This is not the story of a trophy buck taken on a quick and easy hunt. This is not the story of a one-time, chance encounter with a mulie buck. This is the story of a drawn out saga about a group of hunters going after the same unique mule deer... the "Four-Finger" buck.
One of my brother-in-laws, my brother and I chased this deer for 4 years. My brother-in-law was the first to discover him. None of us had hunted the area before and my brother-in-law was new to hunting. He was on a morning hike on a ridge that he had never explored in late July. He had just lowered himself down off a rock outcropping when he heard twigs snapping around the corner of the boulder. He ran to the edge just in time to see a huge and very unique buck make a break for it. That first year, the buck had a fairly normal 4 point antler on his right side. But his left antler... INSANE! He had good front forks with a kicker but his backs turned into a fan of points that looks like a four fingered hand without a thumb. Throughout the years, the bucks right side would degrade into a big fork-horn with kickers but his left side never lost that non-typical magic.
The first two years, we all tried our hands at sticking the buck with our bows. After only fleeting glimpses of the buck during those seasons, two of us decided to try and tip the odds in our favor and give it a whorl with the muzzleloaders. My brother didn't waiver and stuck with the bow. His endurance was rewarded with the closest opportunity at the Four-Finger buck that any of us were ever afforded.
After an unsuccessful morning hunt my brother decided to go on a marathon hike into new country and glass some good looking ridges. He dropped down into a creek bottom covered in willows so that he could cover ground undetected from anything bedded on the ridges that he wanted to glass. Once he found a good spot, he pulled out his spotting scope and snacks and took a load off. Thirty minutes of glassing hadn't revealed as much as a doe untill he happened to re-scope a promising looking outcropping of rimrock. Seemingly from out of nowhere, the Four-Finger buck had appeared. He was bedded about 40 yards below the rocks and had his head down and looked like he was asleep. "Sweet!", he thought, "All I'll have to do is slip up within 50 yards of this sleeping giant and let him have it." Well it wouldn't turn out to be that easy.
By the time my brother had backtracked and climbed a nearby ridge, more than an hour had past. He was worried that the deer might have finished his nap and wandered off. He was optimistic though because he had been quiet, stayed out of sight and the wind had cooperated. He slowly made his way along the top of the plateau and located the ridge the deer was on. He wouldn't be able to get another look at him until he was right on top of the buck. He moved silently, taking half an hour to cover only 600 yards. Once he got near the rimrock, his senses were scanning full bore. He was looking for the slightest twitch of an ear and listening for any noise that might give the deer away. When he peered over the top of the rock ledge he saw antlers and ducked back down. He readied himself in case the deer got up quick and gave him a shot. He got up into a kneeling position where he could get a shot off, and the buck didn't see him. But there was a problem... this wasn't the "Four-Finger" buck. Somehow he had missed this wide 4X4 while glassing. So where was ol' Four-Finger!? My brother hadn't taken anything with his bow at that point and decided that he couldn't pass on this golden opportunity. The buck below him had no idea he was there and he started to draw his bow. Then he heard a branch break and saw movement off to his right. He glanced over and saw HIM. The "four finger" buck must have moved beds and had been lying under a giant, fallen ponderosa. The other deer followed suit and beat feet out of there. My brother was devastated. He would later describe the fiasco as a parallel to the scene in the original Jurassic Park where the Australian raptor specialist is killed while trying to hunt down the toothy theropods. "Clever girl!"
We hunted him for another two years and got great looks at him during the summers but once hunting season would roll around, he would head for the nastiest cover and not come out. He made it almost impossible to get to him without giving away your position. Last year, on a snowshoeing trip very near where my brother-in-law first spotted ol' Four Finger, I found him. But he had finally given up the ghost. But not to a hunter. No, he was far too good for that. He had died of old age. It was a sad moment. I realized that I no longer could hope for a chance at him. My dreams would no longer be haunted by him. I take solace in the fact that he spread his genes far and wide across our stomping grounds. He was a dream buck and I respect him greatly.
He was giant. He was unique. He was wise. And he taught me more about hunting than any other individual animal. For that, I am forever indebted to the "Four Fingered" buck.