The One That Got Away
After a difficult and humbling year in 2006, I was looking forward to a fun and successful year in 2007. My brother and I would try archery once again but in a different unit. Archery season was going to be a fun one this year. It was close to home and in a familiar area. Also we would get to archery hunt with one of our brother-in-laws for the first time. My sister and bro-in-law had started building a cabin in the area and whenever there wasn’t a chore for me to do around the property I would head out to scout for mule deer. Our bro-in-law had done a fairly good job of patterning the deer and knew what bucks were in the area. The bucks in the area ranged from wide 3X3’s to one massive 4x4 that we had only got fleeting video of. His pictures and video had us confident that at least one of the three of us was going to arrow a deer. Little did we know it wasn’t going to be that easy.
Opening day for my brother and bro-in-law would be spent in tree stands on opposing sides of a draw that the deer used to cross the main ridge each morning. From their positions they had the entire draw covered should anything ever come up that way. I was in a ground blind over a ridge and maybe 100 vertical feet below. The bro’s didn’t see anything all morning but birds and squirrels. My bro-in-law had to go back to do some work on the cabin around 9AM. Our plan was that once he left, my bro would come over the ridge and we would meet up and come up with a new plan. So when my brother-in-law got out of his stand and headed for his truck, my brother thought it was time to rendezvous. Little did he know that our brother-in-law was leaving an hour and a half early and that I was set up on four of the biggest deer I have ever seen while hunting.
I had gotten to my spot about 20 minutes before shooting light. I was set up at the top of a meadow and was completely concealed. Not a half hour after shooting light, THEY entered the meadow. And by THEY, I mean a bachelor group of giant bucks consisting of two 4X4’s that would score in the 140’s or 150’s, one 30 inch wide 3X3 and the 180-200 inch deer that we had gotten video of earlier that summer. They had bedded down in a pocket of ponderosas about 80 yards away. The wind was perfect and one by one, the bucks laid their heads down and started to fall asleep. My plan was take about an hour to crab-crawl the 40 yards closer that I needed for a solid shot. I was about to start my descent when all of a sudden I heard a twig break above me on the ridge. One of the 140 inch bucks raised his head. I didn’t dare turn around to investigate what was cresting the ridge above me in fear that the deer would catch my movement. Then all of sudden, and to my disbelief, all the bucks stood up and hightailed it out of the meadow and down the drainage. The biggest deer I have ever seen in my life had just busted me. Well, wait a second. It didn’t bust me. So WHAT did scare that deer? I turned around to see my brother hoofing it over the ridge to meet up with me. Needless to say, I was absolutely livid. It was only 7:30AM in the morning and he was up and tromping around? It wasn’t until he explained that our brother-in-law must have left early that the thoughts of putting an arrow in his shin subsided. To this day, I am still haunted by that huge buck.
The rest of the weekend was uneventful but we were back at it the following weekend and ready to tag one of those big boys. That Friday evening I was going to set up in a rock blind downhill from my brother-in-law’s tree stand. I was on my way down there when I spotted one of the bucks feeding only thirty yards away from the blind I was trying to get to. I slowly put a stalk on it and ran out of cover with 70 yards separating us. I had to wait and see if he’d come closer. The wind eventually shifted and fanned the back of my neck and next thing I knew the other big buck jumped up less than 50 yards away. I couldn’t see him because he was bedded behind a log but it didn’t matter because as soon as the two old savvy bucks smelled me they were gone.
I would return to the area the next two weekends without any luck. I had opportunities to take does, but with the vision of that giant buck scratched into my subconscious, there was no way I was going to end my hunt with a doe. That archery season ended without an arrow released by any of us. The hunt didn’t quite turn out to be the slam dunk that we thought it would. I am still waiting for the day when I get to return the favor of bumbling into one of my brother’s hunts. Then he will have to deal with the nightmares of the buck that got away.