Saturday, September 19, 2020

October 13th, 2020

Today was opening day of bear season back home. Donny went up to camp to stay with Dad. Hopefully, he gets a look at one. 

  Jacob and I headed back to the same place we’ve been going. When we crested the hill in the darkness, bugles rang through the valley below us. It was refreshing to hear them singing, especially after the dead week we’ve been experiencing. 

  While we decided which one to chase, one bolted down the hill in front of us, and the thundering sound of hooves could be heard in the drainage below us. They stopped and walked up the hill. 

  We raced up the hill to get to an area where I thought we could cut them off. Unfortunately, they never came up the hill. I made the wrong guess. It kind of seems par for the course this week. I just can’t seem to line things up correctly. A few bulls bugled but quickly turned off.  That was about it for the action for the day. 

  Brian and Josh had a dead day today. Brian and I both found active wallows today. I’m not sure what’s up with that, but maybe they will be hitting them over the next few days. We shall see. 

Friday, September 18, 2020

October 13th, 2020

Today we decided to head back to the place where we hunted yesterday. It was dead the entire day. It was overcast and relatively cool. We saw a big bear in the afternoon, and it got a little scary for a few minutes. The bear turned toward us and debated charging us. It decided to continue going up the hill. 

  Josh had a great day today. He finally took our advice and sat in a heavily timbered ravine where we’ve always seen a lot of sign. It worked well for him, as he had two bulls chase a bunch of cows past him. The cow was in heat, and the bulls were hot on her tail. They didn’t offer a shot. 

  After he got up and ventured to the top of the mountain, he spotted a big bull getting out of its bed. He couldn’t get a shot, and it was gone as quickly as it had appeared. 

  Today surprised me. I thought we would get into them. Maybe tomorrow.  We wandered through these aspen trees in hopes of catching a bedded bull but nothing materialized.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

October 13th, 2020

We headed down the mountain today to go into my “old faithful” spot. We spread out across the top of the mountain and decided to sit for a few hours in hopes of seeing something. 

  About an hour into the sit, I heard a bull let out a weak bugle, then I heard sticks cracking. Knowing he was coming, I readied myself for a shot. Seconds later, the wind switched and away he went. I heard him crash timber and never saw him. 

  Around 2 p.m., we heard three different bulls bugle, and they were in all different directions.  Brian let out a few calls, and a few minutes later, elk started filtering out of the timber below us. Before we could get a shot, they got past us. Jacob and Brian ran to cut them off, and I stayed back to call. As I was calling, I watched Jacob and Brian to see their reaction to base my calling on their actions. 

  Suddenly, all hell broke lose behind me when a small herd of elk took off. They were coming to the calls, and I never expected anything to come from that direction. Within seconds of the action starting, we sat there totally disheartened.  We came so close but were so far away. Maybe tomorrow will be the day. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

October 13th, 2020

Today was a great, bad day.  We decided to head back into the area where we had a few bulls going the other night. We gave it a rest for a day for the area to settle down. 

  On the way in, we saw fresh horse tracks all over the trail. Walking up the hill, I had a feeling we were going to see a camp in an area off the trail, and we did. There were four horses and a mule inside an electric fence. It appeared that the occupants of the tent were still sleeping, so I continued up the trail. 

  As we approached the area where we normally head onto the mountain, we spotted a guy walking down the hill to the brook. Looking harder, I spotted a tent. We never expected to see anyone in that location. 

  When the guy came back up the hill, we began talking with him. After a few minutes we learned that he and his brother were going to be in there hunting for a few days. 

  Sometimes you can recognize a person’s character instantly, and it was easy to do with these guys. They were great guys and loved life. We decided to give them a rundown of the area and some guidance for the next few days. We told them to explore a few areas that have produced great results for us in the past. These are the kind of guys you meet on public land, and you root for them to succeed. Those types of people are few and far between.  It was blatantly obvious that their parents had done a phenomenal job raising them, and I applaud that in current times. 

  During the conversation, I learned that the older brother was also a Type 1 diabetic. In all my years of elk hunting, I’ve never met another Type 1 diabetic while in the woods. I know how my father worries about me when I’m hunting, so I’m sure his parents are beyond worried. They probably aren’t sleeping at night while he’s out here. 

  No matter what happens on this trip, I think meeting these two guys will be the highlight. It’s amazing how someone’s zest for life can inspire you. They were both University of Kansas graduates and are about to begin new careers in different places. They have a lot ahead of themselves, and I’m sure they will achieve great things. One will be starting a job in the gold mining industry in a few weeks when he heads to Alaska.

