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Two Southern Boys Head North...WAYYY North!

PorterHouse

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 3, 2020
Messages
280
Location
Texas
Before I get started, I want to thank a few HT Members (one in particular) for their help and advice…they know who they are and their help was greatly appreciated.

Now on to the story.

2023 took me and my hunting partner (we'll call him T-Beau) to a Unit and State we had never stepped foot in, much less hunted. T-Beau came over to Texas (he lives in Louisiana), we got the truck packed, got a few short hours of sleep, and pointed the truck north. Made it to Denver that evening, ate gumbo with @Dsnow9 and his family (thanks again for the hospitality), got some sleep, and woke up ready to make the final push to where we’d be spending the next week.

We arrived at our destination, hit the store for some last minute items, prepped our gear, finalized our plan for the morning, and tried to get some sleep in anticipation of the hunt starting the next morning.
 
Day 1: We were both up and ready to go before our alarms. Hopped in the truck and made the 30 minute drive to our Plan A area. Parked, checked the map, and began the 1.5 mile hike in to our glassing spot. We got settled in with a couple minutes to spare before shooting light. As it started getting light enough to see, I quickly picked up some does working the private/public boundary to our west and not 5 minutes later, T-Beau says, “I got deer over here too”. I turn my attention to the deer he spotted and they are working up this face into the sunlight. Almost immediately, we recognize there is at least one buck in the group. I pull the spotter out to take a better look. There are actually two bucks in the group with 8 does and all it takes is one turn of his head to realize one of the bucks is a big one! I say to T-Beau, “Let’s go kill this deer!” He takes a quick glance through the spotter, simply says “Wow”, and we start packing up. We’ve been glassing for less than 15 minutes at this point.

We drop down into the bottom and try to keep terrain between us and them as we cut the distance. The deer are to the north of us and wind is out of the west so we are good there. We originally spotted these deer a little over a mile away. We get to about 1200 yards and the bigger buck is pushing the smaller buck around on top of the knob the deer had been feeding on. We wait for them to go over the top and continue hustling in their direction. As we keep getting closer, a coyote comes cruising through and appears to get right on the path the deer had been taking (this became an annoying theme for the trip…coyotes everywhere we went!). We start slowing down as we’re getting closer and aren’t exactly sure where the deer are at this point. A moment later, we spot a doe feeding up and out of the coulee she is in. We wait for her to move out of sight and continue moving.

We debated on continuing through the bottom of the coulee or getting up on top. Ultimately we decide to go high but realize this is a risky move cause there is no cover at all except for the slight undulations of the terrain. We’re moving slow and taking our time. We think the deer are in the coulee right in front of us but all of a sudden a doe pops out two coulees away. Following her is the big buck! We get a quick glimpse of him over 500 yards away but don’t get a shot opportunity as he is pushing this doe and they are on the move. We quickly drop down in the bottom and try to get closer. As we pop over the next face, we have does bedded to our right and one doe in front of us. We drop packs and start crawling forward with our rifles trying to stay below the line of sight of the deer around us. After probably 25 yards, I slowly raise up on my knees to take another peek and all I see are eight does running directly away from us…no bucks in sight. I don’t know if it was us (wind was still good and we felt like we had stayed out of sight), the coyote, or some combination of both, but they are out of there headed towards some even more broken country to our west. We get our packs back on, regroup, and decide to give chase.

A half mile later, we get to the much steeper coulee system where we think they had headed. Walking the top, we spot a coyote cruising through the bottom working away from us and can’t help but think it was the same one we had seen earlier. We drop down and start side-hilling through. As we come around the next corner, I spot movement…it’s the group of does and they are turning to work up and out of the bottom. I motion to T-Beau to move up but they are already out of sight by the time he gets to me. We move the couple hundred yards forward to where they headed up and out, and as I start to turn to follow their path, something catches my eye in the sunlight down in the bottom to our right. Pull out the binos for a quick check and it’s a buck bedded down in the bottom. He's out in the sun, wind at his back, staring directly at us.

