.  But after 8 hours of listening to the rain fly flapping in the wind dealing with the walls caving in my head, I gave up on the tent and decided to go back to the passenger seat of my pickup.

On Wednesday, a good friend Dan offered to come and help me glass and I jumped at the offer.  I met Dan and his buddy Tom in town and we drove out the area I’d been living in for the past week.  We split up and glassed separate areas that night with no luck. Dan and Tom weren’t so keen on sleeping in their truck so we drove into town to find a cheap motel, not knowing that we would find the cheapest, dirtiest motel in the state.  But it did meet the requirements, cheap, dry, warm, and no wind.

With no other bright ideas, my plan for opening day was to glass from a point where I had last seen the big 4 by 3 in hopes that Lefty would be close by.  We saw 10 young bucks that morning but nothing nice.  By the end of opening day, I was frustrated and wished I would have spent more time looking for my back-up buck.  Dan and Tom were equally frustrated and recommended that I try another area of the unit with more bucks and they drove back home that night.  Another good friend Ryan offered up the use of his camper for the night.  It was forecasted to get down to into the teens that night so I was happy to have a warm camper and the chance to clean-up.

Day 2 of the hunt, I decided that after 48 days of scouting for Lefty I owed it to myself to devote a few more days actually hunting the area.  My plan was to check an area about a mile from where I had last seen him.  On the hike in I spooked a young buck and decided to follow him into the drainage to see if he would kick up anything for me.  As I circled the ridge following his tracks, I caught a white muzzle out of the corner of my eye.  I knew it was a buck but I couldn’t tell what he was in the early morning shadows.  I quickly sat down and put the scope on him.  As soon as I saw the split left ear my heart started racing.  During those 26 days remember I thinking how relieving it would feel (after glassing the same bucks over and over) to finally put the scope on a buck and utter those words to myself “It’s him”.  Since I had almost convinced myself that Lefty had been poached, it was just cool to see him again.

Of course the buck had me pegged at just over 300 yards, and stupidly I was sitting on an open hillside with the rising sun about to expose me even more.  We sat there watching each other for the next half hour.  Finally he decided that everything was okay and bedded down for the morning.  He was bedded in bottom of a small drainage and all I had to do was get to the ridge above him undetected, and I should be within muzzleloader range.  I essentially “crab walked” across the hillside with my gun on my lap.  It took me 30 minutes to go 100 yards.  Finally I was out of Lefty’s sight and was able to stand up, stretch, and start closing in on him.

About 20 yards from topping the small ridge, I decide to take off my boots and backpack.  As I crawled over the ridge I caught a glimpse of his antlers and ranged him at 78 yards.  He was still bedded and looking straight away.  There was a small rock pile a couple steps further that looked like the best place to set up for a shot.  The rocky hillside made socks a requirement, and each step seemed to take minutes as I was doing my best not to kick loose any rocks.  When I finally reached the rock pile it became apparent that it did not offer the elevation needed for a clear shot at his vitals.  I thought about standing up and taking an offhand shot but opted to wait for a shot off my knee.  So I sat there with my rifle propped up on my knee just waiting for him to stand up so I could put him back down.  An hour went by and I was starting to worry about the wind shifting and ruining the whole stalk. A few minutes later he started to get restless and move his head around a little.  I was more than ready for the shot but when he stood up he took an immediate step forward blocking his vitals behind a sage brush.  He stretched for awhile then started to feed up the hill towards me; which due to the contour of the hill put him more out of view.  At this point I was standing on tip toes trying to keep an eye on where he was heading.  He started to rake some brush and I took the opportunity to move and get a better look.  I then realized he was feeding up the draw and more out of sight and I had no choice but to give chase.  Pretty soon I was 50 yards and I could see his horns moving through the sage brush.  I raised the gun for an offhand shot and waited for him to clear the sage brush.  But before he did, he realized something wasn’t right and started to bound across the other side of the small drainage.  I fell to my butt and started tracing him with the iron sights and a good rest off my knee.  I considered a bounding shot for about a millisecond but just then he started to slow to a trot.  I knew from ranging earlier that it would be just over 100 yards.  He stopped facing uphill almost straight away but slightly quartering, offering a shot through the top of the back and down through the heart and lungs.  I thought about it for about a second and squeezed the trigger. The smoke cleared pretty fast and I could see him struggling to climb up the hill.  He went about 20 yards before his legs gave out on him and he started tumbling down the hill.  I leaned back on the hillside behind me and closed my eyes for a second to let it all soak in.  This may sound weird but it was a little difficult to watch the last moments of the life of an animal that I respected so much and enjoyed watching all summer.  I had accomplished what I had set out to do and the feeling was a little overwhelming.   It was a mix of excitement, remorse, relief, adrenaline, and accomplishment that I can’t really describe but I’m sure many can relate to.

