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Concealment: a legendary glassing story, and legendary advice, from a pro.
This is the first article of a two-part series on pre-season glassing by Marlon Holden. Check back in Thursday for further strategy.
While we are in the midst of pre-season scouting, I figured it would be fitting to address how invasive we are into our quarries environment, or more specifically, home. Let’s touch a bit on concealment and discuss how to remain undetected while afield pre-season scouting.
Most of us, as
hunters, see that answer as being extremely simple: stay out of sight and far away. This is one of the single most logical ways of remaining off the radar. However, there
are scenarios which simply do not allow for us to glass from 5-7 miles
away. Even if we can glass from that
far, this type of scouting never truly allows us to discern what type of
quality were dealing with, whether it be age class, tine length, mass, etc. Often, truly old bucks will choose tight avalanche chutes in the high country, tucked away in pocket
basins, where the best chance to see them is for a few minutes before first
light before they go into the timber. This behavior makes it extremely difficult to locate them regardless of effort, and makes it seem as though blind luck is
your only hope. However, with a little ‘buck-sense’ and education, you can
put yourself in these spots, turning what you once thought
to be pure luck into a regular occurrence.
Since mature animals
are solitary by nature, anything that appears out of the ordinary, however
minute, can send that particular animal into a nocturnal, reclusive
lifestyle. Remember that a summering
animal will rarely, if ever, truly leave his summer range. Even if you do not see him, he will be
Case in point, last season a
buddy of mine hunted a large 6 ½ year old buck we nicknamed Freaknasty. He lived a solitary life and rarely socialized with the other bachelored-up bucks. “FREAK”, as we called him, would be out in the open in July and early August for the first 30 minutes of
light, feeding amongst his buddies… After the second of August, though, this old,
mature non typical would wander off on his own and bed in the timber. He began going to bed earlier and earlier,
every day. By the time season was two
weeks away, he was almost nocturnal…
Even though we were in a remote and secluded basin that required a lot
of sweat-equity to get into, this buck acted his age, and wisdom had
prevailed. By a week prior to the
opener, if you hadn’t patterned this buck, you’d have no idea where his bed
was, simply because he was in it by daybreak and didn’t move until around noon
to stretch and readjust his bed. Even
then, he only got up for a brief moment equaling less than a minute before re-bedding.
Talk about reclusive!
On the season opener, he was already 200 yards below
treeline in his bed and we only knew he was there because of the antler tips sticking
up above some skunk cabbage. Only 3
inches of his left G-2 showed, that’s it! Day one was a bust, because the wind
swirled on my buddies stalk and sent Freak busting over dead-fall down the
canyon! My buddy was heartbroken, but experience told us he wouldn’t go far and that is where the work really
You see, we stayed in
our glassing positions for nearly two weeks straight looking for a glimpse of
Freak, but he never showed in his regular
bed again that season. We did, however, catch him moving through some dark timber on the 17th day, about 300
yards below and across from his old bed.
By some twist of luck, we caught his movement and it was all we needed to
secure another stalk on this High Country Monarch. After the thermals shifted and the wind was
driving itself uphill hard, my buddy took off after the big buck. Within 4 hours of carefully navigating deadfall down a 55 degree avalanche chute, my friend was
positioned 36 yards above the unsuspecting buck and he was able to successfully
smoke that deer in his bed with one well placed arrow! One of the best high
country experiences to ever be a part of.
“Freak” ended up gross scoring 218’ Non Typical with a 190” frame…
I think that there
are many aspects to being successful on that hunt, which candidly would have
sent many people in search of a new deer to chase. This experience was a large factor in my
belief that bucks don’t move country after being bumped. Remember that they do, however, change how they use that same country. One key that hunt was an
unrelenting drive from my partner to pursue, another aspect was that we both
had faith in his core summering range, that he was there and never left.
Something of importance to note is that during the toughest hunts, most animals
are right under your nose and it’s not always how hard you hunt but how much you are a student of your quarries habits, and how well you utilize that knowledge
in hunting these “ghosts”. In reality, many hunters give up because they have already mentally thrown in the towel.
Aside from what this story shows, there are a few key things to remember. Firstly, you must be convinced in your own mind that when you go into a bucks home, you must leave without a trace. Things like spitting, touching branches with
your hands after eating breakfast, urinating and even wearing boots with human odor on
the rubber soles are all things you want to make certain to not do
while afield in a bucks core territory. All you are doing is educating that
animal, and while he may not leave the country, you’re advising him that he
needs to go nocturnal or possibly change his routine.
clothing before you go afield is something to consider as well. There are many detergents available that are
UV resistant and do not leave all that crazy “smell good” stuff all over your
hunting get-up. While it is impossible to not sweat in country that nearly swallows even the toughest athletes, you can control things such as the greasy
fingers you wipe on your jacket after enjoying a Sausage and cheese McMuffin
while driving to your destination. Sure, enjoy breakfast, just be sure that you
don’t leave residue on your clothing, ESPECIALLY campfire smoke or fuel from
the gas nozzle at the station on your garments.
These are all big red flags that will play against you in the field in
the long run.
anything and everything that you CAN control, you must control. There’s such a thing as paranoia, no doubt, and
I may sound paranoid, however, after a buck grows his fourth point, he earns
his sixth sense, I swear it! While we do all of these things to stay concealed
while scouting, we all know that hunting the wind is our most effective tool
and likely will account for most successful hunts. Simply put, over
the years, I have found that in order to be successful, you must consistently
do certain things in order to level the odds and make what once appeared as
luck turn into a relative certainty.
With practice comes proficiency. Stay undetected, make stealth a part of your arsenal, and consistently
see the results of your hard work.