5 NIGHTS IN A BLIND ALONE IN THE DESERT
SUMMER PREP FOR THE HUNT
This summer (2017) I dedicated more time to find a good buck than ever before. This is only my second year having a Utah Deer tag since I moved west 3 years ago. Normally, my summers are dominated by fishing from sunrise to sunset but this year I had a big, mature, velvet muley on my mind and I wanted to harvest it with my bow. During the end of June I started looking for deer in my unit. It was still early in the stages of antler growth, but it is easy to tell what bucks are going to be really big.
In early July I found the deer of my dreams! This deer was a huge, heavy, mature buck with a 6 by 6 frame and a big hook cheater on his right side making him a 6×7. He made my heart race from the very first time I saw him.
I guessed this buck would score around 190, maybe higher, and the best part was he was hanging out with a perfect 180 typical that was also jaw dropping. The only problem here was that I spotted both bucks on private land. My initial plan was to ask the land owners for permission, and I did. The wife seemed as if she would say yes, but left it up to the husband.
Right away the husband said no, stating he has never allowed anyone to hunt their land and I was no exception. At first I was disappointed and immediately thought I should start looking for another deer to hunt. Before giving up I decided to look for nearby public land from the private land the buck seemed to live on. Sure enough, I found BLM decently close to 2 opposite sides of the private land.
I set up a trail camera on each pieces of BLM along what seemed to me to be the most traveled deer trails. I set up the cameras and salt, telling myself I wasn’t allowed to check them for at least a week. That was tough because I was really, really excited.
A week went by and I checked the first camera. BOOM! There he was… the incredible 6×7 on public land, and on my camera. I couldn’t believe it! He was there twice in the past 7 days. He was the only big buck on that camera, the rest were young and small. I checked my other camera about a mile away only to find 2 pictures of a doe and a 2 point. Right away I thought that the other side was going to be the place I would hunt.
THE WEEK BEFORE OPENING DAY
During this week I spent the entire time living in my trailer and I only fished once. Thats huge for me. I was losing sleep over how excited I was to hunt these big bucks. All I wanted to do was check cameras and set blinds, and thats exactly what I did. I checked cameras every day and set up a blind at each camera so that the deer would get used to it. The deer never seemed to care and both my #1, and #2 bucks were hitting my camera every day.
I did a “practice sit” a week before the hunt to see if it was at all possible to come in during the morning or middle of the night without spooking the deer. The deer hit my camera from about 7pm until 8am and go back and forth on that trail all through out the night. I was worried about spooking them while trying to get in my blind and hunt.
For my practice sit, I went in at 3am. I heard the deer moving around until sun up and the only one I didn’t see that morning was the 6×7. I checked the camera and found out that he had been there until I got there at 3 and then never came back that night or morning. Considering he had been on my camera multiple times a day for the past week I knew there was no way I could hunt the morning with out getting in the afternoon before when the deer aren’t around and spending the night in my blind.
The day before opening day I was so crazy excited. I went into town and payed for a shower in all my scent free products, washed my camo with scent free detergent, and made half a dozen peanut butter and jellies to help me survive. At this time, I didn’t know how long I was going to be in that blind. I filled shaker bottles with water and put Mtn Ops Peach Enduro in them to enable me to stay hydrated while I was in the desert and sitting around in a blind. I also removed about a dozen blaze pills from the pill jar and put them in a plastic bag so that when I needed them, it would be more quiet than tipping a bottle upside down. I take blaze every morning to fulfill my caffeine fix while I’m living in the middle of nowhere. Usually I’m a big coffee drinker, but my trailer and my blind have no way of having coffee every morning, so Blaze is a lifesaver for me. I grabbed my bow, binos, rangefinder, quiver loaded with arrows, broadheads, knives, and tag and headed into my blind around 3pm in the afternoon before opening day. That night I saw all my shooter bucks… every single one came in during legal hunting light! I was so excited I couldn’t even contain it. I slept maybe an hour on and off all night.
