Eastern Sierra ~ September 17th & 18th

Every since I started dating my boyfriend I have been introduced to so many new things and places.  He makes it so easy to get out and enjoy life.  He is always on the move and busy which is a saving grace for me.  I love being out but if I sit my butt down on the couch I will never get up, it is so easy for me to become lazy.  So for me to get out and hike, bike or just explore I have to plan it.  If I plan it I do it, but with him nothing is planned and it is go go go and I absolutely love it!  I have no time to sit on the couch and let life pass me by.

One of the new things I have been introduced to is hunting.  My family has always liked to hunt but it has always been a “boys” club.  My grandpa would go with the boys to Utah to hunt deer.  My dad and brother would go dove and pig hunting together.  The whole family would go to the ranch and the boys would go turkey hunting or go shoot the big guns while the girls would go into town and go shopping or we would sit back at camp and watch the kids.  I have always  wanted to be a part of the boys club but it just never worked out.  Now I get to do all of the things I wanted to do and with someone that is so patience with me and wants to teach me all about it.  I’m so excited to learn this part of his life and share his passion.

This weekend he took me to the Eastern Sierra’s to hunt for deer.  We were meeting up with his friend that was already up there with a trailer parked at the Campground.  The drive up to the Sierra’s is long but with the right person the time seems to fly by and before we knew it we were driving along the 395 watching the sunset over Mt Whitney.

We finally made it to the campsite and unpacked.  It was pretty late when we got done and we were going to get up early the next morning so we went to bed.

Sure enough the day started before the sun was up at 4am.  As we made our way outside the air was crisp and the moon was so bright and beautiful, but as I was learning a bright moon is not good for hunting.  We made our way out to a dirt road and started to walk.  Our head lamps gave us light as we walked up the mountain without a trail.

The scent of desert sage filled the air as our legs broke through the bushes in our way.  We made it half way up the mountain to a large rock with a flat sitting area.  It gave us a comfortable place to sit and watch the moon set and the sunrise.  We glassed the area, a new hunting word I learned, but didn’t see anything more than the light filling the sky.  We were only in that spot for a short time before we picked up and moved on.

We started to make our way up to the top of the mountain when Don stopped and pointed to a lonely tree sitting on the ridge.  As we were walking we woke up a Doe.  She was just starting to move up the hill the opposite way we were going.  She knew we were there and moved away from us but wasn’t in any hurry.  She moved with grace along the hillside then disappeared over the ridge.  After seeing her we moved deeper into the valley in hopes to find more.

We started to move into the tree line and away from any signs of civilization.  There were no trails, no trash, no foot prints but the ones we were leaving behind. The landscape was breathtaking and untouched.  We walked deeper and deeper into the valley around to the back side of the mountain range we were following.  It opened up to another valley and a slope of currant colored shell rock.  By this time we had walked about 2 miles mostly uphill and it was about 8 am.  After glassing the area we struck out finding a deer but not on the beauty.

We headed back to the truck and back to the campground to regroup.

After a short break at camp we head out again but this time we followed along another dirt road.  We were only on the dirt road for about 1 minute when I spotted my first deer and the first buck of the day.  We pulled over to see that he was surrounded by about 3 other Does.  They were only about 100 feet away from the dirt road.  Don and Mike decided not to shoot the small buck with a gun but decided to get a shot of it with the camera.  Mike got about 20 feet away without scaring the young buck away. Little did we know, that buck would be the only one we would see that day.

We made it to the end of the dirt road meeting up with other hunters.  It was interesting to listen to the stories of where they think deer were and trails they were going to follow but everyone holding back information to keep their own leverage for the hunt.  Yet most the stories only had glory tales of years past, this year the sightings have been one to none.

We started our hike along a well maintained trail into the shade of many matured pine trees.  We kept our eyes open check for deer that had bedded down under the shade trees.  We made it to the end of the trail which opened up to the bottom of valley of a bowl with ridges all around us.  The ridges above us promised us a 360 view of the Sierra’s.  We found a small game trail and followed it until we hit a group of dense trees that we had to find our way through.  It wasn’t fun and all I could think about was how were we going to get through this at night and how were we going to get a deer off the mountain if we shot one.

