Over the past few years, I have posted pictures and told stories of my various successful mule deer hunts... Goofy 2x3's, wide 3x3's and nearly perfect 3x4's. But no matter how hard I hunted, I was not able to harvest a typical 4x4. I truley believe that for the average joe, harvesting a mule deer buck of giant proportions is the hardest challenge in the hunting world.
Believe it or not, I felt more pressure to fill my buck tag this year than I did on my mountain goat hunt! Well I have finally done it... and I couldn't be happier.
Last night, with only 10 minutes of shooting light left, I harvested my best buck ever. It took five full days of hard hunting to find the buck I wanted. Thank goodness for the snow the state got Tuesday night. Prior to the snow I had mostly seen younger bucks... but the snow made the difference and proved essential in my being able to stalk within 70 yards of this buck in an old burn. I spotted him on my evening hunt from over a mile and a half away. I got into shooting position and had the chance to take a shot at him with the Nikon Laser IRT 4-12 scope I won last fall (which I have proofed on paper out to 650 yards) but decided against it. If I was to harvest my dream buck, I'd have to prove that I could stalk old, smart bucks. With the light dwindling, my senses were running full bore. I had to plan my stalk around two different doe groups that were bedded a couple hundred yards on either side of my buck.
I knew I had to be very close when all of a sudden I caught movement behind a burnt but still standing pinyon pine. I waited for his head to disappear behind the trunk, raised my rifle, settled the crosshairs on his chest and noticed that his eyes were now burning holes in me... I pulled the trigger. No ground shrinkage here... with every step closer, he just got bigger and bigger!
I was solo and this ended up being the coldest pack out I've ever conducted. I swear my fingers and toes were within minutes of frostbite. But so far, I have left the craziest part out.
While hiking back to my truck to grab some food before gutting him in the cold night, I crossed the tracks of a bear heading straight for my buck! Needless to say, I also grabbed my sidearm from my rig. I bet not many of you have paid attention to what the wind was doing AFTER you shot your animal... I paid very close attention to my surroundings to say the least. While packing him out, I crossed the bears tracks again... this time within 150 yards of my buck. I went back to the gut pile this morning to find that the bear had circled me while I quartered my buck. I was ready for anything, but luckily he decided that the benifit of one last gut pile before denning up didn't outweight the risks involved with dealing with a two-legged armed with a lightning stick. If this was Montana... I think I would have lost my buck to ol' Ephraim! But in the end, I finally took my first typical 4x4!
He is the icing on the cake of a hunting season that I will NEVER forget!