I went with my dad, two of my cousins, and their friend. Just as I had feared, the mountains were chock full of other hunters. I haven't seen that many hunters in my last few years of hunting combined. Orange and hunting rigs as far as you could see, sometimes lined up on the road like damned parade. Equally confusing to my emotions were the amount of buck deer we saw sitting in hunting camps, in the back of trucks, and/or tied to the back of ATV's. I think by the morning of day two (of my two-day hunt) we'd seen a total of five or six deer harvested by others. While I was happy and excited that people were having luck, each buck harvested limited the potential for my own success by a certain unknown margin (I suck at math so I'm not going to even attempt to figure this out).
Due to not having much time off, my dad and I were limited to the weekend of the opener to do our hunting. My cousin was gracious enough to take us out and show us around since he knew the area very well and had been successful many times before. The day before the hunt, my dad and I went to the North Springs Range where my uncle works as the range master and sighted in our guns. If you've never been to the North Springs Range, you're missing out. It's one of the best shooting facilities in the western USA. If you're ever out near Price, Utah, do yourself a favor and check it out. You won't be disappointed.
Things were starting to look bleak, but as the afternoon wore on, my cousin had an idea to hike through an area that he bow hunted earlier in the ear. He mentioned he saw a lot of activity during the bow hunt and felt fairly confident that we could get close to some bucks. The catch? Well, it would require a lot of hiking. I was game, though, because the further we ventured out, the fewer hunters we would run into, and the chances of seeing something would increase.
Our adventure began around 1500 at the top of a mountain. We hiked down to almost the bottom, then skirted around the side of the mountain using a horse trail. At around 1730, we finally saw a small herd of deer. Lo and behold, the last deer in the herd was a small two-point! Everyone in the group knew I was heading out the next day so they let me take the shot. I ranged it at approximately 220 yards across the canyon to the other side, so I set my optics to the best settings I figured I should use, sat down on the ground and set my rifle in against my shoulder and knee. Perhaps it was the adrenaline or something, but my sight picture was all over the place. I tried to focus on my breathing and when the crosshairs finally fell into place over the deer, I squeezed the trigger. BLAM--the rifle went off and the deer hitched letting us know I'd hit it. It tried to run up the hill a bit, but quickly turned and sat down. I'd done it. I'd finally shot a buck after years of unsuccessful harvests. That elation turned to panicked frustration as the rest of the events unfolded. (Warning: pictures after the one below include pictures of the harvested deer. If things like that offend you, please stop here.)
As we tracked the blood trail, my cousin's friend shouted out, saying he saw a two-point and it looked injured. We figured this was probably my lost buck, and told him to shoot it. He knocked it down and we moved in to start processing it. It took a bit to find the deer because it had rolled into a tree stump hole. If the other guy hadn’t been there to walk us into where he had shot it, I don’t think we would have ever found it.
By the time we started hiking back, it was pitch black. There wasn’t a moon out and there was some slight cloud cover blocking the stars. It made the trek slow going, and coupled with the elevation, it took us a couple hours to finally make it back to the vehicle. I think it was the hardest I ever had to work to harvest a deer.