The Queens River Canyon Buck

The Queens River Canyon Buck

2:00am September 19, 1999. I had driven too the trail head at the Queens River on the West side of the Sawtooth Wilderness the afternoon prior. I got out of my tack room on the front of my trails west five horse gooseneck and stood in the moonlight, there would be no horses this time out, just me and the silence which engulfs me in the darkness. Already done with my meal of berries and hemp seeds, I strung my back pack over my shoulders locked up the trailer and picked up my bow and quiver slung them around the top of the pack and started down the small grade too the bridge where I would cross the Queens and head east up the Big Queens for the hunt of the buck I had glassed in the days leading too this fifth attempt too bag him.

I love the roar of the river at this bridge and the smells of this place as I make my way too the intersection and those long dark shadows of night as I walk briskley along the curving path. It is a three mile walk too the spot where I leave this forest trail and begin my climb too the upper basin and the lakes where I shall make my coyote camp and start the hunt for my prey. The Yellow pine stand tall and looming here and it is dark with arrows of light showing me my way. I have done this trail many times and know it well.

2:45am I reach the game trail used by does most likely and turn off too my climb, I think of that climb in my mind and increase my speed a bit with great hunger for this journey which is always fantastic. I’m excited at the prospect of the hike and what scenes will be revealed to me in the coming hours and especially in that first light of dawn. The mountain will be crawling with elk and deer, and most likely a bear as well. Thats the beauty of early morning hikes, you see the inhabitants of the jungle, heading from water and feed too their day beds. I have chosen too bow hunt this area, even though it is open for rifle at this time. I want too take my fourth 200″ deer with arrow.

Ive had many dances with this buck over a three year try at him, He has bested me at every attempt. I’ve patterned him and studied him and his ways, his drinking holes, his favorite pastures and his beds. I have set up on him four previous times only too be utterly out smarted each time. Twice I could hear him walking only yards from me and I had no shot, he had cleverly waited till my position was just right and then he moved and made his escape. I just snickered and planned my next try. He is a wiley old buck, five by five with three cheaters and 34-36 outside width. I noticed while glassing him he has a broken ear, crushed in a fight with a challenger over does in the rut period no doubt. My thoughts of him consume me as I climb thru the buck brush bitter brush sage and tall pines.

3:35am Im moving up well, the moon is hidden from me now by the mountain Im on, thousand foot gray cliffs loom off too my left as I make my way to the narrow secret channel where I slip into the secret hidden basins and groves where my small camp awaits me, the elevation gain is 3080′ft from the trail head to the camp where I will find my tent and other supplies Ive cached there, boxes strung in the tree too keep my bear buddy’s honest while Im away. While climbing I think of the time I shared this lonely spot with my sweetie and while camped near here in another draw a 300 pound black bear came to visit us around 1:00am that time. I was awake and smelled him, so I watched for him in the rays of moonlight and pointed him out for her. He did his circle of us sniffing the breeze and then went on his way too some unknown to us berrie patch or rotten log. Had I known where his cache was I would of snuck into it and ate it myself because Im like him, hungry all the time.

Climbing in the dark has its moments once in awhile, when you stumble and go down you really feel like an expert woodsman about then. My problem is I like too look up to much at those shadows of the trees and rock outlines and you can see the sky line of the mountain top touching those brilliant stars and clusters of stars which are encredible too see from way up here. I use my head lamp very little, I hate too give away my position on the mountain too critters and such. I like the shadows too with rays of moonlight cutting through those huge clumps of dry moss hanging from the pines along this part of the Sawtooths, kinda eerie and I shiver a little. I take off again concerning myself with the task at hand of reaching the summit on time so as too glass the canyon across from camp and see if old mossyhorns is around and then plan my mid-day stalk on his bed and set up on the usual watering hole he hits early in the afternoon. Maybe my arrow finally finds his heart this trip….I quiken my pace in anticipation of the events which shall unfold as the approaching summit appears vaguely ahead. And I wonder who will win this coming day and days challenges which are ahead. Will he be mine, or will he defeat me again and rule the mountain he lives on.

5:30am I reach the summit and walk thru the opening of it cutting right and stepping into the dark timber switching on my lamp I see the small stack of rocks I use too mark my location, I then find the game trail I use too cross thru this Timber and walk along sidehill as I head for my opening too another world not often touched by humans, those basins and groves you wouldnt guess were there had you not stepped into them. Another 1040′ elevation gain too go and I will be close too camp, I cut across a shale slide area and timber combined about 600 yards, I look at the watch and Im on time, I sit down and wait for light, never know what the hunting will be like between my location and the tent hidden away in the far edges of my hidden canyon and before dropping into camp I need to glass the canyon which is a ridge over from my hideout and the home of Wally. Once I spot him I will bed him down and then plan a strategy for the day.