We emerged from the trees of hell and worked our way to the top of the ridge.  I got a chance to sit down and catch my breath as the boys figured out our next move and I finally got to see the amazing views of the valley we came from as well as the valley next to us. During the short time it took us to make our way up a huge forest fire started across the highway from the camp ground we were staying at. A large mountain ridge blocked our actual view of the fire but it didn’t block the monster black cloud of smoke that rolled into the heavens above.  All three of us sat there and watch the smoke roll over the blue sky in a trans like state. 

After sitting for what felt like minutes but was really like a 1/2 hour we started to move more up the ridge getting us to view the back side of the ridge next to us.  The ridge never let up and what seemed like a short distance to get to took us over 45 minutes to get up to but we finally made it.  We sat down and glassed the area.  The sun began to fall behind the ridges around us and the wind picked up chilling the warm air.  The valley that was once hidden by the blinding sun came into focus as the sun set behind the jagged mountain ridges.  A beautiful valley of green meadows, running streams and waterfalls popped as the shadows brightened.  The boys glassed the area and saw a couple more Does on the a finger ridge coming down the mountain opposite from us.  The sun was leaving us taking the light with it.  We started to make our way off the ridge and back into the tree line following no trails but some small game trails here and there.  But we were able to make it to the main trail that brought us in. When we made it to the truck the night had taken over the sky.

We followed the dirt road to highway 395 and was surprised by the massive orange glow of the Fire.  It took up the horizon in front of us turning the full moon red.  We pulled over and watched as the fire showed a life of its’ own taking ownership of the night sky.  The smoke circled in the sky as if blown out of the mouth of an experienced smoker.  The orange and red glowed and changed colors as the fuel changed and the water tried to cut it’s life short.  It was so close to camp that we thought maybe it would have been evacuated.  We rolled in and found that no had moved from their spots. Living in So Cal we know that it just takes a change in the wind to push a fire miles in minutes, but the camp host didn’t seem worried about the fire and thought we were safe for the night.  We went back made dinner then went to bed with a promise of another early morning the next day.

4am came fast the next morning but it was a last chance to get a buck.  The morning was warmer than the one before. We packed up all of our stuff, we only had the morning then we had to head home.  As we head down 395 the smoke from the fire blanketed the valley suffocating the landscape.  We headed to another spot and took a dirt road north of the lake.  The smoke wasn’t as bad but it was still present giving the sunrise a stunning show of colors.  We walked up to the top of the valley looking down into the bowl.

We instantly saw a Doe making her way down the valley giving us hope there would be more.  We walked along the ridge meeting up with the ridge to our right and glassed the valley to the left.  We saw 2 more Doe moving up the valley.  What would take us 3o minutes to walk took them minutes and then they disappeared to the valley on our right.  We walked until we could see down the opposite valley and spotted the second buck of the weekend along with 4 other Does. The buck was still a baby.  It was time to start heading back.  We made our way along the ridge watching the Buck and Does begin to bed down, hoping we would find a buck that was big enough.  We heard a gun shot in the distance.  It was promising since that was the only we heard all weekend.  We were moving along when Don stopped, yelled my name as loud as you could whisper and got in position.  He was looking down the ridge we just came from.  I started to make my way up it was only a few feet to get to the top but those few feet were covered in branches so I stopped.  I could see Don I just couldn’t see the deer.  He took the shoot.  It was only one shoot and it was good.  He got it with just enough time to spare.

He got to the deer and pulled it to a clearing.  It was small but legal. His daughters wanted the meat and he was excited that he was able to bring it home for them. This whole weekend has been a first for me, first time hunting deer (well helping find the deer not actually hunting for me), hiking off the trail, and now cutting up the game that has been shot.  Don handed me a knife and started to show me what to do and where to cut.  It was not as messy as I thought it would be or gross.  We quartered the deer making it easier to carry out, tagged the deer then carried it out.

We made it back to the truck at the time we wanted to leave.  Over all we hiked about 12 miles and visited 3 different mountain ranges. I am in love with the Sierra’s and can’t wait to get back here to camp it, hike it and now hunt it.

Hiking Stats

County:                 Inyo and Mono County
Miles:                     About 12 miles total for the weekend
Elv Gain:               Approximate 3000 Feet Gained
Trail:                       None

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