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I drop down, turn to T-Beau and whisper, “Buck bedded, down in the bottom.” He slowly moves up to me while I am ranging the buck. 171 yards. I ask if he wants to take him, and with no hesitation he says, “Yes!” (he's definitely a If-It's-Brown-It's-Down type of hunter). The wind is ripping pretty good and he’s trying to get steady on his trekking poles turned shooting sticks (thank you Wiser Precision Quick Stix). I give him mine as well to help stabilize.

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He gets comfortable and I tell him let’s wait until the buck stands. 5-10 minutes later, the buck starts to get up. I go to range him one last time…171…and before I can put the rangefinder away and get my binos back out…



BANG!
 
The buck jumped, kicked, and ran out to our left, his right. I assured T-Beau it looked like a good hit based on the deer’s reaction. We gathered up all our stuff and headed down there. Once we got to where the buck was standing, we didn’t find anything. No blood, no hair, nothing. T-Beau is starting to get worried. I again try to re-assure him and tell him that a deer doesn’t react like that unless he’s hit.

We get on the path the deer took and slowly start walking the direction he ran out looking for blood. After about 20 yards, I spot fresh blood on a rock. I think that made T-Beau feel a little better as we continued the search. The faces on either side of us were too steep for the deer to try to move uphill, especially while being wounded, so I was confident the only direction he was going was continuing down the coulee. It wasn’t two minutes later and I hear T-Beau say, “I got him!”

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We didn’t find any blood other than that splatter on the rock, but the shot was good and we had a dead deer on our hands (they bleed like a stuck pig sometimes, and hardly at all other times…it just be’s that way).

I congratulated T-Beau, he notched his tag and we got to work. After breaking the deer down, we left the game bags in the shade while we ate a quick lunch. We talked about how good it felt to have success our first morning, in the first spot we checked and talked about how we may even tag out early and head home (LOL to that thought in hindsight).

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We had done 5 miles to this point and were about 3.5 miles as the crow flies from the truck. Instead of hiking the deer back to the truck, we opted to go a mile to the nearest road, drop packs, then I took a rifle and humped it back to the truck to drive it around and pick T-Beau and our stuff up.

The hike back was uneventful, though I did catch some of those does from earlier going to their midday beds back in roughly the same area we spotted them that morning ("I’ll file that info away for later", I thought to myself).

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Our glassing spot from the morning.


Day 1 was in the books and our spirits were high! One tag punched, one to go.


Deer Seen: 11

Miles Hiked: 9
 
Day 2:

The next morning found us overlooking an expansive creek drainage. Shame on me for not e-scouting better cause there were apparently numerous routes in there and as the sun came up, we realized just how much of a zoo it was. We probably spotted 6 deer (all does) and at least 4 times as many people, no kidding. We could see wall tents, trucks and side by sides in nearly every direction. We didn’t stick around but about 30 minutes before pulling the plug and heading back to the truck.

We drove to our Plan C area next, parked, grabbed a quick bite in the truck (out of the wind!) and started our hike into a large valley that had a spring in it. There was one large drainage to cross getting into the area we wanted to hunt and we bumped a couple does on the way through it but didn’t see anything else as we covered the miles en route to our destination.

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Did run across this survey marker which I thought was kinda cool.

As we neared the western edge of the valley we wanted to hunt, we slowed down and really started to try and pick apart the bottoms that we were peeking in to from the top. Almost immediately, I found a couple does bedded less than 300 yards below us, in the shade and out of the wind. We dropped a PIN on the map, skirted them, and kept moving. As we worked our way out the next finger, we see movement in front of us. Throw the binos up. Another coyote, heading straight away from us, and it’s getting out of Dodge…quickly!

We keep pushing out this finger and I look to our south and see a handful of does feeding out in the bottom of the valley near the spring. We sit down, pull the spotter out, and start taking a closer look. From our vantage roughly 0.75 miles away, we can see at least half a dozen does. We take our time and really try to study everything in front of us hoping to find a buck bedded nearby. We don’t see anything besides the does. With 1.5 hours of shooting light left, we decide to make a loop around, keep the wind in our face, and get in closer on these does hoping a buck would show himself as the light faded.

