There’s nothing I enjoy more than experiencing new ways to enjoy hunting. I’d grown up like most youngsters and enjoyed general rifle deer hunting with my old man, but after discovering archery, I’ve put down the gun for over 10 years. It was never a “I’m too good for guns” mentality, I simply enjoyed the challenge of hunting with a bow. But, as the saying goes, “variety is the spice of life” and my never ending desire to hunt and learn led to what has turned out to be one of my favorite hunting memories to date. The goal of this hunt was to team up with close friends Jordan Kauer and Frank Peralta, of Kifaru Int., and rifle hunt whitetail deer on the northern plains of Idaho. Definitely a new and foreign experience for a die hard mule deer and elk bowhunter.
That being said, I was just as unfamiliar with hunting whitetail in the desert as I was with really dialing a high-powered rifle to it’s full potential. That’s where Jordan came in handy. I’ve never met a more thorough, detailed and flat out picky shooter. In a matter of minutes and in only 4 shots I was shooting, great for me, groups at 100. 2 touching and 1 just a half an inch high was good enough.
To make sure things were really where they needed to be, we stretched out the range to 600 yards and after a few quick calculations we were breaking clay pigeons left and right. I was as confident as I’ve ever been shooting a rifle so we packed up the guns and hit the road.
Upon arrival we set up camp and enjoyed some grub. After hours of driving, food and sleep was more than welcome. I don’t like to brag but my Jalapeno bacon and scrambled eggs won ‘Meal of The Trip’ award. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
The morning hunt was spent covering piece after piece of public land in search of the whitetail as they left the alfalfa and headed to the sage flats where they would bed for the day. We would walk and glass, walk and glass and walk and glass some more. With high winds, snow and little deer movement, we continued to move around and try new areas in hope of finding a deer worthy of our tag.
Before taking a short mid-afternoon break we decided to check an area that Jordan had hunted in years past. Our efforts were rewarded as we slowly worked across a steep sidehill bench that ran parallel to thick river bottom and sagebrush flats. As we tiptoed along, all of us walking a short distance apart, we heard Frank shout, “Jordan!” We ran to the edge of the bench just in time to see a beautiful buck take off as fast as he could go. I shouldered my gun, put the crosshairs on him and waited for Jordan to give me a range. At a mere 150 yards, the buck slowed to a slow walk and Jordan gave me the green light. “Kill him” he said. I settled the crosshairs and started to squeeze. When the trigger broke, I was greeted by a disgusting “CLICK!”. I’d forgotten to load a shell! As I quickly cycled one into the chamber the buck walked into the trees, never to be seen again. I was pretty disappointed in myself and knew I’d blown a perfect opportunity on a great deer.
Later that evening, we worked over a few different areas and weren’t having much luck. We decided to go back to one of our glassing locations from earlier that day and see if the evening provided better deer movement. With the storm no longer blowing us out of our boots, we had high hopes for a solid evening. Immediately upon getting to where we wanted to hunt, up jumped 2 doe and a nice 6-point buck! They ran up the hill and into sagebrush that was over our heads. Jordan and I made a mad dash into a spot where I could see and possibly get a shot, if we got lucky. We sat there for a few minutes and couldn’t see a thing. I looked at Jordan and said that I figured they must have snuck out without us being able to see them. No sooner had I finished my sentence, Frank shouted from below, “He’s on the hill!”. I was looking to the left of the hill and couldn’t see him when he made the unfortunate decision to raise that ever so distinguishable large white tail. I no sooner saw the flash of his tail and the crosshairs were on him. I knew I had no time to range him, as the does had already gone over the top, so I guessed him to be around 200 and took my shot. I’d guessed correctly and the buck dropped.
Just like that, it was all over and I was blessed to have shared a brand new, to me, hunting experience with a handful of my closest friends.
After a quick pick-me-up, Frank and I drug the deer to the bottom of the draw, we snapped a few more photos and quickly cut and made sure that not a single cut of meat was wasted. It was the perfect ending to a great day, filled with memories that I’ll carry with me forever.