First Lite Clothing

December 30, 2012 by  
Filed under Gear & Reviews

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.

 

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.

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!

IDAHO HAS BANNER YEAR!

November 10, 2010 by  
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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  
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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.


Breeding Stock?

March 22, 2010 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

Here is a buck out of old Mexico that is breeding stock on a hunting ranch.  The deer is said to be for sale for the fair price of $280,000.00.  It was sent over on an e-mail so the truth is not  known.  I just thought you would enjoy seeing this monster buck.  It is a shame he is not a wild deer, but all the same he is a tremendous desert mule deer. From what I can see he looks like a fairly young mule deer  at 3  1/2 to 5  1/2 years old.  I’m leaning more towards 3  1/2 or 4  1/2.  He really looks young, everything except for his head gear.

Check out the video of  two monster high fenced bucks,  from Old Mexico, in the webisode tab

It goes to show that mule deer a capable of being raised in a controlled environment.  Let alone, one of the toughest environments, the Sonoran Desert.  More and more high fenced operation are being put up every year in Old Mexico. Estimates run as high as ten percent of Old Mexico’s mule deer hunting is high fenced. A trend that is sure to continue into the future.

Christina bags a great 195 inch buck!

November 2, 2009 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

A Wife’s Joy………A Husband’s Misery

By Christina Morrow

Why is it that men procrastinate everything to absolute last minute? This is the very question I mutter to Daniel, my husband, every year between 11:00 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. on May 31st. That is usually about the time he remembers that we have to put in for our Idaho Controlled Hunt tags. I guess I shouldn’t complain too much about this family tradition as it usually ends in excellent results……at least for me. One year this May 31st late night ritual resulted in a great bull moose tag for me. In 2009, the ritual resulted in a premier mule deer tag, again for me. Of course the ritual hasn’t really resulted in anything for Daniel, but that is his whiny story (definitely for another day).


christina buck3Christina, Dan her husband and myself with Chris’ great Idaho buck!  194 gross

When I found out that I drew this particular mule deer tag I was excited!  However, since I really didn’t recognize the extent of my good fortune at the time, I must admit that most of my excitement and joy was centered around Daniel’s obvious misery in that he didn’t draw the tag. As I talked to others and learned more about the hunt my excitement – and my anxiety – grew. At some point, my anxiety surpassed my excitement. By early October, I was just plain nervous. It finally registered that I would only have a couple of weeks for my hunt and in that time, I would only have a few days that I would actually be able to get away and concentrate on my hunt. It didn’t help either that during the first half of October I saw a steady stream of big bucks being brought over to our house. Daniel is a taxidermist and it seemed like everyone was harvesting monster bucks this year. I felt the pressure piling on. Of course, my biggest fear was that I would get up close to one of these big, monster bucks and then would miss the shot. As opening day drew near I also started to realize that Daniel was equally concerned about this issue……..impossibly, he may have been even more nervous about this than I.

My mom flew into town the evening before my hunt started. She was going to spend four days in town with our boys, Dylan and Jake, so that Daniel and I could concentrate on my hunt. Of course, between work, kids, and life in general, we didn’t have time to start packing and getting ready for the hunt until that same evening that my mom arrived. So after a quick run to the airport, Daniel and I both began packing – again something at the last minute.  In our true and typical fashion we finished packing at around 1:00 a.m. the morning of my hunt. So we set the alarm and tried to get a few hours sleep.


christina buck4Chris with her hard earned buck!

When the alarm went off at 4:00 a.m. I thought……”Well this is it” and then “Holy cow I’m tired!” I jumped into the shower – since I knew I wouldn’t get that luxury for a few days – and we set off. As we were leaving town, it was pouring rain. Not the start we had hoped for, but not something I could fix, so I focused on enjoying my coffee and trying to remain calm. Daniel was not very helpful in the latter; he spent the next two hours reinforcing over and over that I just needed to remember to “squeeze the trigger……..” or that once I did shoot I needed to immediately “get another round in the chamber!” Needless to say, it was a very long couple of hours. I couldn’t have been happier to jump out of the truck into the cold and soggy air.

christina buck1I just love this pic!  Congrats guys on a great buck.  I had a great time!

