Western Hunter Magazine July/August 2019 #70 - Page 66

Separation Comes in Many Forms Separating yourself from the crowd isn’t always about sheer distance, but also time and inconve- nience. Getting up and hiking to be in an area at first light is different than slowly making your way there to arrive midday when any self-respecting buck is tucked away in a timbered fortress. Knowing where and how to access the less ob- vious places takes effort and requires scouting. This is about scouting for locations that have the right ingredients, not just simply looking for deer. When scouting new and unfamiliar country from the road and the ground, it’s a good idea to arrive a few days early to get a feel for access points and see where other hunters are setting up to hunt. Think about the most obvious places hunters will want to go. From there, you can get an understand- ing of how hunting pressure has and will displace animals to places of better refuge and also suitable habitat. When I was younger, I found myself using my imagination when trying to find bucks and impos- ing what was probably unrealistic thinking abilities to them. While it’s likely that mule deer have limited cognitive ability, it’s more realistic to assume that they are a wild prey animal that is instinctive and reactionary to the world they live in. They react to danger by hiding or creating distance. I would hunt places where I thought big bucks would go to hide, but I wouldn’t find a deer track. Of course, my approach was based on the semi- fictional words of some outdoors writers who prob- ably dabbled in some hunting yarn hyperbole. I learned that deer need to eat quality food and will want to do that in the weeks leading up to winter, which coincidentally is also hunting season. Now I hunt in good habitat that hunters overlook or is difficult to access. Example # 2 Two years ago, I decided to hunt a spot that I hadn’t hunted in well over a decade. This decision was driven by a lack of success where I was hunting and probably a bit of nostalgia on my part, won- dering if I could recreate some similar magic when I took a really nice buck in the same spot years ago. This spot was a small sagebrush basin out of sight from the road in a somewhat obscure spot. It has a bit of a funnel effect in that is has two drain- ages coming together and spilling out onto rut and winter range. It wasn’t a very large chunk of public land and the hunt would essentially be immediately over if there wasn’t a buck in that spot. The big limiting factor was that all the area above the basin was private land I didn’t have access to. The spot also wasn’t that productive since the best habitat was on private and there wasn’t enough hunting pressure to effectively displace them. Plus, the weather was t-shirt warm and deer just weren’t moving much during the day. 66 WESTERN HUNTER The author and his long-time hunting partner, Mike Messier, with his ancient and burly buck taken in a place they hadn’t hunted previously. The buck was following a group of does in Colorado’s 3rd rifle season after a fresh snowfall. Weather can trigger a buck to suddenly drop his guard and look for does. When I got to the spot that overlooked this 3/4-mile-wide basin, I sat down to glass the area. The morning had a layer of thin clouds and the light was flat. Deer wouldn’t stand out very well in the gray light and gray sagebrush. A few minutes into the glassing session, I spot- ted a white face in the sagebrush on the opposite side of the small basin. It soon materialized into a mature mule deer buck with a body like a 55-gallon drum. The buck was browsing and also occasionally rubbing his antlers as he worked along the hillside above a rim of sandstone. The buck appeared wide with good mass but had small forks and a 3x4 con- figuration. A prototypical Boone & Crockett buck he was not, but he was clearly a very mature, older- age-class buck and is the kind of deer I’m looking for at this point in my life. It was a good situation, because I felt like the buck would probably soon bed down on one of the north-facing aspects of the small brushy draws. Unfortunately, the only caveat was that the buck was solidly on private land and I felt like he was in a position to move farther onto private rather than come closer onto public. www.westernhunter.net