This article was written by Luke, the oldest son of Got Game Tech founder, Tayler Tibbitts, putting into words his first big game animal hunt where he was the shooter.
Although I’ve been hunting with my dad before when he’s shot something, this late whitetail deer season was my first time having the gun in my hands. On December 29, 2018, I had turned ten, eight days ago, which is when youth can hunt big game in Idaho. The only general season open in my area was a late short-range weapon whitetail doe hunt. I was hunting with a Savage bolt-action .20 gauge shotgun with a slug.
My dad and I woke up at 6 a.m. and planned on hunting the
river bottoms that bordered some fields. I had butterflies in my stomach as we
left the truck and headed down to the creek bottom. We first saw some whitetail
does around 7:30 a.m., but shooting light wasn’t until 7:45 a.m.
At 7:45 a.m., the does we had seen moved to about 160 yards
away. This gun was sighted in for longer ranges than a typical shotgun and had
a scope, but that was still a long ways away. I tried to find the deer in my
scope to see how I felt, but had a hard time finding the deer.
Fortunately, another group of deer walked out in front of me
at 30 yards! I held still and was really quiet. I had some trouble taking the
safety off the gun as the first deer came into my sights. I thought I had it on
fire, but when I pulled the trigger nothing happened. This happened a second
time too! Finally, I was able to get the safety all the way off and settled the
cross hairs on one of the does.
I was resting the gun on the fence in front of me, and when
I pulled the trigger, the doe didn’t even run. She just dropped. I shot her
through both lungs. After I shot this deer, I felt happy and proud of myself
because I managed to shoot my first big game animal. My first phone call was to
my mom, and she was really excited for me. I also called my grandpa and uncle,
and they were excited too.
I helped field dress the deer by unzipping the hide on the
belly and holding the legs while my dad worked with the knife inside. After
finishing, we dragged the deer through the creek and across the field to our
truck. We aged the meat and turned it into steaks and jerky. We’ve eaten the
meat from my deer for dinner. It feels good to provide food for my family.
My favorite part of this hunt was the feeling of shooting
the deer, because of how exciting it was. I like hunting because of how hard it
can be–you might need to walk a long ways and do hard things to get the right
In 2019, I plan on shooting a mule deer buck and a bull elk.
I am going to apply for controlled hunt tags in Idaho, and if I don’t draw,
I’ll hunt over the counter. I am planning on scouting with my dad during the
summer and fall to prepare for my hunts.
The three of us converged on the small town of Riggins, Idaho from all directions. I drove north from Boise, my dad drove east from Oregon, and my brother drove west from Rexburg, Idaho. Incredibly, the three of us had all drawn a late season rifle hunt for mule deer in some of the most rugged, but most amazing, country in the West.
We quickly learned how the area got its name. The elevation changes were intense, and the hillsides were rocky. Traipsing off trail was difficult work going over deadfall, through thick brush, and accross rock slides. This first day was spent getting to know the terrain, as we saw few deer and definitely no shooter bucks.
On the second day we drove up to the spot we planned to begin our hunt only to find that someone else had a rig parked at the trail head. So we called an audible and headed closer to the river where some finger draws connected some lower meadows to the higher, rockier, mountainous terrain. This shift in gears turned out to be a fortuitous one.
After seeing a herd of does and small bucks head over a saddle and into the finger draws, my brother and I decided to hang around them in case there was a bigger buck waiting to scent check the does. Our dad took the truck around to the base of a connecting trailhead a few miles away.
After setting up to glass on top of the saddle over which this herd of deer disappeared, we really got a great lay of the land. There was a lot more country up there than we initially thought! We glassed for close to an hour, seeing multiple herds with small bucks and many does. We also saw a few draws that looked to have good cover, feed, and water, but that were far enough away we couldn’t see down them. We had also been watching the magpies, as they’ll often signal the location of a bedded deer (due to their symbiotic relationship). There was one draw in particular that had a lot of magpie traffic, so we decided to walk down that way before setting up for a new spot to glass.
