I decided to hunt a ridge I have a love/hate relationship with. Opening day in 2016 I grazed a huge typical with my bow in there. Had my 8 year old with me on that hunt. He got to see the stalk, deer, blood trail, etc. It was a pretty emotional day. He ended up hiking around 10 miles. We ran out of water and I had packed a gallon that day. Last year I hunted it opening day archery and didn’t see anything. More and more hunters are hunting it so I’ve kind of been turned off from hunting it.
I was planning on hunting a different but with the wind direction changing it would be a better place to hunt today then yesterday.
I started hiking in the dark. The first 1.5 miles is mostly pasture and I wanted to be on top for first light.
First two deer I saw were little 4 points. They were both by themselves.
I kept walking and glassing the south edge. By the time I got to the far end of the ridge I’d seen around 20 deer. I spotted 2 hunters in the valley to the south and another hunter on the same ridge I was on. I worked my way around the end of the ridge and started working the north edge back towards the truck.
I came to where a long finger juts out from the ridge to form a big basin. It’s about a mile across at the points and about the same deep. It gets wider though at the head. There is a finger ridge about in the middle.
I sit down and get the spotter out for some pics. I glassed the basin then started picking the area around the bull apart looking for a big bull. Don’t see another elk so I grab the binos again and start glassing the entire basin. Almost instantly I spot a really nice buck walking through a small opening. Dark chocolate antlers and deep forks. By far the best forks on a buck I’ve seen this hunt.
It walks into some trees and the trees run behind the middle finger ridge. I throw everything in my pack and walk as fast as possible to the finger ridge. I walk fast and it took me almost 25 minutes to get around to it. I’m slowly working my way down the ridge. The buck should be on my right. The wind is blowing from about my 10 o’clock. It’s real thick with some small benches.
I’m hoping the buck found a herd of doe’s. Otherwise I was worried we would cross paths and I wouldn’t see it while I was walking down the finger and the buck was walking up the bottom. I work my way slowly down the finger. There wasn’t much cover on it.
I’m stopping to look/glass every few feet. I spot a light colored animal and think it’s go time! Nope just a coyote. Out of the corner of my eye I catch movement and see a deer. It has me spotted and takes off. Ends up being a 2x3. I debate shooting the coyote and decide it’s not worth it.
I work my way down another 10 yards and start spotting a bunch of elk below me. Closest is only 200 yards away. I’m expecting them to blow out since the wind is blowing to them but they stay bedded/feeding. I sit down right there. I glass everything I can see and still no buck. After awhile I slowly get up and move about as far down the finger as I can. I think a cow caught my movement because they kind of spooked.
They ended up working around the finger. I now had elk on my left, right, and straight in front. I kept glassing for that buck. I am working over the basin on my left when I spot this buck.
He was pretty dialed in watching the elk. I was pretty undecided at first. An hour or two ago I see a really good scoring deep forked buck. On the other hand I have this old buck with good mass and character spotted. I slowly start getting out my bipod, rear rest, and load my gun. Being careful since I’m pretty exposed on the finger. I get setup and dialed and the buck drops off the backside of that little bench he was on.
I look quick and can tell I will be able to see him wherever he comes out. I setup for a shot at the bottom. He comes out and stops partly obscured by brush and starts feeding. I wait and he walks back up the hill into another brush patch. He finally steps out in the open quartering away. I get ready to let him have it when he walks back over the little ridge.
I setup for a shot in the bottom again figuring he will come out there. Which he does but now he is on a mission. He is walking almost straight towards me and not slowing. I keep redialing as he gets closer and closer. He finally stops on a little ridge quartering towards me. That brown spot in the middle is where he stopped
I squeeze the shot off and see him do a leg kick. He runs down the hill to his final resting place.
I make my way off the finger which was extremely sketch. Between the snow and clay I was wishing I had crampons. I make my way over to the bucks side of the basin. Here’s where I shot from. I was about at the last big juniper on the ridge.
In the live pic of him you can see a dark spot on his back just behind the shoulder. I wasn’t sure if it was a wound or what. It ended up being some missing hair and a small scar.
I have been using 180 ELD M’s and am not impressed. Both my buck and Katrina’s were shot in snow and I couldn’t find blood from either animal until right at the animal. I took a video to show what I mean. I’ll post it later.
I took pics and cut it up. It is a pain taking good pics solo and seems to take forever. I got all loaded up and decided to hike out the bottom to another road since it was sketch coming down from the top without a load.
Turned out it sucked going out the bottom also. ND gets washes and a lot of times it’s a sheer drop down to them. So between hiking up and down washes looking for a crossing, crawling through brush, crossing a frozen creek that I just knew I was going to fall through, backtracking a half mile, it really sucked. Also when it’s cold I don’t drink anything. All day I drank 16oz of water was all. Between all that I think it contributed to me mentally being a weeny and seriously consider dropping my pack and getting it in the daylight. Anyway I finally made it out to the road and got shuttled around to my truck.
Black Friday I went out with Nodakian since he still had his tag to fill. We had the 3 boys with us.
First spot we check has 8-10 deer and a coyote. Deer were about 1000 yards and the coyote was at 650. Couple bucks and some does and fawns. We drive around and start stalking in through some knobs with a good wind. The boys are excited of course and we have to have a few talks with them about silence etc.
We just get done with a quick whispered talk with the boys about stealth when Steve takes 5 steps over a little ridge into a basin we couldn’t glass earlier and a doe busts out. It runs up on the ridge and stops broadside giving Steve a chance to take aim. At the shot I saw the hit and blood coming out the other side.
We walk up there and Steve finds her piled up in some bull berry bushes. Perfect lung shot. The boys drug her out of the brush.
We got a few pics
Then got her gutted. The boys all helped on gutting and packing.
We got it loaded up. Then went down the road a ways and cooked up the heart.
It was a good way to cap off the ND season with friends and family.
Got both racks back so I got a couple pics with them together to show the differences. Hers is pretty symmetrical and just a nice looking buck. Mine is pretty small tine wise but has the mass I was looking for.