  After leaving them, we did some exploring and found some new things. Within a few hours, we saw another guy walk past us. He was from Georgia and was hunting with nine other guys. 

  Although it was frustrating, we headed down the mountain and began making plans for the next day. As we walked by the outfitter tent that we passed in the morning, the people were outside, so we stopped and visited for an hour. We had a nice chat with them before heading back to camp. 

  Many people would consider it a wasted day, but we had a good time and made the most of it. Hopefully, we can stay in touch with our new friends from Kansas. I’ll be interested to see where their journeys take them. 

  Brian went into my favorite spot tonight to scout it out. He had a few bulls bugling but wasn’t able to catch up to them.  We will try to get a look at them tomorrow. Here’s a picture of the brothers we met

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

October 13th, 2020

The day didn’t start off too well. My blood sugar was really low, so it took a bit to get going. Then, when I was packed and ready to leave camp, I realized the battery for the bike light was completely dead. I changed my plans and went with Jacob to sit in a place where elk seem to travel regularly. We didn’t see much of any activity besides a spike mule deer. The deer definitely wasn’t too intelligent.  We came out at noon to do some stuff around camp. Josh came out shortly after we got out, so we had a good afternoon of joking and laughing. Sometimes some of the best hunts are all about the memories made around camp. 

  People have started coming out now. Although the snow had kept everyone out of the woods the last two days, there are two side-by-sides and two wheelers up here today. The snow is just about gone, and people can more easily get around. I expect the pressure to increase daily from here on out. It’s going to be tough to get a look at one. 

  When Brian returned to the tent tonight, we found out he had a good day. He saw three cows and two spikes over off what we call the third knob. They were bedded in a small group of animals. He also listened to one bugle while in its bed. It bugled throughout the afternoon hours. On his way out, he saw a big 6×6 right after it bugled on top of a ridge. Unfortunately, it spooked and crashed timber.

  While I feel like we are getting close to finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, I also have my doubts. In the first three days of hunting, I’ve experienced things I’ve never seen in the past. There isn’t any bugling in the morning hours, and the bulls are hammering while bedded in the afternoon. When they get up for the evening feeding, they seem to let one rip here and there. Hopefully, the light switch turns and they start coming alive. 

Monday, September 14, 2020

October 13th, 2020

Brian, Jacob and I headed to the area where the bull was bugling yesterday. Around 8 a.m., we heard a bull sound off in a place where we had been standing 20 minutes earlier. We headed up the mountain to get above him. 

  As we were sneaking through the timber, Brian spotted a nice 4×4 at 50 yards but couldn’t get a shot. After it wandered out of sight, a spike bull went past us. The bull never bugled again.

  We did some walking and tried locating some animals to hunt in the evening. While walking, we heard a few bulls bugling in a canyon. The bulls were obviously lying in their beds, so we decided to sit on them and chase them later in the day. 

  After sitting all day and listening to them, we began moving in on them. Although we never got close enough to spook them, they shut up. Being so far from camp, we decided to get an early start to get out of the woods. 

  That’s when the woods lit up. In a matter of minutes, we had four bulls bugling. The excitement lasted until a half hour before dark. We never got a look at them because of barriers that prevented them from coming in. It was definitely exciting. We are going to give the area a day’s rest and head back in there on Wednesday. 

  Josh had a good day today. He wandered around a bit and heard his first wild bull bugle. He said it bugled a few times and did some chuckles at the end. He also saw a couple of dandy mule deer bucks. 

  We will see what happens tomorrow. We are going to take it slow.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

October 13th, 2020

We didn’t get a very early start, but we were still headed up the mountain in the darkness. We didn’t see an abundance of tracks. When we got to our destination, there weren’t any tracks at all and the snow was much deeper than I had anticipated it being. We jumped one elk, but Brian couldn’t identify it. 

  As we meandered around the area, we stopped for lunch and took in the scenery. While eating lunch, a few bulls began bugling in the timber below us. They were bugling in their beds, so we decided to wait them out and go after them later in the day. 

  Around 4:00, we headed in the direction of the bugles. Upon getting closer, the bugling stopped, so we began still-hunting toward camp. As darkness was gaining ground on us, Brian realized that his sight had fallen off his bow. We backtracked for a while but never found the sight. Between Brian and Dad, there is a lot of archery hardware on the side of that mountain.   Josh wandered around in a few different places today. He didn’t see much and seems discouraged. He said it’s like hunting in the Adirondacks with a bow, which it is. 

