By: Bears Butt
This story is going to take me awhile to put together and I haven’t decided if I should break it into several segments, shorten it or just let it unfold however it goes. I guess I’ll decide later on. My journey to take a deer with a bow has only been about a year and nine months in the making. I have always wanted to accomplish the task but needed a little push by the boys and grandkids. That happened the Christmas before last when they gave me three old arrows and a kids recurve bow. After shooting it one time, I think I was hooked. The next big step was joining a local archery club, “The Brigham Bowmen”. The fees to join allowed Sherry and I unlimited use of the clubs indoor and outdoor ranges and lessons on how to shoot a bow. Chris Barton and Lynn Hayes were my mentors in this effort. Chris taught me the basics…how to hold the bow, draw the string, anchor and release. Lynn took me under his arm and taught me to try different things until I found a style that fit me and my shooting abilities. He has been a wonderful help and is trying to get me to understand that there is more to shooting a bow than just hitting the target. And that something that might work for someone else may not work for me.
I have always been one to “make my own stuff” if I could. It is a lot easier to go out and buy something that is a necessary part of shooting a bow and I did some of that early on, but as time went by, I began to customize my own stuff and add the Bears Butt squigglie where ever I could.
Arm guard, camo paint job on the front of the bow, my Spam can bow quiver, range quiver etc. All of them have the squigglie clearly identifiable somewhere. I’m not ashamed of any of it and everything is functional.
Well, earlier this year, when it was time to apply for our big game tags, I had a decision to make. Was I ready for a bow hunt? I would have about 8 more months to prepare for that one shot. Or should I apply for a muzzleloader tag like I have done the last 43 years? It was a pretty big decision… to make the commitment to practice as much as possible and hone my archery skills. I applied for the archery tag and was lucky enough to draw it. From that point on it was “sweat time”. Practicing in the field at 20 yards, then 25 yards and finally out to 30 yards. I felt pretty confident at 20 but move back 5 yards and the arrows just didn’t seem to be consistent to me. Well, they were consistent in that they went where they wanted most of the time and not where I wanted them to go. And then I watched a video by Matt Dernzack called “The Push”. He suggested that hunters using traditional equipment should prepare themselves for a 25 yard shot using a combination method of string walking and gap shooting, he called it “Fixed Crawl”. I tried it, set up my bow for it and never looked back. I place my nock against the side of my nose when I anchor, look basically down the arrow and place the point of the tip on the mark I want to hit and then release. If my target is at 20 yards I put the point a little lower than where I want to hit. At 30 yards I place it a little higher.
I practiced pretty regularly every other evening, shooting mostly from the 30 yard mark and shooting about 100 arrows a time. Always being pushed to practice by Weasel. If the weather was too hot or windy or whatever, I would practice standing out in the street and shooting into a bale in the back of the garage. 25 yards was about as far back as I could go which is still good practice. I can’t say I didn’t have some arrant arrows that caused a hole or two in the sheetrock and you have probably read about my ruining 3 brand new arrows when I tried to shoot from across the street at closer to 30 yards and smashed into the backside of the bricks. So, most of my practice sessions were pretty good and when Sherry would ask me about my session, my comment usually was, “a deer or elk is going to be in trouble”…My confidence level continued to rise with each practice session and I owe it all to the Fixed Crawl method of shooting. It is now my “form” of shooting and all my backup strings are set the same way.
August 20 was the big day…the opening of the Utah archery deer hunt season…it seemed like it would never get here. On the 19th, Weasel and I were headed for the mountain. Our camp choice was already made and we camped in the shade of a big stand of pines that towered 70 or more feet above us.
It was Friday when we were set up and we had a few celebration beers to break in the season. Not too many so as to spoil the next day and by 10 p.m. we were sound asleep. The alarm clock on the little No Grimace carved bear was set for 5 a.m.
That became the norm for this hunt. Up at 5, a cup of V8 and a hot cup of coffee. Then it was out to the truck for a 6:30 a.m. ride out to a vantage point and looking for deer. When a deer is spotted a plan is put into place and a stock made to try and get close enough for the shot. Sometimes that works out, but most of the time the deer can sense danger and don’t let us get close enough for a shot. That’s just the way things go and if everyone who put a sneak on a big old buck actually bagged it, there wouldn’t be any deer left. We had planned to continue this regiment for the entire hunt, spot and stock in the mornings.