I walked back to gather my boots and backpack still trying to wrap my mind around what had just happened.  After pictures and taking care of the animal it was time to get to work; fortunately I was able to get my ATV close enough to load him whole (which never happens for me).  Since I was hunting by myself I could hardly wait to get back to my truck and make a few phone calls.  One of which was to good friends Ryan and Dallas who helped me take a few more field photos.  Followed by some calls to friends back home who had been calling for daily updates on the hunt; I wish they could have been there.  Thanks guys for the pictures and thanks to Dan and Tom for helping me glass.  I might not have found him without your help eliminating some spots to check.

After hours of watching him and studying video I was confident that I knew about what he would score.  I was figuring a 180 frame with 22” of extras, 9 by 7 about 30” wide kicker to kicker.   Thanks to that horribly conservative judgment, I was able to experience the rare but incredible “ground growage” phenomenon. He ended up being 33” wide and 25” tall with 10 points on his left and 8 on his right.  His typical frame officially grossed 191 2/8” and all those extras added up to 28 7/8” putting him at 220 1/8” gross non-typical and 216 4/8” net.

IDAHO HAS BANNER YEAR!

November 10, 2010 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

This could possibly be the best year of deer hunting in 20 years!

Please don’t steal these photos they are copyrighted material!

With all the texts and e-mails that I have received in the last 2 months it is looking like the best year in decades for trophy mule deer hunting in Idaho.  I have seen and heard of over 20 bucks that gross over 200 inches. I have personally seen 7 that came out of  units 44 and 45, two out of 43, one out of 46, and 5 out of the owyhees (Unit 40).  Not to mention the rumors of some monsters coming out of 39 again this year.  Two of them over 220 gross inches.  There are way to many 180 and 190 bucks to try and keep track of this year.  I will post pictures as I get permission. Some of the people are pimping their pictures and stories to magazines so some pics might take a while.

Personally, I harvested my best buck to date scoring 221 6/8 inches gross.  It has a 205 inch frame, with 21 inch G-2s.  I scouted for 20 days prior to season and harvested him on the fifth day of the season, which was actually the first day we hunted deer because of the unseasonable warm (down right hot,mid 90s) weather during the first three days of the hunt.

Bennett Alderman holds his Dads great 222 inch buck!  Thanks for your help Ben!

Another view of my great buck!  What an awesome day!

James sent us this photo of his 2010 Idaho buck.  He says it scores 202 gross and is a 9×7

Great picture James!  I love the Antler Junkie hat. Congrats on your dream buck!

John sent us this picture of his 2010 Idaho Buck!  It goes 191 gross typical.  He is sending us a story here in the next week with better pictures.

Great buck John.  I cant wait to read the story and see the field pics.

Big Buck hunter Luke Harris sent us this picture of his Idaho buck. Luke has worked his tail off and has taken some great bucks in the last couple years.

Cool buck with some great character!  Congrats on all your success.  It was a pleasure talking with you this year!

Dallas Smith gave us permission to run this photo of a buck he named 7 and 7.  Dallas has filmed this deer for the past four years.  Unfortunately, this buck digressed this year because of his old age.  Last year this buck was estimated to gross around the 210 inch mark.   This year he taped out to the 195 inch mark.  What a cool looking buck with great character and mass.  7 and 7 stretches the tape out to 34 inches wide. Congrats goes out to Dallas and Ryan  (Dallas’ big brother) on your many years of success.

The boys with their dads, Dallas and Ryan, and one impressive deer

Ryan Smith harvests another great buck!  200 inch mule deer are no stranger to the Smith family,  combining for over five in the last six years, these brothers put the smack down on big bucks.

