North Idaho’s Troy Pottenger of Nextbuk Outdoors provided the description of his and his son’s hunt two days after the kill of this beautiful 22-inch-wide mountain whitetail. The report was delayed only by Pottenger’s elk hunt, which resumed the day after he put this whitetail on the ground (and resulted in an all-night pack out of his buddy’s bull).
The narrative that follows illustrates Pottenger’s theory on waiting for the right wind to make a buck feel comfortable and then setting up stands near terrain features that funnel deer and that keep him out of their wind current:
My son Tyson and I had been watching the daily/hourly weather and wind updates for nearly a week, waiting for a south or better yet southwest wind so we could hunt a particular stand that consistently produces evening big buck movement exiting their bedding hideouts. Without that wind the careful bucks would likely choose to feed elsewhere. After a quick check of Accuweather on my cell, I was happy to see the hourly wind direction details. I smiled and sent Tyson a text that simply read “SW wind at the ‘saddle’ stand!” We both knew what that meant. After my day of work and Tyson’s day of school, we found ourselves following a long ridge line covered in thick brush and big timber. Three quarters of the way up the mountain, Ty and stopped for our scheduled dress down and spray down cool off period. Once we aired out so to speak and doused ourselves with Vanishing Hunter, we made the final trek to our double treestand set up.
The set up, a 100 foot tall Douglas Fir tree, greeted us once again. Quietly Tyson and I slipped up into the stand, attached our Hunters Safety Systems, hung our backpacks and hoisted our bows up the tow ropes. Next, I set up the Lone Wolf tree arm. We were ready. Now it was just a matter of the wind staying consistent for the evening. The wind was holding true, blowing right into a tremendous big buck hangout, while we sat just on the edge of that wind current. Our scent being pushed straight out over a big rock bluff that deer avoid like the plague. That bluff serves as the perfect terrain feature to steer deer and elk just past my stand and out of our scent stream. We were set.
First to show up through the saddle was a young forked horned whitetail. At 8 yards broadside, Ty passed due to antler restrictions and wanting a much larger animal. Minutes later after the buck had moved by, a mature doe and her fawn came through at 2 and 5 yards. Again Ty elected to pass. It wasn’t 15 minutes later when a lone cow and calf elk eased out of the thick brush past our stand at again, 5 yards. All the time the wind was working perfectly, pushing out over the bluff that redirected the deer in front of our stand. With the light beginning to fade I hear those famous words come from Tyson. “Dad, big buck, big buck coming.” At first Tyson thought it was a buck we call “55” and he grabbed his bow and whispered, “I’m gonna shoot him dad, if he gets close enough.”
I readied the camera. By this time I could finally see the buck from my elevated postion 7 feet higher up the tree than Tyson’s stand. I immediately recognized the buck as the wide rack 4x as we had called him from his trail cam picture. I whispered to Tyson, “It’s not ’55,’ it’s the wide rack buck.” Tyson responded with, “Shoot him, dad.” In a matter of seconds I knew he would be on us and he was. I positioned the camera arm and camera in the only opening I was going to get a shot at the deer based on his travel direction. I punched record and let it play.
The buck was trailed by two other bucks, both 4x4s. The big bodied buck came into view on the LCD screen, and I watched him as I drew my bow. He was walking down slope to the saddle fully relaxed. At full draw I had about a 10 yard window to stop him before he would get behind a big stand of timber. I gave him one “baaaaaa” and he jerked his head up freezing stone still. He was slightly quartered to me when I settled the 30 yard pin 1 inch behind his front shoulder, fairly high with the steep angle. I waited 2 to 3 seconds to really settle the pin perfectly. The pin settled rock solid, and I touched off the release. Perfect hit, was what I saw with my naked eye. Tyson immediately said “Dad, you drilled him,” after he mule kicked and bolted down the backside of the mountain through the brush. We listened closely, and roughly 5 to 10 seconds later, we heard a big crash. We gave him about 20 minutes and bailed out of the tree before dark. I put Tyson on the blood trail, and after 10 yards we found my perfectly intact arrow. Ten careful minutes of tracking blood through heavy brush and thick timber later, we found him 50 yards from the arrow, piled up in a thicket of second growth timber. Lots of great memories, a quick photo shoot and a long drag finished out the night, one we will never forget. This was the first time my son got to see his old man arrow a big mountain buck. Hopefully there will be many more to come.
Later this week, look for a comprehensive round up of deer activity across the West, including a check in on the flood-ravaged state of Colorado and how flood waters have affected agriculture and whitetail behavior in the state’s southeast corner, home to the West’s biggest whitetail deer.