Ohio Urban Deer Management Zone – 2016
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No photography in this post – against the rules of the urban program I was in. Even with no tags punched in my 2 week window to hunt “my zone”, it was a neat experience – one I hope to have again but perhaps with different results. The program was very well run, quite professional, cleanest functioning urban hunt I’ve been a part of – hands down. I was able to squeeze in 4 hunts – 3 mornings and 1 evening. I only saw 1 deer while on stand – a very pretty 2 year old 8 point that waltzed in to just 10 short yards on the first morning. Even with scarce on-stand sightings, my hopes were always high as there always seemed to be does and fawns feeding in neighboring lawns and lots pre-dawn and after dusk.

Despite high hopes and promise, no arrows launched and no tags filled. Urban hunting programs are quite the undertaking for any municipality to tackle. Disgruntled landowners who aren’t on board with the concept of urban/suburban population control using hunters, disturbed landowners who deal with arrowed deer dying on their properties, helpful landowners offering up their parcels, local police department handling the headaches of managing the hunt, an entirely complex undertaking to say the least. An admirable undertaking most assuredly. Urban hunters facing the constraints of difficult access and longer than average drive times to the countryside would do well to consider participating in these programs. They serve a great purpose and offer some great hunting opportunities.

Public Land Ohio Archery Season – 2016
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I’m going to compress my reports from archery season this year for the simple reason that I didn’t get out much. Not complaining at all, I spent the difference chasing elk in the high Rockies of Colorado in September and pursuing pronghorn on the sage hills of Wyoming in October – GLAD TO MAKE THAT SACRIFICE.

That said, there was a lot of reason to be excited about my public land spots this year. The crop rotation was by all means favorable (essentially fields get switched around in a semi-predictable manner between corn, soybeans, drilled wheat, and early successional warm-season grasses), and the spot that I found at the end of last year (see this post from last year…still hurts a bit) was performing to my expectations. Even so, I had split allegiances between the public land that I know so well, a 2-week slot in a local urban hunting program, and the lottery hunt that my buddy drew us into northwest of Columbus.

Trying to catch up on work responsibilities, be truly present with my family, and waiting for the scarce and rare east wind that it takes to hunt THE spot on public…I didn’t get out much. Once I hiked into a spot where I have one of my wooden lock-on stands hung on a bench between bedding and feed. I hunted that one morning in mid-October and had one little buck wander in behind me around 9:30 AM. I personally only got out once more and that was to capitalize on an east wind to hunt THE spot. There is no denying the fact that one feels like at any moment a huge buck could step out, but, alas, one did not. One little yearling buck responded to a late morning rattling session and that was it for my three-quarters of a full day sit.

I am planning to hunt some quality public locations during the upcoming shotgun season in order to fill one more doe tag (read into that what you will) for the year, but this isn’t to imply I’ll be venturing into unpressured areas. Dad will be in to hunt for 3 days weather-permitting and a good friend is picking up a deer rifle for the first time in his life this fall, so those will be exciting opportunities to play “guide”. My good spots all received plenty of attention from my buddy and a couple of his family members who drove up from North Carolina to hunt several extended weekends, as well as the usual host of other guys doing the public land hunting thing.

They had some great hunts, some exceptional ones really, with somewhere around 4 different 2 year-old bucks being spotted from the treestand and an equal share of more mature buck sightings ranging from “2 more steps and I’d have had him” to a last minute dusk sighting of a big boy pushing a hot doe out into a cut cornfield – even an almost had him encounter with the big 7 point frame non-typical. Other contacts I’ve maintained via incidental parking lot conversations also had some great hunts with a couple mornings being the “buck parades” we all dream of. Several decent bucks hitting the ground as well as one truly mature, heavy-beamed 8 point.

Wyoming Antelope Hunt – Days #7-8
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With all our pronghorn tags punched, I was curious to go explore another corner of the unit and see how some of the terrain varied in other areas. Some folks opted to sleep in, and the three of us who went were treated to some beautiful country, no mule deer sightings (this is what I was primarily curious in as the unit has some allure for our building accumulation of preference points), some high clear skies, and even a bit of elk sign.

