What better time to head off for the September high buck hunt than during one of the wettest Septembers in recent history?
That might not have been Jason Brooks’ original plan, but given the chance to be among the first rifle-toting Washingtonians to take a crack at filling their deer tag, the Tacoma-area writer went with it.
This past weekend he met up with fellow Northwest sportsmen Chad and Kyle Hurst on a high ridge in the Glacier Peak Wilderness in Chelan County — just as the storms that dumped 2-plus inches of rain in the lowlands moved in.
Now, if you’ve ever done any hunting/hiking/driving/camping in the mountains in the rain, you know that clouds sure make it tough to see anything and difficult to move around in. But the crew gave it a go, and it’s a good thing they did too.
Here’s Brooks’ tale and pics:
I got the kids to school and hit the road…till I got to the top of Snoqualmie pass, where the bright orange signs saying “Road Construction Next 5 Miles” became my reading material for the next 45 minutes. After the set back I headed to the trailhead, still hoping to beat the storm coming.
As I crested the ridge, the clouds moved in. I was able to get my tent up and rain fly on before I got too soaked, but that was the last time I was dry until I got back to my truck two days later.
Chad and Kyle made it just as my tent went up and we began looking for firewood. Nothing to soaked yet, and soon we were in our high hunt “hunting camp” for another year.
The next morning we woke to fog and rain showers. We headed for a far ridge, glassing the slopes along the way.
After climbing up to the ridge line, we settled in and waited for the windows of opportunity to glass the slopes and open faces for feeding deer or bears. The sun breaks kept coming, teasing us with warmth and hope of an afternoon hunt.
Chad couldn’t sit still, trying to pierce the fog with his binoc’s as we knew there was deer in the basin below.
Though it was warm out, we decided to build a fire to dry out and to keep us occupied waiting for the sun to come out, if it ever would.
It’s amazing that wood can become water soaked and how it becomes a game to build the fire.
Finally, after 4 hours sitting on the ridge, the fog lifted and the sun shone just for a few minutes. In that time I located the only deer we would see the entire day. A nice 4 point stood up out of his bed about a mile away. I watched him shake the water off, and then lay back down. In the few seconds that he stood up to stretch he made the mistake of his lifetime.
It took us an hour and forty minutes to close the distance to the buck. We had to side hill across the top of a small basin, and learned just how slick side hilling on wet heather can be. I fell a few times, and at one point I just decided to slid down the slope instead of fighting my way back to my feet. We closed to about 500 yards of the deer in his bed, never actually getting to see it since our small glimpse, but knowing he was in his summer mode of lying around, looking down on danger, he just had to be there. We were hoping to make it to a small line of timber just before the meadow where the deer was bedded on a small ridgeline. The only thing between us and the timberline was a spring. It was about 20 yards wide, and 100 yards long, with the ground seeping water and rocks covered with peat moss. It made for quiet walking, until I slipped again, this time sliding down the slope for about 40 feet. Once I finally stopped I stood up, completely covered in mud. My rifle’s action was open and stuck. After trying to clean out the mud and moss I finally got it to close. We snuck through the tree line and I again spotted the buck. This time he was up and looking at us, wondering what was causing all that ruckus!
He was 220 yards, and I thought, “chip shot”, as the crosshairs settled on his front shoulder. But at the shot, he looked back, and then started into the clearing in front of us. Chad followed up my miss and put his new .270 to use. Kyle never saw the deer until the shooting started, following his brother Chad, and I on blind faith that there was a buck waiting for us at the end of the stalk. Thanks to Chad it was another successful year.
Then the work began, hoping to get the deer broke down and packed up before the fog rolled back in. We made mental notes on where the saddle was in the ridgeline and new camp was a longs way off.
We made it back to camp just after 9:30 PM, about 6 hours after Chad killed the deer. My GPS said it was 2.98 miles from deer to camp, but the rain and fog made the trip out that much harder.
The next morning we woke to fog, but it was clearing nicely.
Just as we cleared the ridge above camp, Chad spotted a nice chocolate bear.
Kyle decided to go after the bear, and if he got it, Chad and I would keep heading out to the trucks, dump our gear and meat and head back in with empty packs. Either it was good luck or bad luck, but Kyle couldn’t locate the bear after closing the distance (either way, luck was on our side, as I was tired!)
On the way out I came to a grove of trees that caught my eye, and was one last reminder why I like the high hunt so much, the scenery.
On the way home I stopped off in a clearing and shot my rifle. It was 10 inches high at 100 yards. I guess that fall is to blame, at least that is what I am believing.
Well, I still have my multi-season deer tag with the muzzleloader season starting next week. But I might just wait until the general season opener, as I hear the Coho are starting to show up and after this weekend’s trip of just over a total of 12 miles on the boots, all while soaked in rain, I might just let my feet rest for a while and stretch my arms rowing the drift boat. After all, the rain brings in the fish!