On the way over, we walked through a scrubby section of trees that had great feed and water. We had a feeling this little nook tucked back in these finger draws might be the home of a decent buck. Not long after passing this spot, we jumped two bucks and a doe! One buck was a small two-point, but the other had what appeared to be a pretty wide rack. We decided to try to set up for a shot.
Boom! My hasty, standing shot missed the mark. Fortunately, the rutting buck was more interested in the doe. He gave me enough time to sit down and rest my elbows on my knees and get a better read on his range–280 yards. As the second shot sounded, the buck jumped straight in the air, and we knew I had hit him pretty well. But he kept moving further up the hill. He’d bed, and then get up. Bed, and then get up. Finally, he bedded down long enough for me to make a final shot to the neck. He expired there.
As I approached, I was really pleased! He was a solid three-point with a fairly wide spread. We quartered him up, and began the packout, down the finger draws and out to the trail head where our dad had left the truck. Our packs were heavy, but our hearts were light–lifted by the gratitude towards God and nature for a successful hunt and an opportunity to provide for our families.
As I reflect on this hunt about a month after it happened, I’m reminded of the excitement and the bonds of family and friendship formed in the field. I’m also thankful for the meat that my family has been able to eat as a result. Thank you for taking the time to share in my memorable experience hunting Hell’s Canyon.
2017 was a really exciting year. I was blessed to be able to do what I love spending time outdoors, hunting, fishing, and hiking. When spending time in the outdoors you have an opportunity to create many awesome memories and experiences. I would like to share one with you that I had this year while hunting Mule Deer in Salmon, Idaho.
A few days before, my father-in-law and I were preparing for this amazing hunt. We discussed some options of where we could go, what we would need to bring, and how long we wanted to spend. After talking with him the excitement grew immensely, and I could barely stand the wait. The day after we talked about the hunt, I was at work and I hurt my back. The pain was so much that it was hard to move. I couldn’t believe that I hurt my back just days before the big deer hunt. I called my father-in-law with the bad news that night. I expressed my disappointment and we pondered what we could do so that I could still go. We decided that we would go but that he would carry the pack with the gun, food, water, and all our essential hunting supplies. It was a pretty sad plan on my part but it still would give me the opportunity to get a deer.
Finally, it was the day of the hunt. We woke up 3 hours before light. We did this so we could make it to a specific point before shooting light. After the 1-hour drive, we made it to the trail head and we quickly headed up the mountain in the dark. It was a tough walk with my back, and I imagine it was just as tough for my father-in-law carrying all the weight. As the sun began to come up our heads were on a swivel looking for deer. We walked about 15 minutes longer and we saw what we made out to be a decent buck.
It was on the other side of the canyon and it was looking our way. We quickly sat down, looked at it through the binoculars and we ranged it at 473 yards. We knew he would spook if we tried getting closer so I decided to take the shot. (I’d shot this gun previously at 1,000 years, so I was comfortable with taking it at less than half the distance.) After getting set up and looking through the scope I was ready to pull the trigger.
As I shot the deer moved quickly and started busting down the hill. Neither myself nor my father-in-law could tell if I hit him or not.It took us about 30 minutes to walk to the other side of the canyon to see if there was a blood trail, and we found one. I was a little concerned because the blood wasn’t as thick as I would have liked.
We followed the deer for over an hour and could see that it was getting weaker because it bedded down three times as we were following the trail. I was beginning to get nervous that I shot a deer that we weren’t going to find. But, we didn’t give up, continuing on the trail. It wasn’t but 5 minutes after we saw the third bed and we came across the buck, bedded down. I quickly set up for another shot and dropped him.
Excitement overcame me after we shot this deer, because I was feeling lucky about even being on the mountain with my back. The luck didn’t stop there either, without even noticing it the deer ran back towards the truck and we found ourselves only 1 mile away from the truck. This made the pack out a lot easier on both my father-in-law and myself. This was definitely an experience I won’t forget!
About the author: Ryan Smith is an avid outdoorsman and co-owner of Got Game Technologies, LLC. He and his family reside in Salmon, Idaho, where he enjoys hunting elk, mule deer, and wolves.