This gave the temperatures a chance to warm up so that we could enjoy a taste of the local fishing opportunities. We pit-stopped at the Alcova store and facilities and got the local’s advice on where to head for a couple spin-fishing, shore bound flatlanders. The North Platte is an absolutely beautiful stretch of water and there are some genuine monster trout lurking. All told, the guys spent 3 or so hours heaving spinners through the current and weeds with some success – long enough to catch several decent trout and create a story or two about the “big one that got away”.

As the sun set, we drove back to town for a good dinner and evening of finishing up butchering chores and packing luggage. It was time to head for Rocky Mountain National Park! We spent the next day+ at the park driving around and looking at the beautiful animals and landscapes there. We were fortunate enough to have the Rainbow Pass open after having been closed for some early season snowfall – we definitely maximized our time there.

After spending an afternoon/evening and morning at the park, it was time to catch our respective afternoon flights out of Denver and close the book on what had been a great trip with dad and friends. I can’t really imagine it having gone any better, and once again – diligent homework and map work goes a long ways in ensuring a quality and unforgettable hunt. All I can say in conclusion is this…we’ll be back!

Wyoming Antelope Hunt – Day #6
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With some wet precipitation coming down in Casper through the night, we were unsure of what road conditions would be in the higher elevations where we had been hunting. After 4 consecutive days of long, hard hunting, we decided a couple more hours of sleep was appropriate. Waking up to a skiff of snow on the surrounding mountainside, we took our time eating breakfast, taking care of meat, and making sure capes were sufficiently frozen. Around 8, Andrew and I decided to trek west and check out the “grilled cheese” section for the B&C buck of days earlier and the others visited a few taxidermy shops in town and grabbed a couple coolers from Walmart for transporting meat.

Andrew and I couldn’t locate the big buck – same result as prior days – but we did decide to explore some roadless country immediately east of the area, maybe he had moved over and we could find him over there. The country was really broken with seemingly countless draws that prevented us from being able to see more than 100 or 200 yards at a time. Eight or 9 folds in, we finally stumbled onto a good herd of 25 animals or so. We could only see half-dozen or so at a time and the longer we sat there, more and more bucks showed themselves. It was tempting to tag a nice 13″ buck standing just 60 yards away and completely unaware of our presence, but after 30 minutes of looking everything over we decided to head back to the truck.

On our way to the general area we had already tagged 3 bucks, we glassed up on the hill where we had put the stalk on the big buck on top of the mesa. There was a good herd with a strong buck about 1,000 yards to the north of where they had been bedded 2 days earlier. They were on their feet and slowly feeding towards a steep cut on the backside of the mesa. We had been up through there and the country was familiar to us, it was time to make a stalk!

When we crested out on the mesa, we could see the big group of does and the single buck angling towards a notch that would drop them down behind the horizon and enable us to sneak up above them. We sat down to give them time to munch their way along and stood up to check on their progress every 5 minutes or so. On the second time we stood up, the buck was dropping out of sight and down into the coulee, but his does were still slowly feeding on the upslope in full view.

After 4 or 5 more 5-minute spaced checks, the does were still up above feeding and the buck had been out of sight for roughly 20 minutes, who knows where he’d gone by now! Time to re-evaluate our stalk idea. I looked back down the hill from where we had hiked and had a plan that perhaps we could slide around the rimrock shelf that framed the coulee containing the buck and that would hide us from the does. It was a gamble, but it seemed the only reasonable option that had a chance of working with the does showing no signs of dropping down in any time soon.

It was a hairy scramble along the knife’s edge of rimrock but we had made it only 50 yards or so when we looked up the coulee and saw the buck headed directly towards us. I took a quick range and he was at 400 yards feeding but pointing in our direction. Taking a quick glance over our shoulder, we could see a waterhole about 1/2 mile further the coulee and it seemed reasonable that he was eventually headed that direction. With a vertical face between us the floor of the coulee, we decided to get Andrew’s backpack pushed onto the cliff’s lip and set up a solid rest to shoot as soon as the buck cut the distance. Preferably a close shot because the wind was ripping a steady 20-30 mph.

