Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Bucks Are Finally Chasing The Does!
Last Sunday, Michael and I were able to get out and do some more archery hunting for Pacific-Hybrids. We hit the ridge early, but once again not as early as we had hoped. We left the trailhead fifteen minutes later than we had planned due to some issues with a product I am reviewing. We made tracks, but were sure to stop frequently so as not sweat profusely.

Once at the base of the foothill, I took the lead as we climbed ever-so slowly. I mentioned a few times to Michael that we had to go even slower. I know it's hard for guys who are used to rifle hunting to slow it down, but Michael definitely caught on when we spotted the does standing right in the spot he was going to hunt from. No sooner had we spotted them and they spotted us. We sat down, glassing them for ten minutes and they moved on. The sun hadn't even fully risen and we had spotted a small group of does. The day looked promising!

When we got up, I glanced to my left and spotted movement a quarter mile below us. Coyotes! Two of them we making a beeline for a thicket. More wildlife, but not the kind we WANTED to see.

We split up and I ventured over to the far side of the ridge. That way I could glass anything moving up the hill towards Michael and he could do the same for me. I sat down and looked over to my right and in the spot where I have seen the bear was a well fed bobcat. He was incredible! Stalking through the brush at an assured pace. Once he disappeared I figured it would be a long morning. Again, I was mistaken.

A grainy pic of a hunting coyote.
We spotted deer here, there and everywhere. Then we spotted more coyotes hunting near where the bobcat had been. There has to be a rabbit colony or quail in there for that spot to be so popular! I am going to dub it Predator Knoll because that's all I see up there. Then, a mile away on a bare hilltop I spot another yote. Then another, and another and wow, FOUR yotes in a pack! I have never seen so many together during the day before. I watched them hunt for a little while and then got back to glassing for deer.

Michael located a doe and two yearlings bedded on a nob. All three were extremely dark deer. As I turned to my left I noticed an ear twitch. As I focused, I realized that there were two does feeding up towards Michael's position. He was hidden from their view for the time being, so I sent him a quick text to get ready. I mentioned where the deer were and that they were only 50-60 yards away. They fed for another minute and then they stopped suddenly. The gig was up as they spotted Michael looking over the bush. They turned and made their way into the deep valley where we lost them. That's hunting!

Shortly thereafter I got a text from Michael saying that two deer were on a ridge to my right. I scanned the hillside and spotted them. Two does. Then, the second lifted her....er HIS head! It was a buck! I quickly shot him a message that the second was a shooter forky and that he had some size to him. He couldn't see them, but I was watching them as they made their way down a well-worn trail in his direction. They were still 500 yards from him, but we were ready. The wind was perfect and we were just patiently waiting for it to happen.

As they crossed the ridge I was standing on I lost sight of them. Between texting and resting my eyes they had vanished. *Buzz-buzz* Another text from Michael confirmed they had dropped a bit lower than I could see, so I cut the distance by ten yards and there they were. The doe started to get out ahead and the buck slowed his pace. Pretty soon, she headed through the thick stuff on the far, side-hill and the buck stayed low. He fed along a grass patch and the doe sauntered up and over the ridge and disappeared into a large cactus patch. The buck didn't give chase, nor did he seem to care. He walked a few yards closer, fed some more and then looked up the hill.

Quickly, I called Michael and told him the buck was looking up the hill and that he should head to the next ridge as fast as he could, but to stay out of sight. He had a nice row of bushes in the way so he'd be safe. The buck was feeding, so he had time. Once he made it over there I began relaying info to Michael. Then, the buck bedded down.

Taken through my binos at 300 yards.
Most times I would be super excited that a buck bedded down. That way we could put on a stalk. This time was very different. This buck was smart. He bedded beside some brush that covered him on three sides. He faced uphill in my direction, which gave me no way to stalk down the hill as there was nothing for me to hide behind. Remember my story of our hair-brained scheme to cut some time via shortcut? Well, This guys was bedded right down on the edge of it. We didn't give up, but after watching him feed and bed for two hours we decided it was time for a sandwich and some water.

