Some detail.....I would talk anyone to sleep with experiences from the week but I guess the keyboard time is a battle for me.
Spent the first couple mornings in an area that a couple buddies saw some great bucks on opening weekend. They got one the second morning. I only saw a couple small bucks. Spent the evenings glassing areas from dirt roads I know well and was regretting it the whole time thinking I would only see smaller bucks if I found them. After that I moved to another area 40 miles away where my son had shot a buck a few years ago. Hiked up to the same spot his deer came from and glassed that afternoon/evening. I didn't see a single deer, just flushed mountain quail and chukar. I still had confidence for the am and there were miles of good area farther up I had never seen. The next morning I started in the same spot and again didn't see a deer. Went a few more miles uphill glassing every new area for nothing. I started back down the trail and decided to just get back to the area I had the best feeling about although it's a rare bluebird day and getting warm. Right off the bat I see a deer walking on a bench 3/4 mile or so away. I'm just using my 10X hand held binos as I left the big binos and tripod in the truck. Was pretty sure it was a buck but it took a minute to see antlers, finally I see it's an average forkie I'd shoot every day in D16. Scanning the area I see another buck bedded under a big bush, I can clearly see his antlers are much bigger so I make a long round about stalk to get in range. Pop up at my land mark and I'm a little over 300 yards above them. Both bucks are laying together now. Clouds start passing through the area just below my elevation now so I move down hill when there is no visibility for the deer. Range it again, 250 yards now. I have a rock for a rest with my gun resting pointed right at the bigger buck but still haven't seen it other than straight on. Finally it starts turning it's neck and I'm a little devastated to see it's a huge, white muzzled forkie. Same frame as the deer I shot, just no back tines. I sit above it for an hour before they get up and walk out of site. The whole time second guessing myself but also hoping there is a better buck out of sight, I glassed 4 other bedded deer but they're all does. I hunted the same area the next morning and just saw a different small forkie and some does.
Fast forward a few uneventful days spent near my area from the beginning of the trip and a lot of miles hiked and I am missing my big forkie. I decide Sunday and Monday (last day of the season) will spent in his home. But first I've got Saturday and long hike to a new area. I have confidence in the area I'm headed to and apprehension about getting a buck back solo. Saturday starts with me in the glassing spot before a hint of light, I've covered ground a little faster than expected. As shooting time comes and goes I'm sitting in intermittent rain and hail and then a fog back that limits visibility so much I can't tell if there is even a slope in front of me. Finally it breaks and within 2 minutes I glass a buck and then another just far enough apart to not be in the binos at the same time. The one I eventually shoot is at 430yds, a little closer than the other and a better angle. The other buck was definitely taller but may have not been a 4x4. I knew I was going to be happy to get either and they're getting to a spot were they will disappear for the day. Meanwhile I'm constantly trying to get my bino's and scope lenses dried with a sunglass shammy so I can see through them. I get set up to shoot off my pack and as I'm firing my vision is getting foggy, I assumed I was fogging my scope up myself but there is actually another fog bank rolling in. I squeeze off a round and and realize I'm about to lose all visibilty so I put up the binos instead of trying to find him again in the scope. I glass the area for 5-10 seconds and then total whiteout. I don't see either deer at that time. No flopping, kicking, feeding, walking away just empty sage. The fog blows through in seconds and I see the deer I shot at heading straight down the mountain almost at me. He's quickly at an angle where I can't shoot again without moving so I just run at an angle to intercept him. We're now out of the sage in tall grass and aspen trees and it starts snowing. Kind of surreal, I'm watching a deer that can't move real fast now move through trees as I wait for him to get into a window where I can shoot. Snow blowing into my face, getting ready to shoot offhand at a deer that's in bow range and I have a weird thought that this feels like a midwest experience. Another shot in the shoulder right next to the first entry wound and he's done. Both shots are a little too far forward but he has saved me a vertical climb by making it down to my level.
I'm immediately ecstatic with the deer as I check him out. Unfortunately he's made it into a not so photogenic spot and not easily moved. Never occurred to me to use my timer either. My internal clock is ticking as I think about caping, quartering and getting on the trail not knowing how long it's going to take me to get back. Cape, head, meat and the crap I brought in are even heavier than expected and it's pure misery near the end but now just a good story. I won't be driving home until morning and new motivation enters my mind so I tell myself I'm hitting a couple craft breweries when I make it to the truck and everything is cleaned up. Amazing experience, I don't spend a week alone often and decided I'd like better company next time.
Sounds like and awesome hunt! Nicely done, and what a great deer. It’s funny how quickly the misery fades away once it’s over. I have some serious memory loss issues when it comes to miserable experiences.