Wingin' It in the Panhandle
By Jeff Warren
Anybody who knows me can verify that I’m not afraid of making spur of the moment decisions, especially when it comes to my personal hunting. I like seeing the sunrise in new country, and I like taking chances on new areas that, in my mind, have potential. There have been many times that a hunting opportunity would enter my head and within hours my gear would be loaded in the truck and I’d be on the road. It drives my wife crazy! I really enjoy camping with family or friends when they can go with me, but when it comes time to do the hunt I need to be solo. The older I get the more my wife dislikes the solo part. It’s hard to break old habits! The 2012 season was a lot of fun. I had several good hunting opportunities in various states and even took some pretty good animals.
To put an exclamation point on the 2012 season Garth, Robert Hanneman, and I headed for Idaho during the last part of November to hunt Whitetails on public land. We all drove our own vehicles so that we could discover as much new country as possible. Licensing was a simple matter. We stopped at a sporting goods store and purchased our licenses on the spot, and I already had two wolf tags in my pocket from unsuccessful hunts I had done the previous winter. The anticipation of a possible wolf encounter just added to my excitement! I’m not willing to have draw results dictate my hunting opportunities, so over-thecounter and landowner tags enable me to hunt regardless of the state drawing results. If and when I do draw coveted tags, my schedule usually has to be manipulated because of my guaranteed tag hunts that are already lined up.
November in Idaho is no time, in my opinion, to be in a tent camp if there are other options. Motels were the order of the day for hunt headquarters on this excursion. Hot showers, hot meals, and sports on television each night are a great way to recuperate from a hard day of hunting! I make no apologies for enjoying comfortable accommodations when available.
Each day we would leave the motel well before light and head in different directions. It didn’t take long to confirm what I had already guessed — hunting was going to be tough! After the first day a few small bucks and a fair amount of does were observed, and the little guys were rutty, which was a good sign! Day two was similar, as was day three. On day four I decided to glass some timber and powerline cuts on a steep mountain face. Once the morning light improved I was able to pick up a few does feeding and moving about in the clearcut. At about 10:00 am the deer I had been watching drifted into the timber. I felt like there had to be a mature buck somewhere close to those does. With the shortness of the days in November I had to hurry to town to hit a diner for lunch and be back to that spot for some primetime glassing.
After a hot meal I was back in the area, and my watch showed 2:00 pm. Within 20 minutes of mounting the 15’s I picked up a doe that was traveling fast with her tail tucked. I knew what that meant! Swinging my glasses back where she had come from I saw antlers bobbing through the timber. The buck was bird dogging the doe, and he looked pretty good. Thank goodness for the rut! He was a nice 4x5, and I decided I would try and take him back to Utah. I didn’t need to range him as I knew he was less than 300 yards. I settled the crosshair in the heart pocket low behind his shoulder and touched the trigger. Imagine my surprise when all I got was a click! It’s amazing how loud metal to metal sounds can be in the still mountain air. I gently eased the unfired cartridge from my gun, making more metal to metal sounds, and glanced at the primer. The firing pin had slightly dented the primer but not enough, obviously! I racked another shell into the chamber. The buck heard the commotion, and I’m guessing he also saw my movements, but he remained broadside, staring me down. It’s hard to squeeze off a shot when you’re wondering if the gun will even fire. I touched the trigger again and to my relief the gun slugged my shoulder, and the buck slammed to the ground. Happy, but concerned about my gun’s malfunction, I hiked over to recover the buck. He only went about 30" straight down, so recovery was simple! I’ve killed bigger bucks, but I got the same adrenalin rush with this buck as I did with all of the others. It really is addictive!
Once back at the motel I disassembled the bolt and discovered that the spring was dirty enough to not allow the firing pin to drop crisply on the primer. Not a good thing to let happen! In fact, it’s a bit embarrassing. After a quick cleaning we were back in business.
I had so much fun taking this buck that I decided to purchase another license and use my remaining 3 days to hunt my way back to Utah. This would provide me with the chance to take a second buck, but more importantly, learn new areas for future hunts. In Idaho if there are leftover tags from the main draw, residents and non-residents alike can purchase these tags at the non-resident price. There have been leftover tags for the last few years. A quick trip to the local sporting goods store and tag number two was in my wallet. You can’t beat the possibility of taking two bucks on one trip!
I didn’t take another deer, but I had the chance. I let a good 5x5 walk away that was furiously destroying a small pine and working a scrape. He was across a steep canyon when I first glassed him up. This buck was in country I had never set foot in. Looking back I’m thinking I should have added him to my Whitetail collection. Maybe I can find him again next November when I get that spur of the moment itch that I know is coming. Because of this hunting trip I now have several new areas that I need to explore. Idaho is full of them!