We took our time, worked around, and dropped into a coulee that ran down to the bottom where the does were. We worked to within 300 yards and waited them out the rest of the evening. We watched a total of 12 does feed out and up in front of us, but no buck ever showed.

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We were surprised to see that many does with no bucks around, but that’s the way the evening unfolded.
We hiked back to the truck in the dark, made a plan for the morning, and tried to get some sleep.

Deer Seen: 20

Miles Hiked: 13
 
Day 3:

We truck camped on BLM that night. Alarms go off, we rolled out of our sleeping bags, and started the 1.5 miles in to the same spot we were on Day 1. We got set up right as shooting light began and it wasn’t long before T-Beau tells me he has deer straight out in front of us. Sure enough, feeding up and out of a coulee are five does. We keep tabs on them as they slowly work their way north and we keep looking. Maybe 15 minutes later, deer start coming out of the same coulee where we had seen the bucks and does our first morning. More and more keep working their way up and out of the coulee until we have twelve does spotted in that location along with the other five from earlier.

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Seventeen does in total and we really haven’t been out here very long. It goes unspoken, but I know we were both feeling very hopeful having that many does in front of us. There just has to be a buck in here with them! Either that, or it won’t be long until one comes cruising through and checks on them.

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More movement about a mile north of us! Turn the spotter that direction…another coyote. Darn! We watch it for a while and actually watch one of the does run it off.

And then, what do we see, about 700 yards to our right?!

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The joys of public land hunting!

There is a radio tower near where we were hunting with a private access road going to it. Maybe this guy had permission to get in there and pop out on the BLM we were on, or maybe he was trespassing, who knows? But I’m fairly certain there were no public roads back in where we were.

Needless to say, all the does disappeared. He scanned for a minute at most with his binos and as quickly as he arrived, he turned around and left as we watched the does bound over the horizon onto another distant piece of private (I bet he didn’t even see them).

Frustrated, we packed up and headed for the truck.
 
Day 3 continued:

We headed to the nearest town (a.k.a. dot on the map) and hoped to get a cup of coffee at the local café. Hours of operation said they should be open but they weren’t. Perks of owning a small town café I guess…Open when you want to be, Closed when you don’t.

We sat and discussed options for the afternoon. We thought about checking the valley with the spring in it again based on the number of does we had seen there the day before. We ended up talking to a local who said, “You know there’s a way in there on a BLM two track.” T-Beau shot me a look after the 9 mile hiking loop we had done in there the day before. I told him sorry…just wanted to make sure he was getting his steps in.

We agreed that’s what we would do and headed out to find this two track. After going south on the pavement for a ways, we pulled off and started easing our way back into the BLM land until we finally made it within about a mile of the valley. We parked, ate some food, and got ready to head in.

This time around, we’re coming in from the east side, whereas the day before when we hiked in, we came from the west. We found a spot to get setup and started to glass. Not much to say other than it was slow! We changed spots multiple times trying to get different vantages of the hills across the valley from us. Nothing! We looked below us in all the nooks and crannies close to where the deer had been the night before. We looked across the valley. Couldn’t turn up a deer to save our lives.

As sunset approached, we moved further north to look over one last section across the valley from us. As we’re walking over, with my naked eye I spot what I think might be a deer. Pull out the binos and sure enough, multiple deer. Some down in the bottom and a couple feeding up a face. Sit down, pull the spotter out, and find that it’s two bucks and two does. The bigger of the two bucks beds on the hillside and not long after, his smaller buddy does the same.

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Not the greatest picture but here are the two bucks through the spotter.

I debated making a play on these bucks that evening but light was fading fast, they were 0.75 miles away, and I would have been pretty exposed crossing the valley to try to get over to them. We ultimately decided to put them to bed and come back in in the morning. We watched through the spotter until dark and with spirits lifted, hiked the mile back to the truck.

