2020 AZ Deer Hunt: Humbled

Huntinaz

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May 12, 2020
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173
Well I went a drew a very good deer tag in AZ this year. I drew it two years ago with my brother and we killed good bucks and guided a friend last year and killed a good buck. After 2 consecutive years of hunting I had a good lay of the land and some experience on where and when to find them, I had all 10 days to hunt and I had my dad and brother to help me. I took my daughters on a scouting trip the weekend before to look at some new country and while we didn't find anything good it was a success in time spent well with my kids and we were able to cross some scouting off the list that resulted in where NOT to go but was valuable nonetheless. Fire ban this year in AZ really cramped our style but I guess propane firepits still make S'mores and the kids got some glassing in:



It's always so exhilarating when the day to leave for a hunt finally comes and I love the drive to a special hunt where the area holds good animals and expectations are high and the anticipation of what lies ahead is all in front of you. I wasn't sure if we'd be there for one day or ten but I had firm goals fixed on the kind of buck I wanted. We got set up in the wall tent (no wood stove this year) and here's a picture of our living quarters


The first few days we saw some deer and hunted hard but didn't turn up anything close to what I was looking for. Then a front rolled in and the wind came up and whaled for a few days and we got some weather. This perked us up:


Day 4 the temperature dropped into witches' tit territory and there was fresh snow and the deer started moving. It was cold and windy enough to keep most people in their trucks so so we essentially had the place to ourselves. On our hike up the hill that morning we trekked through fresh snow to our vantage point and as the morning glow lit up the area I figured the mass of Americans have never experienced a snow-laid morning from outside their windows or television screen. It was picture perfect and when I finally thought I should try and get a picture of it the sun was up but it still came out alright:


This day turned out to be one of the best days of hunting we've ever had. Lot of deer were moving and we had three pairs of bucks sparring to keep warm. Fawns were ripping around as well. We located a pretty good 4x4 that didn't quite meet my specifications so instead of sneaking on him I took pictures:


After passing him I briefly caught two separate bucks heading to a saddle in the distance and the rest of the day was spent trying to locate them for a better look. We never found either buck but had close encounters with does and I saw a bobcat late in the evening which was cool. A great day spent in the cold and wind where the only way to warm up is to get blood moving

On the morning of day 6 my dad spied a good buck at the edge of rifle range and as I came over to my dad I got a quick look of him facing us. He was narrow but very tall and had good mass and that's about all I could tell so I decided to gamble on the rest of him and got set up to shoot him figuring when he turned broadside if I saw anything majorly wrong I'd pass. I've been hunting like 25 years and I couldn't believe I couldn't find him in the scope. Some does nearby had busted us and they had run past him which is what had gotten his attention and why I only had a frontal view in the first place and while I screwed around trying to scope him he walked out of rifle range. I got back on the glass and realized I'd been looking in the wrong spot. Grrr. He didn't have super forks but again his mass and height were great so after awhile we decided to sneak to where we guessed he'd gone but we never saw him again. But I did find on that hike an amazing piece of hunting history:


That night I passed a tall 3x4 and the next night I passed a tall 3x3


The evening of Day 8 after not really seeing the caliber of buck I was really after for 8 days we found that 3x3 again in the same spot. My dad had been going nuts about me passing all the bucks I'd passed and with time running out I decided to drop my standards and get some meat and a decent euro mount. We were ready for action. We snuck into position at 425 yards and the buck had disappeared behind a clump of trees and hadn't come out, probably bedded. I got ready on the rifle and had it all set and stood back up to wait. We started panning and 1000 yards to our east I glassed up a buck that was the caliber I'd been looking for all hunt. A nice 160-170" type 4x4 with good mass and forks. We made a plan to sneak on him and my dad and I left my brother to watch him while we made good time on the long sneak around. We got into position as dark approached and I realized that in my haste to stalk this buck I'd left my shooting sticks at the first spot. This would turn out to be the main wrinkle that broke me. Long story short we finally found him with my brother's direction at ~225 yards which was very tough to do in the standing dead timber he was in. Right before dark I opted to take a freehand shot because I was without sticks and somehow failed to use my freaking bipod. I can only blame myself but I pulled the shot and he made it out unscathed. This was a pretty crushing blow to my psyche. I am used to things dying when I shoot at them at 225. I was horrified when I couldn't steady on him sufficiently standing at 225, which I shouldn't have had to do except for my dumb mistakes. So it goes

The next morning we saw no bucks and the afternoon of day 9 I let my attitude and my desire for meat win and I thumped a forky at 60 yards. It's not much of a story. I didn't take any hero pics because none of us felt much like heroes. Even my dad the meat hunter was visibly bummed out. We hunted so hard and had so many ups and downs and I'd just shafted us out of 1.5 days of hunting. We had just finished a recurring conversation that the meat was very important to me this year and every year to eat with my kids and the thought of eating meat from the grocer turned my stomach. A bird in the hand of course but the remaining opportunity was now lost