Let me just say that sleeping in a blind is by no means comfortable. I had no sleeping bag, cot, or pads in there to sleep on and I was sleeping in the red rock sand, literally. It did not make for great sleeping arrangements. I knew it had to be done though in order to get my buck. I never complained or made an excuse.
On opening morning I was laying down, wide awake at 4 am. At around 5:30 am I could get my binos on the bucks I had been hearing and realized that my #1 buck and #3 buck were out there feeding. My heart was racing. I stood up to go from laying down to getting in hunting position and when I did that my legs were shaking so bad that I’m surprised I didn’t fall over. That 6×7 made my adrenaline rush like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I watched the clock and waited for legal hunting time. 6:20 am. As 6:19 came my #1 buck headed up the hill on the deer trail. Right before hunting time. I was devastated and kept repeating in my head, “come back, come back!” He hung out at 50 yrs for a couple minutes to the right of my blind giving me a perfect quartering away shot that I was very confident making. To block the deer from seeing me as much as possible, I had only opened a small part of the blind to the left to shoot from and there was no way I could remove the velcro in other parts of the blind without spooking the buck. I watched him at 50 yards and couldn’t get a clear shot from my blind. At the time I was calm and confident, thinking that he would be back that night because he had been on my camera every morning and evening.
A few minutes later I heard an explosion of deer running away. Another hunter had been sitting 30 yards from my blind and flung an arrow at the group of bucks, missing badly. About 30 bucks, all the ones that had been on my cameras for so long had run up over the hill, then over the next hill, and the next hill. They were gone and ran as fast as they could away from me. I got my binos on them and saw every single buck on my shooter list disappear. I was devastated. So much that I even cried. I wasn’t ready to give up though and I sat in my blind all day and hoped the bucks would return to their routine that evening.
My #3 buck came back at 7pm, but I was holding out. Just as I was hopeful the big bucks would come out, the other hunters stepped right in front of my blind. They were yelling, laughing, making it clear that no deer was coming in that night. They were very rude to me in other ways, but we don’t need to get into that.
The next day, Sunday, those hunters tagged out while sitting on top of my blind, shooting both of my #3 bucks. Great news! The hunters left the area. Dealing with everything that had happened, I was very depressed and having a hard time staying positive my top 2 shooter bucks would ever be back. That night, for the first time in 2 months, not a single deer hit that trail. I spent 2 nights in the blind at this point and I was an emotional wreck. I was going to spend 1 more night and hunt the morning, then head north for my first day of college classes that started at 1 pm, but I was not in the right mindset to do so. I left at 9 pm that night, deciding I couldn’t be in the blind and that I needed to go home.
I went to class Monday and stayed up in Salt Lake again Monday night, then headed back down in the middle of the day Tuesday with the plan of being in the blind for the evening hunt. I checked my trail cameras and found that my #1 buck was there the morning I was in school. I didn’t feel mad about it because I needed the break and to have a more positive mind set in order to continue hunting hard. My #2 buck was back as well but only in the middle of the night. I was hopeful, but skeptical that I would ever get a shot at one of them.
On Tuesday evening it hailed, rained, and was super windy off and on. I hoped that it would get the deer moving, but sadly Tuesday evening I did not see a single buck. I was sad and having a hard time keeping my motivation. Sitting in a blind in the middle of the desert is hardest when you aren’t seeing anything to keep your mind or eyes busy. I had no internet service there which made it hard to send or receive messages, so I was really left staring at things to keep busy. Luckily, when I went back to Salt Lake, Eva Shockey had sent me a package with her book in it and I took that down to my blind. I read 100 pages in the first day and it was a perfect way to pass the time. She talks a lot about hunting experiences that related to mine and it was a good source of motivation to keep trying even though I wasn’t seeing any deer.
