Vanish and FireTiger's 2021 Journal

vanish

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I debated even starting a journal this year as things just won't be the same. If you read my 2020 journal, you'll know that my wife lost a baby during archery elk season last year. It was only through seemingly random circumstance that I was even home at the time that it happened, as I had been slated to be on the mountain for two weeks. Through a lot of effort, she is pregnant again this year ( yay! ). However, with the previous year's loss looming over us, I committed to not doing an archery elk hunt, nor even hunting elk at all, simply due to the remoteness and time it takes to deal with one should I be so lucky.

I still applied for some hunts, but only drew muzzleloader pronghorn. FireTiger went points only this year.

Back in May, we lost our dog Hank, who you'd be familiar with from past journals. We knew he had lung cancer back in January, so it was only a matter of time. He went downhill fast when it finally got somewhere bad. This was him on his last hunt, spring turkey in Eastern Colorado.

20210501_190906.jpg

The plan was to go the year without a dog, as we thought it would only complicate her being pregnant. Then, we happened to have an opportunity at the last girl of a litter of Bracco Italianos and what do you know, we talked ourselves into this being a great idea. It would be a bit of a distraction from the pregnancy, and she'd be trained before the baby came. So, Ada joined us in June.

Here she is on a summer fishing trip with me. She's just about 6 months old as of today.

20210912_115017.jpg

As we have now passed the date of the loss of our previous child and we're multiple weeks past how far along we were last time, FireTiger is relaxing a bit. She doesn't know how it will be come November, but she pulled the same whitetail tag she's hunted the last couple of years off the reissue list. The dates for the rifle season look incredible this year.
 

vanish

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This past Tuesday was the opener of muzzleloader pronghorn here in Colorado. I debated whether to wait for the weekend or take time off work and go, and with the way things are going this year I said I'm out of here! :D

Monday night, I made the 4+ hour drive to the camp spot, which I had to myself.

Tuesday morning, I awoke entirely too early as I had forgotten to verify what time daylight came and there was no cell signal. This allowed me to be on my glassing perch as the sun rose, and while I understand its not critical to be out early for pronghorn, it helps my strategy. Pronghorn have great vision, but hate looking straight into the sun, so one technique I use to get in muzzleloader range is to put myself directly between the rising sun and the animals.

Sure enough, there was a herd in a good position for a stalk and by 6:15am I was cutting the distance. A truck drove by in the distance, causing the herd buck to gather up the spread out does and move off about 200 yards. I figured they would settle down and work back in range, but I figured wrong. After waiting within 300 yards with no cover to close the distance on ~25 pronghorn, my early exuberance caught up to me. I hadn't taken any water nor food as I had expected this to end quickly one way or another. Silly me. I backed out without spooking them for lunch.

I continued to observe and wait for them to be in a better position while also watching for new arrivals. This spot generally has pronghorn moving through it constantly, but the herd buck was very aggressive and would charge out over a mile to greet anything incoming, and chase off any bucks. The herd bedded up and seemed content to stay in their location.

Around 3:30pm I thought I might as well take a nap ( yeah, I could try another area but I have a lot of faith in this location and my tactics with the muzzleloader ) and give things a chance to move around. Upon waking at 5pm, the large herd was working closer to a stalkable area. Before committing, I did a scan and caught a new buck making a beeline somewhere I thought I could intercept.

I bailed off my perch and made a looping stalk, hoping to get to a group of bushes to use as cover before he passed by. As I eased into position, I began trying to reacquire the buck in my binos and found I had severely underestimated his approach speed and he had already passed me. I had some cover and tried to close the distance, but there were a bunch of cows between us that gave me away.

Realizing this stalk was over, I turned 180 and glassed the herd no in a very stalkable area. Figures. Might as well go for it, though it is about 2 miles.

40 minutes later I was back in sneak mode as I closed in on the herd. I could see 3 does ( I have both tags ) in a good spot and decided to focus on them. Unfortunately, the low sun I mentioned being an asset earlier was my undoing this time, as when I finally got in range I could see absolutely nothing through my peep, just the blinding sun. I waited for the sun to go below the ridge, but my opportunity had passed.

I made it back to the car about dark. I had smartly packed water for this last stalk, but had drank most of it, and it was past dinner time, so I was happy to be back. As I went to pull them from the front of the truck, my key wasn't in my pouch. Shiiiiiii.... Sure enough, I had locked myself out of the truck. Try as I might, I couldn't find a way in...
 

vanish

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By the way, yes, I do have a keysaver, and we had taken then key out while cleaning earlier this year. 😖

Thank goodness, from this point I had two bars of cell signal. I called FireTiger and she extremely graciously made the long drive down to me, arriving about 12:30am. Ada was very happy to see me and be on a camping trip.

Day two started similarly, with a portion of the same herd being in a good position. This time everything wen according to plan, and by 7am I was easing over a bit of a dirt hump to line up a shot on a doe. I missed! Ugh, I have never missed with this setup! Feeling foolish, I knew I had gotten excited and rushed the shot.

Back to the truck to have breakfast with FireTiger and Ada. She was loving chasing the giant grasshoppers.

We both glassed off and on for quite some time, with no change, starting to wonder if maybe we really would have to move. I decided to walk and glass a different direction and found a small herd. Grabbing my gear, I just went straight for it as it seemed like there was some broken ground between us. Once again though, I had underestimated their speed and found myself several hundred yards out of position with nothing between us. They didn't care for that and ran miles away. That stalk felt like a waste of energy.

