When it comes to hunting mule deer, I am cursed. I have taken several shots at mule deer over the past few years and have yet to connect. Today, on the last day of the muzzleloader season in Idaho, my curse remains.
The snow line stretched down to about 6000 feet, which is where I knew the deer were hanging out. The unseasonably warm weather had not pushed deer down into the canyons and valleys where they traditionally rut, and where I saw most hunters. I was alone, walking along the rim of the canyon when I cut some fairly fresh deer tracks. I followed them for about half a mile, stumbling through thickets and finally into an open field of sage. The old snow crunched under my Muck boots as I slowly made my way along the edge of the aspens, following the deer tracks religiously. Perhaps too religiously. My myopic focus on the tracks caused me to ignore everything around me, and when I heard the snort, it was too late. I bumped two deer. No worries, time to find more tracks.
I circled the stand of aspens and cut a mess of deer tracks which ambled down a snow covered ATV trail. I walked down the trail, this time keeping my head up and using my Leupold binos to glass the trail ahead. After twenty minutes of tracking, the trail opened up into another field of sage. If the deer were still nearby, they would likely be in or near that field. Slowly, I eased my way closer, doing my best to not crunch the snow too loudly.
Off to my left, a deer snorted in the thick tangle of aspen and underbrush. I took a knee and cocked the hammer back on my CVA muzzleloader. A split second later, I saw a doe dash in front me, about 75 yards away, followed by another and another. I aimed and fired, but penetrated only air. The curse remained.
Honestly, I was not too disappointed. I had seen deer and even taken a shot, which is more than most hunters in this unit could claim. The warm November kept the deer high and I imagine they were rutting at night. Coupled with a heavy winter kill, most hunters are reporting low numbers of deer. Up until today, I had actually seen more moose in the unit than deer.
So much for 2017. There is always 2018.