Idaho Whitetail Deer Hunting | Scott Haugen
Idaho Whitetail Deer Hunting
Scott Haugen doubles while hunting whitetail deer in Idaho.
by Scott Haugen
However, it happened so quickly that there was no time to prepare for a shot.
Positioned overlooking a rose hip-choked bench, it was obvious whitetails had been everywhere. Trails crisscrossed through and around the brush, and beaten paths led to and from the bordering stands of timber. We’d see a few does on that first evening of the hunt, and then a buck. It was only one buck, but I knew he was the one.
His main beams extended to the tip of his nose. His back tines would project a good 14 inches into the sky. The massive 10-point rack was impressive, and just the quick glimpse we caught of him chasing does through thick brush revealed that he had at least 160-inches of antler. However, it happened so quickly that there was no time to prepare for a shot.
Sleep came tough that night, for though I knew there were big bucks in the area, I didn’t think they were that big. Mind you, 160-inch class bucks weren’t behind every tree, but I did see 135-class bucks every day. However, my mind was set on the big buck I’d just seen. Idaho whitetail deer hunting was on my mind.
The first deer to appear was a buck, but in the low light, it was difficult to confirm if he was our target buck.
The next morning we were back in position in the rugged hills near Peck, Idaho, overlooking a deep canyon bordering the bench where we’d seen the buck on the prior night. No sign of him. My buddy, Jake, and I decided to move back up on top of the bench, and though we saw some good bucks, including a 150 class, heavy 9-point, he was not the big boy we wanted.
The big buck failed to show himself that afternoon as well, and I questioned whether the does were hot enough to keep the big buck in the area. “He’s here, no doubt,” encouraged Jake. “We’ll just keep hitting this area and hopefully bump into him.”
The following morning we were above the rosehip bushes — Idaho whitetail deer hunting — overlooking two knolls and a funnel that cut between them. It was through this funnel that the buck routinely moved. The first deer to appear was a buck, but in the low light, it was difficult to confirm if he was our target buck.
He checked scrapes for over five minutes, within 275 yards of where we sat, but before pulling the trigger I wanted to make certain it was our deer. Then he moved off, without a shot being fired.
Fifteen minutes later, he reappeared, and this time there was plenty of daylight to confirm that it was our buck. But as he bounced from scrape to scrape, and chased a doe around the rose hips, he never presented a good shot. At one point, he stood still for nearly three minutes, but all I could see was his face. Then he disappeared, not to be seen for the rest of the day.
That night, sleep didn’t come any easier for me, as all I could envision was that big buck. Idaho whitetail deer hunting was taking its toll on me.
Making our way into position the following morning, a heavy frost blanketed the tall, yellow-grass knobs, which we’d been hunting. It was one of those mornings where you just knew something was going to happen—and it did. Idaho whitetail deer hunting was about to show its hand.
My decision would come back to haunt me, for the course of the next four days, I’d never see the big buck again.
Although Idaho Whitetail deer hunting can be challenging, I knew rewards were to come, at least I hoped. Glassing the brushy hillside for movement, a dark object caught my eye. It moved our way, and at 80 yards, there’s no doubt what it was. It was our buck, except he was larger than originally thought. He milled about, checking does, and though I could have shot him several times, our task was to capture the action on film for the TV show we were sent to get.
It was a tough decision, but I let the buck walk, as we simply didn’t have enough filming light. The hardest part, he was pushing 170-inches. He was longer and heavier than we initially thought. The good part, he was still in the area and had no idea we were around.
Watching where he’d vanished into the brush, another big buck appeared not 30 minutes later. He was a shooter buck, well into the 150-inch class, but I simply couldn’t afford to risk a shot, knowing a bigger buck was nearby. My decision would come back to haunt me, for the course of the next four days, I’d never see the big buck again.
The Grassy Knoll
Then, we spotted a good buck, a 10-point with decent eye-guards.
