I have been waiting all year for this hunting trip. Over the year I have been gathering gear for the kid, saving vacation, making plans, waiting for the homecoming party to be over and trying to get the kid excited for the trip. This is going to be my first time being able to teach my son about ethical and responsible hunting. It will also be good for the kid and me to take the road trip to Utah together. Let me say that I think I’m more excited than he is. The last time we went hunting was an elk trip for me.
Thursday about 10 am we leave for Utah. Preston on the trip became my very own DJ (finding things to listen to on the radio) and he managed to keep his eyes open some of the time. Preston served a Spanish speaking mission in Boston, so you can guess what we listened to on the radio. We Stop in Nampa, Idaho to visit another Elder and take them for Ice Cream. It was an awesome trip lot of bonding. We made it to Utah about 12:30 am, crawl into bed and dreaming for a bit about getting ready for what lies ahead.
Friday morning, Joe needs to head into work and help for an hour or so. So we drop him off and head to a couple of sporting goods stores…..we all know how hard smokeless powder is to find so we went on the hunt. I didn’t find much. Joe was done and went to go check his trail cameras to see if we could find a shooter….it had a lot of animals but no shooters. As we came out of the mountains the Sheep herder was coming up the road. TJ and Preston engaged in a conversation with him in hopes for Intel about the mega buck out there. All they found out was how people treat him, the sheep and his dogs while he is out there. Kind of just upsets me how people treat others and their stuff. He is away from his family nine months of the year trying to make a living for his family and people go kill his sheep and his dogs. Why? This was just one life lesson that was learned on this trip. We had a few minutes so we took off to the gun range for Preston to get a couple of rounds down range since it has been 2 years since he even touched a firearm. I sighted the gun in for him (I know, what you are thinking…why he didn’t sight it in? We shoot about the same as we have learned of the years.) We even broke out Suriel (my 300 RUM) and let everyone shoot it.
Saturday morning arrived and found the four of us hiking up a steep mountain side. Again the mountains kick this flat lander’s butt, Preston had no problems getting around the mountains. I think this was the time that he didn’t see me as superman anymore. He kept asking if he can take my rifle or pack. As I have stated to everyone, I will get to the top just not as fast as others. I did manage to hand off the rifle. Once at the top, we start glassing to find a buck or bucks. It was a bit chilly at our view point. Four sets of eyes and a couple of spotting scopes should turn up something….and it does. We find a nice big buck, plan was made and Joe and TJ take off to go down one side of a mountain and back up the other side to get in place. Well the buck had other plans and disappeared. They sat at the top of the ridge and we sat at our ridge trying to turn up the buck or another one till dark. Well let’s just say that Preston and I beat the others off the mountain….it was dark, cold and cold. We had to wait about an hour or so for the others, Preston wasn’t too fond of hanging on the mountain glassing, it was not his cup of tea. As we waited we managed to see some of the others we have hunted with, which surprised us since they never mention going up there. They gave us other places to go but never mention this spot.
Sunday we make a plan on going up to get closer to the buck; Preston went off to church to stick with his convictions. That left the three of us going after the buck; we head up two different ridges. TJ went up the ridge they sat on the previous day. Joe and I head up another one to see if we could get another look at where he might have gone. We glassed till about noon and never saw where he went or was. The three of us headed down the mountain and back to Joe’s abode. TJ had to head home to take care of his sick wife and get ready for the work week. He will be back to hunt the last weekend of the season. As for us, we started to get things ready to head to another spot for about 4 or 5 days. Joe worked on his bathroom and we finished the night off watching football.
Monday, we load the camper up and off to go buy food for the week. Gassed up and on the road for the mountains (home for the next few days). Nice drive through the canyon and back into the mountains. Preston has been amazed at the mountains we have been in, crossed and glassed (Boston is flat as he says.) Now he is back in them, setting up a trailer. We are getting to take him out into the wild and see if we can find a buck. Today we find out that the first buck we went after was shot by our friends, now we know why they didn’t mention this spot when we asked them what the plan was. All they need to do was say something to us and we would have been the first ones to help them get this awesome buck. Why the secrets, we are friends and hunting buddies…all for one and one for all. We didn’t need to kill it to enjoy it…but now there is a divide between friends and hunting buddies. This feeling of hurt lingered in camp through the week; we will overcome this low in our hunt.