I was very lucky and fortunate in that we had several friends going along to help us with the hunt. Daniel’s good friend Steve Alderman came along as well as Joe Pennington. We also had another one of Steve friends, Dave, camping and occasionally hunting with us.  We all met up and headed out for our first day of hunting.

If I had listened to Daniel my hunt would have been over opening morning. I think he wanted me to shoot the first buck we saw…….honestly, I think he wanted me to shoot all of the bucks we saw and we saw a lot that day. At the end of the day, we estimated seeing something like forty bucks opening morning. I had never hunted deer in open country like this before. I grew up hunting white tail with my dad up north. Binoculars were definitely not something you needed up there and we rarely ever would sit and glass an area. I was amazed at the sheer volume of deer we were seeing each day. I got to watch bucks sparing and fighting. We nearly walked right up on top of several does sleeping on the edge of a ravine that first day. It was incredible. I enjoyed every minute of it.

In any event, I don’t think I was being too picky that day. We did see a lot of bucks……several decent bucks………just not a buck that I simply knew I wanted to shoot. We saw several three and four point bucks that day. Of those, there were two that I thought about harvesting. One we jumped up at mid-morning. He was a beautiful four-point.  He was running with a big forked-horn cactus buck. We estimated that he was likely a 170’s class buck. Definitely a trophy deer. I just decided I wanted to pass on him. Daniel kept looking at me and saying “Are you sure?” His questioning me, made me question myself. I kept thinking “Am I being too picky, have I set my expectations too high”…..and a million other thoughts. But I held firm. I wanted something different, an original……a buck with some personality and I decided I would wait for it.

That evening we saw the second buck that I considered. We spotted him shortly before sunset. He was bedded down along the ridge up above a meadow. He was wider than the buck from earlier that day. Another four point. He was taller and his left side laid out more than his right. He was definitely another trophy deer. We left him there that night and headed back for camp.chris' buck

The second day was more of the same. We glassed and watch any number of deer. That morning we saw several more cactus bucks. One stood and watched us for quite awhile. We also watched a little buck that we named “Tri-pod.” He had in-lines in his rear forks that looked like tri-pods. He definitely had personality and was different. He was slightly more heavy that most of the other bucks we’d been seeing as well. However, he wasn’t as big as the four-point we’d seen the evening before, so again I passed him up.

That afternoon Daniel spotted a buck bedded down in front of a big sage. We watched him for quite awhile. He looked massive laying there, but it was difficult to tell if he was big or if we were seeing sage brush as part of what we were looking at. We ultimately decided to walk in and see if we could get a better look. When he finally spooked from his bed, I was glad we had investigated further. Without the sage behind him, he was much smaller than I’d imagined him to be. Again, another great buck, but not what I was looking for.

Later that afternoon when we got back to the truck we had a voicemail from Harry Knox, one of Daniel and Steve’s friends. Harry knew I had a tag and he said that he had seen a deer that day that he thought we might be interested in. So that evening we went over to visit with Harry. When he was explaining about this deer, I was getting excited. He said it had kickers on both sides and that its front main beam on one side was wavy. He said it was pretty heavy at the base and pretty tall. Harry estimated the deer to be in the 180’s. The deer sounded awesome to me so we decided we would head out in the morning to see if we could find him.

The deer was in quite a ways so we all headed out there together. We set up on a rock ledge overlooking three draws that merged together. We had four spotting scopes together and got them all set up to glass the area.  Out of pure luck when Dave set up his spotting scope and started to focus it in on rocks in the far distance, a buck walked right through his line of sight.  Dave and Joe both started following the buck.  All of the guys were able to see him for a few minutes before he bedded down.

Once the buck was bedded down, he wasn’t easy to see.  We kept watching him though and eventually decided that we thought this was the same deer that Harry had told us about.  We could tell that he had kickcers off both sides and could see that he had pretty tall backs.  When I looked at him in the scope, I knew that he was a definite shooter.