As for the evenings, as hot and dry as it has been all summer and the fact that water is at a premium up in the woods, we decided we would find a water hole or two and sit in an area close to it until dark. Our hopes were for a big buck or a spike/cow elk to come in while there was still enough light to get a shot. Spot and stock in the morning, rest back in camp during the heat of the day and then sit on a water hole in the evening. I think 90 percent of the hunters on the mountain did that same routine and so, we probably shared some of the water holes with others and didn’t even know it.
My worst fear has been to wound an animal and not be able to recover it. I have had several nightmares throughout the summer and so to help keep that from happening, I know I need a close shot. Hopefully within 15 yards. I’m very confident at that range even though my practices were only as close as 20 yards. One thing for sure, when you are that close to a wild animal, it seems like you are right on top of them. Shooting at that distance would be awesome and I’m sure my adrenaline would be pumping like crazy. Probably enough to effect my shot in a negative way.
We spent nearly 10 days in the mountains, every day doing our routine and only changing the direction we went for the morning hunt and covering only a couple of different water holes in the evenings. Even at that, I never once thought about going home early. We did take a break after the first seven days, came off the mountain for a much needed shower and to restock on supplies. We were only off the mountain a total of 24 hours. The days all run together when you are hunting like we were. Right now I couldn’t tell you which memory I have happened on what day. The best part is the experience was awesome. Weasel and I got to know each other a whole lot better and I told him a lot of stories about my young hunting days that I’m sure he had never heard before. A very good time for a dad and son.
It was the early afternoon of the first day (I know this for a fact, I think) we met an elderly man (Al) and his Son-in-law (Dwight) who had stopped at a solar panel next to our camp to gas up the generator sitting next to it.
We walked over and introduced ourselves and they told us what they were up to. Because of the drought the cattle needed water and in order to have water scattered around the mountain the solar powered pump would pump water during the day and the generator would power it during the night. They felt it necessary to run the pump 24/7. We offered to help them out for the time we were to be hunting and we sort of assigned ourselves to be in charge of making sure the generator was filled up with fuel and running all night in order to keep the pump pumping water to the guzzlers which were scattered around the mountain.
They were very happy to have us do that and it would save them having to make a trip from town up to the generator and starting it each evening. Besides the time, there was the factor of gas for the vehicle to get them up there and the extra gas to run the generator while the solar panel was working. During the course of our hunt we learned quite a bit about their water system. A bunch of money, time and labor has been put into it and it works very well. At least until the generator breaks, which happened on the second Friday we were there. Fortunately, before the generator quit working all the guzzlers in the system were full of fresh clear clean water. The solar powered pump should be able to continue to keep them full until they have to move the cattle off the mountain.
Until the pump quit working I think we saved them 15 or more gallons of gas and at least 10 hours of drive time up and down the mountain. Not much in the whole scheme of things but a little relief for Al who seemed to be the guy in charge. On Wednesday morning when we got back to camp we found this note:
We had told Al our plan to leave the mountain on Thursday for our much needed shower, so he would be up in the evening to start the generator. Unfortunately it used nearly 5 gallons of gas from Thursday evening until we got up there Friday afternoon. See related article from the Salt Lake Tribune: http://www.sltrib.com/home/4088140-155/we-are-not-all-clivenbundys-rich
Back to hunting:
We were not seeing the bucks we have seen in the past few years and the does were pretty scarce as well. A good day of deer sighting was around 10 and only one or two small bucks. Weasel had set his bar a bit higher this year, as he is counting on shooting a big doe on the Wasatch Extended hunt should he not fill his tag with a nice big buck. He is not horn hunting, but rather meat hunting. It is better to harvest 60 pounds of doe meat than 30 pounds of meat from a small two point or spike. I have to agree with his way of thinking, but this is my first year to hunt with a bow and anything legal that gives me a shot is in trouble!
My kind of buck on this hunt! Of course I would try for a bigger one should it come along first, but I’m not being picky at all!
Weasel and I hunted high in the pines and low in the tall sage. We did see a few deer in all the places we hunted, but just not the numbers we are accustomed to seeing.
