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Muzzleloader Season in WA

September 30th 2017

It's opening morning of Muzzleloader season here in Washington.  Headed out to fill Conner and John's tags today.  1st light walking in and there's a legal buck above us but he's already got us pinned, keep walking because we know where he's headed.  Stop, another legal buck in front of us, saw us before we saw him too.  Was 6 of us total so we split up, 3 headed across canyon to be extra eyes on the ridge Conner, John and I were on.  Was a long morning, never was successful on closing the distance between us and the bucks.   We head back to the truck to make a new game plan for the afternoon.  When our hunting days are limited to “only weekend days”, we stay out all day!  Papa and Mema decide to head home for lunch and take Kenna with them.  She's worn out.  John, Conner and myself head to another spot.  It's almost immediate, we spot 2 bucks bedded.  One legal for sure, pretty certain the other is too, will check again as they close the distance.  John and Conner, each of them with their own muzzleloader, take off down the canyon.  They want to climb the ridge out of sight of the bucks, and close the distance by side-hilling it towards them as they wrap around the ridge.  The plan is for me to stay put, keep an eye on the bucks and be able to communicate with the boys if the bucks get up and move, and to help the boys out with closing the distance.  40 minutes later, I receive a text from John “I see you”.  I look up to see his head skylined at the right height.  They are still a long distance from the deer I'm watching and with the lay of the land, no way they'll be seen.  I pick up the phone to reply, wanting to let them know they're at a perfect spot to start closing the gap. Only a few words into my response, I hear the first shot ring out! BOOM! It's right above me, that came right from where the boys were.  I know one of them just shot.  There's no way they could see the deer I'm watching.  Then BOOM, another shot rings out.  I look up.  The deer I'm watching are still there and bedded, I'm confused.  I look back towards where I last saw the boys, just to see a buck running, he's small, doesn't look like he's been hit or stumbling at all.  Then above him I catch more movement.  A larger buck comes running from the boys direction, and stops.  I can see him in my binoculars and can tell he's been hit hard.  The small buck meets up with the 2 original deer I've been watching and they all just stand there.  It seems like forever I'm watching this deer that's been hit, and I can see that he's losing blood from his mouth.  John calls, he has reloaded both guns, and is wondering if I was able to see what was happening.  I tell him about the buck that's been hit.  He tells me that right after he texted me that he could see me, they walked right into these 2 bucks bedded. Unfortunately Conner still had his gun across his back, was struggling to get it off when john told him they were going to lose their chance.  Conner said “Dad, I can't!”  That's when John pulled up, the buck is broadside, John pulled the trigger, the gun went click.  He recocked it, now remembering that this particular gun does that sometimes.  The buck is moving through the trees now, an open spot, John shoots, and the buck dropped!   Conner yells out “Dad you got him, that was awesome”  They look toward the buck, going to go to him, when the buck gets back on it's feet.  It starts moving through the trees.  Conner gives John his gun, he fires off a shot at him, it's a miss, and the buck keeps walking out of sight.  Now I feel the buck can sense he needs to get moving and starts to walk slowly toward the other 2 deer, but higher on the ridge.  I tell John he's about 50 yards from the top of the ridge, side hilling it slowly toward what we call “The Bowl”.  He has all the info he needs and we hang up.   I know that in order to keep an eye on this deer if he keeps walking, that I'm going to have to move position as well.  I start heading in the bottom around the ridge, the deer is first around the ridge and I lose sight of him.  John calls to see what I know now, but we're cutting out, my phone is losing service.  I hang up and know that I've already given him the best info I could have and now I know it's up to the boys to do what they do best.  I make it to the “Bowl”.  I start climbing the ridge across from it to get a higher vantage point, looking into it, hoping to see something.  The other 3 deer are slowly heading toward the bowl, not sure what to do exactly.  I take a seat and start glassing.  John and Conner were going to go around the backside of the knob and head toward the bowl through another saddle.  It's a shorter distance, they'll hope to cut him off.  I don't see them or the deer that was hit.  I keep looking for what seems like forever again, then BOOM, a shot goes off, then BOOM, another.  And then it's just dead quiet.  The 3 bucks I'm watching, turn around and head back where they came from and I just sit there, watching, waiting for any type of movement.  I know it's the boys and I know they're here in the bowl, but I'm not seeing or hearing anything.  Finally I can't take it anymore, I whistle really loud, and get a whistle reply.  So I know the boys are still here.  I whistle again, another whistle comes back to me.  My phone goes off, I must have climbed the ridge high enough for service again.  John says he lost sight of the deer after both of the last shots, they were headed where they last saw him, get on his trail and going to look for blood.  I sit and wait, my heart is racing!  Let them find this deer!  Minutes later, a loud “WOO HOO” echoes through this bowl, something our family has always done when our animal is down and we come up to them.  All of us break out with our “Coyote” howls!!  Turns out, they were able to cut off the deer.  They made their way through the saddle and started down into the bowl since I had told them he was 50 yards or so from the top.  It wasn't long before Conner thought he heard something, almost like a growling or the clearing of your throat, really loudly.   He turned, seeing the deer.  “Dad, there he is!”  They continue moving down hill to get closer, John makes the noise of a deer, the deer stops, he shoots.  The deer is moving, Conner hands him his gun, and he shoots again, and loses sight of the deer.  The fire weed in there was so tall, it was hard to keep tabs on him.  Turns out, that the 3rd shot was perfect placement, right behind the shoulder.  When we inspect the deer for the first hit, it's right in the neck.  We are shocked he made it as far as he had, but know that he would have died from that wound.  His throat was swelling and was restricting his air flow.  I make my way to the sounds of 2 excited boys.  Conner runs to me, I can tell he his filled with happiness for his Dad.  We waste no time getting pictures taken, when Papa, Mema, and Kenna show up to help!  This is a group effort and we all help each other out as much as we can.  Was an exciting, action packed day for sure and just a small glimpse into how our season has been!

By Jamie Sorg

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