Idaho is a place where a whitetail hunter will always be challenged by terrain and weather, and sheer will comes into factor. I can say that for myself because I have always hunted the “mountain” whitetails of Idaho since the age of 14. When I can take a deep breath and exhale to check the wind, that’s when I know I’m in my favorite time and place as a hunter.
November in Idaho holds a special place in my heart. I have killed many whitetails in this state and never within the same 20-mile radius. For some, finding a honey hole to hunt each and every year is a goal, but for me, I feel I am cheating myself to not explore and seek new land with new animals. Some of the smallest racked whitetail I have taken in Idaho have been my biggest personal trophies. My smallest whitetail buck was killed on a hunt where I had never been so beat up by the cold. It was a type of cold that made me want to stay in my sleeping bag until the campfire was blistering my legs. That small buck is still my biggest trophy. I’ve hunted nine days straight during the month of November from sunup to sundown without seeing a single buck, but on the tenth day I shot the biggest Idaho whitetail of my life. Idaho brings out a different type of hunter for the world of whitetail-chasing outdoorsmen.
Hunting these mountain whitetails on public ground is one of the most satisfying experiences a whitetail hunter can have. There are no crops or waterholes to focus on. What you do have to focus on are your tools learned year after year of chasing these flagtails up and over timbered mountains. Do not get me wrong, there are plenty of opportunities to hunt these whitetails over crops, but where I feel a true Idaho whitetail hunting experience lies is in the mountains. If you’re lucky enough to hit a snowfall during November in Idaho with a deer tag in your pocket, you are in for a treat.
My first whitetail hunt in Idaho was one with my old man in Elk River, Idaho. I can never repay the experience my dad gave me as this opened a door to an area of the outdoors for me that I can call pure paradise. This hunt took place when I was 14 years old in three feet of snow. My old man was so worried about me being cold that I wore three pairs of wool socks in a pair of boots that were too small for my feet in a pair of gym socks. I shot a whitetail doe that year but not before missing an opportunity on a great buck. After that year in the snow-filled forest, I never looked back.
I continue to hunt Idaho every year I can. This obsession of mountain flagtails has put me in some situations that many feel are unsafe. Scaling mountains in the snow and dragging deer six miles out in the dark does not appeal to some, but that’s the beauty of Idaho. It will drive you to do things like that with its pure beauty and opportunities for game. Now, dragging a deer out six miles is a thing of the past for this guy. Boning out a deer is a much more preferred method with pain and sweat teaching me that lesson.
I’ve hunted whitetail in Washington, Montana, South Dakota, and Arizona, but nothing quite hits the spot like Idaho. It’s a state that can turn a single hunt into a lesson, a memory, and most of all, a story. Every hunt in Idaho seems like yesterday, and the hunts turn into memorized accounts by the hour that never fade away in my thoughts. My Idaho whitetails always seem to stick out more than the bigger bucks I have taken in other states. No matter the size of the antlers, the memories outsize the mounts.
As I get older, I’ve realized life passes by very quickly. With over-the-counter tags in Idaho, you’re guaranteed to slow it down a little with friends and family and truly enjoy the great outdoors. With a little sweat and grit, the beauty of this place is waiting for you.