Wednesday night was the same. No deer that morning or evening. Even checking the trail cameras they didn’t even show up in the middle of the night when I was sleeping. I was pretty upset with the entire situation but decided to keep pushing. Thursday morning… nothing. No deer. Thursday was the first nice day since I was down there. Tuesday and Wednesday were scattered with storms and I said to myself that Thursday could be the day. I called my parents and they said they had a good feeling about tonight, and they even said, “We are going out to dinner.. maybe we should go to the Walpack.” The walpack is my favorite restaurant in a small town in New Jersey, where I’m from. Last year I traveled back to New Jersey to hunt whitetail with my bow. The second night I was there my family and I planned on going to get dinner at the Walpack after my evening sit in my tree stand. That night I called my dad and said “DEER DOWN”, and I had filled my buck tag. After gutting it and taking it to a game processor, it was too late to go to dinner and I was bummed. Two nights later we planned to try for dinner at the Walpack again and that evening I shot my doe. I never got to go to the Walpack that entire trip, but it was very clear that was the way I got deer, just when the Walpack was mentioned.
That night was beautiful. Clear skies and mild temps. The small bucks that I hadn’t seen in a while came back and were there at 7 pm! That’s early! I had high hopes that the big boys would come in next. 8 pm rolled by and there was nothing around. In case the deer came in after dark I didn’t want to spook them by putting my 5 layers of warm clothes on to survive those cold windy desert nights in the blind, so I put them on at 8. Sunset was 8:11 pm that night, leaving legal hunting light to end at 8:41pm. I thought it was over and that’s why I put my layers on. However, I was hopeful the bucks might be around in the morning.
At 8:20 pm I heard the thundering of big buck hooves on the red rock. It was my number 2 buck coming in from the right and he was alone. I could tell he might have been winding me a little since the wind was going to my right and blowing my scent directly to him. I knew I needed to act fast if I got a shot.
He stepped in a spot in front my blind that I knew was 22 yrs away. I looked at my clock, it was 8:22pm. He had his head down and was quartering away from me with his front shoulder blocking his vitals. I had a clear shot to the main artery in his neck and I decided that was safer then waiting for him to turn broadside and risk him being spooked. I laid down in my blind and drew back my bow so he wouldn’t see my movement. I sat up, got him in my sight, put my 20 pin on him.. and shot. THUD! I heard that very beautiful sound of the arrow hitting the deer and I knew the shot was good. He ran to the right and uphill and I waited for about 15 minutes to go track him. I was sweating bullets in all the layers I was wearing to spend the night in the blind and had to rip them off.
I started tracking. It was a clean shot that made him bleed out fast. I was in heaven. I loved this buck ever since the first time I saw him on my trail camera. Harvesting him, after solo hunting the entire time and dealing with the ups and downs of archery season, was probably the greatest feeling I’ve ever felt in my LIFE.
I was proud, and couldn’t believe I really did it! After finding my deer, and when I was finally in an area where I had cell service, I received a message from my friend Ryan saying, “How’s your deer hunt going?” It felt so good to write him back, “JUST GOT MY BUCK!” Ryan was nearby hunting elk with Jordan, Colby, and Matt from Mtn Ops, so they all came by to see my deer.
Looking back, sharing that moment with positive people that I am grateful to have as friends, made my harvest way more special. My boyfriend, Eric Chesser, left his own deer camp hundreds of miles away to see my deer and experience that moment with me. Temps at night were super cold in the area, so I decided it was perfectly fine and safe to break down my deer at first light.
No doubt in my mind, Thursday, August 24th, was one of the best days of my life. My Buck scores 176 2/8 and he is my first mule deer with a bow. His velvet was beautiful, and perfect. I will remember that day for the rest of my life. Before tagging out, I had spent a total of 5 nights in my blind alone in the desert. No good food and no service in my blind made it tough to keep on keeping on, but I did it. It was 100% worth it in the end, and I’ll do it again in a heart beat.