I hit town late the night of the 13th. I had elk hunters arriving the next day who’d need some help learning the country they’d be hunting the next week.
That night, a big wet Pacific storm hit and dumped copious amounts of snow in the high country over the next four days. We mostly got slushy snow and rain at the elevations we were hunting elk, but I knew the giant buck’s hideout was getting pummeled. I sure wished I was there.
My hunters were a true pleasure and killed all their bulls with hardly any help from me. By the 21st, they were loaded up and headed out. This left me three more days of season to chase the giant. I hoped he had not migrated as I’d never find him if he did. I loaded the horses in the trailer and hit the highway.
Arriving at the trailhead on the morning of the 22nd, I assessed the storm’s impact. There was no snow at the trailhead but the ridges 3,000 feet above looked like Christmas. With that much snow, I’d need a way to dry out every night. I pulled my unheated Seek Outside Cimmaron Tent out of the panniers and replaced it with their Titanium Woodstove and 8-man Tipi I’d brought along just in case.
For the first few miles, the horses churned up the muddy slope, throwing big globs of mud high into the air. Elk tracks were everywhere, indicating they had pulled out of the higher country–not a good sign for a deer hunter. I hit the snowline after climbing about 1,000 feet and it got deep fast. As I neared camp, the snow was almost to the horses’ knees in places.
When I’d left camp nine days ago, I’d laid out an 8×10 tarp over a pile of firewood I’d gathered. In case we got heavy snow, I’d have a dry spot to set the tent, and dry firewood. Feeling lucky, I scraped nearly a foot of snow off the tarp and slowly got camp set up.
That evening, with much effort, I hiked over the top of the mountain into the buck’s core area. I never cut a single deer or elk track–just what I was afraid of….
And with that, this unit closed for the season.
I accepted the fact many years ago that if you want to kill big mule deer, most hunts will be a bust. This is one reason I only hunt mule deer, leaving me ample time and energy to hunt until the bitter end. With all my tags still unpunched, I headed home and prepared for my next hunt in a new area that was still open. We’ll pick up with that adventure on the next post…
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