Every Christmas I try to spend five or six days back at my parent’s residence visiting family and friends. Conversely, every available minute I spend chasing Canadian geese. The waterfowl population is usually plentiful in South Eastern Idaho, however this year was a different story. Due to the lack of water throughout the county, many farmers opted not to farm in exchange for a cash payout from the government. This agreement was a good solution for the farmer but to waterfowl hunters, it was not. Unfortunately, the thousands of geese that annually migrate through Minidoka County were faced with snow covered dirt fields that produced little or no food. With enough said concerning the shortage of waterfowl, my attention focused on the beneficial effects of this year’s early, heavy snows.
One of my dad’s favorite things to do in life is explore the Kamima Dessert in his rebuilt 84’ Jimmy, known to us as the “Hunting Rig”. This year’s heavy snowfalls forced the dessert mule deer out of their homes and into the farm grounds in search of food. Their new residence, which I refer to as my dad’s backyard, was a landmine among the privileged late season bow hunters. My excitement grew as my dad relayed to me his sightings of multiple wintering bucks just minutes from home.
Saturday the 22nd of December embarked as my brother in law Ben, Dad and I weighed down the Hunting Rig in search of an archery buck. Within 15 minutes from our departure we had 3 doe’s in sight. After acknowledging they weren’t bucks, we continued our quest out to the dessert, stopping numerous times to glass more non-antlered deer. Our counts of approximately 50 doe’s and no bucks began to damper my expectation of harvesting an antlered animal. However, after reaching a depth of snow that halted our forward progress my thoughts were quickly changed.
As luck would have it, something caught my eye just as my dad turned the Jimmy around. Less than a hundred yards away, lying underneath a broken down barb wire fence, rested a huge buck! The knowledgeable trophy obviously knew he had magnificent headgear because he never lifted his chin off the snow or raised his rack above the brush. Needless to say, the three of us practically jumped out of our pants! I can’t bring to mind if it was panic, buck fever or maybe just the sight of the 30-inch 5x6 rack that altered our next decision. Our instincts were wrong and thinking caps somehow ceased as we proceeded to drive down the snow drifted, two-track road along the broken down fence. It didn’t take long before the wise old buck exploded out of his bed hell bent for who knows where! The buck spooked so bad he didn’t even stop to look back like a typical mule deer would do. I’m going to avoid any tangents on “what we should have done” because the story would get too long. Trust me, I’m still kicking myself in the behind!
Roughly thirty minutes or so later a second buck captured our attention. A short stalk positioned me near the 2x2 until the crusty snow rendered my presence. I’m not very good at the waiting game and was pretty sure the buck was about to run, so I started to draw. This deer had obviously been schooled on the drawing of the bowstring sound because he bolted when I drew. However, another opportunity arose as the buck joined a new group of deer that had a nice 3x3 in it.
Our drive up hop out and shoot method failed to stupidity, my stalking attempt failed on account of the crusty snow, so this time we were going to attempt an ambush. My plan was to get within a couple hundred yards of what I thought would be their escape route and set up. Ben’s ambush approach was brilliant as the herd sighted him and fled in my direction. I patiently sat behind a large sagebrush bush waiting for the right opportunity to draw. The fever must have set in again because my judging skills had gone astray. The 3x3 stopped at what I thought was 50 yards on top of a small bluff. Already at full draw, I released, only to watch my Easton A/C/C arrow fly inches over his back. None of the deer had spotted me and the buck was obviously confused because he spun around in a circle allowing me to knock another arrow. I let another carbon fly and missed again over his back. After pacing off the distance, my 30-yard pin would have done the job.
With those opportunities behind me, Ben and I were determined to get back in the action the following day. Early Sunday morning, we decided to jump a few drain ditches before heading out to the dessert. Our first drain offered 5 mallards. Our stalk was short and our guns were accurate as we both doubled, knocking down all four drakes. Our next destination was to my uncle’s farm, which had held deer in the past and was bordered by gravel pits.
Two coyotes caught our attention while driving down the canal towards the farm. We stopped for a minute and waited for an opportunity to fire my dad’s Winchester 243 at one of them. The coyote’s escaped one field, entered another and to our surprise approximately 20 deer stood up! In the herd was a nice 25 inch four point accompanied by 3 forked horns.
Our ambush had worked as planned the day before so another attempt was in the works. Coincidently, the gravel pits were within 100 yards of where the herd of deer grouped up. My plan this time was to sneak through the gravel pits to the corner of the field and have Ben pressure the herd into the pits where I would be.
My stalk to the corner of the field couldn’t have been any easier as I was 15 feet below field level. Once I reached the corner, I knocked an arrow. Well hidden behind a large brush below field level and wind in my face, I was ready. Within minutes, a fawn hopped the fence in front of me and began feeding at a distance of 20 yards. It didn’t take long before the others started to follow and before I knew it, seven doe’s were feeding in front of me. The fawn was now less than 10 yards away and still hadn’t detected my presence. My confidence started to grow as the one of the bucks hopped the fence. Perfect timing keyed in when all forty plus eyes locked onto Ben out in the field, permitting an opportunity for me to draw. Unfortunately the 4x4 was well protected by the surrounding doe’s and didn’t present a shot. Sensing that any minute these deer were going to run, I set my 35-yard pin on a 2x3 that was trailing the herd. This time, my Thunderhead Brodhead scored, slicing through the vitals.
After the shot, the herd fled to the center of the field and re-grouped. I wasn’t too worried about tracking the buck with the foot and a half of snow on the ground so I stood up and signaled to Ben that I connected. We met up and exchanged high fives as the herd ran back to the dessert, leaving one behind in the snow. Knowing the buck needed time to expire we began our short trip back to the Hunting Rig.
When we returned to the harvest location, to our surprise, the buck was missing! Fortunately, the snow provided an easy blood trail that backtracked to within 15 yards of where I stuck him. My exciting weekend of late season bow hunting came to an end after a few pictures were taken. This buck may not have been the big one but he sure was a lot of fun to hunt!\