We enjoyed the stars and a brief reprieve from the wind, ate some dinner and got ready for another night in the truck bed. We planned to be at our glassing spot very early in the morning, then I would sneak across the valley in the dark and pop up over a ridge that should hopefully put me within about 300 yards of their last known location. Sleep didn’t come easy that night as I anticipated the stalk to come in the morning.

Deer Seen: 21

Miles Hiked: 6
 
Day 4:

I was feeling excitement and a sense of pressure as we got ready by the light of our headlamps. We hadn’t seen any bucks since our first morning so I really didn’t want to screw this opportunity up. We set out earlier than normal to get to the spot where we had put the bucks to bed the night before. I gave T-Beau my spotter so he could keep tabs on things as I worked my way across the valley. We sat in relative silence for 15 minutes or so as he put on more layers and I prepared to head over. Then it was time to get a move on so I gathered my things and dropped down into the bottom. I pushed north a little bit to make sure I was working the coulee system adjacent to where the deer had been the night before…wanted to make sure to keep terrain between me and them as I worked in their direction. It was a very still morning and I wanted to make good time across the valley but was also trying to not go too fast.

Things are starting to get lighter and lighter as I work closer to the ridge I am wanting to pop up on. I tell myself to slow down as I close the distance.

500 yards…take it easy

400 yards…slower still and time to put a round in the chamber

300 yards…pay attention to each footfall

200 yards…time to lose the pack and head up to take a peek

Things are going to plan and my timing should be just right, about 5 minutes into shooting light. I slowly work up the face I am on, being mindful to check around me as I gain elevation and expose myself to any watchful eyes potentially bedded below.

I crawl to the top, lay down, and set the rifle up. Moment of truth...I peek over the top and what do I see staring at me?
 
That’s a good picture of T-Beau finding his mark before the shot. lol congrats to him….

I reckon it’s one of the two does staring at you, but waiting for the grip and grin of the buck that was staring at you broadside from 200 yards- as per the plan.
 
ANOTHER. FRIGGIN. COYOTE…Are you kidding me?!

I should have shot it on site but didn’t, holding out (futile) hope that deer were possibly still bedded nearby. The coyote took off shortly thereafter and I dropped down in to the bottom. I checked the adjacent coulees and there were no deer anywhere to be found.

Now, very frustrated, I made my way back to my pack and then the mile back across the valley to where T-Beau was on the spotter. Got to him and asked what he had seen…a lone doe way at the southern end of the valley and three more coyotes besides the one I had the staring competition with.

Man, I already don’t like coyotes to start with (depredation on the fawn crop and killing domestic calves on our place in Texas), and these northern coyotes were doing nothing but solidifying my opinion of them as a whole.

Not having much hope for the rest of the morning (given the fact that there were at least 4 coyotes in there with us), we worked south a bit to see if we could get eyes on that doe again that T-Beau had spotted earlier. We did ultimately see a buck pushing a small group of does way down valley but they were over a mile away when we spotted them and on the move directly away from us.

Feeling like that area was played out for the morning hunt, we headed back to the truck.

There’s not much to report for the rest of that day honestly. We tried a few different spots closer to town midday through the evening. Turned up 5 does, another coyote (shocker) and lots of road hunters.

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The forecast was calling for weather to roll in that night…rain ultimately turning to snow as a front pushed through the area. We decided that a night in a motel might do us some good. Let’s get a shower, a good night’s sleep and then be ready to make a solid push for our last two days of hunting. We made some calls (it took calling 5 different motels to find one with an empty room) and headed back to town for the night.

We were both trying to stay positive and kept reminding each other that all it takes is a moment for things to change…all it takes is one time of being in the right place at the right time to turn this thing around, so keep your head in it! But I’d be lying if I said my confidence wasn’t waning by the hour.

Deer Seen: 11

Miles Hiked: 7.5
 
That’s a good picture of T-Beau finding his mark before the shot. lol congrats to him….

I reckon it’s one of the two does staring at you, but waiting for the grip and grin of the buck that was staring at you broadside from 200 yards- as per the plan.
Wish that was the case but no dice!
 
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