High Hunters took some nice bucks in the North Cascades during a season split by snowfall that led to gorgeous photos of the wilderness riflemen and their quarry.
John Jackman had one of the best shots, he and his four-point-plus-eyeguards taken below a mountain nearing the peak of its fall colors and dusted with snow.
He shared the story of his drop-camp hunt with Northwest Sportsman:
“We got into the area on the 13th, two days before the opener. The weather was sunny and beautiful yet cold. We had a great opening day, with our first buck down in the group and hanging in camp, and then the next two days turned out to be pretty slow with all the pressure from (weekend) hunters.
“Sunday afternoon we had some weather come in that ended up keeping us in the tent/camp all the way through Tuesday. Knowing the weather was supposed to blow over Wednesday morning and our pick-up date was Thursday, I had it set in my mind that I would have to hunt all of Wednesday to hopefully get a shot at something.
“Wednesday morning came and I got out of the tent an hour before daylight and looked up at a clear sky full of stars. I knew that day was my last chance. I ate a quick breakfast and headed up the trail, crunching my way through the snow. I got up to the clearing I wanted to hunt just after sunrise and ended up watching four does feed across the top of the hillside.
“They finally disappeared into the timberline, and I had slowly started making my way down the trail to check out some more of the meadows when I turned around one last time to see where the does had gone and out stepped a buck that at first glance I knew was a shooter.
“I got a range on him, got my gun up, took a deep breath and then squeezed the trigger. Next thing I remember I see him sliding down the hill only to get caught on a tree halfway down. I dropped him in his tracks. It was an awesome end to an amazing hunt!”
Jackman and his partners were packed in by Icicle Outfitters, and this morning the Leavenworth-based company’s Dale Wick says that their 36 hunters in 13 camps took 16 bucks, a 44.4 percent individual success rate.
“Trail access continues to be challenge in those areas that burned recently, 2014 and 2015 in particular. The burned areas are recovering with good sunlight and trees not sucking up the water, so deer are fat and happy on lush browse,” Wick reports.
“It was expected that last year’s winter would greatly affect fawn survival, but hunters report that most does have twins,” he adds. “Buck antler growth might be down but there are still some great bucks out there.”
The long-standing Sept. 15-25 rifle season is open in the Alpine Lakes, Henry M. Jackson, Glacier Peak, Mt. Baker and Pasayten Wildernesses in the North Cascades, the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, and the wildernesses ringing Olympic National Park.
Though it’s called the High Hunt, veteran mule deer chaser Mike Quinn has noted that the bucks aren’t always way up in the rafters this time of year.
He and a partner were hiking their way through the closed Chiwawa Unit on their way to the open Clark Unit when they made an interesting observation.
“Attached is a link showing a good example of two bachelor bucks living — this time of the year anyway — on typical brushy mountain-slope habitat above 5,000 feet elevation. We found them almost in the middle of the semiexposed area. Utterly unapproachable. But only about 300 yards from us.
“Once again my hunting partner and I had to roll a rock down the slope in front of us to get these bucks to commit to exposing themselves. Took about ten minutes this time. One minute there is nothing, the next these two are visible … This tactic — rolling rocks down a slope or gently calling on a predator call — has proven itself to me too many times to be a coincidence,” Quinn said.
Next up for Washington deer hunters is the Sept. 30-Oct. 8 muzzleloader season, followed by the general rifle hunt from Oct. 14-24, -27 or -31, depending on species and location.