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Home / Jake Leibke / The Bonsai Trip

The Bonsai Trip

July 7, 2016
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As I sat there studying my blood soaked arrow I couldn’t help but to think back over the past few days events. A quick chat on the phone with a fellow bowhunting enthusiast led me to take this bonsai trip to a new area I had never hunted before, but had an interest in. That conversation led me to decide it was now or never. It was about a week before Christmas and I only had a few short days to make this trip and I knew it was going to be tough. I awoke the that Monday morning at 5:30 to the sound of my alarm going off. As I crawled out of bed I got dressed and started going over my supplies in my head, what I had packed and the few things I had yet to throw in the truck, which was to be my camp for the next few days. With my equipment packed and my sleeping wife and boys kissed good bye I was on the road by 6:00 and heading west. I was excited for the challenge of this late season public land hunt. Wondering what the outcome would be I knew I was going to give it my best. After a basically uneventful drive I arrived at my destination around 2:00 that afternoon. As I drove some of the forest service roads that wound through the area I realized this was going to be a tougher hunt than I anticipated. The terrain was fairly wooded with a lot of elevation change, both of which would make for some difficult glassing. That evening I had located a decent spot to glass from. Right off the bat I located a few deer bedded about one and a half miles away. It was still pretty early in the evening so I decided to hang out and see what else was going to show up hoping I would be able to locate them the next day. A decision I hoped I would not later regret. I drove back to camp excited for the next morning. When I got there I pulled out my Jet-Boil stove and Mountain House meal and got some grub going as I made my bed in the back seat of my pick-up. The first morning found me in the same location hoping to catch a glimpse of at least one of those bucks from the previous night. After a few hours behind the glass with nothing showing itself I decided to go exploring. I covered about 14 miles that day and didn’t find much fresh sign or a very good spot to spend some time glassing. I did locate a small pocket of deer which included a few does and small bucks. That evening found me back at the same vantage point where I spent the morning. Hoping to catch a decent buck in a stalkable location. All the evening brought out was a few mulie does and a small whitetail buck. I drove back to camp a little discouraged. The start of my second and final full day I awoke to a rooster crowing! It was just the sound of the alarm on my phone going off. With an outside temp of 9 degrees that morning I was glad to be tucked inside my down sleeping bag! The inside temp of my truck was about 15 degrees. As the sun came up I was perched on a different vantage point overlooking the same area I had seen the mule deer bucks the first evening. As the sun started warming things up, including me, the deer were on the move. I located a few mule deer and several whitetail deer. Unfortunately not one of the big ones I had seen the first night. After a few more hours the activity subsided as the deer bedded for the day. I made the decision to do some more exploring knowing I wanted to be back here for my final evening. After many hours and miles of hiking and some awesome country seen, even a few does spotted, I was back at the lookout for the evening. Within a short time I spotted some whitetail deer working through some brushy draws in the bottom. With several deer sightings in the bottom I caught movement on top of the ridge where I was expecting to one of the “big boys”. As I focused my spotting scope I found it was a little mulie buck followed by a small whitetail buck. With sun making it’s farewell the 2 small bucks disappeared over the ridge, which was about one mile away. With the bottom of the sun touching the horizon I decided to make a bold move. I would drop off the ridge I was on and hike over to where I saw the small bucks. I was hoping and praying that there would be something working down the other side. I climbed down and made my way over there. On my way I was praying that there would be a deer there when I got there. As I crested the edge of the gully I was thinking there is now way any deer will be there. The wind was borderline wrong, the snow had a crunchy crust. As I started to scan I immediately saw a deer’s back, a whitetail deer. God answers prayers!!! It picked up it’s head and it was a buck, a pretty good one at that. It was unaware of my presence. I crouched back down nocked an arrow and stood back up with my range finder ready. He went behind a lone cedar and I took a range and waited for him to come out the other side. When he came out the other side I was ready. With my bow drawn back I waited for him to stop and picked a spot settled the pin and squeezed of the shot. The hit sounded good and the buck bolted back up the hill he had just come down. As he was running off I thought I saw him stumble. I waited a few minutes letting the events sink in and thanking God for the opportunity. It happened so fast, one second I was wondering if I would even get a shot and the next I was releasing an arrow. I cautiously made my way over to where the buck was standing looking for sign. About 5 feet past deer the deer was standing I found my blood soaked arrow, a good sign! I waited a bit longer and slowly started working the trail. To start I was just following tracks. After about 25 yards I started picking up some blood on the snow. My heart started to sink the further along the trail I went, the blood was sparse. After another 75 yards or so I decided to back out for the night and come back in the morning. I hiked back to the truck questioning my decisions and preparing for a long night. I did manage to get some sleep that night and awoke to a chilly truck. I packed things up and headed off to pick up the trail where I left off the night before. Following the trail I found more blood as I went. After another 50 or so yards I found where the deer paused under some low branches of a cedar tree. Circling on the down hill side of the tree to get around it I noticed a few coyote tracks and in the back of my mind thought uh-oh. I got to the other side and saw where the buck had started to head down hill, along with the coyote tracks. I stopped and looked down hill and saw my buck laying down the hill about 30 yards with hair scattered around. As I came walked up to him I saw the coyote’s had efficiently and effectively eaten my deer over night. I was kicking my self knowing now if I had gone another 50 yards the night before the outcome would have been different. I was dissapointed to say the least. I snapped a few pictures and tried to salvage some meat but it was no use. I hiked out glad I found the deer and dissapointed I was not able to bring home some meat. As I hiked I reflected on the past few days, about 26 miles hiked, a lot of cool country explored, many miles and hours driven, and memories made. I will be back.

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About Jake

Jake Leibke

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My Bio

Growing up in east central Minnesota I "cut my teeth" hunting and fishing the public grounds near home.  I grew up in a family where hunting and fishing were not taught and valued as I do now.  I did have an uncle that was an outdoorsman.  He would give me all his old outdoor magazines such as Outdoor Life and Field & Stream.  I would read them until the pages wore out and then read them some more.  This is where my passion for the outdoors comes from. I am Basically a self-taught outdoorsman, learning mainly through books and magazines but mostly through the School of Hard Knocks.  I love all aspects of hunting but archery is my passion.  Being on the ground at eye level outsmarting a critter is my method of choice.  I have harvested numerous critters over the years including whitetail and mule deer, turkey's and antelope. Wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of living near and working in a big city my wife and I moved our family to small town U.S.A. in east central South Dakota.  Here we are raising our 3 boys to love the outdoors.  I own a concrete construction business, Elite Concrete.   You can follow along on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Jacob.Leibke.  Also on Instagram at www.instagram.com/Jake_Leibke.