2014 early archery deer/bear hunt

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My 2014 early archery deer/bear hunt started back in March.  This is when I went out to place a trail camera in a very promising spot that I had found the previous season in hopes of seeing what was moving through the area.  The spot did not disappoint, as I was greeted with thousands of pictures of deer, elk, and bear over the next few months.  My scouting trips would happen every 3 weeks or so and consisted of checking my camera, lots of hiking, shed hunting, and glassing.  The more and more pictures I got of these deer, the more excited I got for the opener on August 22nd.20140910_085026[1]

The plan was to leave early August 20th, get camp set up, and do some last minute scouting the next few days before the opener on the 22nd.  Shortly before I left for my trip I started to have some stomach issues.  I didn’t think much of it and ended up just picking up some Tums and Pepto on my way up to my spot.  The pains in my stomach got worse and worse.  It got to the point where I didn’t even really want to be there!  Despite the pains I made my way over to one of my glassing points to kill some time.  30 minutes into this I was just miserable and could not focus on trying to spot game.  As I made my way back to my camp I ended up walking up on a nice 3×1 feeding in a field not 100 yards from my camp!  I got to 50 yards and hid below the grass line.  Suddenly, my stomach pains were a thing of the past.  At least for the moment.  I watched the deer for a bit and eventually he meandered off on his way.  There are those stomach pains again.

The next couple of hours would prove to be dreadful as my stomach pains got worse.  After waking up from a disappointing nap, I was blessed with the arrival of my wife.  She decided to leave work early that day to come up and make sure I was doing ok with my stomach issues.  As much as I didn’t like the idea of going to a doctor, I elected it was probably the best decision if I wanted to have anything resembling a good hunt, so off we went.

After a long and miserable wait at the urgent care, we were informed that I either had acid reflux or an ulcer.  The timing on this couldn’t have been any worse.  All of the planning and anticipation to be welcomed by the possibility of my hunt being ruined.  The doctor told us that if my pains got worse after taking the medicine, that I would need to go to the hospital.  I was extremely frustrated to say the least.  We picked up my prescription and headed back up to my camp.  As the hunting gods would have it, I actually felt a ton better once the medication kicked in.  The night brought an actual good night of sleep that was well needed.  My wife ended up staying with me that night, just in case I did in fact have to be driven to the hospital.

Morning came and so did my dad and brother, excited for the opener the following day.  Once they arrived, my wife headed home with the reassurance that I was in good hands.  Things were starting to look up with my stomach and I felt that I might actually get to do some scouting that day.  We still had one camera to check as well.  While heading in to check that camera, it started to rain and it didn’t stop for hours.  Up until the famous monsoon season in Arizona, my cameras were absolutely loaded with game.  As the monsoon season progressed, my trail camera pictures dwindled.  This was very discouraging.  All of the months and months of scouting that area out to find out when the actual season opens, everything is different.  That’s hunting though.  Even though disappointment  was hard to ignore, I couldn’t help but be optimistic about opening day.

3:45 a.m. came quicker than I thought the next morning.  We ate a quick bite, grabbed our gear, and headed out.  My dad and brother would be hunting in a blind roughly 500-600 yards from where I had my blind built, so we parted ways.  On my way down to my spot it was perfect out.  A nice, cool, and calm morning after the long rain the day before.  About halfway to my blind I noticed something wrong with my bow!  It appeared that my rest got thrown off somehow!  Guess who forgot their wrenches back at camp?  That’s right!  Opening morning found me going back to camp to adjust my rest, test it out, and rush back down into my hunting area.  Not a good start to the hunt.

IMG_1498[1]Opening day did not turn out how I thought it would.  I didn’t see anything the whole day in my blind.  Something did try and walk up behind me, but guess which way the wind was blowing?  Whatever it was got out of there in a hurry once the wind carried my scent right to them.  That night I got back to camp and my dad and brother weren’t there.  They are usually always back before me.  It wasn’t long before I saw a couple of headlamps heading my way through the darkness.  Turns out that on their way back to camp, they ended up spotting a very nice coues buck right in the middle of feeding.  The buck was just 150 yards from them.  They quickly closed the gap to 70 yards at which point my brother drew back and let an arrow fly.  Unfortunately, he clean missed this Pope and Young coues buck.  Once again, that’s hunting.

The next 4 days were extremely slow.  I was so baffled.  Have you ever heard the old saying, “Don’t ever think that you have it all sewn up”?  That was weighing pretty heavy on me at this point in the hunt.  One of my last days in the blind actually turned out to be a very special one though.  Ever since I was a kid I have had a deep love for reptiles and just animals in general.  My absolute favorite species of snake is the Arizona Mountain Kingsnake.  I have been trying to find one of these for years and years with not an ounce of luck.  On a quiet afternoon in the blind, nature called and I was hit with an image that will live with me forever.  Just 2 feet behind my blind was an Arizona Mountain Kingsnake!  What are the odds that I would find this special animal that has eluded me for so many years in this special place where most of my hunting has been taking place?  I always said that if I ever found one of those, it was coming home with me.  That idea left my mind pretty quickly once I observed what this snake was doing.  Turns out he was doing the same thing that I was doing.  We were both hunting in the same place.  It was then when I wished my little serpent friend luck on his hunt and I went back to mine.

It was our last morning of hunting.  The plan was to get up high and glass for bears and deer in an area that we hadn’t touched yet.  About halfway into the morning, a black figure is spotted walking into some brush.  We waited.  Nothing.  I did have a predator call with me, so I got that out and started singing the sound of death in hopes of luring the bear back out from wherever he was.  Instead, something slipped in behind us and answered back to the predator call!  With my bow in hand I made my way towards the noise.  Something was moving just below the grassline about 30 yards in front of me.  Ears.  I see ears.  I still couldn’t tell what this was, so I didn’t shoot.  I later found out that it was in fact a fox coming to the call.  Another hour or so went by without seeing a thing.  Just as we were getting ready to grab our gear and head back to camp, a beautiful sow and cubs walked out on the opposite hillside of us.  Even though it was a sow and cubs, it was a strangely settling close to what proved to be a very slow hunt.

If you asked me how this hunt went, I might laugh, and then presume to flood your brain with a ton of excuses on why it just didn’t work out for us on this one.  Probably the single most important thing though, is that if you think you have these animals figured out, think again.  They continue to surprise me every time I go out.  With these surprises comes wisdom though.  Wisdom that I will be able to use for as long as I can hunt.  The next thing would be, if you don’t have the wind, you don’t have anything.  It has been said many times that you can fool their eyes and you can fool their ears, but you will never fool their nose.  The journey continues…

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