Finally, we decided to pull out of the area to let things calm down. We relocated on to the backside of the ridge, a land that hadn’t been hunted all season. It would be a spot-and-stalk approach, and the move paid off. Scrapes littered the hillside, and beaten trails left no question as to the level of activity in the area.
As we made our way up and over a grassy knoll, whitetails could be seen in the brushy draw ahead. Then, we spotted a good buck, a 10-point with decent eye-guards. The good part, I held two tags thanks to Idaho’s generous laws. Even if I did burn one tag, I’d still be able to hunt for the big buck. This is an exceptional boon for Idaho whitetail deer hunting and hunters.
The buck stood on the edge of a thicket, and as I settled the Thompson/Center ProHunter chambered in .300 Winchester magnum into the shooting sticks, I failed to pick him up. The sun was just rising over the mountain behind the buck and filled my scope with a glare. Shifting into the shadow of a nearby Ponderosa pine tree, by the time I got into position, the buck was on the move.
He ran straight uphill, more the move of what you’d expect a bighorn sheep to make, not a whitetail. A quick reading on the rangefinder confirmed the distance at 340 yards. The buck was moving straight away, up a very steep ridge. Putting the point of the Trijicon reticle on the buck’s nose, the .300 roared. Instantly the buck collapsed and cartwheeled 150 yards back down the hill before coming to rest in a pile of brush.
I’d already passed two bucks larger than this buck, and could have dropped the big boy two other times, had it not been for the TV camera. But, given the circumstances, I couldn’t have been more pleased with the results, not to mention the fine-eating meat that came with it. Once again, Idaho whitetail deer hunting struck a positive chord.
The Hunt’s Final Days
At 314 yards, I felt confident with the rifle nestled snugly in the shooting sticks.
The final four days of my hunt were spent focusing on the elusive big buck. Though we saw multiple bucks each day, we failed to find the monster I so wanted. We worked our tails off, working the bottoms of big draws, searching from high atop prime lookout spots, even skirting the rugged hillsides where we’d seen the buck before. But no matter how great the effort, the buck was nowhere to be seen.
On the final day of the hunt, we’d be overlooking the funnel from where the big buck emerged on two occasions. While none of the three big bucks that we’d seen in that area showed up, a different buck did, and he was hot on a doe. He was a high, heavy 8 point, obviously a buck in his prime.
We talked it over, and both Jake and I figured him to be an old buck, one that likely would be at or near the peak of his antler development. Given the circumstances, I decided to take him. At 314 yards, I felt confident with the rifle nestled snugly in the shooting sticks. At the roar of the rifle, the 180-grain bullet did the rest. In my family, virtually all the meat we eat is wild game, and I was delighted at having another fine whitetail to take home. It was Idaho whitetail deer hunting, challenging but worth every minute!
Idaho Whitetail Deer Hunting
Idaho is home to the Northwest Whitetail. Should you choose to travel to Idaho on a whitetail hunt, two things to keep in mind: Be in shape, and be able to shoot at long distances. Many shot opportunities will come across canyons, and 300 yards should be a comfortable shot to make, with 400 yards even being within reason. The country is big and rugged, perfect for elk, bear, mule deer, and yes, even western whitetail. Intense walking may be required to make something happen, especially if searching for that true trophy class buck, but it’s doable if you’re in good physical condition. The whitetails in this part of Idaho are healthy and thriving. But be warned, once you set foot in the pristine land these deer call home, your impression of whitetail hunting will be forever changed, as it’s a bit different in this part of the West. This is Idaho whitetail deer hunting!
For more information on Idaho whitetail deer hunting, visit https://idfg.idaho.gov/.
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Scott Haugen is a full-time author, host of Trijicon’s The Hunt, producer, and speaker. With more than 40 years of hunting experience, a Masters degree in education, 12 years of public school teaching and more than 1,500 magazine articles, a dozen books and over 350 TV episodes to his credit, Haugen is a wealth of outdoor knowledge. Scott Haugen has hunted numerous countries and across much of North America, but his deepest passion lies in hunting the American West. You can learn more about Scott, his public appearances and book titles at www.scotthaugen.com.