Mule Deer, Elk and Western Big Game Hunting -

"Lucky Shoes"
Written by Duane Burg

Lucky Shoes
Like so many hunts, they start the year before with a dream. How many times has next years hunt started the last day of the season? For me, the last couple of years have become complicated. Every year I try to apply for one more state than the year before. Applying for several Western states is both hard and easy. Since physically scouting the states is not possible, all of your scouting comes from statistics, reading lots of magazines and looking at Google and Map programs such as Delormes. This is the part that I find to be hard. Making a decision on which unit to hunt based on this research always leaves me with a yucky feeling. Filling out the applications is rather easy with most of the states having an online application process.

My first applications started getting submitted in February of 07. My first draw results came out in June. I remember Nevada being the first to post their information and I was extremely excited to see that I had drawn 2 tags for the state, a late season deer hunt and a July archery antelope hunt. After the initial excitement of being drawn had passed, nervousness started to set in about the antelope hunt that was in just 5 weeks. I have never hunted antelope and the thought of having to be within bow range started to fill my head with doubt.

My hunting unit was more than a 7 hour drive and my schedule did not allow for any scouting. So I made a few phone calls and started reading as much as possible. Time went by fast and my hunting partner canceled when his schedule changed with less than 10 days to go. Now I was going solo.

So with only my schedule to deal with, I decided to leave two days early and get in some scouting. The day before the opener was a nightmare as I felt this huge pressure to find the right spot. No such luck as I found myself frustrated with the country. I ended up pulling the truck over in the dark and just climbing in the back with no hope for opening morning.

Although opening day was a drag, I got over it. I changed my bad mood into "scout mode" and covered as much country as possible. Day two was no better, but I kept my hope high. On day three, I still hadn't found what I was looking for. I was seeing some antelope, but the numbers are low and stalking these weary, side eyed beasts seems impossible. I wanted a good water hole. Every water hole on the map was dried up. I ran into a forest service employee who told me they were having a drought this year.

I thought about that a lot and it occurred to me that if I ever did find water, the speedgoat's should be more concentrated. No real brainstorm there, it is just like the first thing I have ever heard, find a water hole!

While riding around looking for water, I came across 5 does and a decent buck. They had not noticed me on my quad, so I quickly shoved it into some sage brush and began my stalk. They went over a ridge and I scrambled down the ridge behind them and up the other side. Carefully crawling to the top and peaking over, I saw them already on the other side. They rolled over the ridge and I started over. This went on for three ridges before I seen the water hole in the distance. They were leading me right to the Honey Hole!!

I hung back from there and watched them go and drink for only about 10 minutes. From there, they frolicked around and ate for about 1 hours before bedding down. Finally, it was time to go get him! 5 minutes into my stalk, they made me and peeled out of there. Maybe I am not a good stalker or maybe there just was not enough cover, the shale rock was loud and not every stalk works out.
I did however make it to the water hole and comprised a plan. My plan was to build a ground blind, so I returned that afternoon with a saw, some cord rope, and a lot of energy. I built a decent blind out of sage brush and sat in it for just over two hours that night. I had my decoy out looking real good. As darkness set in, I picked up and hiked out. I ditched the quad just short of a mile from the water hole and then a 4 mile drive to camp. The drive is slow as the road is unused and raw. I gave a lot of thought to "what now", as tomorrow was my last day. For one, it occurred to me that I did not need a decoy, the water would bring them in, that is all I needed. "Don't complicate things", I thought to myself. But I found myself questioning whether or not I even wanted to go and sit in this blind again. I have never done this before and sitting in these blinds is BORING!
Well after a lot of thought, I decided that this "is" what I am supposed to do! It is what every book, every article, and every person I talked to said to do.

I got up at 3:30, made some coffee and decided to switch shoes. I had been wearing my favorite hiking boots but decided to try my Cabalas high top sneakers. They are extra light and super comfortable. Not real good for hiking all day as they have no sole, but I was planning on sitting. I was on the quad driving the trail by 4:30. I stashed the quad in some tall sage brush and hiked in the rest of the way. I was in my blind at 5:15 and it was just starting to get light. I had set a time limit of 9:00. I was out of here at that moment and on my way home, if I could even make it that long. I wrestled back and forth inside my head with how long it would take to get home, while remaining optimistic. I knew that it could happen and more importantly, I believed it deep in my sole. It was only when I gave to much thought to "how" that I became negative and pessimistic. Trying to figure out all of the details can often leave you with the thought that it is impossible.

I was surprised that at 8:30 I was still there. Really, this is a long time to sit still and not take a break from sitting still. I made a commitment to 9 o'clock and I decided to keep it. I was reflected on the hunt and wondered if I did something wrong? What would of a better, more accomplished antelope hunter done? I then suddenly had a loud breathing animal snorting and sniffing from my backside. I held my bow tight and fought off the urge to look that way. I looked at my watch, 8:45! Just 15 minutes to go before this hunt was done. Thank you Jesus. More snorting and this thing was right there, somewhere close, just yards away! I saw nothing as my blind only had holes cut out for the shot down at the water. I held still, with my heart pounding for what seemed like an eternity. Then it appeared at the water. I pulled back and released.

I cannot be more thankful to those that support me and push me to follow my dreams. There is an amazing feeling that sticks with you for a long time when you find success on your DIY hunt. The first step to that success is applying. If all else fails, switch shoes.

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