Ryan smith and his latest 200 inch mule deer!  His second in the last four years.

Joebob  sent us this great pic of his buck that he shot in unit 39 on a general hunt.  Talk about winning the lottery. This awesome buck scores 214 gross and has an unbelievable heavy typical frame that goes 195.

Even on some of the general hunts in Idaho produced some great deer .  Nice work Joebob, You really showed up the rest of us, Congrats.

Micheal Borzick sent in this picture of his great Idaho buck.  Micheal writes

Steve,

I got one more Idaho Mule Deer for your banner year…232 4/8.

If you know and official measurer that could give me a green score I would be much obliged. The last picture is of the sheds and yes without a doubt those are his. Fair chase, Unit 40, 13×13, 7 inch bases, 21” inside spread, 31” outside, 11” and 5” droptines

Thanks,

Randy Scott sent in these picture of his boys and his grandson with their unit 40 bucks.  Randy Writes

Steve, here are the bucks my boys took this year just like the good old days. We had loads of fun, this is my grandson’s first buck it is going to be hard
to top this I am so proud.
Randy Scott


Hunting hard does pay off!

May 14, 2010 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

by Brian Richter

Found First On

mule-deer-country-logo1

The lowlight of day break and excessive distance made his trophy status difficult to judge.  Nevertheless, I was certain he was the one.  All I needed was for him to lie down and I would make my move.  He had been courting a doe since daybreak; but suddenly, and without notice, Romeo left Juliet and disappeared into a nasty basalt canyon.  With two miles and multiple rocky canyons between us, he might as well have flown to the moon.  A knot grew in my stomach.

There are three periods of emotional charge in big game hunting:

Anticipation: Everything leading up to the adrenaline rush.

High Noon: This is the climax.

Descent: The feeling of remorse, or disappointment that it’s over.

It was September 1, 1990, and it was my first year carrying a gun.  The gun was a 20ga Remington 870, wingmaster express.  My father and I were hunting sage grouse with our yellow lab, Pal, in a remote area of the Idaho desert.  Early in the day I had my first close encounter with a rattlesnake.  I barely made it back to the truck with my dignity (or my bladder).  But now, after having shot my first grouse and recovering my pride, we took an afternoon break.  Our resting spot gave us a view of the valley we had crossed in the morning.  Hidden amongst the sea of sage and bitter brush in the valley below something white caught my eye.  After focusing my binos, I determined the prize was an elk antler.  I bounded down the slope with Pal at my heels.  When we had reached the clearing were the sun bleached elk antler was lying, I was shocked to discover that it wasn’t an elk antler at all… It was a matched set of mule deer antlers.  Antlers that would score around 200 gross inches and inspire my hunting imagination for years to come.

Anticipation

The maturation of this hunt was nothing out of the ordinary for those of us living in Idaho, a state that has yet to adopt a preference point system.  After nineteen years of application, my father and I had finally drawn a much coveted desert mule deer tag.  It was now late August, and we were slowly bouncing and weaving down a brutal lava and sand two-track.   Despite the season opener being more than a month off, my excitement was soaring!

I had been watching a buck for several weekends that I was certain would go two hundred inches, and like any long distance relationship, my heart was brimming with excitement to make contact once again.  I had named him the Burgundy Buck, after Will Farrell’s character in the movie Anchorman, as they both shared a proclivity for showing off.  Sadly, I was not the only one to affix him a nickname, there was another who affectionately referred to him as Lefty.

Jason and I met each other, and the Burgundy Buck, at nearly the exact same moment.   “You wouldn’t shoot that little buck would you,” came a quite voice behind me.  I nearly leapt out of my skin, there, in the middle of an uninhabited desert, was a man in full camo staring down at me.  It was a happenstance encounter considering the seemingly endless miles of country lying within the unit’s boundaries. The season opener was still months away, and I was perched on a mound of dirt watching a bachelor herd of bucks I had just spotted, among them, was Lefty.  Jason’s calm smile easily revealed his intentions; he too had just seen the size of that rack!  Two men lusting over the same trophy was nothing new to history, and we cordially exchanged numbers and agreed if either of us were lucky enough to harvest the magnificent animal we would inform the other.