Saturday, September 13, 2020

October 13th, 2020

The ride out to Colorado seemed to pass quickly this year. It was definitely different without my father along for the ride. He couldn’t make it this year due to the number of health conditions he’s been battling since becoming severely ill in Florida in March. It has been a tough go, but he is the toughest guy I’ve ever seen. He has battled his way out of the depths of hell and seems to be recovering. Hopefully, the upward trend continues. 

  After arriving, we set the tent up and headed into the woods for a quick scouting mission. The 16 inches of snow that fell earlier in the week put a damper on many hunters’ plans. Although there are a lot of camps around, not many people are hunting. The snow seems to have shut things down for the time being. 

  Jacob and Josh made the trip this year. They are both first timers. I’m hoping they get to see some elk throughout the week. Jacob and I headed to a spot my dad usually hunts to see what we could find. We got drenched from the snow, but we did see a few tracks here and there. I spotted a calf as it bolted away from us at the base of the mountain. I’m sure there were others with it, but I only saw the calf. 

  Brian covered a lot of ground today in our normal stomping grounds. It was a bear for him to get there, but he got in there and found some elk. He said there were a lot of tracks, but he also saw some people tracks, too. 

  Josh went out behind camp and saw a lot of tracks. He set up a camera to see if anything is wandering around in the area. 

  We will get at it bright and early tomorrow to see what we can find. It’s going go be tough with all of the snow that is still on the ground, but I don’t think it will last too long. 

Here’s a photo I took before we headed out of town toward the mountains.

Putting Pressure on Yourself

March 25th, 2020

Shortly after I got out of college, I spent every waking hour in the woods because I never wanted to end a season with an unfilled tag. I thought about it every day of the year. While many Adirondack hunters had years pass between kills, I was determined to fill my tag every year.

Luckily, I got off to a good start and filled my tag every year. As the years passed, I put more and more pressure on myself to succeed. With the added pressure, my attitude changed. Instead of going out to enjoy myself and take everything in, I began questioning every move I made. The enjoyment quickly faded without me even knowing it.

Instead, my friends and family took the heat. Since the majority of the days spent in the woods didn’t result in filled tags, my frustrations were taken out on everyone around me. I became short and irritable. If I messed up on a buck, I would take the disappointment with me everywhere I went.

As the season progressed and the deer sightings were low, I would become more aggravated. I would try harder and spend all of my efforts trying to focus on the negative events that were leading to my unsuccessful year. A few years I even went into the last weekend of the season before filling my tag, but I always accomplished the goal. I never did fail.


When I began killing big bucks regularly, I realized that somewhere along the line, I had stopped putting pressure on myself. I no longer cared whether or not I filled my tag. I let all of that go.

Instead, I focused on finding big deer and trying to kill them. Instead of coming back to the tent every evening and complaining about everything that had gone wrong, I thought about the day’s events and how I would use the information I had gained to get the job done. I was now looking forward to every day. I took the challenge and made it fun. I got to the point where I knew I would be successful.

When you’re putting too much pressure on yourself, a lot of your attention goes away from where it should be. When you are hunting be ALL IN. You can’t have a wandering mind and think about what you’re having for dinner. You can’t think about the fight you had with your girlfriend. You can’t think about where you are going to hunt tomorrow. You have to stay in the moment and make sure all of your senses are completely aware.

You might only get one chance a year to get it done, and that one chance might come and go in a matter of five seconds. If you’re not on point, you could watch your dream buck disappear over a knob and walk out of your life.

Enjoying the pursuit will help relieve the self-induced pressure. You have to be confident to succeed and the confidence can’t waver. If you lose confidence, you can find yourself going down a rabbit hole that can be hard to climb out of. Every night I go to bed during hunting season, I think that tomorrow will be the day — and I firmly believe it.

Why do we go hunting? We hunt because we want to pursue wild animals and outsmart them on their own turf. We want memories that will last a lifetime, and we want to feed our bellies with the game we take. We don’t go hunting to wander around the woods with no hopes of catching up with what we are after. That would be senseless.

If you have had success regularly, you have the skills to get the job done. It’s a lot easier to relax and have fun every day in the woods. You need to trust all of your skills, then research your memory to put the pieces of the puzzle together every day. When you gain experience, you have to use the experience to help in the future. Experience is a huge factor that often gets overlooked. Many people have different methods when hunting. Some guys do things that go against the norm, but they still get it done regularly. How does that happen? It’s because they trust what they’re doing, and they let things play out in front of them without getting all worked up about it. They know that if they keep putting one foot in front of the other, they will get an opportunity. Opportunities come about when we use experience and stay optimistic.

