Tod's Blog

Adventures with family & friends and other things I'm passionate about…

Deja View

Posted by todblog on October 10, 2013

October 9, 2013

You ever do something that made you recall a similar if not exact experience? I had that happen to me this past weekend on my Snake River buck hunt…

Eight years ago, Jacob and I traveled 11 hours for his first buck hunt in the Snake River Unit. He had a Landowner Preference Buck Deer Tag given to him by Aunty Bitsy. It was such a generous offer to be able to have his first deer hunt on her ranch in northeastern Oregon. You can read about that story here.

This past weekend, I was missing my hunting buddy as he was busy starting his Junior year in Chemical Engineering at Oregon State University. He’s buried in the books and sneaking off to go hunting with dad is not a priority right now. That’s what I get for trying to teach him about responsible behaviors. I guess that’s the responsible thing to do, right?

Anyway, I made the same journey to Aunty Bitsy’s ranch without Jacob and this time I was the recipient of a Landowner Preference Buck Deer Tag. I only had a couple of days to hunt and was wondering if the sunny forecast was going to hamper deer activity and impact hunter success. I also invited Stuart Love to tag along with me to keep me company on the long drive and to bring his new labrador retriever pup Aggie to find out what grouse hunting is all about.

On day one, I walked down an old dirt road and within five minutes of the hunt I had a doe and forked horn whitetail buck looking at me within 30 yards. I restrained myself thinking it’s too early to be done hunting. I continued up a steep hill to see if I couldn’t find Mr. Big who I saw on a previous visit. There were lots of buck antler rubs on trees in the area but, nobody was home. I looked across the valley and saw about 30 elk coming down off the steep hill making their way to the lush alfalfa fields below. It was an awesome sight to see.

On day two, Stu and I visited a different drainage in hopes of finding Mr. Big there. En route, my headlights lit up the large group of elk leaving the alfalfa field and heading back to the steep hillside. Walking up the narrow valley more elk were seen crossing in front of me and scaling steep slopes in search of a quiet bedding area. Walking along the creek, Stu spotted another forked horn whitetail buck at about 120 yards. I still held off on filling my deer tag as I had more time left to hunt. That was the only buck I saw that day. The evening hunt found me stalking along a different drainage and sneaking around a bunch of does and no bucks. I was beginning to worry. I thought about it all night. Should I go back to the areas where I had seen small forked horn bucks and fill my tag?

On day three, I tied my boots on slowly thinking it would give me more time to decide where to go and what to do. The early morning light was beginning to reveal fuzzy images in the alfalfa field above the ranch house. A large group of elk were milling around and getting their last bites of alfalfa in before vacating to the hills. Whoa, what are those other dots moving in the field to the left? A spotting scope revealed the dots to be a group of bucks making their way out of the fields. I grabbed my stuff and headed out in an attempt to catch them before they got to the timber. Stu stayed with the spotting scope and kept me updated on the deer as I dealt with mean old Mister Elevation. With each step uphill I wondered if I would have enough energy to get up the hill and in position before the deer showed up. Then, I got a message from Stu, the deer were bedding down in the field by some trees. That meant I could take my time, catch my breath, change my course and proceed with caution.

The route I would take was almost the same route Jacob and I took eight years ago on his buck hunt. I crawled through the same tunnels of brush and trees eight years ago. Got to the same point where we ran out of cover and had to crawl. Looking down in my hands was his Ruger rifle chambered in .260 Remington. As I crawled on my own this time, I thought about the day we gave it to him for his 12th birthday. He was very excited about it. It started with a box of bullets and a slight grin of wonder and ended up with a shiny new rifle to take on his first deer hunt. It’s been a straight shooter ever since.

