The heights were crowded and smokey, but some High Buck hunters came down with nice muleys as Washington’s early rifle season kicked off.
Dale Wick at Icicle Outfitters in Leavenworth reports that one party of four, including hardcore High Buck hunter Stan Weeks, all tagged out after spotting more than a dozen legal bucks the day before the Sept. 15-25 season began.
But he confirmed that with closures due to the Diamond Creek, Jolly Mountain and Jack Creek Fires, as well as uncleared trails in the recently reopened upper Entiat, more hunters were crowded into portions of the Henry M. Jackson, northern Alpine Lakes and southern Glacier Peak Wildernesses his company runs drop camps in.
Freelance hunters had mixed results. Mike Quinn said that before recent storms rolled in, bucks had been bedding before daylight and not risking exposing themselves till after dark.
“We had to roll a couple of large rocks down the slope we were covering, and lightly blow on a predator call to get the bucks curious about what was occurring in their bedroom/kitchen,” said Quinn. “It worked. Fifteen minutes after the last stone rolled down the hill two four-points came slinkin’ out of their bedding sanctuary and the larger buck paid the ultimate price for Ken Graham. We let the other four-point go as he was probably only 2 1/2 years old and small.”
Writing on The Outdoor Line’s blog, Jason Brooks reported a couple chances lost after other hunters fired on bucks.
Chase Gunnell was solo hunting 6 miles up a trail in falling snow when he spotted a nice four-point in a burned area, taking his first buck in his third year participating in the historic High Hunt.
“Between the crowds of hunters and the weather, the deer seemed to be less active in the open alpine slopes and meadows compared to past years, and what I saw scouting just a few weeks ago,” he reported.
Like Quinn and Graham, Gunnell had to switch up tactics to succeed.
“After a few fruitless early mornings and evenings glassing the basins, I got my buck still hunting meticulously through some steep timber where I figured they were bedding. Felt more like a general season strategy than the usual spot and stalk high hunt approach, but it paid off,” he noted.
The High Hunt has been around more than 50 years and is open in select North Cascades and Olympic Peninsula wilderness areas, as well as the Lake Chelan National Recreation ARea.
This week’s snowier, colder weather could help hunters out for the second and final weekend. Already it’s led to the reopening of Harts Pass Road and portions of the western, southeastern and eastern sides of the Pasayten Wilderness due to moderating fire behavior. For more, see Inciweb.
“Success rates and hunting opportunity in Washington may not compare with some other Western states, but the chance to put your time in and hunt public land as truly wild and rugged as what we have here is something worth savoring,” says Gunnell. “I know I was relishing it the entire brutal pack out, and will be for many meals and stories to come.”