I encourage people to ease up on the self-induced pressure. Although many people have never played baseball, you can look at it this way: Why are some great players great in the playoffs every year, while others are absolutely horrendous? Well, it’s because of self-induced pressure. When people put pressure on themselves, their conscious mind becomes active and they get tight. When they get tight, it doesn’t allow them to trust everything they’ve trained for throughout their lives. They let external pressure determine the outcome rather than just going out there, enjoying the experience, and doing what they already know how to do.

Try to get out of your own way during next hunting season and let your experience and training lead you to the promised land of deer hunting.

Spring Scouting

March 21st, 2020

I had gone many miles and hoped to find something that caught my attention. Just like so many other hunters, I was putting the miles on in hopes of stacking information in my memory to draw from in the years to come.

Across one stream, over the next mountain, weaving around the numerous beaver ponds in the lowlands, I never gave up. With every step, I could feel success hidden throughout the landscape in front of me. Then, looking at my watch, I knew I had to begin cutting back toward the road. Hopefully, I would make it to my truck before it got dark. There weren’t any buds on the trees yet, so getting lost in the springtime jungle was the last thing on my mind. With hints of winter still in the forest, it was only a matter of time before summer would overtake the short spring.

The sun was barely visible above the mountain in front of me, but it lit up a tree in the swamp I had to cross to get back to familiar territory. Looking closer, I noticed the tree had been shredded by a buck’s antlers. It was the only promising sign I had found all day, and the sign was good enough to make be return the next fall.

Every year, I see people posting on social media about their spring scouting. It always amazes me that people are usually in areas that they normally hunt. The sign seen in the spring is the same sign that was there at the end of the season. Why do so many people waste time in the same areas they regularly hunt when they could be making much better use of their time?

It’s probably because most people get stuck in a rut and return to the same places to hunt every year. Although I’m guilty of it, I also spend a lot of time in other areas every fall. I might spend every weekend in the same general area, but I venture into other areas throughout the week or if I have an extended period of time off.

I use spring to explore areas that interest me. I’ll put on as many miles as possible to get a good idea about what went on there during the season. It’s easy to see if a few big deer inhabit an area if you cover enough ground. You will find rubs, scrapes, runways and beds, providing you get into the areas that are most likely to support those types of sign.

Another thing that many people do in the spring that takes away from the purpose of the outing is to just go for a walk without storing the information they come across. People begin wandering all over the place without studying the land in front of them like they’re preparing for a test.

If you don’t study the topics that will appear on the test, your chance of getting an A becomes slim. To kill mature bucks regularly, you have to put in the efforts needed to ace the test. You might not always put a big buck on the ground, but your studies will usually present you with opportunities that others don’t get. Very rarely will you get an A for effort when it comes to chasing big bucks. A lot of people put in a lot of effort and come up empty-handed. You need to find the areas where big bucks work, then figure out what draws them there. You might not kill them in those spots, but you could find a hidden gem over the next hill or in the next bowl. There could be a stream crossing that funnels him to that spot, but the funnel could be more than 200 yards away.

Your eyes and gut instinct will become essential to figuring these things out. You must trust both of them. I’ve hunted with many people who tell me they never have a gut feeling. That’s not a good thing when it comes to deer hunting. Don’t create a gut feeling but listen to what your mind tells you when you wake up every morning. Your gut will almost always be right when it comes to making a choice.

This spring, instead of aimlessly wandering around the places you normally hunt, try spread your wings and explore many areas. You might end up never going back to your “old faithful” hunting area — or you might find a handful of places that can produce big bucks. Never waste time while scouting. Good luck this spring. Hopefully, you’ll find a few new places or learn some new things about areas where you have hunted in the past. You probably won’t learn much if you’re scouting an area you’ve hunted for a number of years. After three years in an area, you should have things figured out well enough to score regularly.

I learned this lesson when I was a young chap. I was 20 years old, the I killed this buck. Although he does’t have a big rack, he was a heavy, mature deer. He dressed out at 170 pounds, a great Adirondack deer. He just didn’t have the genetics to have good antlers. He was a 4 1/2 year old deer. I found the area in the spring, and I killed him during the so-called October lull the next fall.