As soon as I moved to Seattle, my mission immediately became to harvest a deer in my new home state of Washington. Washington has all three species of deer, Whitetail, Mule Deer, and Blacktail. Being that I live in Seattle, on the west side of the state, my initial goal was to harvest a Blacktail deer on public land. I am also introducing my girlfriend, Kristy, to hunting and wanted her to be a part of her first big game harvest.
I began using the same tactics I have for other western states but would soon learn that Washington is very different. The state is basically divided in half; dry and wet. Seattle is on the wet side and Spokane is on the dry side. I was trying to harvest a blackatail on the wet side. I got the Washington State Gazetteer and began searching for trails. I found a few that looked like they would allow me to get away from the general public and get off trail, to find the deer activity. As soon as I got on the trails I realized that the west side of the state is a full-blown jungle. I found the places I “wanted” to get to on the map and they were covered in such thick brush that you could hardly move, let alone see and shoot a deer.
I went on two more scouting trips that ended up in hell-like condition, trekking through steep mountains covered in rainforest jungle. I searched the Washington Wildlife Department and saw the stats; my odds were not looking good. In western Washington it is very difficult to hunt public land DIY blacktail and the season was drawing closer. I asked Kristy to reach out to her state connections to see if she knew anyone who knew where to harvest a deer in Washington. She immediately thought of and called her long time family friends, Phil and Tina, who are also hunters. Come to find out they just came back from a successful elk hunt in Utah and were not planning on taking a deer off their property, one hour north of Spokane. So turned out instead of western blacktails, it was now eastern whitetails. We immediately set the dates for opening day of rifle season and the trip was on!
It is a 5-hour drive across the state from Seattle to their property. We packed the car the night before and left right after work. We were on a weekend warrior schedule. We cruised across the state, stopped at Wal-Mart to pick up the tag, and arrived that evening. We ate some fantastic moose burritos and made a plan for the deer. There is an old abandoned house that sits behind Phil’s main house. We would sit in the top floor, look out the window, and take the 1st legal buck. We woke up opening morning of rifle season and saw nothing. I was glad it happened that way and explained to Kristy that this is very much a part of hunting. That afternoon Phil took us to collect some ripe Washington apples, that later became apple sauce, butter, and deer food! That evening it was back to the old house. At last light, just as we were about to pack it in, we saw a doe approaching. We waited, and soon behind her was a small buck. He briefly disappeared in the valley, then came up, moving quickly right infront of the old house. I was about to lose sight of him through the window, and then he stopped at an angle. As soon as he stopped, I pulled the trigger and shot him right behind the shoulder. We found the blood trail and followed it 50 yards down the hill to the fallen buck.
This was a very emotional process for Kristy, and it was very powerful for her to see where food, and meat comes from. We gave the buck his last meal and sent him to the afterlife. We removed the guts and took him back to the barn to hang in the cool autumn night. The next day we headed north to meet up with an awesome mobile butcher. The deer was processed in no-time!
As we followed the changing fall colors across the Washington/Canadian border, we reflected on our weekend of harvest. Although it was not the original DIY public land blacktail deer, Mission: WA Deer was a success! I harvested a great tasting whitetail and Kristy’s perspective on hunting and life are forever changed.