After losing the first buck that morning, I got back to the top of the trail head which was on the ridge line. I continued on the trail to a hilltop that seemed like a good glassing point. On my way I came across a cow moose lying down in the shade of some aspen trees. I love moose, and it seems like I run into them more than any other animal on the mountain. I watched the moose for a while wondering if she was alone or if a bull moose was somewhere nearby as her escort. I didn’t spend too long though. I had to keep my eye on the prize and that prize was not a cow moose.
Once I got to my glassing point a started looking for deer on a couple of hillsides that were in view. At one point I looked back over my shoulder and looked at the hillside behind me, the one where I saw the tall-horned buck. The thought came to me that the group of deer I was on in the morning just might make a big circle and eventually end up where I originally saw them that morning. I’m not sure why, but I felt like I knew exactly what those deer were going to do; they were going to stay in that shade for as long as possible and then move up towards the top of the ridge later in the evening.
I decided to go with my gut and hike back by where I saw the deer earlier. I browsed around the area and tried to find any sign of deer. There was some snow on the ground that was just a couple of days old so deer tracks were fairly easy to find. I came across a flat bench that was covered with deer tracks. I made the assumption that these tracks were from that group of deer I saw and that they’ll be passing through this area sometime today, most likely in the late afternoon. I found some brush that would make for good concealment and plopped down with my pack and waited… and waited… and waited.
So there I sat, almost four hours in nearly freezing temperatures. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t question myself while sitting there. I only had this one day to harvest a buck and I’m spending all my time just sitting, hoping that a good buck will come by. Nevertheless, I did my best to keep the faith and patiently wait for a good opportunity. Four o’clock rolled around with no sign of deer. But the sun was beginning to set and I knew that if deer were going to be moving, it would be during these dusk hours. I was more alert as I waited for something to come by, but I still didn’t expect that doe to come out right along the trial that I presumed deer would be coming.
On the Extended Archery hunt you are allowed to take either sex of animal. When that doe walked up, I was very tempted to take her just because I wanted the meat so badly. “But”, I thought to myself, “what if this doe is one of the does I saw earlier this morning with that big buck?” I held off on taking the shot and waited to see if more deer came in following her. Sure enough, there were! Three more does and a fawn came into the clear. Then, just behind the last doe, following closely on her tail, was the huge buck I saw earlier that morning.
My heart pretty much bounced out of my chest. I couldn’t believe I was right! My gut instincts didn’t fail me. Still, this wasn’t a slam dunk. The deer didn’t smell me, but it seemed like they saw me a little. At least, the lead doe was very perceptive and seemed to stare in my direction for quite a while wondering if I was a bush or a predator. Like I’ve said before, avoiding being detected by one deer is difficult but avoiding being detected by five deer is near impossible.
The buck got to a point where I knew I needed to act. I slowly raised my bow, hoping that by avoiding sudden movement the group wouldn’t notice me. As I drew back, the lead doe sensed something wasn’t right and bolted off. The other deer followed suit. The buck however was a little slow in reacting. He stalled just long enough for me to set my sights on his vitals. I lined up my peep and leveled my bubble and… BAM! The buck ran off just as I was about to release the arrow. I didn’t get him. I was so close! There was about 20 minutes of light left and I desperately tried to chase down the deer but it was no use. They were gone.
I wasn’t able to harvest Tall Buck (the name I later gave him), but that day of bow hunting was one of the best days I’ve ever had out in the field. It was so much fun! The day was capped-off by a visit from three moose along the trail as I was hiking back. It was the cow from that morning and two bull moose that I hadn’t seen. The thing that was so cool about seeing them was that they weren’t scared of me. They just watched me as I walked by them, a mere ten yards away! Seeing those moose so close was a perfect way to finish the day. Now I just have the memories to relish and the dreams of one day going back and resolving my business with Tall Buck.