Tag Archives: 2014

2014 Bowhunt Part 3 of 3

On Saturday I got back from my third of three bowhunting trips to Southern Utah. Me and my wife drove into the vast unit on Sunday afternoon and began hunting various areas throughout the week. After five days of “running and gunning” with little success, the lessons I’ve learned are many:

  1. Just like all public land hunting units in Utah, the Beaver unit is over-hunted, too easily accessible, and contains very few, if any, real trophy deer. According to all human evidence, the area has been depleted of its greatest resource (mule deer).
  2. The few “big” bucks that have managed to survive to maturity exist only above tree-line (above 10,000 feet), in relatively open areas. They’ve also developed intricate security measures to avoid hunters. In other words, they are mostly unhuntable. With very few opportunities at decent bucks, the odds of success are extremely low, even for the greatest hunters.
  3. The big bucks are only visible in the early morning and only for a short time before they seemingly vaporize without a trace. They also do not reappear until after dark, so your only opportunity is morning.
  4. Because mature bucks live in such inaccessible areas, it requires the hunter to be in extreme physical condition. If you can’t climb 1000 vertical feet before sunrise, you have no chance.
  5. Throughout the week I saw a total of 40 bucks scattered throughout the unit. Of those bucks, only two would be considered “trophy” quality, scoring between 170-180″.
  6. It only takes two days for a hunter to completely blow out an area, even in the biggest valleys. What I mean is, after pursuing deer throughout a valley for two days, a hunter’s scent and presence is made known. In turn, every deer changes its behavior and location, and by the third day there are no more deer.
  7. The largest bucks in the unit repeatedly return to the same food source. Like they say, “Where you find the best feed, you’ll find the best bucks.” After being spooked, however, the bucks do not return, or feed only at night.

That’s all! The general bowhunt is now over, but the extended hunt has begun and will continue until December. My goals have not changed. I will continue to pursue these mystical creatures, but now with greater fervor.

2014 Hunt Photos: 3 of 3

Here are some photos from my third bowhunt of 2014:

My hunt area, mid-September, watching fall roll in.
My hunt area, mid-September, watching fall roll in.
Wild currant berries grow everywhere in this unit. If the fruit wasn't so hairy I would eat some.
Wild currant berries grow everywhere in this unit. If the fruit wasn’t so hairy I would eat some.
September 10, 2014, 7:17 a.m.
September 10, 2014, 7:17 a.m.
Above 10,000 and almost straight down. This is some of the steepest country I've hunted.
Above 10,000 and almost straight down. This is some of the steepest country I’ve hunted.
Looks like a cougar got to this deer before I could.
Looks like a cougar got to this deer before I could.
The scattered buck skeleton I found was picked clean by predators. The antlers measured 26+".
The scattered buck skeleton I found was picked clean by predators. The antlers measured 26+”.
More high country.
More high country.
 I could have shot a small buck every single day, but I'm holding out for a big one that's lived past his prime. My lonely bow got no action on this hunt, just lots of scratches.
I could have shot a small buck every single day, but I’m holding out for a big one that’s lived past his prime. My lonely bow got no action on this hunt, just lots of scratches.
Lichen on the rocks. Might as well enjoy the small stuff.
Lichen on the rocks. Might as well enjoy the small stuff.
Parting shot: I was walking through a meadow at dark without my flashlight when I noticed a dark form in front of me. Suddenly half split off and ran down the mountain. Stupefied, I dug out my flashlight and found 1 of 2 porcupines nervously turned away from me and showing me its bristly backside. Neat little animals!
Parting shot: I was walking through a meadow at dark without my flashlight when I noticed a dark form in front of me. Suddenly half split off and ran down the mountain. Stupefied, I dug out my flashlight and found 1 of 2 porcupines nervously turned away from me and showing me its bristly backside. Neat little animals!

2014 Bowhunt Part 2 of 3

Yesterday I got back from my second of three bowhunting trips to Southern Utah. I hiked in Monday morning and began hunting that evening through Thursday morning. Now that I’ve been EVERYWHERE, the area is no longer new to me. Here are the lessons I’ve learned so far:

  1. After spending seven full days in the Wilderness alone, it has been affirmed that all mysteries of the Universe, all questions about God and the nature of man, and every other question that could possibly arise in modern life can be answered by sitting alone in Nature.
  2. After spending seven full days hiking and exploring concentrically from the epicenter of my chosen area, I can now say that there are no great bucks worth pursuing, or at least not enough concentrations to make future efforts justifiable. Therefore, I will spend the last week of my hunt exploring vast, new areas of my unit.
  3. This week was hot and windy causing the deer to move much less, bed earlier, and unbed later.
  4. The only decent four-point buck I encountered busted me at ten yards when a psycho-squirrel went ballistic behind me and the buck caught my movement. If my arrow/broadhead combination wasn’t $20.00, I would have shot the squirrel.
  5. On the morning of September 2nd I saw a three-point and two-point in velvet. In the evening I saw the same two deer, but both had shed their velvet.