First light on opening morning found my father and I glassing from atop a small rocky bluff near Lefty’s preferred bed, however, I had not seen him there in weeks.  Our location offered a perfect 360-degree view of the landscape and several bucks were spotted from his original bachelor group, but not Lefty.  That afternoon we relocated to a higher vantage point enabling us to glass adjacent drainages, but still no Lefty.

On day three, the afternoon turned gray in the west, which precisely mirrored my spirits; Lefty, was nowhere to be found.  That evening it began to spit snow and we awoke on day four to nearly a foot of wet, heavy snow and zero visibility.  Adding insult to injury, our forty-year-old wall tent collapsed on top of me during the night, no longer able to bear the heavy load.

By day five, melting snow had turned the roads into a greasy mess.  My hunt was going from bad to worse, and we determined a retreat to lower elevation was in order.  Aided by a hard freeze and a 6 A.M. departure, we narrowly made the pavement the following morning.  Despite our harrowing escape, there was one casualty.  My sweet mother, our camp cook, had had enough.  She announced her resignation the moment our truck tires gripped the solid asphalt, leaving Dad and I to feed ourselves.

While choking down breakfast at a roadside pull-off, my cell phone beeped indicating I had service and messages waiting.  One was from Jason; he called to inform me he had harvested Lefty on the second day of the hunt!  He had clocked in a lot of hours with that buck.  He deserved it I reckoned.

It was hard to leave camp that morning without my father.  He had been my hunting partner for twenty years. We had relocated to the opposite corner of the hunt, a region that can be extremely rocky and treacherous.  I would be going alone.  No words of explanation were needed.

On day nine of the hunt I crossed his path, there, in the damp clay at the edge of a small creek were long hoof prints with due claws pressed deep into the soft soil; the telltale indication of a mature mule deer buck.  There were a couple of doe groups frequenting the water source as well, and I resolved to keep a vigilant eye on the ladies, gambling that he would eventually show up.

The next day brought extreme heat upon the desert.  Only days ago I felt I was in Antarctica, and now, I felt as though I just de-boarded a plane in the Sahara.  By eleven it was in the high sixty’s, and realizing the chances of seeing a big buck in these conditions were poor, I elected to head back to camp and savor my tenth P.B.&J. lunch in a row.  Following lunch and a short nap, I gathered my gear and began a long ascent into the sage.  The lava beds acted like thousands of black solar panels and I made it only a few hundred yards before being forced to stop and remove layers.  With antlers on the brain, I failed to consider other desert inhabitants who actually prefer this type of weather.

Holy @#$%!!!  RATTLER!!!  My distaste for the little bastards is exasperated immensely by my inability to hear them, which is due, I believe, to repeated unprotected exposure to gunfire as a boy.  The nasty little creature had rolled himself into the classic, “come get some” defensive coil.  Slowly, I circled around him while trying to keep my composure.  Nervous but undaunted, I marched on.  Minutes later, however, I saw another, now I was truly a mess.  I froze and began examining the area.  There, against a break in the rocks, the grass moved in waves and a serpentine ball undulated against the black curtain of lava.  I had been told of large groups of rattlers coming out of their dens to sun themselves in the fall, but these far-flung stories were cataloged in the abstract corner of my brain reserved for mermaids, big foot, and the Lock Ness monster.

It took the better part of the day to complete the remaining half-mile climb to my vantage point.  Despite not seeing another snake, the entire hike I felt as though I was trekking across a freshly laid minefield.  I spent the afternoon and evening glassing, but saw nothing.  Another evening had passed without finding the buck; I had only four days left to hunt.

