I missed the draw date on the computer by one day! By default I was left with the option of buying an over the counter leftover archery deer tag or just going for a cow or spike. I figured " what the heck” and bought a deer tag just in case I had a decent buck walk in on me while hunting elk. I set the trail cams and prepped for an elk hunt with my brother in law. When opening morning arrived we had chosen our spot wisely as 30 head of elk with 5 spikes in the group came running into water. In the lead was a cow. In hopes of getting a double kill, my brother in law decided to shoot the first elk to the water. He pulled back, took aim and let the arrow fly with a perfect pass through in the vitals. Unfortunately the rest of the herd noticed and moved on. We gave his first ever big game kill a good 30 min and went in pursuit. The blood trail got thin and spotty and all but disappeared, but with some luck we managed to find his elk.
About the fourth day into the hunt the rains began and seemed to be unrelenting. A ground pursuit was in order. Taking a turn in pace, my cousin and I went for a little spot and stalk journey on a ridge in search of bulls for a hunter who would be joining us shortly. Without much luck for bulls. Something amazing happened as we pinpointed a buck we had been trying to see beyond trail cams for three years. (Trail cam pictures from 2013)
This wasn’t just any buck but a buck you would imagine seeing on the Henry's. We began questioning to each other if we were really on a general unit looking at what we were seeing, or were we dreaming. Watching the buck as he slipped away into the tree line we decided to name the buck Pinocchio ( due to his cheaters looking like wooden noses in velvet). A few days of searching led to feeling like it was a lost cause after one failed stalk attempt and no sign of him for days. So it was back to chasing elk.
Another buddy of mine had been in the air force for some time and was home to stay for a couple years and was looking for some help on filling the freezer with some elk meat. He had limited days. We set him up where I figured he had the best chance of killing. I went off to have a very boring sit. I went back to get my buddy to find he had shot his first elk. The track began. Once again the blood trail began to diminish and it was down to tracks. With luck on our side the cow was a short distance ahead of where the blood stopped. We loaded her up in the pack and made our way out.
I was down to myself and a bull hunter in a distant camp with tags. The weather would just not cooperate day after day as rain storms would settle early in the morning. Mid day would approach and the storms would clear and give wishful thoughts of dry sunny evenings. But that’s all they seemed to be, as the rain storms would return to laugh at us for the evening sit. The days rolled on with no success until that much needed call came on the radio. " We got a bull down! Were coming to get you." it was off to pack out another elk.
The archers choice hunt was dwindling as the trees began turning colors. The final days of the elk hunt came to a close with only the opportunity at bulls without a tag to kill them.
The elk hunt was over and the disappointment of tag soup began filling my head.
After a day of rest back at home I figured I would head up, pull stands and glass for bulls for another friend with a bull tag. An evening came and went.
With two days left for archery deer and limited entry bulls, I made a decision to stay the night without food and do my best to locate a bull for my friend in the morning. After all, I did still have a deer tag and thoughts of the buck we named Pinocchio danced in my head.
Early morning came and it was back out on the ridge. After spotting a nice bull, to my surprise, Pinocchio was out feeding right where my cousin and I had seen him two weeks earlier. Being in the worst place possible to make a ground stalk I watched from a mile as they went to bed. I figured "what the heck" I'll give it a shot. So off across the canyon I went, the whole time smiling and imagining this perfect scenario in which everything would fall into place perfectly.
Two hours later it was crunch time, literally, it was crunch time. The buck had gone to bed in the middle of a minefield of those dried up crunchy leaf bushes mixed with stunted knee high sage brush. The stalk was on! All I had to my advantage was good wind gusts up at me. Every time the wind would gust I would move, concealing any noise I might make. After an hour I had made it within 20 yards of the tree Pinocchio was under. I had run into a problem. There was no way of getting closer without spooking him (if he was even still there). All the bushes around the tree near his bed seemed to double in size. There were no open shots near the tree even if he stood up. My only chance was to stand still and hope that he would come out of his bed and walk 15 yards directly through one open path I had at 30 yards. The wait began. After a good 30 minutes of my mind debating whether I should do something different, I heard a stick pop. He had got up! The buck was still there! Out of all the directions he could have gone the stars aligned as Pinocchio walked straight into the only possible shooting lane I had and stopped perfectly to feed on a bush. All I could see was mass and trash! I drew back, took a deep breath settled my thirty yard pin behind the front shoulder and let the arrow fly! WHACK! The arrow hit its mark punching through both lungs. Surprisingly the buck didn’t run, but rather hunched up and slowly made a 180 degree turn. Without hesitation I loaded up a second arrow and drew back. I grunted and he turned broadside looking up at me. Once again I settled my sights at 35 yards and let it fly. WHACK! This time the arrow grazed the shoulder blade and sunk right into the top of his heart. Off he ran, and so did I! I knew I should have sat there waiting but anxiety got the best of me. I ran to where I had shot him and stopped to listen. No sound was to be heard. Panic began filling my head. Ignoring every bit of common sense of "follow the blood trail", I started franticly on the track line constantly panning ahead for tines in the bushes. So many emotions were racing through my mind from “please don’t say I wounded him” to “there is no way that really just happened” After ten yards of frantic searching, there it was! The sight I had dreamed of all my life. A giant, heavy, nontypical antler sticking up above the bushes. My knees instantly buckled as I collapsed and began bawling like a little girl. I managed to stumble my way over to the monster of my dreams and grab a hold on his antlers and cape so he couldn’t get away. He was mine! After a good 5 minutes, I pulled myself together and for the first time in my life had a moment so surreal, I really did feel like I was going to wake from this perfect dream I was having!
It wasn't until the next morning that reality began to grasp that it had really happened. I had killed Pinocchio, the buck of a lifetime on a general unit with an archery tag I bought "just in case" a decent buck walked in on me.
He goes 209 1/8 gross 205 3/8 net p&y nontypical with 9x11 score able points and an outside spread of 32 1/2. 185 inch mainframe