Yesterday morning I busted the biggest 2×3 I’ve ever seen out of a bed around 10:00 a.m. He had a very tall, 25-inch wide rack, and should have been a four-point. Just for fun, and to get a better look at him, I circled down the mountain where he passed by me at only ten yards. Not the caliber of deer I’m after, but fun to watch. Makes me wish I wasn’t a trophy hunter!

2014 Hunt Photos: 2 of 3

When you can’t shoot a buck, you can still shoot photos! Here are some photos from my second bowhunt of 2014:

September 04, 2014, 6:15 a.m.
September 04, 2014, 6:15 a.m.
My main watering spring...ahhhh...fresh mountain water with no man-made toxins.
My main watering spring…ahhhh…fresh mountain water with no man-made toxins.
Moon, conifers, and fall oak-brush.
Moon, conifers, and fall oak-brush.
Moss on the rocks. I love the texture.
Moss on the rocks. I love the texture.
Old-life; new-life.
Old-life; new-life.
Diverse habitat in my hunt area.
Diverse habitat in my hunt area.
3.5" buck track. This is the biggest track I found this year...but where's the deer?
3.5″ buck track. This is the biggest track I found this year…but where’s the deer?
I watched fall colors appear this week.
I watched fall colors appear this week.

2014 Bowhunt Part 1 of 3

On Friday I got back from my first four-day bowhunt in Southern Utah. I hiked in Monday morning and began hunting that evening through Thursday. Since the area is still new to me, I considered this to be a scouting mission for the last two weeks of the season. So far, here are the lessons I’ve learned:

  1. There are about 10 bucks living in the immediate area by camp. All but two are smaller, 2, 3, and 4 points–not mature bucks. The other two, which I did NOT get good visuals on, are average-sized, mature four-points in the 160-inch class range. As far as I’m concerned, these are “settlement bucks,” or bucks I will only shoot if I cannot find any bigger before the season ends.
  2. The surrounding area, which extend for miles in all directions, contains only sparse amounts of deer, mostly does. I also couldn’t find any heavy deer traffic areas, and only a few random large-buck tracks.
  3. All bucks are still in velvet and the younger bucks still have their summer red-coats. The older bucks are beginning to grow out their gray winter coats. Because the bucks are still in velvet, they are living mostly in and around open feeding areas.
  4. Undisturbed, the bucks tend to bed down around 9:30 a.m. On cooler days, they begin feeding early, around 4:30 p.m.
  5. Deer are concentrated and feeding only the East and Southeast facing slopes.
  6. Scent control is impossible. Although I try to diminish my human scent with scent-eliminating laundry and body soap, by the second day of hunting the deer can smell me immediately and bust out of the area. At the same time, I had 5 does and fawns bed down within 10 yards of me on the fourth day when the wind was in my favor.

That’s all I have right now. I’ll be hunting most of next week so stay tuned for part 2.

2014 Hunt Photos: 1 of 3

Here are some photos from my first bowhunt of 2014:

Here’s why deer in my area aren’t centered around water. Many rocks have pits that collect rain water.
Here’s why deer in my area aren’t centered around water. Many rocks have pits that collect rain water.
I found this broken arrowhead near camp.
I found this broken arrowhead near camp.
A small stream running through an open meadow.
A small stream running through an open meadow.
Water springing out of the rocks.
Water springing out of the rocks.
One of three horned toads I ran into. They are very unafraid of people and gentle to handle. Probably good eating in a pinch...
One of three horned toads I ran into. They are very unafraid of people and gentle to handle. Probably good eating in a pinch…
Inside my tent, and a boring photo from a camera test.
Inside my tent, and a boring photo from a camera test.
Elderberries grow in great abundance in my area. I eat hundreds a day to stay hydrated. Also a good source of fiber.
Elderberries grow in great abundance in my area. I eat hundreds a day to stay hydrated. Also a good source of fiber.
When I came home this buck was wandering through my yard. Notice the archery target behind its head!
When I came home this buck was wandering through my yard. Notice the archery target behind its head!

