What a fun year!! The Idaho Legislature passed a law allowing 10 year old kids to hunt big game. This was good news for Isaac! In August he passed his Hunters Safety class (along with his friend, whose name is Hunter).
The hunting began on Columbus Day. I had the day off work and we decided to go south on I-84 and hunt near Sublett Reservoir. Our thought was that if we go away from the bigger cities, we would have a better chance to get away from the crowds in the mountains. This did not really prove to be effective as there was a camp trailer and 4 wheelers in almost every drainage.
First thing in the morning we drove up a little dirt road heading north just before reaching Sublett Reservoir. We saw a few deer running a long ways away at first light, but they were so far and already spooked, so we just watched them go. We stopped on top and decided to walk for a while, hoping to run into something. Earlier that week we got a really good deal at Costco on a couple of High Sierra Hydration backpacks ($15 each, regularly $60!). They proved to be worth the money. We stayed on the south side of the ridge for a while and then scooted over to the north side. We spotted what appeared to be a lone doe walking through the tall brush. Isaac decided to pass on her since it was our first morning and he was hoping to find something with antlers. We walked around the hillside to another drainage to the east and couldn't find any deer there. We decided to go back to the doe and see if she had any friends we hadn't seen. As we topped the ridge about 100 yards from her, she and her two fawns took off across the hills. They covered about 3/4 mile in view, and didn't kick up a single other deer. We went back over the hill and a little farther but couldn't find any more deer so we headed back to the truck. After retracing our steps later on Google Earth, we walked about 2.4 miles that morning. It was a good hike and a fun start.
The afternoon was uneventful as we drove around looking for a place to go that evening. We found a nice little drainage and hiked up the bottom. After about 1/4 - 1/2 mile we hiked up on top of a little ridge in the middle of a big drainage. We decided it was a good vantage point and that we would spend the balance of the hunting light waiting for the deer to come out. It was a really pleasant time hanging out as father and son as we sat there in that beautiful area. We actually took a little video that ended up being pretty funny. Just after the sun set, we decided it was time to head back and hope we find a deer on the way back to the truck in the light we had left. We stood up and hiked only about 30 feet up to the top of the ridge and WOW, there was 3 does right across the drainage about 150 yards away. They had sneaked out of the trees behind us. They didn't know we were there, and Isaac decided he was ready to shoot a doe. Isaac and I learned a little from the next 30 seconds. He wanted to shoot from a sitting position. I thought he would do better from prone, and also thought it might be easier to get set up without spooking the deer. He sat down and was about to take a shot. I told him to lay down and shoot prone. He crawled back and tried to lay down but couldn't get comfortable so he sat up again. As this all happened, the deer spotted us and started to leave. The big doe would go about 20 yards and then stop. Each time she would stop, Isaac would get ready and then she'd move again. Finally at about 180 yards she stopped for a while but just as she did, the other two deer stopped right in front of her. I told him not to shoot and then they bounced over the hill. I felt bad and Isaac was pretty upset that we had blown the chance. On the way back to the truck we spotted two other does, but they were pretty far to be shooting at in low light, so we decided to pass. Again, it was sad. Despite all the sadness, it was a really fun day with some excitement and great memories.
For our second hunting expedition we decided to try up past Fish Creek Reservoir near Iron Mine. We left on a Wednesday afternoon and spent the night on the mountain. When we got to the Iron Mine drainage, there were already two trucks parked there, so we decided not to follow them. We drove all the way up to the summit, but didn't see any deer (except a few that were on private ground). We camped on the National Forest and had a good time eating chili and top ramen. Isaac slept in the cab of my little red Ford Ranger and I slept in the bed. It only rained on me a little :). In the morning we decided to go up Long Canyon, just opposite of Iron Mine. We hike almost 3 miles that morning and could only turn up one cow moose. It was cool to see her, but she was not what we were hoping to see. Again, we saw some really cool country and had a really fun time, but didn't find any deer. On the way home, we stopped in Shoshone at the Snack Bar and bought Isaac some lunch and a "medium" ice cream cone that was about the size of his head. It was awesome! We both loved it!
Our third and last expedition was an evening hunt. We decided to try Camp Creek Drive just to the west of Moonstone Mountain. On our way there, directly south of Moonstone we spotted a decent buck (probably 3 1/2 years old) all by himself out on the flat below the mountain. The law in Idaho says that if the land is not posted (or not cultivated) it is fair game to hunt on, even if it is private land. We could not see any "no hunting" or "no trespassing" signs, so we decided to try to put a stalk on him. As we were getting out of the truck, an Idaho Fish and Game officer stopped and talked to us. I recognized him because my office is in the back of the Fish and Game building in Jerome. I told him I was glad he stopped, because I wasn't sure if it was OK. He said he wasn't sure either. He got back in his truck and drove up and down the road looking for no trespassing signs as we were putting our stuff together. While this was happening, the buck was making his way towards us fairly quickly. We walked down the fence line and just as we were getting within range, the officer pulled up and gave me the thumbs down. I was just lifting Isaac over the fence so he could get set up and shoot. The officer said that the land was "not posted legally, but it was posted". He found two old, faded no trespassing signs about 1/2 - 3/4 mile in each direction (they are supposed to be every 660'). He also said that if it was any other land owner, he would have given us the go ahead, but he knows that land owner and he wouldn't like it. We had to stand there and watch as the buck bounded off, back to where he came from. We then got back on the road and drove up Camp Creek Drive. We took off on a road to the right about 8 miles up the road, but again didn't see any deer. I couldn't believe that we couldn't even find a doe. On the way out, just at the last moment of light we saw a truck on the side of the road and I noticed that there were 3 people in the bottom of the drainage. We stopped and asked if they had gotten one, and they had. We went down to take a look. It was a grandpa, dad and son. The son (13) had shot his first deer and it was a pretty nice buck. They had spotted it from the road and the son got out and shot it. He was pretty excited and the other two were also pleased. We helped them pull it the 70 yards up to the road and they seemed grateful for the help. It was fun for us to get to play a small part and see their nice buck.
That was all the hunting we were able to do this year. Despite the empty freezer, it was a lot of fun.
We owe a big "Thank You" this year to two people. Out of the goodness of his heart, a good friend from my mission named Danny did us a huge favor. He provided a large portion of the gas for our trips this year, making these hunts possible. Thank you Danny. Uncle Jeff was nice enough to loan Isaac his rifle for the year. Thank you Jeff. We are very grateful to both of you for your thoughtfulness and kindness! You helped create a lot of really fun memories for us this year, and a great start to many years of hunting to come. Isaac and I are both excited to go again next year!