Deciding not to replicate my previous mistake, which was committing to a long pack into a place with few deer, meant canceling the other plans I had come up with before the trip and researching a new strategy altogether. I wasn't able to pick new spots in one evening on wifi, so I needed more time in town, but I also needed to be somewhere useful glassing in the morning. I chose an alpine basin near town that looked like promising habitat.
At first light, I was glassing from the road that wound up through the foothills. The only deer I saw stepped out into a clearing on a different mountain five miles across the main valley.
Before the sun would hit the high mountain basin, I hurried up the trail to get a view. A lone set of fox tracks in patchy old snow confirmed that I was the only person on the trail within the last several days.
The views were hard to beat on the way up, and before long I reached a clearing with a view to the top of the basin. It was a lovely piece of ground to stare at for a couple of hours, unpolluted by signs of human development... or deer. The terrain could have hidden a buck from me easily enough, but seeing no deer at all didn't inspire me to hike a couple hours deeper in to find out.
As midday approached, I backed out and just drove around the area to get the lay of the land. This view from one of the roads struck me as especially representative of the whole area:
One route took me up the back side of the mountain I hunted on opening morning, where I met some other hunters coming out and saw several rigs. They were all elk hunters, and they seemed mildly amused that I was looking for deer up there. This solidified my resolve to seek more local knowledge before my next trip, so I don't again pack into an elk spot looking for deer.
I spent (Spent: The wing position of many aquatic insects when they fall on the water after mating. The wings of both sides lay flat on the water. The word may be used to describe insects with their wings in that position, as well as the position itself.)
midday in town researching new spots to try, then drove a couple hours to a new landscape.