Tuesday morning has arrived to the loud alarm clock (one that we will want to throw out towards the end of the trip.) Eat some breakfast and pack up our gear. To the Microwaves (that’s what we call it cause of the reflectors) we are heading for. We know of a knob that we can overlook an area. Nothing has shown itself this fine morning, so Joe and Preston decide to go push the pines. Still nothing is moving. So I move to another ridge to see if I can get a better view point. Within about five minutes, I see a doe and a buck run into the trees below me. I jump up and see if I can get a better advantage for a shoot. All I can say the buck had nice deep forks…it could have been a 3 point or 4 point. Then he turns and runs into the trees on the other hillside. Only if I would have stayed put I might have gotten a good solid shot off of my sticks….but trying to hit a deer on the move at 300 yards is something different. The buck slips between Preston and Joe in the trees. I have to mention that this area now has three different bucks that have escaped my cross hairs…so now this area is my Kryptonite. One day I will get to redeem myself here. Back at the trail we get some lunch and make plans for the evening hunt.
Tuesday evening we went in search of a knob that we might have seen a buck on, but never could confirm it was. We hit a trail in hopes to get closer to the knob to scope it out (no pun intended). We caught some elk in the trees and couldn’t figure out what knob we wanted to look over. Then I spot a deer, way it is acting it has to be a buck. Then while trying to describe where he was I lost him. Preston was on the ball and relocates him. Scope on him, nice buck was determined and off goes Preston and Joe to make a stalk on him. Down through the cliffs and up the other side. I tried my best to keep an eye on him but again back into the trees he went. Joe and Preston decided to get closer and see if they can see him. Preston goes high and Joe stays low….the buck stands in the place we first saw him. Preston cannot see him and Joe takes the shot. I hear the rifle report twice, I’m on the binos trying to see where the buck went…but I see nothing. Joe and Preston regroup and find blood, they follow the blood till dark falls on them. Meanwhile, I’m heading for the truck so I can pick them up at the bottom. They have a ways to go. We are now in the truck and looking for a closer spot to get to where the last of the blood trail was found. Tomorrow, as responsible hunters we will do everything in our power to find him, out of respect to the animal and for the hunter.
With little sleep and high hopes to put our hands on this animal (little sorrow for the events), we eat some breakfast and wait a little longer so we can see where we should be. It happens that we find another trail heading in the direction that we want to go. Right to the spot of the blood, we find more and more. We are getting excited and talking out loud about getting our hands on him. The blood seems to be only on his right side and about every 30yrds. I stay higher than the others, I’m color blind and trying to find blood is a no go, plus I might have a shot to put him down if he gets up. We spent 4 hours looking and then the trail goes blank. We back track and circle and re back track again. Nothing and now the lows are even lower. Nobody wants to lose an animal and as ethical hunters we need to do everything in our powers to retrieve these animals, not all of them are found. We headed back to the trailer and had some lunch. In the evening we decided to head out and see if we can find some places to glass and pick up a buck. Not a thing was found, by now it is dark and we are going back for dinner.
Thursday we are headed back into town, Joe need to get a couple of things done at work. We hung around with him there. Then back to his place to wash clothes. After that we went and replenished our food and water and back to the mountain. We went in a different way and this time we have started to groups of does. We stop and started glassing, and guess what we found high on the mountain top…a nice buck. It was about an hour to dark and with Preston’s gung ho attitude, he was ready to run up the ridge and shoot him. He was a good looking buck. So with very little convincing, Joe is ready to run up the ridge with Preston. They went up light, with rifles and a headlamp… I don’t think they even had a knife. He was a good looking buck. Dark came very fast and the guys never made it to him, another walk out in the dark. I’m driving around not knowing where I should pick them up at. I managed to find a headlamp coming off the mountain and there they are. We arrive back to the trailer for food and sleep. We all know where we will be Friday morning.
Friday morning arrive with the alarm clock going off. This day I don’t think anyone of us thought about throwing it the door. We eat and head back to where we found the buck last night…some time has passed and Preston finds him close the trees, just a tad lower than last night. So off the two of them go to see if they can get Preston a shot. They kick out a herd of elk and thank god they stayed low as not to spook the buck. Nice bull in the herd, oh wait I’m supposed to keep an eye on the buck. The sunrise now is in the scope and I can’t see anything. The hunters are now getting close and I am now able to see. I watch them round over the ridge and all of a sudden the buck spots them and runs off. The landscape didn’t help conceal them very well and the buck spotted them firsts. So they push over a couple of ridges trying to find the buck. Finally, after scouring the ridges, pushing through the trees and crossing canyons these guys couldn’t find the buck. Now they are head back down to the road and the transport is on the way to pick them up…they are tired and hungry. Load up and we are heading back to camp for food and more water. They plan for the evening is head back out the knob that we went out on Wednesday. We spent some time checking out all the spots we can. Joe heads out to meet up with TJ so he knows where we are. I have to mention that I was showing that I was a bit stress that we haven’t had him on a buck and I was feeling the pressure. Preston with his new wisdom had to remind me that we are out here for the experience and the deer was a bonus. I’m all about this when I hunt but lost it when I got caught up trying everything to get him a buck. We head farther out the ridge and behold we find a buck. Pretty sure we saw two but all we saw was the butt of the one. We watch this buck for a bit and try to make a plan, Preston wanted to go after him right now and we might have made it to him, but I was worried about dark falling upon us. So we headed out to the truck with a plan to come find him tomorrow morning. TJ and Joe are sitting at the trail head waiting for us. On the way back we make the plan for tomorrow. Food and sleep are on our mind and we make it happen quick.