Pre-hunt Meditation

DT2

Bowhunting success for general archery deer in Utah is about 20%. That’s about double what it was 20 years ago, mostly due to better equipment. Still, the average bowhunter is looking to harvest a deer only once every five years. That’s bleak!

Zenbowhunter.com is dedicated to raising those numbers for people looking to expand their outdoor knowledge and shooting skills.

Bowhunting success hinges upon five factors:

1. Luck: The truth is most big bucks are stumbled upon by chance, not skill. By improving your hunting skills, you also increase your luck.

2. Equipment: Having precision weaponry, optics, and gear certainly helps tightens your arrow groupings and reduces the chances of error. But it doesn’t contribute anything to actual hunting technique or woodscraft. These factors come through experience and diligent study.

3. Technique: This is the actual hunting part: learning everything about your prey, then locating it, and finally executing a successful stalk. Humans are as much a part of nature as the deer are, so the goal is to reconnect with your natural predatory instincts and use it to your advantage.

4. Information: Learning your area through scouting, studying maps, and collecting data from your state’s wildlife division will provide an outline of what you can expect to see in your area.

5. The Unknown: This is what separates the consistently successful hunters from the rest. The great “unknown” is what Zen Hunting is all about; aka, turning the unknown into the known. You might call it “advanced hunting techniques” but it’s really just the natural process of human development, or Zen enlightenment. The purpose of Zen is to achieve clarity and ultimate truths through meditation, and then finally harness greater powers over the elements by expanding your consciousness.

The bowhunt is only a week away! As with most years, I won’t be hunting the opener. By holding off for a couple weeks I can avoid the hunting pressure and the extreme August heat. In the meantime I’ll remain in a state of pre-hunt meditation. I will go about my work and other responsibilities in a seemingly normal way, but my consciousness is consumed by hunting; in my mind I’m already in the mountains. Phones ring, people talk, distractions arise, but nothing can assuage my focus.

Pre-hunt mediation can be a lot harder to achieve in this modern era, mainly due to constant distractions. Most people are just too busy and/or too distracted to relax and meditate. Between work, texts, emails, family, and the myriad of other responsibilities, we can’t seem to get in the zone. Sure, we’re excited about the upcoming hunt, but we can’t really break free from the busy life until we pull out of the driveway and head for the hills. It will then take at least a few days of hard hunting to get into the rhythm of nature. By then, the hunt could be over! Pre-hunt mediation might sound like a bunch of hippie-hogwash, but it has worked for me for many years.

If you’ve stuck with me this far, then you’re in luck. I’m going to share a few techniques for getting into the rhythm of nature:

  • Spend some time in nature alone. Drive to the mountains and take a short hike. Spend some time sitting near water, trees, etc. Just sit and listen. Take some photos. Taking pictures forces you to look for beauty in nature, which in turn helps you appreciate and connect with it.
  • Watch hunting videos and read hunting books and magazines. By observing how animals act and react to other hunters, it will help you prepare for similar encounters. It will also get you into the hunting mindset before the upcoming own hunt.
  • Study topo maps of your hunting area. Look at places you’ve had success before, and even places where you’ve failed. What are the differences? Can you find similar places on the map? Mark places where you’ve seen big bucks in the past. Chances are there will be more. Make a skeleton plan of your hunt; where will you be hunting on opening morning, and then where will you go from there?
  • Shoot daily. Even if you already shoot daily, do it differently. Instead of just seeing your same old target, make up scenarios. Before you draw the bow, imagine a deer feeding along. Take a second to let the scenario play out. The deer is behind cover, steps forward and looks the other way. Now shoot. On the next arrow imagine an elk, a bear, a rabbit, whatever. Just make it more realistic. Brain studies show that the subconscious mind has a hard time distinguishing between reality and make-believe. This exercise will put you into the hunter mindset. Plus it’s fun.

These are just a few of the methods I use to get into the spirit of the hunt before I set foot in the woods. Establishing the hunter mindset ahead of time will contribute more to success than anything else you do.

The few hunters who have consistent success are the ones who don’t view bowhunting as a hobby or a sport, but a lifestyle. Try to make that commitment in yourself, set a goal, and make hunting a way of life. The numbers say your odds are 1-in-5, but you can beat the odds by putting forth a little extra effort. I truly believe that success in bowhunting is a decision, not luck.