My head was starting to tighten up and I was roasting. I knew I needed to hydrate. I slowly scooted over to my pack, hidden behind a bush, and gulped some water. I also decided to lose a base layer to cool down. What a difference that made! I felt rejuvenated and ready to get back to glassing. I gulped down some more water and sat back down.

Glancing over, I noticed Michael was already napping under a bush. It was warming up and I can understand why he'd want some shuteye, but I was all about focusing on that buck. The best vantage point was directly in the sun and I couldn't find my sunscreen to save my life. No matter as I was determined to stay on this deer.

I watched him for two more hours. He would get up, feed, mill around, and bed down. Over and over again. I had no way to get down to him. The closer I looked at the buck I realized that it was his sheds that we had found earlier in the season. He had definitely grown a little and that was promising.

The buck we were after.
By the time Michael woke up, we had been watching this buck for four and a half hours. We wanted to put on a stalk, but the buck had other plans. I went to my pack and then when I got back to my spot the buck was gone! I searched high and low and could not find him anywhere! I called Michael and asked him to start looking. My heart sank and after what seemed like an eternity I spotted him. He was heading back from where he originally came from! I beat feet about thirty yards to my right so I could glass the valley where I though he'd go and there, in the shade of a large tree, were two doe... staring right at me. I was busted, or so I thought. The buck wandered over towards them and they started making a fuss. Snorting, stomping, whirling around and walking away from him. He got right on there tail and started sniffing and chasing them. I thought for sure I'd see him try to breed one of them.

Michael couldn't see what was going on, so I relayed the info over the phone. The buck pursued the does and at one point turned them around and they were walking back towards us. The does had other plans and they stopped in the shade and refused to budge. The persistent buck chased them and they started walking the opposite ridge away from us. I mentioned to Michael that we should pack our bags and skirt around the foothill, a brisk mile and a half walk, and cut them off. He agreed and by the time I had reached my pack the deer were back down in the valley to stay.

The three deer stayed put and refused to move. They were down on the edge of the Valley of the Poison Oak and I wasn't about to track a deer through it. So, we decided to stick with our plan to skirt the foothill in case they decided to come over. 

One out way down the side hill, Michael stepped over a little hump and I followed suit. What happened next was a reaction out of self-preservation. I stepped over just as a snake reared up and lunged at my boot. A few choice words slipped out as I jumped up and over the snake. When I landed I was turned and facing a small snake who had just scored a huge meal. I searched for a rattle and saw none and realized that it was only a gopher snake. His belly was the size of a roll of quarters and he wasn't too happy that I had almost stepped on him. I have no idea if the snake made contact with my boot, and if he did I didn't feel it. I was VERY thankful to be wearing my snake boots. Hiking mile after mile in them may not be ideal, but at least I was protected.

We only had about an hour and a half left of daylight, so we hiked around the hill, spotted some coveys of quail and chatted about the day. We knew the deer were likely going to bed near where they were, so we set up for a little bit and glassed the far hillsides. No deer were spotted, but we rehashed the day. We had spotted 14 deer, 8 coyotes, a bobcat, countless quail and one of those deer was a decent buck. Another successful DIY outing for us! We discussed and solidified our plans for the following Saturday. It was going to be a long week, but we knew we were going after that buck.

3 comments:

  1. That sounds like a great day! Lots of ups and downs...which is how most great hunts seem to be. I can't wait to hear about your next trip.

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  2. I wish I had some hunts around here like that! Mine consist of sitting, waiting, sitting, cursing a squirrel or 12, waiting, sitting...

    Awesome hunt and look forward to next weekends hunt!

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  3. I agree with bill. Not much spot and stalk opportunities fir deer where I hunt. Fun hunt!

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