Walk, walk, feed, walk, feed, feed, walk, walk, walk. 400 shrank to 300, 300 to 175, 175 to 125, and the buck showed no awareness of our precarious perch at all! This was a stalk and executed plan for the story books. At that range, it was just a matter of lining up a good broadside shot and finally at 90 yards, Andrew took the shot and dropped the buck instantaneously. We were tagged out in Wyoming!!

We hiked back to the truck to go meet the rest of our hunting party who had finished their town duties and were headed our direction. Within 45 minutes, we were standing back on top of the cliff recounting the story before climbing down into the coulee and getting our hands on the buck.

The rest of the day was spent butchering meat and getting things labeled, grilling some antelope steaks, and making plans for how to spend our extra 2 days before the departure flights on Saturday – what a great problem to have!!

Wyoming Antelope Hunt – Day #5
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Weather was quite foreboding on this day, but our buck sightings on public peaked for the hunt. Something about the low cloud ceilings that kept the animals on their feet all day long. Over 80 different bucks spotted between sunrise and sunset – just an awesome experience to hunt this unit. Here are a smattering of the bucks we saw and passed on.

Lots of looking and hiking to outlooks.

Two notable bucks were spotted without any chance of a stalk or photos, 2 studs! One was spotted at a mile distant below a high-bluffed mesa while Andrew and Todd were still hunting through some box canyons. It was pushing 16″ long but as quickly as it was spotted, it disappeared into one of the many crevices in that broken country never to be seen again. The other joined a huge group of antelope that we had bumped into and followed the herd of approximately 60 individuals onto private land. It was a high 70s buck easily, good mass and huge prongs.

Temperatures were falling through the day and sleet and snow spit intermittently through the day. Thankfully never enough to put road conditions in doubt but certainly cold enough that you weren’t about to leave the vehicle without being covered up with everything you owned. Right at noon, we were pulling along a 2-track – slowing to hike out to each hill before continuing in the car – when we found a good looking buck with nice features all the way around. Decent length, beautiful shape, flared and long prongs, good hooks. The best part was that he was tucked in a canyon just 175 yards below us without a care in the world.

The 3 guys still with tags had a pow wow to decide who wanted to attempt a short stalk and Alan made the call that he was ready to shoot. He had a stalk earlier in the day that didn’t pan out on a really strong buck and this smelled like redemption. As he was pushing his rifle onto his pack, one of the does boogered out and the buck was last in line. Running out to right at 300 yards, Alan settled the crosshairs and connected. A brief scramble and follow-up shot and the buck was down!

Before we got to work caping and quartering, I took advantage of the good camera light and did some macros. Pronghorn are strikingly beautiful creatures!

Once we had packed Alan’s pronghorn back to the truck, we proceeded with our hunt. With wind speeds increasing, the antelope were tucking themselves down into little ravines and up against rock outcroppings. I spotted a good looking buck in an uncharacteristic location for antelope, up in some ribbon cliffs above a creek bottom. We ducked below the ridge and made our way the 1,000 yards in his direction. When we arrived at the location we had marked, we could not locate the buck until we peeked over the rim of the canyon and there he was with 2 does 150 yards below us. Todd took a minute to slow his breathing before crawling up to the edge and getting settled in for the shot.

Boom! High. And the race was on. About the same time we crested out of the ridge where the canyon turned, the buck popped up on our level and went tearing across the sagebrush top. Boom! Boom! Buck down!! He was exactly as we had field judged. Good length, great mass and great prongs. And his face, as black as we had seen – just a beauty of an antelope.

With weather and darkness blowing in fast, we worked quickly to get back to the vehicle and head back towards town. With a forecast for more precipitation overnight, we decided we had earned a late start in the morning so we stayed up to grill antelope steak for dinner. Delicious!

Infolinks 2013