Blacktail Hunt 2022

The woods are lovely dark and deep.

-Robert Frost

This year’s deer season was short and bittersweet, but such learning and reward in experience, no matter how brief. Opening weekend, I was at home preparing for my hunt on Monday at Snoqualmie Tree Farm. I took a walk around my own land wearing hunter orange and carrying a long gun, to avail. It was a red dawn, the sun was orange, never quite lightening to a golden white, and by Monday morning, the air was thick with smoke, and the tree farm was closed indefinitely. The cause- a wildfire between Lake Phillipa and a ridge line just above Lake Calligan. I’d spent that summer fishing trout in Calligan and scouting nearby clear-cuts for my hunt later that fall. The area abuts The Alpine Lake Wilderness, offering a large area to hunt in both private and public land. The fire started opening weekend and ended my first week of hunting season with the worst air quality on the planet for three days straight. The fire is still burning a month later, but at least the forest is now open.

During the last day of the season, October 31st, I had a morning to hunt, and spent it at a neighbor’s property where they had sighed a most unusually marked blacktail buck. He had a white nose, which stood out as a unique identifier in the field. He was beautiful, mature, and a great candidate for harvest, but it was not meant to be. I sat listening to him walk through the woods in the falling leaves, sitting in a golden mantel of maple and cottonwood shed. The heavy rains during the night had driven everyone into shelter, and with the coming light, downpour reduced to trickle, and the deer were up moving to eat. I knew I’d catch my buck on a traverse from one larder to another, so I set up a long sit in the young deciduous grove between two pastures. I had a spot in the crossroads of several game trails. My breathing slowed as the sound of approaching hoof falls drew closer. Then, the wind shifted.

The sudden stamp of a stiff leg shattered my ambition as, in the next seconds, I listened to a new pattern of hoof beats pronking away into thicker cover. The moment of success had slipped away in my scent crossing a most attuned nostril a tip white blazed nose. I didn’t even gimps a tail flash as I stood up from the blind of fallen logs. It could have been mindset preemptively, thinking too hard about the animals movement, sending out energetic rings of pressure, alerting the prey animal’s instinct to check the air. The environment we cannot control, nor how we’re perceived within it. Beyond setting intentions and doing my best to blend in, it was merely a shift in barometric pressure which cost me the element of surprise. Standing up did not help, but I was limited for time, even in the final day of hunting deer for the season. Still, hearing the approach, knowing what caused my premature unveiling, that was a good set of lessons learned.

I also helped teach an hunter education class during the week of fire, thus certifying a few more safe hunters for the field, even if I could not be in it. I also saw a lot of bucks along roadways during the rut. We’ll keep our eyes peeled during these colder months and hope to harvest some roadkill to make up for the missed buck harvest. Late season, which is 3 days in a limited area above snow line, I’ll be with gal pals hunting turkey on the east side. It will be worth it, and a lot more good learning in new hunting pursuit. Gratitude for all the learning and opportunity in hunting this year. The deer got a year off, but next season, I’m committed to deer and elk season without interruption, and hope to have a turkey by the end of this year. Thanks to all who mentor and share the hunt.

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