And like I said, the number of buck deer is WAY DOWN from previous years. Drought? I’m not sure. Perhaps we were glassing in all the wrong places.
One evening while sitting in camp thinking about going to bed, a vehicle pulled into camp. We had offered to help a family camped down the road should they need it. They were calling us on our word. The young gal (14 years old I think) named Charlott had hit a buck right at dark. They found the broken off arrow covered in blood.
DJ (the dad) said he thought he heard the animal pile up, but it got dark way to fast and they didn’t have the means to track the blood trail. They wanted to go right out and see if we could help them find it. After a thorough examination of the arrow, Weasel told them that she had hit it good, but it was hit in the liver. It would be best to wait until morning to find it and to let it have plenty of time to bleed out and die.
The next morning, we sacrificed our normal routine of spot and stock and went to their camp to follow them to the scene of the shot. It took about an hour to get there because of the rough roads. Once there we started our blood trailing. Charlott was a natural at spotting the small droplets of blood at the beginning of the tracking job and she continued to be a regular blood hound until the buck decided to make a U-turn. The blood trail lead us parallel to its uphill run as it made its way back down the hill to its death! DJ spotted the dead buck piled up in the sage brush and Charlott was beside herself with joy! A very nice buck! Congratulations to everyone. That tracking job was one of the harder ones I’ve been involved in. Remember the saying: Tracking a wounded animal is “the second hunt”!
That’s the way to get it done Charlott!
On this hunt we saw nearly every animal on the mountain. Ruff Grouse (no picture), Sharp tail grouse
A couple of coyotes (no pictures), Elk (pictures are blurry), Antelope (no pictures), Badger (no picture), A doe standing in a mud hole (more on this one at rendezvous),
Crows and all manner of smaller animals.
Being out in the woods, smelling the fresh air, listening to the sounds of elk and birds and crunching leaves is really what it’s all about. Good food, good drinks, good company. Meeting some of the nicest people in the world. Laughing, cutting up having a great time. Does it get any better?
One afternoon, Weasel and I had just fixed up a couple of ground blinds for that evenings hunt and had a couple of hours to kill before we cooked and ate our supper. So what better to do while sitting around than to make ourselves a self bow and go hunting some wild game yellow jackets. We made the self bow out of pine and the string was a four strand continuous loop. The arrow was fashioned after a single bevel point and not fitted with fletchings. We needed to shoot straight out without interference from the bow hand or riser, so we chose to shoot bare shaft. The brace height was set at 4 inches with a draw length of 10 inches. The draw weight was not actually calculated, but we figure it was around a pound. More than adequate for Yellow Jackets.
With so many yellow jackets to choose from, we set ourselves up a bait station with some cooked chicken and waited for them to land. Weasel made a perfect hit on one, driving the single bevel straight into the yellow jackets heart, killing it instantly.
Fortunately for the hive, the deceased was carried off for others to enjoy.
One morning Weasel and I were just about back to our camp from an enjoyable morning of spotting but no stocking, when suddenly we rounded a bend and there stood a big old buck! Weasel was the first to see it and excitedly told me to get out and grab my bow…it’s a buck! Following the routine, I eased out of the truck and grabbed my bow. I stepped off the road and began a slow sneak to where I thought the buck was standing. I had not seen it yet. As I came to a spot on a small rise I could see the buck broadside looking to my right. I slowly lifted my range finder and pressed the button, 28 yards. My heart was pounding pretty good at this time and my eyes shifted from side to side making sure there were no branches or obstructions between me and the buck. Nothing stood out as a problem. With the buck still standing there, I drew to full anchor, found my mark on the bucks shoulder and released the arrow.
(Digressing: Earlier in the week I had purchased some “lighted nocks” from a store in Logan. When I bought them the guy behind the counter asked me if I had ever shot lighted nocks before…I told him no, I had not. He said, OK…be careful when you shoot and see that little light zipping away, that you don’t drop your bow hand. It’s a common thing, especially with traditional archery equipment. I acknowledged his comments and went out the door.)