Saturday morning and always the alarm clock goes off. We eat and get ready to find that buck this morning. We leave a little late and the sunrise is coming up faster than we want. As we pull up to the trail head there are three trucks parked there already. Spirits are heading down that this might be a fail attempt again. We head out to find that people are in the spot we want (can anything else happen?) We set up and start glassing the hillside looking for the buck, Preston spots the group of deer and the spotting scope comes out. Confirmed the buck is there, he must have been low so the others could not see him. Plan was made…TJ, Joe and Preston head down the mountain to get closer to the buck. I try to keep an eye on him but lose him in the trees and the movement of the other deer. Sometime had pass and I was watch what I thought was the buck when all of a sudden I hear a gun shot and see the deer fall. I hear over the radio that my son was a deer killer. I will save the sob story, but I’m glad I had a moment to myself…I did shed a tear or two. I was overwhelmed with emotion, but also was wondering what was going through my sons head. They make their way over to the deer and he needed to be dispatch. Thank Joe for knowing that my son was feeling a little sad that he wasn’t dead. Joe dispatches the buck. Per Preston’s words, “Dad, I need to take a moment to pet the deer and realize what I had done. I had to realize that it was god’s creature and I had a responsibility to respect him.” Now the work begins…Joe coach him through the field dress and then they had a long dag out to the road where I met them. Now, I know you ask why I wasn’t there…couple of things pass through my head. One, I don’t want him to over think it and second, I didn’t want to mess the stalk up if it went to chasing him. Yes, I would have loved to be there and I was in spirit, I know Joe is a good coach. We hung the deer and I skin it with help from Preston. He decides we wants to make a European mount and I skin out the head. We eat and head out to find another place to hunt. TJ and I find ourselves posted up and the other two are pushing the hillside…nothing. So we cross the road and head to a knob that looks like it will overlook and area that we haven’t glassed.
We make our way to the knob and break out into a sage covered hill. We set up for the evening to glass in hopes to find a buck or two. We see pumpkins on almost every ridge. We spot a buck in the far distance and get the scopes on him. He is a nice big 2 point. Then the gun shots start and we spot a shooter across the canyon laying on his belly trying to hit this buck at about 600yrds (only a guess). I think he reloaded three times and then the buck rolled out of his sight. Yes, we watched him do this. So we head to the truck and try to find a place we can go into that would put us on a ridge next to him. Boom, there are trails out to there. So we head back to camp for food and sleep. Plan is to send a couple to the spotting knob and they others will try to find him.
Sunday morning has arrived and the alarm clock goes off. It is still in the camper, maybe we are getting used to it or we know what we need to do. Our bellies full and our gear loaded into the truck. We are on are way to drop TJ and Joe off so they can see about getting his first buck (TJ has shot a couple of Pronghorns.) They take off for their ridge while Preston and I drive back to the trail head. We are now on top and set up to find the buck. We spend a lot of time trying to spot this buck, but nothing. We did hear a bunch of shooting below us and late find out that there where hunters below us chase a 3 point. We never saw him but we did find a bunch of does moving quickly to the trees. The others did find some deer but not the big 2 point and now we are heading out to pick them up. Preston decides that we need to side hill out to the truck. I think he learned that it isn’t always the best way to go; sometimes just going out the way you got there works in leaving also. All hunters are counted for and we are heading back to load up and end this awesome hunting season.
I want to thank Joe for always taking me in for this hunt and all that he does for this hunt. I want to thank TJ for being there to help get Preston’s buck out and for sharing this hunt with us. I want to thank Preston for doing this for his very proud father; he told me once that he doesn’t think he would be an avid hunter as I am. I hope this changed his mind or at least he will want to keep this tradition alive between him and our new hunting group. I believe there was lots learned this year, new hunters learning new things and even the old hunters being taught. I have to say that my goal was accomplished in getting my son a chance to harvest a buck, he learned that the hunt is hard and the reverence for the animal and the land. May we always cherish this hunt and enjoy the ones to come. I’m so proud of the man you have become Preston…Utah buck again next year and hopefully a pronghorn hunt in Wyoming.