Friday afternoon (later than I wanted to get out) we made it up the mountain, set up our base-camp and strapped on our packs. With a steep mountainous trail ahead of us, we wanted to get into position and glass the mountain before hitting the sacs for the evening. With a nice Mountain House spaghetti meal in our bellies to stay off the cold at 9800' elevation we decided to turn in around 7:00 in order to get into shooting position well before shooting light.
With a short hike from Camp-2 we were in place trying to keep warm, while attempting to stay off the wintry breeze that came in. We watched while others began the long trek up the mountain, both on foot and some on horseback. The rest of the mountain slept, it was too quiet.
Shooting light....still too quiet. No opening shots on this mountain, or the next... We had our sights on a couple respectable 4-pt bucks earlier but they must have relocated during the night. In an effort to locate them we went up, already in about 1-1/2 miles I was beginning to dread the pack-out with two buck tags and one elk control tag, I will be de-boning on the mtn. for sure. Despite seeing several hunters, the mountain didn't seem as crowded as the previous year; it was however a lot less crowded with deer. From talking with others on the mountain, only two bucks came down opening day, one of which was a small two-point. Nothing big as was the case last year.
Sunday: With two-days of hiking already under our belts and the oncoming thunderstorms that were to hit all day today we were back at base-camp wishing we had brought more reading material or cards, or at least something to do in the rain. The weather however was a bit more pleasant than initially anticipated so we went for a mountain stroll. We decided to hike to a rocky point that overlooked two small valleys were we watched several doe meander through the trees for hours. Again, no bucks.
Monday: (Deer-Day) at least that's the day from last year that I shot my first Deer!
We thought we would just repeat from last year, 5-10 minutes up the trail and BOOM a 20-yard shot to the heart. A quick clean-out and then drag back to the trailhead and into camp where I would de-bone and pack in ice only to get back out and go for two.
Almost every twenty minutes we were into deer. Only Does.. and does...and more does.... stopping several times to watch them feed for hours, hoping that their counterparts would come strolling along after them to feed. Five miles of hiking in, up, down, and around the mountain and bowl we stopped. An overlook where we had almost a 360 degree view of the entire bowl and the one thing I saw.. storm clouds and fog moving our way, not to mention the snow getting lower on Mt. Timpanogos in the distance.
We decided we didn't want to get caught this far in on the mountain in a storm so we started back down slightly faster than we came in.
Oh Hail! Hail, hail, hail.. at least is wasn't too large of hail because it kept coming. I would much rather tromp through hail than snow however; at least you don't get soaked to the bone and cold as the hail just bounces off the layers of sweat-soaked thermals and flannels. At least we're still warm.
We make it back to Camp-2 as the hail has stopped and it begins to warm back up a bit. We lay by the tent this time, too sore to climb in; at least it's not raining, hailing, or snowing. After a bit of a rest we break-down Camp-2, not planning to come back up again. After all, we haven't seen a single buck in the area. Time to move another direction! We still hadn't seen any others than the first two come off the mountain either. Even the Dad/son horseback-hunters had seen less deer than we had and they headed home Sunday night.
We made it back to Base-Camp in time for a nice chicken and rice dinner (Mountain House) and then covered a clearing for the last few minutes of light. We'll come back here in the morning.
I hadn't seen any freezing rain since I left Missouri.
You know those times you've already put in about 30 miles of hiking..up and down mountains and valleys. Treading through chest-high grasses and navigating thick aspen groves and heavy pine timber for days on end....? And then you wake up one morning, tent covered in ice, car covered in ice; still slightly warm in your sleeping bag...
Who wants to get up on a morning like this?
My son says, let's wait another hour to stay warm. So I climb back in my bag and try to recover some warmth.
We finally get out of the comfort of our bags and put on some egg skillet from Mountain House (getting sick of this MH food by now!)
My son says let's go to the clearing..I tell him it's too late to cover that area and that we'll head down our second choice for today. By the time we're ready to go, only one other hunter had passed our camp in the same direction and we are hoping he is only road-hunting as most others have done past our camp.
As we set out for the day I tell my son, "The goal today is to find as many does as we can!" He looks at me confused, "all we have seen are does" he replies. "Yes, but as we look for does, we will eventually find a buck" I declare with good intent..
About five minutes of walking up the dirt road towards the trail we planned to hunt I look across a field and see two ears pop out of the grass. "Is that a doe" I ask. My son breaks out the binos and says "YES! I think there is something else there too" we wait a few minutes and sure enough...
a two-point decides to finally wake up, or else he finally broke through the ice and cold and decided to have a look around himself. BUSTED, we're on the crest of hill and he just sits there next to his girl and watches us. there is a slight hill in the way of any shot and his doe is directly behind him. My son does not want to go home with nothing and we could use the meat in the freezer so he says "let's get him".
We crouch down in the grass and wait for him to meander his gaze in another direction. We creep ever so slowly for a better angle and a closer shot. Occasionally he looks at us, wondering what the heck these two idiots are doing in the tall grass. We finally move around the hill to get a cleaner view/shot and down to about 250 yards. We are still higher than where the two deer are and I dare not get any closer as the buck is intently watching for sudden movements. And then both our two-point and the doe look away..what is going on to the East that has them so distracted? could another hunter be moving in for the kill from the aspen grove or the grass below them?
"Come take the gun for a shot" I say (my son was too tired to carry the gun until now). As he moves closer both deer stand up.."SHOOT HIM" he shouts, "Don't let them get away". I start to ask if he is sure, "yes" he cries. I draw the gun up... the deer stumbles a bit to regain his balance as the first shot hits him. He hobbles into the trees and we lose sight of him. My follow-up shot was too hurried but takes out his stomach.
As we wander through the trees we walk right past the buck, he stands up and in a last-ditch effort he jumps up and out of the trees..Crap, he's running now...I watch him as he slows down and then appears to lay down. No dice, he found a swell and crawled out of the trees and after combing the tree line and field for an hour, I find some bloodied stomach fluids. In hopes at finding him and end the suffering my son offers a quick prayer to find him. As we walk in the direction of the blood trail I get the feeling we should head back to our rocky lookout point where we could see the entire side of the mountain.
Heavy-hearted my son agrees, I am slowly preparing him to chalking this trip up to experience and some great hiking and experiences as I'm starting to doubt finding this buck in the tall grass and/or thick trees.
As I get to the rocky point.....
There he is, piled up just feet from where we can view the entire valley below.
I just love this!