The bucks were bedded down in a patch of tall weeds. I hugged the cold ground and inched along my belly pulling myself over rocks, weeds, and dried cow pies. Mmmmmm…. As I inched closer to the crest of the small hill I glassed for any sign of the bedded bucks. They should be clueless about my presence. I was in total stealth predator mode and it was fun knowing that at any moment I should be seeing antler tips in grass. I crawled about 20 yards and for a moment took my eyes off the slowly approaching target and looked up on the open hillside. There moving with purpose, against a straw colored grassy hillside 300 yards away was a black wolf! I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was a big animal that stood tall and was definitely nothing like a coyote. It was accompanied by a lighter brown wolf and the two of them were about to mess up my hunt. Stu was watching them through the spotting scope and noticed one of the bucks was now watching them too. Luckily, the wolves moved on and left the area leaving the bucks for me to hunt.

After my pulse rate settled, I continued to slither forward, pushing my fanny pack in the left hand and Jacob’s rifle in the right. Peering over short grasses and rocks I could see more of the weed patch where the bucks should’ve been. It wasn’t where I expected it to be. My approach was slightly off and my body pointed me in a different direction. I focused my binoculars through the short grasses in front of me and saw antler tips and white eye rings of a buck and he was facing my direction. His droopy ears told me he wasn’t alert to my presence. I glassed to the right and saw an ear tip of another buck that had his head tilted down, he was sawing logzzzzzz and oblivious to me. They were about 100 yards away and I was totally out of cover.

Suddenly out of nowhere a large buck stood up on the far side of the weed patch and was taking a stretch break or was he? He was well concealed in the tall weeds and I had no clue he was there. I twisted my body to the right and tried to line up the rifle and fanny pack with the large buck. He was scratching himself and they were still unaware of me on the hill. If I crept forward another few inches I would be sky-lined. I was concerned about the time I had left before the wind would swirl or the sun would crest the eastern hills both of which would not help me put meat in the freezer. I decided to take the shot at the large buck before he went back down, smelled me, saw me or the wolves came back. Crosshairs up, hold steady, squeeze….BANG!

The weed patch erupted with other bucks getting to their feet. They were moving now and coming right at me, fast. What happened? How did I miss? I was apparently on their escape route and was about to get run over by hooves and antlers. To make matters worse, I had the Burris scope dialed to 9x and I couldn’t see whole deer, just rocks, grass, hair, grass, rocks. I shot twice more and missed terribly. It was like my nightmares where I can’t punch the bad guy because my rubber arms won’t work. Ughhhhh. Then, a big buck came running up the hill about 30 yards above me. I managed to stop him with a doe bleat and he stood still long enough for me to find him in my still too zoomed-in 9x scope. I saw grasshoppers, dirt, rocks, grass, legs, then chest and squeezed the trigger and he ran 5 more yards and dropped.

It took a few minutes to soak up what just happened to me. I should have taken the time to readjust my shooting position, not rushed an awkward shot. I felt so grateful things turned out the way they did. It was a cool morning. The whole spot, stalk and crawl hunt was awesome. I got to repeat my son’s hunt in the same spot, same rifle, same kind of whitetail buck and the oh so familiar view. Thanks Aunty Bitsy for bringing back some great memories and making new ones!

 Crawling for deer takes lots of patience and warm clothes.

Crawling for deer takes lots of patience and warm clothes.


6 Responses to “Deja View”

  1. mac/ning said

    hi, tod – love to read your stories – ‘way to go! more deer la sagna!! say hi to bitsy from us. xoxo, mom (come to think of it, that last lasagna we had at your house was w/ bear meat!)


  2. Terri said

    Nice to read this on a day when I was also reliving some past memories.


  3. John Whitman said

    Nice buck Tod and greatmstory as always


  4. Gary Lewis said

    Hi Tod, Thanks for the story. It brought back some memories for me too, crawling through the same tunnels, then crawling out in the open. Interesting about the wolves!

    Gary Lewis


  5. Ox said

    Aloha Tod,
    Never loss your touch as a father, hunter, partner and writer.

    Mahalo for the story – lived it out and was almost there with you – Ox


  6. wendell kam said

    I remember the area as I walked to the house from there. Great story and remembrances. Mahalo.




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