I’ve made this sort of shot on my targets all summer long and it’s not a problem to hit at least very near the circle of intention. This time, however, I saw that little light come on and sure as I was warned, I dropped my bow hand and the arrow went right behind the front leg and into the dirt! DANG! The big old buck bounded out of sight quicker than a quail can fly. And I thought to myself…Damn it Wynn, that might be your only chance and you just blew it! Oh well, such is life. I started toward the arrow laying on the ground then stopped myself and decided I best nock another arrow, which I did. Continuing up the trail toward the downed arrow, I rounded a pine and there stood the buck. This time looking toward my left. Again, I slowly raised the range finder…29 yards….
I’ve told you before that my practices have been mostly at 30 yards and I’m just not really all that comfortable taking that distance of a shot at a living animal. A million things ran through my head…the dropped bow at the last shot….my practices at 30 yards tending to group low and right about 8 inches. I knew the big buck wasn’t going to stick around long. I drew to my anchor and made sure I could feel the nock against the side of my nose. The fixed crawl method of shooting has me looking nearly down the shaft of the arrow at full draw and I put the point of the arrow on the spot where the deers neck meets the top of the shoulder. I reminded myself not to drop the bow and then released.
The lighted nock flew like an “arrow” and burned its way through the bucks shoulder. It kicked and bounded away, across the hill side. Once out of sight behind a pine about 10 yards away, I heard it crash to the ground. I could hardly believe what had just happened and I turned toward Weasel and gave a clenched fist “YES”! He saw the buck run off and heard the crash, but wasn’t in a position to see the arrow actually hit the animal.
Elated? Oh man! Adrenaline rush delux! I just accomplished a task I have been years wishing I could do. I silently thanked God for the success I was enjoying. I thanked God for the perfect shot placement and taking all the bad dreams out of my mind. I owe this hunt and the success to those mentioned before…Chris, Lynn, Weasel, Sherry and all my family, all of you members of the Brigham Bowmen, Matt Dernzack, Randy Benson and Darin Gardner. Whether you know it or not, you have influenced my decisions on choices of bow equipment. You have been a large part of many conversations on arrow weight, FOC, broad head selection….the list goes on.
Am I hooked on archery hunting? You better dang sure bet on it! I’ll stick with my Samick recurve, 500 spine arrows and Badger broadheads.
I THANK YOU ALL FOR MAKING THIS A SUCCESSFUL HUNT.
I will write a story about the Badger Broadhead and how it did its job. If you are interested at all in the effectiveness of a single bevel broad head, please read the next story.
August 30, 2016
The author used a Samick Journey take down bow measuring 64 inches from tip to tip, with 55 pound limbs, Lynn Hayes custom turkey feather rest, a 3 Rivers custom made Flemish twist bow string, yarn found in my wife’s hobby drawer, Gold Tip Kinetic arrows, cut to 29 1/2 inches and weighing 7.4 gpi, 4 inch parabolic cut right wing fletching feathers mounted using a Bitzenburger jig at right helical and Bohning fletching tape. The broad heads are made by Badger Broad heads and were at 125 grains and single right bevel, nocks by Burt Coyote “Lumenock” in red color. Chevy trucks, Prowler trailers, Goodyear tires, Rogers eggs, Kroger (Smiths) orange juice, Olympia beer, Keystone lite beer, V-8 Juice, Folgers (that’s what is says on the can) Coffee, Aero Aluminum Coffee pot, Badlands packs, Motorola two way radios, Great Value Spam, Echo chain saws, Maverik Gas, Diamond “strike on the box” matches, Kroger 2 ply toilet paper, Willard City Utah water, Luci brand solar light system, Fox Valley Tannery (out of business now), Kings pattern camo, Under Armour, Altra running shoes, Bushnell binoculars, Nikon range finders, Colman sleeping bags, Hone Propane, Big Buy bacon, Kroger Texas Garlic Toast, Camp Chef (the way to cook outdoors), Arm and Hammer Baking Soda, Crystal ice, Igloo and Colman outdoor products, Ace Hardware motor oil, The Randolph Woodruff area cattle ranchers, USFS, BLM, Utah State University, Utah DWR, Smith and Edwards, Richard Green’s donation of moose steak, High Country Twisted Trail 3 pepper jerky mix, Necco dehydrators, Zip Lock bags, Gerber, Samsung, Energizer batteries, Nikon, T-Mobil and finally Maytag Freezers.
Bears Butt 😉