Long-Range: Hunt High and Hard
Finding a new secret hunting spot on public ground isn’t easy. This hunt started in June as my good friend Paul Klassen and I decided to find a new spot to hunt deer. We researched deer densities and talked to Fish and Game Officers to narrow down some areas that held promise. We also used Google earth to look at some terrain that had few roads and fewer ATV trails. I called the forest service and learned that the one main road into the area had been closed to motor vehicle traffic. With this information, we had found the area, and a scouting trip later we knew we had chosen wisely.
Backpacking into the high country takes planning and logistics as well as the physical and mental discipline to put forth the effort needed. We decided to wait and hunt the last few days of the season hoping to see some bigger deer getting into the pre-rut.
In late October we parked at the trail head, dawned our 60 lb. packs and headed into the high country. We packed in 3.5 miles to our base camp and as we suspected, left most of the other hunters behind.
During the next 2 days we covered 19 miles on the trails into and out of some amazing deer country. We glassed large basins and aspen covered slopes and saw over 100 deer. The peace that comes to you sitting on a hillside glassing such beautiful country renews a hunter’s soul each year.
The second morning we headed into some new country and saw plenty of deer on almost every hillside and ravine. Several tempting smaller bucks found their way into our spotting scopes and we encouraged each other to hold out. Not that we were trophy hunting, but neither of us wanted to pack a small buck that far out.
At one o’clock I had been sitting on a hillside glassing for about an hour and finally saw my buck on a distant ridge 940 yards away working some does in the timber. One good look and I knew he was worth the effort.
I set off to get closer and climbed another ridge that was between the buck and my position. This is steep country and an hour later I gained the ridge I wanted and settled in to relocate the buck.
I located the does feeding across the canyon near the same spot I had seen them in, but couldn’t find the buck. Twenty patient minutes later he came out from behind some trees and rejoined the does. I ranged him at 623 yards and set up for the shot.
Having taught sniper schools and Long Range shooting schools for the past 35 years, I used some of the techniques we teach to make this shot. On a steep south facing slope I used my backpack as a rest for the rifle and had to angle my body downhill so I could get a good cheek weld. This allowed me to have my shooting arm resting into the hill for support. By bringing my left leg forward I was able to rest my left arm on my thigh and support the rear of the rifle with my gloved hand. This allowed me to square the rifle up and be in a very good supported position for this longer shot. We teach students to look for points of contact in any shooting position, the more points of contact the steadier you will be for the shot.
Ten minutes later the buck finally eased into an opening following some does and presented a great shot opportunity. I have great confidence in the Fierce 6.5 Creedmoor I was shooting, the shot was true and the buck dropped in his tracks and slid down the steep slope until a fallen log stopped his decent. I knew he was a good deer and readied myself for some ground shrinkage as I made the climb across the canyon and up the ridge to get to him.
As I got closer I realized I had been blessed to take a magnificent buck. He had the deep forks both front and back that we all look for and eye guards, which I love.
I paused as I always do when I take an animal and reflected on the wonderful opportunity we have to hunt. The joy being in the outdoors brings to each of us, and the respect we show the animal we have harvested.
This hunt was very special as I have gotten to the age when you know there aren’t many more “Hard Hunts” left in the tank. My appreciation for the hunting traditions my father and grandfather instilled in me were very much on my mind as I sat with this buck in the quiet of that high country ridge. I also realized, yes it is always worth the effort.
My thanks to Paul for all the help and a great hunt. To all of you that read this, enjoy the hunt, enjoy the experience, enjoy good friends and family. Those feelings and memories warm you as you get older. Take it from one who is warm.