It’s steep, rocky and dry but well watered with creeks and rivers etching the canyon bottoms. It’s forested, but swathed in grass with scattered pockets of brush where elk hide, black bears forage and cougars wait in deadly ambush. It’s mule deer country. It’s chukar country. It’s ruffed grouse and pheasant country. And much more.
In north Idaho’s enigmatic Clearwater River country, Boulder Creek Outfitters has been leading hunters to the area’s abundant bucks, bulls, lions and bears for decades. But they offer an unusual and unexpected twist: whitetails.
Lewis and Clark found the familiar Virginia whitetail along the Clearwater in 1805. BCO finds bigger ones. And more of them, thanks in part to enhanced forage. Farmers plant wheat, peas and rape on the vast, rolling uplands plains. Whitetails raid those crops before retreating into the draws and canyons to ruminate and convert those plants to massive muscle and bone. Males regularly grow antlers scoring 140 to 180 B&C.
Guide Shane Harris has been probing these woods and meadows for nearly 20 years. As a veteran guide for Boulder Creek Outfitters, he knows how to not only find deer, but how to direct incredulous out-of-state hunters to those deer, hunters unused to seeing whitetails on landscapes that look more suitable to bighorn sheep.
It takes a special style of hunting to bring venison to the table here. Forget tree stands and box blinds. Forget trail watching. Shane breaks out the big glass, scouring distant slopes and ridges with binocular and spotting scope. Find the deer. Stalk the deer. Lots of deer. So many that you step once, glass twice to prevent spooking other deer as you move. During a recent hunt with Shane, Betsy and I tiptoed within easy shooting distance of whitetails, mule deer, turkeys and even four coyotes. Repeatedly. Shane hunts so cautiously and so effectively that we slipped within 80 yards of sleeping coyotes — and one truly special old buck with antlers unlike any I’ve seen in 45 years of prowling whitetail country. They tower and curl in a most unusual fashion.
You’ll undoubtedly see photos of this buck in some of the magazines for which I write in upcoming months. Next summer you can watch the hunt when Winchester World of Whitetail airs on the Sportsman Channel. Shane, Betsy and I will stalk and glass this gorgeous canyon country along Idaho’s Clearwater River.
In the meantime, take a good look at this photographic slice of Idaho’s stunning Clearwater River country. Does it shout WHITETAILS to you? After seeing this show, it should. Our favorite deer is more adaptable than many of us think.
For more information on BCO: Boulder Creek Outfitters 208-486-6232 www.bouldercreekoutfitters.com.
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