Leaving camp well before sunrise with the goal of heading to a distant mountain ridge, we loaded our Tenzing packs light, in preparation to be out all day. A light
dusting of fresh snow covered the ground from an overnight storm that moved through, adding to our ability to track.
About halfway up the mountain with 700ft of elevation increase already behind us, we had to make the unfortunate decision to let Mom go back to camp. After a long few days of hiking and the physical demands of this back-country hunt beginning to catch up, she was certainly owed a morning off.
As we continued on the trail up the mountain, we kept a brisk pace, wanting to gain
elevation and get to the top before the deer sought thicker cover. We were surprised
to see very limited sign on the way up, creating a bit of discouragement. By the time
we got to the top, we had now logged 5miles and we were eager to see some sign
accompany the effort to reach this peak.
The beauty of this Idaho mountain range was beyond words, especially on this crisp
November morning. With the snow fog lifting and the ominous clouds hanging low
looking as though inches of snow could dump again at anytime, the sights were well
worth the hike. It was certainly a moment to pause and enjoy.
Even though we had our sights set on whitetail deer, it was exciting to see elk feeding on the face of the ridge. During our hunt, we have seen elk on numerous occasions, which speaks to the overall quality of this area for not only deer but also other big game species.
Cresting the ridge top, we immediately picked up whitetail sign. Electing to follow, it
lead us down into the heavy timber, where the bucks and does were literally
running crazy, in full rut mode. The intensity of the scene created very limited time
to judge the bucks, get the equipment set up to film the shot and settle in. Thus we
had a few missed chances; chances we hoped would continue to come our way.
Now deep into the dark timber, our visual was no more than 75 yards at best. With
the wind blowing strong enough and the snow just quiet enough, we were able to
still-hunt our way through the cover without completely giving up our location.
Moving slowly, we caught a glimpse of a mature buck, less than a 100yards away. As
he watched our guide Colton, just 20 yards ahead of us, the cameraman and I hung
back and set up for the shot. In a matter of a few seconds, the buck moved through
the opening, I judged him and took the shot.
The woods were no longer silent, as the shot echoed across the mountainside. We all heard the impact of the .338 and the resulting recovery of my deer was quick and humane. I was now the fortunate hunter with his first Idaho whitetail.
The rest of the our day, including bringing the deer back to camp, was seemingly just another page from a hunting magazine illustrated a hundred years ago. With the power of the horses at camp, we rode out as a group and loaded up my deer. It’s not often that you can combine the enjoyment of a hunt with the history of horses being used on an adventure. And for us, 6 miles back into some of the most scenic country we could ask for, we did exactly that.
If I had to write the script for the day and how I would hope it would all play out, it
would be exactly as it went. I thoroughly enjoyed the hunt, the company and the
historic nature of how we achieved and enjoyed the kill.