Pyp: Day 1:
I’ve hunted a particular piece of property for the last 4 years out in western North Dakota. It’s a mixture of public and private land that has been hunted by friends of mine exclusively for the last 12 years. Normally you don’t see other humans unless you head into one of the towns nearby. Of course, on Labor Day weekend, all bets are off.
Turns out our little piece of heaven along the Little Missouri River has been a favorite party destination for at least the last two weeks.
As Ben Brettingen and I met up in Fargo, the lack of sleep couldn’t dampen our excitement for the Badlands excursion we were about to embark. Big bucks, breathtaking vistas, and various other wildlife that you don’t see east of the Red River Valley all were patiently awaiting our arrival.
Plans of a drive-share to allow for extra shuteye were quickly abandoned, as efforts would have been useless. We broke out cameras and took pictures and video along the way, talking about how big a buck would need to be for us to let an arrow fly.
“A good deer with velvet or a huge one without.” Was agreed upon. 1 video camera, 2 still cameras, 4 go pros and tremendous amount of ambition was jammed into the front of the pickup, along with our mascot, Mika.
We’d be staying about 20 minutes east of our hunting spot, but we decided to cruise right past and get right to the trail cams. It was the middle part of the day when things slowed down, so we figured we’d get the pictures and try to figure a pattern. Two weeks of giant bucks were about to fill our laptop screens and we couldn’t wait.
We arrived at the land, checked our stands, grabbed the memory cards and even set up and camo’d a new ground blind. Giving us another option of the wind changes. Tracks were spotted, scenarios were played out over and over in our heads as we dreamed big of our 3 day weekend out west.
Finally, the good stuff: The trail cam pictures. Ben had his laptop with, so as we headed the 20 minutes back to our camp, he started downloading the 1,500+ pictures of velvety awesomeness-wait…an image of a pickup flashed across the screen. The small car, people and more people. “Who is that?”
Every night, for nearly a week, a group of young people had piled into the back of a pickup, driven across private property to this secluded piece of public property and proceeded to party until the sun came up. We’ve got pictures of them driving in and out, walking around and even stopping to look at the camera as it snapped pictures of them. How none of our gear was stolen is a mystery to me. Maybe these kids weren’t thieves, just partiers.
And litterbugs. Beer cans and other miscellaneous garbage was strewn about the woods and riverbank. Charred, black logs dotted the ground like a checkerboard. I had seen the burnt logs before we knew who caused them and wondered how the heck something burned like that. I had heard of one or two summer visitors who’d toss back a cold one here-I can’t blame them, it’s a beautiful spot. But we didn’t know the extent of how much traffic this spot had gotten until we saw it on picture after picture on the laptop. “They were here AGAIN, “ was a phrase uttered more than once.
We did still see a couple of deer on the camera, but only one appearance from one of the borderline, velvet bucks that had been seen two weeks earlier during Ben’s scouting trip. That was enough to get us to try and sit that evening. The wind was right and we’d been looking forward to this all summer.
A couple of does came by along with a doe and twins, but no bucks. From my vantage point along the river, I could see north and south quite a ways, but my view to the east was blocked by cottonwoods and cedars, while my view to the west was obscured by a huge butte, part of the incredible landscape of the Badlands-the biggest reason we like to come out here.
I caught movement along the top and spun in my stand to get a better look. Using binoculars I could make out the silhouette of spotting scope attached to a human head. Not only did we have beer drinkers to worry about down here, but other hunters now as well. He was across the river on private property however and must be able to see where we’re hunting. I could see him skylined atop that butte for about an hour, sometimes walking around, sometimes kneeling. Primarily focused on a food plot that had been planted south of us. I thought he was a bit exposed, but it’s a free country and he’s not on our land, so what could I do.
Soon, however, I saw him stand up and start walking towards me. He climbed right down the butte, walked across the river and climbed into the car he’d PARKED right in the woods by our stands. We had no idea someone had DRIVEN into the woods we’d be hunting and parked, since we snuck into our stands from the other direction. He drove out past Ben who had tried to flag him down and took off.
Needless to say, we were a bit disappointed with our first day in the Badlands. We proceeded to get up in the hills and hunt some other land to try and escape the circus. That’s part of the problem with hunting public land-you can’t legally keep other people off of it. Unless they’re trashing it of course and some people were. We’d like to thank them for standing in front of our cameras and driving close enough for license plate numbers.
We’ll keep at it however, as there are still a lot of deer in the area. We also spread out and hit some other public land in hopes of glassing some big, velvety animals. We’ve got some great pictures and we’ve seen some great animals along the way. We’ll offer some more updates and pictures as we go. Keep following the Pursuit for Pope and Young.