We decided on our strategy for the stalk next. Because of the wind, we had to come up from underneath the buck. Definitely a much more difficult stalk, but we knew if we tried to come in above him, he would wind us. We also decided that we would not need spotting scopes on the stalk and so we emptied out our packs of that gear and some other extra gear that we didn’t need to drag across to the next ridge. We stashed all that extra gear in the rocks and took off down into the ravine. On the way down the hill Daniel somehow manages to spot and pull an old deer shed up out of the tag alders and bushes. We get down into the bottom, manage to cross a little creek and start slowly heading back up through another little finger.chris' buck2

At the top of that finger we figured we would be about 500 to 600 yards below and to the deer’s left. Just as we are breaking up out of the bushes in that finger ravine we hear the awful rattle of a rattle snake. Now this is not something I would normally anticipate encountering this time of year.  Normally it would be way to cold for rattle snakes. In fact, only about ten days before the same area was covered in about six inches of snow. However, that day it was beautiful blue sky and had to be about 70 degrees……….apparently warm enough for rattlers. Steve was right in front of me and started pushing me back while we tried to find the snake. I spotted it just as it slithered into a nearby sage. I thought “Great now we can walk around it.” But that’s not what we did. No, as soon as I point to it, all four guys take off after it. They were using the tripod sticks for their cameras and Daniel was running around with a boulder and they were all talking and making noise. They were so very easily distracted from the task at hand!  The snake ultimatly won the battle. It had a hole or something in the middle of that sage that it crawled into. The boys all recognized their defeat and decided to move on. As we walked away, I hoped the rest of my stalk was more successful than our attempted stalk on that snake.

Just as we started to move forward we saw movement to our right and looked up in time to see two big bucks cresting the rock rim above us. The first one that went over – the one I was just able to see – looked like a beast……but isn’t that how it always works? At this point we couldn’t see “my deer” and we just had to hope that he hadn’t been spooked from his bed.  We kept moving forward.

Another couple hundred yards later and we could see just the tops of “my deers” antlers over the edge of some rocks that he was bedded next to. We hadn’t spooked him….yet. We had to keep moving closer and try to get set up for a shot. Now I didn’t mention this before, but Steve and Joe were both carrying cameras so that they could try and videotape the kill. We had five people, two with cameras to set up and me setting up for a shot. Amazingly, we somehow managed to sneak up to about 70 yards from the deer.  We could see the top half of his rack and then just rocks. The idea was to get the cameras set up, get me set up on shooting sticks on top of my own pile of rocks, then we would get the deer to stand up and finally I would shoot it. A great idea, easy to say, easy to type……not so easy to execute.chris' buck1

First one of the locks on the camera tripods clicked a little too loudly and I watched those antlers turn straight toward us. Why that deer didn’t stand then I have no idea  but I was glad he didn’t. After a few minutes of very shallow short breaths Daniel told me to move forward so we could try to get me set up for a shot. Now, on a good day, at the shooting range, on flat ground, with a cardboard box as a target I have a tough time shooting off of shooting sticks. I was at a complete loss in this situation. Daniel had the sticks set up spanning across a couple of boulders. I was leaning on one boulder and leaning sideways into another trying to shoulder my gun with a backpack still on. To top it all off, right before they made noise to try to get the deer to stand up Daniel says to me, “Now whatever you do, don’t shoot low and hit those rocks because the bullet could ricochet.”  “Holy shit! Are you kidding me!?”  I had so surpassed nervous…….I was terrified. Not only did I have the fear of missing the deer in front of two cameras and four guys, but now I could potentially kill someone to boot.

I know from watching the video that I was only sitting there terrified and horribly uncomfortable for a couple of minutes but it felt like forever! To make matters worse, the deer suddenly developed some sort of deafness. They were making noise and he wouldn’t do anything. Every time they made a noise I would flinch from the anticipation but the deer just laid there. Finally after someone made a loud enough grunt the buck stood up………for once in my life I did what my husband asked me to do. I put the crosshairs on that deer and I squeezed the trigger. Then I went above and beyond, I did a second thing that he had told me to do  – I got another shell in the chamber…..well at least I tried.

