Location: Aarchery Outfitters, Washington
December 1-6, 2010
December in Washington!
A thin layer of sweat covered my chest, evidence of the work it took for me to climb
the 30 feet in the self climber. A new relationship and appreciation with my safety
harness gave me the confidence to move about and crawl into my heater body suit.
My bow hanger was in my vision over my left shoulder complimented by my Matthews,
suspended but locked and loaded. My guide had just left. It was quiet…I mean whisper
quiet. No wind, no squirrels, no ravens…just my breathing. Here I was, in Washington,
archery hunting and the game was on!
This was our archery hunt with Brian Jennen and Aarchery Outfitters. We trekked
across North Dakota and Montana. Zipped through a sliver of Idaho and navigated
through the streets of Spokane. Finally turning north after a thousand or so miles of
heading west, we tackled the last leg of our journey and reached our new home in fine
After day one, it was obvious that this would not be an easy place to leave. The beauty
of the country was appreciated every day. The guides, cook, and our new hunting
partners (Mike and Mike from Mass, Jessie from Maine) made the trip even more
special. Most of all, it was the excitement of waking up each morning knowing that this
day was going to be as special as the last one and afford the potential for another great
hunt or shot opportunity. This was not going to be an easy place to leave.
We fine tuned our routines as we became more comfortable with the camp. Our daily
duties of breakfast, packing our own lunch, gearing up and picking on each other were
motivated by one fact. It meant that soon we would be driving through snow country
pointed towards a stand site reinforced by photos of game that had been visiting “our”
stand in the last few days. Talk about peaking your interest!
Personally this trip would become one of those memories etched in my mind because
of the one that got away. In my case, I did the power company lineman trek up the
tree with my climber. At what seemed like a reasonable height, I looked down to see
my guide pointing up with his finger telling me to go higher. The weight of my pack
gave evidence that I had maxed out the tether rope used to raise my gear. My guide
took care of that as he placed his 6’ frame under the pack, raised my gear above his
head and gave me the signal to climb further. In time, my guide had left, I was in my
heater body suit and the woods were as described….whisper quiet. By hour number
three, some movement at my 12 o’clock gave me a view of a buck and a nice one. A
shooter buck. As deer tend to do, he took his time in fact, he took forever. I found that
in the process I was 13 again. My breathing was rapid and interrupted and my hands
were suddenly sweaty. Crunch, crunch and he was at 40 yards. It took me forever to
lift my bow off the bow hanger. I cradled the Matthews in my hand and slowly clipped
my release on the string. Crunch, crunch and now he was behind a tree. “Excellent”, I
thought as I planned out my next move. “Move straight and I can draw, turn back and I
can draw…this is good. All I have to do is wait.” And wait I did, for a half hour the buck
fed and stayed put with me at the ready. Finally, the magic time had come as the buck
turned 360 degrees. That caught me off guard a bit but I drew and as the buck walked
another two steps I anchored and squeezed my release. The buck whirled and ran and
with that, my opportunity for a filled tag as well. I had passed on a very nice light frame
10 pointer earlier in hopes something bigger would come along. It did and not only
that, it left. So, unlike Conway (who incidentally made good on his buck at the same
time of 1:30 and about a mile away), my visions of a Washington trophy buck include
the disappearing horns and the white tail waving at me as it disappeared in the timber.
I intend to remedy that next year upon my return.
Highlights of our trip included the first buck taken by “Quiet Mike” of Mass. The
excitement in the story, the reenactment of events and the recovery of the trophy
was enjoyed by all…a number of times! “Other Mike” also connected and somehow
managed to slay a trophy even bigger than his partner. Conway made good on a
1:30pm trophy which made the guides super happy and great fodder for happy hour
stories. Brother Buzz and I were relegated to telling stories about the ones that got
away as we both squeezed the release on our Matthew bows. Mixed in between all
these highlights were stories of a bull elk that walked within 5 yards but did not afford
a shot, of trophy bucks working their way around the stand site within a cast of the
stand but not presenting shot options. Of an archer reaching his altitude of 30” only to
drop his bow and have to climb back down and repeat the process. Or…an afternoon
spent watching deer, and then eventually cows and calves from mid day until dark…all
without releasing an arrow. Hunt data showed extremely high success for an archery
hunt. Six of us, three with our deer tags wrapped around antlers, one who made good
on a doe and two of us who missed but made good on a return commitment next year
to this fine camp.
Indeed a great place and an even greater place for the opportunity to collect on that
trophy buck or a chance to fill your freezer with elk meat. We loved the mountainous
country that treated us each day to postcard picture perfect country. Trees burdened
with layers of snow, the quietness of the forest floor, the ever steady movement of
game as they drifted in and out of bait sites. The numerous “gotcha moments” when
trophies came out of nowhere and kicked our heart rates into high hear. Fun, friends
and a chance to pull back to your anchor point as your pin settles on a Washington
trophy. For sure, a place that is hard to leave.