Southern Idaho Desert:11:30 AM; 95 degrees.It was day 7 of my archery mule deer hunt. After a 250 yard crawl that had taken over 1.5 hours, I was finally within bow range of the biggest muley I had seen on the trip. He also happened to be bigger than any muley I had ever harvested. I was snuggled up to the shady side of the biggest sagebrush within a 25 yard swath. My Heli’m was in my left hand, arrow nocked. Wind was in my face and the buck was dozing on the shady side of a big desert juniper. That was the good news. The bad news was in the form of 12 other eyes lining the juniper and adjacent sage vying for the other patches of precious shade. Now it was a waiting game to see if he would make a mistake that would allow me to draw and get an arrow behind his shoulder.
Over the next 3 hours the temperature continued to climb. It was supposed to reach 103 today. It felt hotter, much hotter. Several young bucks got up to rearrange their position as the shadows changed with the sun creeping higher and higher in the sky. Each time they would get up, I’d attach my release and stiffen with anticipation of the pending shot I knew was coming. Only when the bucks would lie back downand settle into their afternoon siesta would I allow myself to relax again.
One of the young bucks got up again. I tightened my grip on my bow and got ready. As the buck lazily fed on a small bitterbrush I tried to imagine the rest of the scenario playing out in my mind, culminating with a perfect arrow. My two older brothers, Zane and Jake,had joined me on the first four days of this hunt.
I couldn’t wait to show them the video I was positive I was going to get. Yup, I had the video camera on my Outdoorsman tripod peeking just over the sagebrush to my right. I was going to reach up, hit record, attach my release and then poke an arrow through the big buck…….. It sounded good in theory until the small buck snapped his head to attention and tried to bore holes my way. I couldn’t breathe. A bead of sweat dribbled down my forehead. I didn’t dare make eye contact and tried to watch him out of my peripheral vision. His ears were forward. Nostrils flared as he searched the wind currents for any clues. He kept staring my way then took two stiff-legged steps in my direction. I knew he wasn’t looking directly at me but off to my right a couple feet. I cursed my arrogance in thinking I could film myself kill a big desert muley. I called him every name I could think of. When that didn’t seem to be working, I called his mama and sisters names. By now several of the other bucks were focusing on their alert comrade. Two more stiff steps and a snort had all the bucks on their feet and moving. I came to full draw as the bucks tried to identify what had so boldly interrupted their respite from the heat. The big buck was now left of the juniper. Two more feet and I had a lane into his vitals between the juniper and a mahogoney. About then, the 2nd best buck cleared the juniper and stood broadside 35 yards away staring intently my direction. I maintained my position and focus hoping and praying for a chance at his buddy. My hopes faded as fast as it took him to whirl and bound away, churning up sage, sand, rocks and cactus with every bound. I was devastated as I watched them line out andget swallowed up by the unforgiving desert.
I slunk back to my pack and boots hidden under the shade of another juniper 250 yards behind me. The return trip was much easier than my belly crawl had been although my mood had changed – considerably. As I sat in the shade of that juniper I tried to cool off and replenish with a bottle ofWilderness Athlete Hydrate and Recover. I tried to sulk in the blown opportunity but all I could think about was how much fun I was having chasing these desert muleys; how much fun and productive learning a “new” hunting style was.My brothers and I have always been pretty productive on getting arrows into muley bucks. After a week on a tripod and good glass I wouldn’t dare venture a guess on how many bucks we were missing!!
I grew up pounding the dark timber of east Idaho “jump-shooting” elk. We were successful and I learned many valuable lessons but I always longed to be able to have more than a 2 second glimpse of my quarry. Fast forward a few years to old Mexico. I had an invite from my good friend, Bob Beeman, to accompany him to Chihuahua one January to hunt Coues deer. He borrowed a tripod and set of 15×56 binoculars from one of his buddies for me to use. We loaded up and headed to Mexico for a week. Hunting with good glass on a tripod was truly an eye-opening experience for me. As I sat there glassing bedded Coues bucks a mile away, I couldn’t help but wonder how many opportunities I had walked by in the last 10 years since I had migrated out of the dark Idaho timber to more open places in Central Idaho and Wyoming. I told myself I was going to buy some 15’s and a good tripod the minute I was back in the states. I didn’t. For the next 10 years they were at the tip top of my wish list but couldn’t topple tires, braces, home improvements or trips to grandma’s house. Every time I huntedI would loathe the fact that they weren’t in my pack. I shuddered at the game I was missing by using nothing but my 10×42’s.
Finally, in the fall of 2012 I ordered a tripod and pan head from the Outdoorsmans. I borrowed a set of 15×56’s from a buddy and headed to Idaho for an archery deer hunt. By the end of the first day there was a little tension in the air. After glassing up several bedded bucks and letting my brothers slide behind the 15’s on the tripod to have a peek, they tried to commandeer my set-up. I was finally bigger than them and was able to keep my set-up to myself. They finally understood why I’d been whining for the last ten years about needing this set up. It was an eye opening experience for them.
To be continued, check back soon!