Well I did a solo archery hunt here in Idaho (not in my outfitting area) about a month ago, I met some pretty cool guys from Texas down there and a couple of them are on THF so I thought I would post something about my hunt on here. I am going to tell about the details of the entire trip, the reason I am typing all this about the ground work that went in to just getting to camp and set up is not to bore you readers it is just to help those who have never done this type of hunt get an idea of what an undertaking it is, especially if you plan on doing it alone. The year before I had done the same hunt with nothing more than a tent and a backpack, I decided after that hunt that a motorcycle and a camp trailer would be in order if I ever did that hunt again since I nearly walked myself to death and was in desperate need of a shower by about the third day of the hunt. This post would be much better if I had been able to get the pictures I transferred from phone to upload properly but I hope you enjoy it though and it helps you understand the amount of time and logistics it takes to pull off a solo hunt in the back country.
I left home 2 days before season opened but as I was checking the air pressure in the tires on my camper I noticed that a small block of tread had come off one tire, upon further inspection I decided it would be best to replace all 4 tires. It was a Sunday morning so I was pretty lucky that the local Wal-Mart tire center had 4 tires in stock, unfortunately it is 30 miles in the opposite direction of where I was headed. After the delay I finally got on the road about noon and made it almost to my base camp location stopping about 50 miles short of there to stay in a campground late that night. The next morning I picked up the last few miscellaneous items I needed in the small town near my hunting area and made my way to base camp where I unloaded all my gear including motorcycle, generator, etc, etc... By that evening I had my base camp somewhat in order so I took the bike up the mountain to the only place I could get service to make a couple quick calls, I saw 1 cow elk and a band of bighorn sheep with a good ram in it that evening and by the time I got back to the camper it was well after dark. By the time I made myself dinner and got my pack put together it was nearly midnight.
I had planned on setting up and staying in my spike camp the night before season opened but on the opening morning of season I hunted up the road from camp since I had not had a chance to set my spike camp up and I had seen a good amount of sign up there the night before and the 1 cow elk, I had killed a spike bull with my bow in that area the year before as well and since my spike camp was not set up yet I figured it was my best shot. The morning was uneventful although I did find a lot of fresh sign and also figured out what gear was missing, I have never forgotten my release before but I guess there is a first time for everything... That afternoon I went back to town and purchased a back up release as well as a couple other key items I had realized were missing from my supplies.
The following morning I once again hunted from the base camp with similar results to the previous days hunt except that I was much better prepared to make a shot had an opportunity presented it's self. That afternoon I took the first load of gear to my spike camp on the motorcycle then went up the road to make phone calls, once again I saw elk up there, this time 7 or 8 cows and calves so I decided to give that area one more try the next morning.
The morning hunt was once again uneventful so I loaded another round of gear on the bike and made the 6 mile ride up the narrow rocky trail to spike camp and finished getting things set up there then went for an evening hunt. There was major elk sign in one area I got in to just before dark but nothing responded to my calls.
I returned to spike camp well after dark and enjoyed a nice stiff drink while I prepared some Mountain House for supper, I found that I could prepare a single serving out of a package made to serve several people by putting it in a plastic bowl, adding the water then slipping it in a Ziploc and sealing it up.
The following morning I hiked up and out of the basin where my spike camp was located and dropped in to the next basin back which is one of the most beautiful places I have ever had the privilege of hunting, about 8 or 9 am I finally heard the first bugle of my hunt, I closed the distance some, tried to get the wind right and made some calls. It was very difficult to figure out how to get set up correctly since the wind absolutely would not blow 1 way for even a few minutes, it would blow in every direction possible within a few minutes time. The bull never responded to my calls and never came in so I decided to back out of the area before he winded me and return later, hopefully when the wind was more consistent. I would never actually make it back to this area again. I spent the remainder of the morning wandering way down into the basin which was showing tons of fresh elk sign but to my amazement I had not seen a single elk. By noon or so I was about 4 miles from spike camp so I started to circle around and head back the direction I had come from.
I tried a couple call set ups in the early afternoon with no response, at about 3:45 I was still over 2 miles from spike camp and cresting a small ridge in the timber when suddenly a mule deer buck got up just a few yards in front of me, I had the chance to take a doe that morning and passed her up without even having to really think about it, this buck was decent though and I decided immediately I would take him if he gave me the chance. He circled around and stopped maybe 20 yards away then took a step quartering toward me to get a better look at what had disturbed him. By this time I had an arrow knocked, I needed him to let me take 1 step to my right and get the bow drawn, he did and I put the pin on his front shoulder, I was debating on shooting in front of or behind the point of the shoulder where the socket between the scapula and the humerus bones meet sits, he wasn't quite turned far enough toward me to shoot in front of it so I put the pin just behind the point of his shoulder and sent the arrow. He ran off obviously favoring the near front shoulder and I was immediately concerned that I had hit the shoulder bone. About this time the light drizzle that had started several hours before turned to an outright rain and I knew I would not have the luxury of giving the deer time to lay down if I wanted to have a blood trail to follow so I walked down to where he was standing to survey the evidence. I could not find the arrow and my anxiety heightened thinking I may have hit the shoulder bone, I did not see it sticking out of his shoulder when he ran off but he was hauling butt and going through the pretty thick trees so I wondered if I may have just not seen it. I went down the track a short distance and found decent blood which kept getting better the further I went, at one point I found a small amount of what seemed to be stomach matter which confused me a bit, then about 70 yards down the track all sign of him seemed to vanish, he had run in a strait line from the time I shot him so I kept looking that direction for another 40 or 50 yards but found no sign of him so I circled through an island of heavy timber to the right and was approaching the spot where I had the last blood when I looked to my left and there he was deader than Elvis, he had apparently stumbled backward and to the right about 25 yards before flopping over a bushy downed tree and dying on the back side of it. He was far from the biggest mule deer I have ever taken but I was very happy with him since he was my first with a bow and my first in full velvet.