High Noon

Like any other morning, day eleven found me impatiently setting up my spotting scope twenty minutes before there was enough light to see.  As soon as dawn broke, I knelt to go to work. Immediately I spotted a deer up against the lava rock rim.  There was so little light that I would not have known he was a buck had he not been raking his antlers so violently.  Then a doe appeared not more than twenty yards below him.  He immediately turned to pursue her.  When he intercepted her path, he extended his neck and raised his nose.  He alternated between this flehmen position and raking his antlers while the doe fed.  He disappeared into a small patch of high sage and I watched for five minutes as the brush shook violently.  By the time he reappeared the light had improved enough that I could see sage hanging from his head.  When he shook the sage off, I could see that he was really tall with deep backs and long main beams.   I couldn’t count points but I knew he was the one.  After about ten minutes they bedded down right out in the open.  As a younger hunter I would have tried to close the gap right then.  But something wasn’t right.  They were too exposed here.  And I didn’t believe that he would stay with a doe this early in the season.   They remained bedded for about ten minutes, and then the doe stood up and started back the way she came.  I remember saying out loud, “follow your girlfriend.”  Sure enough he got up and followed.  Then it happened…she squatted to urinate.  As soon as she moved on, the buck came and put his nose to the ground.   That was all he needed to confirm that this little honey wasn’t in the shag’n mood. Without so much as blowing her a kiss, he was gone.  He walked straight down into the basalt canyon and out of sight.  The doe didn’t seem to mind a bit.  Me on the other hand…well, I freaked out.

There was only one thing to do.  I strapped my scope to my pack and ran.  The pack I use has a scabbard that my muzzleloader fits perfectly into.  If you’re a musket hunter with a gun short enough to fit into the scabbard, this style of pack is invaluable.  It keeps your nipple clean and dry, and in the off chance you need to run like hell through rough terrain, your hands are free.  After scrambling down countless rockslides and ascending narrow paths between basalt spires I had reached the canyon he had descended into.  I had covered nearly two miles at a dead run without stopping and now I was coughing up lactic acid something fierce.  It would be several minutes before I would be steady enough to start glassing.  After catching my breath I belly crawled to the edge and quickly scanned to make sure he wasn’t out in the open.  From this vantage point I could see three patches of high sage and a portion of the creek bottom bellow.  Unfortunately there was a lot that I couldn’t see because the canyon was a labyrinth of giant basalt spires.  After carefully scanning the high sage for about forty-five minutes my heart began to sink.  Finding him here would be next to impossible.

I would spend the next eight hours playing the wind.  I crept through the stone maze, peeking around corners and peering over ledges.  As the hours passed I began to lose hope.  As evening approached I came to grips with the reality that I would have to return tomorrow.  Maybe I could catch him making another house call.  I had walked about a quarter mile towards camp when something white caught my eye.  There was a three-foot gap between two of the basalt spires that created a window.  Through this opening I could see a lone deer bedded on an open ledge. It was the buck!  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  He had been right there hidden amongst the countless folds in the landscape.  I zapped him at 267 yards.  The waning light gave the situation a sense of urgency.  I quickly adorned my face and hands with camo garments and slid my smoke pole out of the scabbard.  With my windicater in one hand and shooting sticks in the other I was off. After closing the gap to two hundred yards I found myself atop a 15 ft ledge.  I removed my boots and found a gap that I could chimney down.  Once I had reached the ground below I sprinted straight at the buck.  He was lazily staring the other way.  Most likely in a love induced trance.  The ground beneath my feet was gravel that had been compacted into the dry clay below.  This firm surface made it possible to run the last 100 yards without making a sound.  Every few seconds I sent a puff of chalk into the air, insuring the wind was on my side.  The buck was oblivious to my presence.  With trembling hands I lowered my shooting sticks.  As I crouched to get into position my foot slid across the gravel!  The buck was on his feet immediately.  I tried to slow my erratic breathing and squeezed.

Descent

When the smoke cleared he was lying with his back toward me.  I reached into my essentials bag for a quick loader and prepared for a second shot, but it would be unnecessary.  My arms were tingling and my tongue felt swollen.  I had taken many big game animals before this one.  But this was a sensation entirely new to me.  Over the course of the last eleven days I had endured the broadest spectrum of conditions the Idaho desert had ever thrown at me.  Not to mention an emotional roller coaster ride that took me from nauseas lows to heart pounding highs.  Just minutes ago I was convinced I had blown it.  And now I was standing in stocking feet beside the buck that rewarded my efforts.    My 214inch buck was lying less than a mile away from the clearing where I had found my deer hunting inspiration nineteen years earlier.

The buck would gross 214 3/8 inches with 19 inch G2s and 27 inch main beams.


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