Time for some lunch! Naturally, this was when things started happening. A few new does came down a long ridge and got the herd buck's attention. The herd started breaking up and wandering around. A couple other new animals appeared from who knows where. Another buck came in and there was a bunch of chasing. Finally, a doe and fawn had separated and bedded down a mile from any other pronghorn. I judged the terrain and while there wasn't much, there were some larger plants like yuccas that I thought I could use to make a stalk.

I walked to what I figured was about 250 yards (hah, wrong!), then switched to crab walking. I prefer this over crawling as I can keep my head at the same elevation. When you crawl and want to check on something, you have to pick your head up and I feel this catches attention. It took about 90 minutes and I had closed to under 100 yards. There was a perfect tiny ridge ( about 2 feet high ) between us. I knew when I got to that, I just need to pop my gun up and line up the shot.

I was about 40 yards away from the ridge taking a breather, and I hadn't yet slid my gun forward, when things went sideways. The doe stood up and started walking straight towards me. I didn't move and she didn't seem to care about me, but I'd need to make a big movement to get my gun in position. She turned slightly and continued forward, then stopped and looked away from me, and I took this as my opportunity. I swung the gun around and took an off hand shot. I shot under her, just skimming her brisket. Ugh! This was only like a 40 yard shot, embarrassing. I easily could have taken 2 more seconds.

She and the fawn ran off about 3/4 of a mile and stopped. I just stood and watched as hey, who knows. I slowly reloaded and after about 20 minutes they bedded down. I stalked in on them again and made it to about 150 yards before they blew out. Damn. They ran off straight towards the big herd (about a mile away) and up over a ridge towards the boundary of the property. This had other pronghorn up and running around like what the heck is going on?

As I stood there wondering what to do next, I saw a white dot on the ridge. I could tell it was the herd buck through my binos. I flipped my gun upside down, using the bipod as my "horns" and walked towards him. He started running my direction, so I got down prone and well, I guess I just got freaking lucky.

IMG_20210922_143623.jpg

He closed to around 70 yards, turned broadside and started raking a bush. I had no reason to rush this shot and made it count.

( Yes, of course I was wearing my orange vest. I had taken it off to mark my location as I had to go back and get my backpack like a mile away :LOL: )
 

ElkFever2

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I was hoping you'd post up! Congrats on the pronghorn buck, and great news about the pregnancy! Here's to 2021 wrapping up great for the two of you.
This allowed me to be on my glassing perch as the sun rose, and while I understand its not critical to be out early for pronghorn, it helps my strategy. Pronghorn have great vision, but hate looking straight into the sun, so one technique I use to get in muzzleloader range is to put myself directly between the rising sun and the animals.
I tried this technique for the first time this morning - it's like you're invisible! Wearing white and completely in the open, I walked to within 50 yards of 3 deer, and within 30 yards of 2 hen turkeys. The deer never saw me, and the turkeys took about 10 seconds before they finally decided something was up, and walked away.
 

MNElkNut

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Congrats and am thrilled to see you posting this year! Looks like you might have the best "season" of your life this fall!
 

wolfpup

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Awesome start! Glad you decided to post up! Congrats on the pregnancy and all the new things coming your way!
 

Crossbowguy

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Welcome back and thank you for sharing! I lost my family dog this year as well and it's been tough. I wish you both my sympathy and hope you have great hunts this year!
 

vanish

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As of yet, we're not sure what is next. My dad was able to finally get an archery whitetail buck in Nebraska last week. He has a mule deer tag starting tomorrow as well, but I don't know when he can actually hunt it. A friend of mine has a WY pronghorn tag I might try join to glass for a day. FireTiger has suggested weather depending we might do a muzzleloader trip for her whitetail tag. Everything is pretty much last minute decision type of stuff. I'm still watching for a deer tag on the reissues.
 

vanish

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We got out early enough on Friday to make a quick evening hunt. We didn't go to our usual spot but we did see a couple does. It was just nice to get away from work.

Saturday was high expectations with it being Nov 6. FireTiger saw a couple does around 830am, and we had a solo doe pop up right in front of us around noon. The evening was a bust.

Despite the lack of movement, we stuck with the plan for Sunday. By 9am, we were really questioning things. The property had been grazed hard by cattle and it was looking extremely sparse. We believe it wasn't holding deer like the past.

We got out of our log blind for a nature break and I decided I should scan areas we couldn't see from the blind. Would you believe it I spotted a buck 450 yards away moving along a tree line towards the property line. FireTiger was literally caught pants down.

I ran back to the blind and grabbed the rifle, ran back and corralled Ada. The was a huge tree 150 yards closer. I told Forrest to waddle over there (6 mos pregnant, hence the hunting from a blind) and watch for him at the end of the trees. I was very worried the buck would hit the open and run off the property ( about 300 yards of wide open ) before she could make it there.

Well, she made it in time and was able to make the 300 yard shot.

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vanish

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I believe I tried to get a reissue tag 12 different times this year. 3 times I got to the "Confirm" screen and the tag was No Quota before I could Add to Cart. It wasn't like I was trying to get high point tags, with all being between 2nd choice and 2 points.

Call the Waaaaaaambulance.

While I could take the rifle to Nebraska, a friend of mine has a deer tag that seems interesting. I'm always talking about enjoying someone else's hunt. Looks like this is my chance to do that. He's already down there with the wall tent set up. I head down Friday night with the clearance to stay through Wednesday. I've never done the wall tent thing either, so hoping its an all around good time with a big buck on the ground after a few days.
 

vanish

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Day 2 was a mixed bag. We moved to the elevation band where the bigger bucks had been seen. Of course, the deer all seemed to be lower. We spotted two of the good bucks, but we also watched other hunters shoot them. A third buck we never saw was shot just behind us.
 

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