Butchering game always makes me feel better though. It was getting down to the wire but this kind of food is what I prefer to eat. I don't mean to diminish this animal at all, it's just that the area we were in and the experience we have, it should have worked out differently. I'm not mad at the deer, I'm disappointed in myself. I made dumb decisions at the two important crossroads of the hunt after 25+ years of hunting. Still, that stalk we pulled on that buck was the most exhilarating stalk I've ever pulled and he was a smart buck. I don't regret passing a single buck that I did. It's what makes the big ones fun to hunt. People will disparage "trophy hunting" and me for doing it but the big ones eat just as well and there's more meat besides and after 25 years stalking that big one and having him get away is the kind of stuff that makes me sure I love doing this and that it's nothing but wholesome

Speaking of wholesome:



Loved that this hunt was just the three of us. We figured we hadn't had just the three of us alone in the woods since I was about 16 years old. I missed my friends but had a stellar time with my family. Ending was a letdown but the trip was unforgettable. Here's my old man trying to find me a buck. Love him:



Long winded again for the story of a forky but this is how I journal. Next year I'll have my kids. Lot of good trips ahead of us
 

Wapiti1

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Sep 18, 2017
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2,363
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Indiana
Sounds like a great hunt. Big antlers or no, it's time well spent with family.

The arrowhead is very cool. Love seeing those.

Jeremy
 

Rich M

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Jun 14, 2017
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1,630
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Orlando
Sounds like a great hunt, prolly some good laughs and memories mixed in to do it again.

I missed a 50 yard offhand shot if that make you feel any better. Recovered and made the next 2 shots count. But still...
 

Ndbowhunter

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May 24, 2016
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1,774
Similar set of experience this year. Know the feeling well.


North of the big ditch I’m sure u were hoping for a giant.
 
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Huntinaz

Huntinaz

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May 12, 2020
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173
Hoping for but not expecting a giant, I’d have been pretty happy with the one I missed
 

EastHumboldt

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Nov 14, 2020
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221
Great story. Don’t be bummed. Most of the country in fact most of the world is stuck at home watching re-runs of 2-1/2 men. You’re out in the weeds with your family doing what our species does best. Really cool finding that arrowhead... like an encouraging message from the “old ones”.

Every year I try for a bigger buck than I got last year and it’s part of what keeps the chase interesting. While I like venison in in the freezer and a decent set of antlers, it’s the time with my brothers and my son that’s the main thing. Time spent in a beautiful place, totally absorbed in a simple zen-like task. You’ve inspired me to write and post the story of this year’s hunt so I better get on it.
 

EastHumboldt

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Nov 14, 2020
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221
I'm a little confused by Cordellh's post. The snow pictured in this post is in Arizona north of the Grand Canyon. Here's the thing Cordell. Much of Arizona, especially north of the Grand Canyon, is at pretty high elevation. That area can get so much snow some years that they can't open the park until mid-June.

As for Nevada, I live there and we get butloads of snow. it is the most mountainous state in the union. Southern NV (Las Vegas) is lower elevation and snow is less common, but still occurs in the mountains pretty much every year. Northern NV (Reno/Elko/Winemucca) is situated mostly in the Great Basin Desert, and while it's slightly warmer than parts of the Great Basin which are in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho it shares similar weather patterns. On the 3rd day of this years hunt in Eastern NV we woke to temperatures of 5 degrees fahrenheit. In the same area seven years ago we had to leave camp after 5 days because the snow was 16" deep and we were afraid of not being able to get out. So yes it snows in NV.
 

ELKOHUNTER

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Joined
May 4, 2019
Messages
72
I'm a little confused by Cordellh's post. The snow pictured in this post is in Arizona north of the Grand Canyon. Here's the thing Cordell. Much of Arizona, especially north of the Grand Canyon, is at pretty high elevation. That area can get so much snow some years that they can't open the park until mid-June.

As for Nevada, I live there and we get butloads of snow. it is the most mountainous state in the union. Southern NV (Las Vegas) is lower elevation and snow is less common, but still occurs in the mountains pretty much every year. Northern NV (Reno/Elko/Winemucca) is situated mostly in the Great Basin Desert, and while it's slightly warmer than parts of the Great Basin which are in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho it shares similar weather patterns. On the 3rd day of this years hunt in Eastern NV we woke to temperatures of 5 degrees fahrenheit. In the same area seven years ago we had to leave camp after 5 days because the snow was 16" deep and we were afraid of not being able to get out. So yes it snows in NV.
Classic Elko weather 👌
 
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