It Was a Long Shot, But . . .
The year was 1999.
With his wife, Donna, my buddy Steve headed out to Wyoming for their second year of Mule Deer hunting.
Traveling in a caravan with four other rigs, they would be living in their 5th wheel camper – not exactly “roughing it”, but still a far cry from the comforts of home, or even their cabin in northern Michigan.
The season for the area they would be hunting runs from October 15th through the 21st, so they had left in time to allow for three days traveling.
The first night they stopped at a rest area in Iowa.
The second night was at Cabela’s in Sidney, Nebraska.
By noon of the third day they were at Casper, Wyoming, and after filling their tanks and getting extra water, they headed north about 70 miles to Willow Creek Ranch.
Once there, they set up camp with the trailers in a circle (sort of) and the campfire in the center.
Part of the campfire conversation focused on the fact that they were in a rather historic area – only about 5 miles from the famous “Hole in the Wall”.
Wyoming's Red Wall that runs over 100 miles is the flat-topped feature in the background.
All together, there were sixteen people in their camp; 12 hunters, including two women, and 4 non-hunting women.
The weather was beautiful with the temperatures dropping into the 30’s at night and the afternoon highs close to 65.
They didn’t hunt on the ranch, but drove anywhere from one to five miles to BLM land.
Days one and two, Steve didn’t see any shooter deer. A few does and small bucks, but not what he wanted to shoot so early in the season.
One of the women took a dandy 4x4 with heavy antlers on the second day.
It had a fairly heavy body as well, tipping the scales at 163 pounds at the meat locker in Casper.
Some of the other hunters also tagged deer, so they helped their companions glass for deer on succeeding days.
On the morning of day three, Steve was out by himself.
He had walked to the top edge of a canyon, only about 300 yards from where he had parked his truck.
This looked like a good place from which to do some serious glassing, so he settled in and began searching as much of the canyon as he could see from his vantage point.
Looking over the canyon from a ways back from the edge.
After a while, he spotted a deer far across the bottom of the canyon.
Looking closely with his binoculars, he could see that it was a decent buck.
It was slowly moving along, feeding on the low-growing mountain mahogany bushes that were generously sprinkled over the landscape.
It was a long ways to that buck!
Back in Michigan, he hardly ever got a shot at over 100 yards, and often quite a bit less.
This boy was way out there!
Steve knew that his rifle, a Remington 700 in .25-06 was capable. Sighted in 2 inches high at 100 yards, the 117 grain bullet would only be 6 inches low at 300 yards.
Some of the guys in the camp had told him not to be afraid to take a long shot if he got one, but he wasn’t used to shooting anywhere near this far.
He took his pack off and laid it on the ground and got into the prone position with his rifle over the pack.
Cranking the 4-12X scope up to 12X Steve was amazed at how much closer the deer seemed to be.
He thought about it for a minute:
He did have a steady rest in a good position.
He did have a clear shot at the deer's vitals; all he could see was his head and vitals through the shrubs.
The deer was practically motionless as he contentedly munched on a bush.
Steve took the safety off and squeezed the trigger.
The rifle boomed and the deer was immediately gone from his sight.
Raising his binoculars, Steve was somewhat surprised to see six or seven other deer bounding away; but he was busy marking the spot where he had last seen the buck.
Finding a way to get down off the top wasn’t a simple task, but after some looking, he found a game trail and followed it down to the bottom.
At first he couldn’t locate the deer, but he finally found the buck; it had dropped in its tracks, but had rolled into a small depression.
Two of his hunting companions heard the shot, and knowing where it came from, they also knew that Steve would need help getting the animal out.
When they arrived at his location, one of them said, “Where were you when you made the shot?”
Steve pointed back to the top of the canyon wall (which later turned out to be 340 paces away).
“I told you that you could make a long shot.”
Looking back at the top of the canyon wall from the location of the deer.
Because of the steep climb back out, they decided to field dress the deer and take it out in two halves, one part on each of two pack frames.
During days four to seven, Steve helped the hunters who hadn’t already tagged out locate deer.
Of the 12 hunters, 11 bucks were taken out that year.
The only one who didn’t tag one had several opportunities at small to medium-sized bucks, but was determined to take a trophy or nothing.
Steve’s 1999 forkhorn wasn’t the largest deer taken from that area, but it sure was a long shot!