6:30am Im at 8000′ elevation the sky is changing and the mountains though visible do not yet have that golden touch brushing their tips yet, but I can see fine and start across the last half mile of shale and timbered slopes too my secret entrance into my little hide away, I move slow and quiet watching all around me and listening, I test the the air with my nose and detect the faint scent of elk some where below me, sure enough a small group of cows is walking below me and against me about 150 yards away. I watch them for a moment and then continue to my spot,I slip thru the narrow canyon opening hidden by timber and turn off to the right over too the ridge top. I need too watch a certain couple of buck pastures just over the next ridge from me so I move along, once too my post on this ridge I drop the pack and scoop out my spotting scope and head down the ridge too sit and set up and look for Wally. I expect too see him as he has been here all summer and I last watched him 4 days ago from this location.

The peaks around me turn gold, the air is so crisp and clean, I suck in a deep lungfull of the life it gives and taste it on my tongue, my teeth hurt with the cold and I close my mouth and warm them. Birds are fluttering about and singing a bit, a fox walks past me about 35 yards away and watches me out the corner of his eye, a young billie is walking down the ridge Im on and he gets too me and steps around me from about ten yards and goes along the way I just came, he had blue eyes and glared at me as he walked past. Maybe he knows me from years gone past and stories handed down thru goat lore from his grandfather whom warned him of me whom as a young lad helped my grandfather pack a goat off this rock many moons ago. Ive never forgot those blue eyes glaring at me from 30′ away though, maybe he is haunting me.

I find some deer while glassing a group of bucks still in shade along an old slide browsing, I can not make them out yet. Then opposite this group I find him, alone working thru the jackpine and rocks away from them and slightly above them, he is heading too his favorite bed. Wait, he is not alone, another buck Ive not seen before is hanging by him. The two bucks mosey along the avalanche shute and the sun busts them finally and this is the signal for them too bed down. So here I go again. I watch them another ten minutes, then I back out of my natural blind Ive hidden behind and slip down and pick my pack off the ground and move over to a timber patch and hike too the bottom of the canyon under the deer. Im two finger ridges to their west, I adjust my pack, and I start up too the spring some 400 yards above me and 300 yards west of them.

I get to my position and sit down, Ive worked this out in previous visits, Ive already fired my bow here several times, got the yards down. Im 25 yards off the path too the spring, this ole mossy horned toad has walked across here before, only when Im here he manages to know it. I got my handmade recurve off the pack, set my quiver next to me, layed one arrow out for my hand, layed the pack behind me, pulled out a homemade hemp bar with fruit chunks and other nuts stuck in it. drank from my bottle and munch on the bar, and waited, then frosty shows up, my pal the Chipmonk, I toss him a couple raw walnuts from my pouch, rent in hand he heads off too his bank to stash his take for selling out Wally. I stretch out and start too doze off. While lying there a flock of snow geese flys overhead floating south, I can hear them chatting. I sleep.

8:44am I get about 30 minutes of shut eye, Im laying there admiring all that is around me, its cool up here, I can see the corner of the lake too my east, I will walk by it on my way over to the next canyon which I crossed hours ago to get here. I see some goats walking across the ridge opposite me so I get out my 10×28s and watch them, I could take a goat up here with ease, but I can not seem too get the tag awarded to me. Maybe this year I get it and I get my once in a life time Billie, who knows. I here a chink chink behind me up on the trail too the spring, I hold my breath, my heart pounds in my chest, is this it, is he coming this way, did I trick him, silence I knock my arrow and wait, Im still, silence, nothing. the blood is roaring in my ears, my heart is pounding away at my rib cage, that buck must hear it, he knows Im here thats why he stopped on the trail. Chink, click…..Its him….he is in the opening…..he stopped….he looks towards my location….damn…..he turns his head away from me and looks behind himself, click…his tail flickers….I let my arrow loose and it drives thru him, he hunches up and bucks, then runs forward….I hear the other buck turn and run.

I wait for what seems an eternity, 15 minutes, I step up thru the slot in the jackpine in which I made the shot, step onto the trail. I walk west 57 yards, the buck is lying on the path, just before the drink he was after. I walk too him, this is not my buck. He is 7×8 33,” Ole mossy horn did me again, but he gave me his cousin, I should have let this buck walk past me and then Ole Mossy Wally may have come along. Who knows. I dressed out, boned out, caped out the buck. Packed him up on my frame and headed off too camp. I had too go back later in the day for the horns and cape. That evening I jerked a nice brooky from the lake with a mosquito fly and had him for supper. That ole five by five watched me walk off again.

I stayed the full five days as intended, caught a few fish, took some grouse, watched a Wolverine screwing off across the lake from me, The buck is hanging here on my office wall, He is the Queens River Buck. I thanked him that morning for giving himself too me, that is the Lakota lesson taught me by Lame deer seeker of visions, harvest them but thank them, because their life nourishes mine. And that blue eyed goat still bugs me…… Think I will skip hunting him again….course big brother will not give me the tag. Next trip was with horses, maybe I share that tale too……who knows.

An old hunter looks back.

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