Of course, I managed to jam the rifle at that particular time. The deer was bounding away………Dave starts yelling “Do you want me to shoot?” Daniel ripped the gun out of my hands to clear the jam. Everyone was watching “my deer” bound away while Daniel monkied with my jammed rifle. But what they all didn’t know, and didn’t have faith in me to believe was that I hit that deer. I knew I hit him and I hit him good, but I didn’t want to chase him. They all, all four of them, thought I had missed. Imagine their collective surprise when mid-bound thirty yards later he fell over. Daniel, my poor frazzled husband, was so relieved he “teared up”.  Now he will not admit that, but I heard it in his voice, and fortunately we have it all on video.

Once my deer was down, we waited a few minutes and then hiked over. With each step closer he looked bigger and bigger. Definitely a great buck, likely a buck of a lifetime for me. I couldn’t have been more ecstatic. It was awesome!!!  I can’t thank Steve and the boys enough!  What a wonderful adventure.

Editors note….. Tearing up, choking up, or crying like a baby it was very emotional for about 5 seconds, then he realized there was three other guys standing there.  It quickly turned into a kiss and a great job babe.  We know how it went down Dan, we have it on tape tough guy…….  I had a great times guys,  hope we get to do it again sometime.  Maybe I’ll have the tag next time.  11:30 p.m. the night of the deadline,  I will have to try my luck.  Thanks for the laughs!

Steve

Heavy 195 goes down!

November 2, 2009 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

Bruce Harvey takes an incredible 195 inch mule deer home after hunting for only three days.  We had a great last week of hunting with good friends Mike Weeks and Bruce Harvey.  Bruce took a great buck on the third day of the hunt while Mike ended his season with a great  cull buck on the last day.

bruce 4Bruce Harvey with his great Idaho buck!

We watched this buck for three days before he gave us a chance to harvest him. On the second day of the hunt we watched this buck come with in three hundred yards of another hunter.  We watched in horror as this buck narrowly escaped.  The next morning the buck gave us an opportunity and this time he was not as lucky as he was the prior day.

bruce 2The whole crew, Bruce Harvey, Joe Pennington on camera, Les Gargan on audio, good friend Mike Weeks, and myself on camera

Story coming soon….

Idaho’s unit 44 produces a 198 inch monster

October 14, 2009 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

A Once in a Lifetime Second Chance

-Jon Owens


My father and I thought 2008 was going to be our monumental year for Mule Deer Hunting.  We had each harvested the biggest deer we had ever seen in Colorado and Wyoming.  As we were driving back home to Portland, Oregon I called a close friend of mine in Boise to tell him our stories.  He proceeded to send me a picture message with a picture of his deer he harvested on his family’s ranch.  It was a monster.  We met him at a gas station to exchange pictures and right then, dad and I decided we needed to apply in Idaho.  Well, we hit the jackpot and drew that tag.  Little did we know this hunt would be one for the books.

The second day we were there, it was my turn to hunt.  Dad found a great 5×5 mule deer on the first day but didn’t get a shot.  We went out to in a different spot to give the other piece of land a chance to rest.  Once we got to the field that morning we began to glass the canyons with our good friend Steve Alderman.  Finally, we spotted a group of doe’s with what looked like a nice buck a mile and a half to two miles away.  I thought, what the heck, lets put a hunt on him.


jon2

Jon Owens with his great 198 inch monster mule deer!

When we finally reached the top of the canyon, we crept up and saw the group of doe’s.  They were feeding their way up and over the next draw.  We could tell they weren’t spooked so we just sat and waited thinking that the buck was bedded down on the other side of this draw.  As we crept over, Steve went around the right side of the canyon to peak over.  No buck.