Upon examining him the shot was perfect, right behind the point of the shoulder and exited near the back of the rib cage on the far side, as I was cutting him up I found that I did just barely clip the paunch on the exit side which explained the stomach matter I had found. I bagged and hung the quarters as I took them off him then loaded the back straps, tenderloins, heart and head on my pack. It was well after dark by the time I hit the trail about a half mile away from the kill location, I left my pack and bow there, grabbed a snack bar, my water bottle, extra batteries for my headlamp and my pistol and started the 2 plus mile walk back to camp kicking the bigger rocks out of the trail as I went to make the return trip on my motorcycle a little easier. I don't know for sure what time I got back to spike camp but I made myself another Mountain House meal, grabbed my extra jacket and gloves and headed back up the trail and over the ridge on the bike. The ride in the dark back to where I had left my pack and bow was relatively uneventful although a bit unnerving, I secured my load to the bike with about 20 bungee cords and started the 8 mile ride up over the mountain and back down to base camp, I wish I could say the ride out was totally uneventful but I tipped the bike over on a switchback coming back down the other side of the mountain and messed up the velvet on one antler a little bit, I was actually glad the bike didn't go over the other way because that could have caused some serious damage to my bow. I finally arrived back at base camp a little after 1 am, put the meat on ice, made myself a little real food and crawled in bed.
The next day I rose as early as I could, made some breakfast, grabbed my pack and essentials and made the 8 and a half mile ride back in to pack the rest of my meat out. I was able to get the meat in 2 loads on my back which were about 1 mile round trips and 1 trip on my bike, this time the ride out was uneventful and I was back to base camp in the early afternoon, I even found my arrow stuck in a log about 10-15 yards behind where the buck had been standing, I think it deflected off the ground before hitting the log, I just had not looked far enough behind where he was standing the day before, the Thunderhead and Bemis shaft were still in perfect condition only needing sharp blades in order to be ready to hunt again. I spent the afternoon washing my pack and other gear up and getting my hunting gear somewhat back in order.
The next morning I drove in to town, washed my hunting clothes and picked up some more ice and game bags as well as a few other groceries and miscellaneous items I needed, I also looked up an old friend who is now living in the area and went over to his place for a visit, even though I didn't get back to the camper until well after dark it ended working out well because I was able to arrange to leave my camper at his place when I went home so I could return to take my wife and kids rifle deer hunting in October down there without towing the camper 7 hours back home then back again. It started raining pretty hard that night when I was on my way back up to base camp and by the time I arrived there which is just over 7,000 feet it was a mix of snow and rain, I wondered how my gear was fairing up at my spike camp which was about 8500 feet.
The next morning I awoke to snow on the mountains not far above camp so I knew my spike camp was snowed in, I took my time preparing my gear to go back in to spike camp and making a nice big breakfast, I figured by mid morning most of the snow would melt off and I would go ahead and ride up to spike camp to hunt from there for the next couple days. After breakfast I was gathering up my gear when one of the guys from Texas arrived at the trail head, he informed me that they had blizzard like conditions up on the ridge the night before and that there was nearly a foot of snow up there, he also said the trail was an absolute slimy mess above the snow line. His hunting partner had problems with his motorcycle so we rode up the trail a little ways and met him walking down the trail, we relieved him of his pack so he could make the last leg of the trip down to the trail head without the 80 lb. burden. I helped them get the battery for the motorcycle they had left half way up the mountain recharged then gave one of them a ride as far back up the mountain to retrieve the bike as I could before the trail got too slimy for the bike to make it with 2 guys on it. After that I decided not to attempt going back to my spike camp that day so I hunted up the road behind camp that afternoon and also the next day without seeing much other than a few deer and a big billy mountain goat.
The next day I finally decided the trail was probably dried up enough to make it back to spike camp so I rode in and checked on my gear, everything was dry so I hunted from there that afternoon but did not see much elk sign in the area I hunted. I spent the night there and the next morning I once again scaled the ridge behind camp and dropped off toward the basin behind there, I would end up seeing 2 different herds of elk that day and having the opportunity to shoot a big cow at 50 yards but deciding not to take it. At this point I made the ill advised decision to move my spike camp about 15 miles to a drainage on the other side of my base camp, hoping there were more bulls talking in that area, it was a mistake, the area was devoid of elk sign and I would head home several days later without ever seeing another elk.
I was a little better prepared for this hunt than I had been the year before and I plan on returning next year a little better prepared than I was this year, I think I will plan on leaving home 3 days before season opens next year. Hopefully this story helps someone else understand the type of undertaking this type of hunt is and prepare for it should they decide to do one.