So we proceeded to the next draw to our left and find the doe’s.  Still no buck.  Steve felt that the buck might have gone back through this draw and back to the flat land where we came from so we circled around the canyon pushing the does to the bottom of the draw.  Steve went high; I went low as dad followed behind me.  As we were creeping through thick brush on the side of the canyon, the buck jumped up about 15 yards away from me and bounded towards the first draw we came up.  I pulled up my rifle to see a huge cheater on the right antler.  It was the biggest rack I have ever seen.  All I could see was neck, head and antlers bouncing up and down through my scope with thick brush hiding his body.  I didn’t take a shot.


jeff buckJeff Owens with his great 5×5 that scores around 180 inches

We then sprinted to the edge of that canyon trying to see if we can get him running up the next draw.  As I approached and pulled up my rifle, the buck was silhouetting on the top of the next draw over about 200+ yards away.  I didn’t take a shot, so we then tried to get on his tracks and find him.  After walking the next few draws, we decided we needed to let this deer settle to make sure we didn’t run him out of the county.

That night, I just kept picturing what I had seen through the scope thinking, what could I have done differently?  How could I have been more prepared?  Should I have taken that shot?  Will I get another opportunity like that again?  It was a tough feeling.

When the evening of day four rolled around we sat on top of the same canyon Steve and I went the night before looking for the buck we had jumped the day prior.   The previous night my dad harvested the same 5×5 he saw on day one.  He harvested his second chance buck.

This time, there were four of us spotting the canyon.  My dad, Steve, his good friend Les and I posted up on top of the canyon glassing each and every draw we could.  We spotted deer feeding everywhere but still hadn’t found a buck worth putting a hunt on given how much daylight we still had.

Finally, with about an hour left of daylight I heard, “That’s your buck!” coming from Les.  At least that’s the G-rated version.   The buck was about 1,000 yards from us and had just stood up to feed.  That tells you how majestic these animals are.  They can bed down for hours and remain unseen.   I found him in my spotting scope and I knew that was the deer I wanted to hunt.  Then Steve calls out, “that’s the same one from the other day!”  I was pumped!  It’s time to go get my deer.

john4

Jeff, Les, and Jon ready to pack out Jon’s great buck

Fortunately for us, we had the wind in our favor.  It was howling over the canyons hiding the inevitable noise we were making while walking down the canyon trying to avoid the dead Aspen leaves and branches.  We were not quiet, but the wind protected us.

Finally, we got down to the bottom of the canyon and found a tree limb lying over the 7-foot wide creek we needed to cross.  Once over it, we found some Aspen trees to provide cover as we ascended up the canyon.

As we were walking, I was mentally preparing myself.  The thought of the previous opportunity kept flashing back in to my mind.  I replayed what I should do over and over in my head.  This time, I wont be caught off guard.

We got to the Aspens and stopped to glass.  We couldn’t see the deer.  It must be on the other side of the boulder about two hundred yards ahead of us.  This was great!  More cover as we climb.

When we reached the boulder and started climbing again we could see the other smaller buck feeding.  This was a good sign.  We saw this one earlier near my buck.  He must have bedded down again.

As we slowly approached, we were in one line.  We stopped and spread out a little.  Steve to my left, dad right behind me, and the smaller buck spotted us.  He wasn’t spooked.  He looked down the hill, and then continued feeding.  Steve then spotted the antlers of the big buck sticking out of the sagebrush. I couldn’t see him yet, but I was ready.

Jons buck1 We bumped this buck the day before and  ended up harvesting him within 400 yards of where we had seen him the prior day.

Steve took two steps to the left and my buck stood up and stared back down the canyon at us.  I got my scope on him, took a deep breath, exhaled and squeezed the trigger.  I tried to get back on him and couldn’t find him.  I pulled my gun around and found the other buck bounding away.  So I looked over my scope to see something wrestling in the brush, while tumbling down the canyon.  I got him!  My second chance buck!  It was a perfect shot 65 yards off hand.  The bullet entered right behind his right front shoulder and exited through his spine.  I approached my down buck, and we began to realize what a trophy he was.  We later green scored him 198 inches.  He had big 4 plus inch eye guards with cheaters on each side.  It was a dream come true.

Dad and I had a fantastic opportunity to hunt with our friends Steve and Les and harvest the biggest bucks we have ever seen.  It was a fantastic feeling to know that 2009, in Idaho was in fact our monumental season and that the good Lord decided to put these fantastic animals on this earth for us to enjoy.  We are grateful.


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