Wow, what an adventure I had this past week. I went from being almost killed to taking a dandy buck.
This was the first year that my son (Devan) accompanied me on a backcountry mule deer hunt. He's 11 years old and next year will be old enough to hunt, so I really wanted to get a buck. In early summer, I had decided to set my standards low as to increase the odds of taking a buck while my son was tagging along.
BUT, with each scouting trip, I realized more and more that it just wasn't in me to kill a lesser deer. With each scouting trip, I found better bucks. On my 4th trip, after backpacking in 6 miles, I rounded a ridge and spotted this bad boy on the opposite slope. I only got to look at him for a few minutes before he disappeared. I knew he was the best I had seen....by far. So, that's where we would be hunting.
The day before the opener, me, my dad (Bud), my son (Devan), and buddy (James), loaded our 4 horses from Wolfley Horse Rentals and began up the mountain. Only a mile into our pack trip, an outfitter with a packstring of horses passed us. One of our horses decided she wanted to climb the mountain with their pack string and got loose from James. I volunteered to run ahead try to catch our pack horse. After running 500 yards up the trail, I caught up to the pack string. As I tried to walk around a horse the outfitter was training, it kicked me....I think in the head....because my head hurt a lot!
Laughing now...But NOT then. (Note the cuts on my face in the pictures...it hurt)
I was out cold for 5-10 minutes. I can only imagine how scared my dad and son were when they finally caught up and saw me bloody and out cold.....
After about an hour of dad and James explaining to me over and over what had happened, we continued up the mountain 5 more miles to where I wanted to camp. (I probably should have gone to the hospital...just in case...but)
The next morning was opening morning. Devan and I took off headed for the knob just above where I hoped the big buck would be when the sun came up. Unfortunately, we were 10 minutes late, arriving 10 minutes after light. As we approached the knob there were two guys moving around quickly, setting up to shoot at something below. I was bummed that they had beat us there, but was hoping they were just shooting at a little buck and that I would turn up the big one at a later time.
Anyway, I told my son, "They're going to shoot" and we just stood there behind the dad and son about 10 feet. I still couldn't see what the boy was shooting at. He shot once, then again. Curiousity got the best of me and I took two steps forward and peaked over the edge and saw a big buck bounding down the hill as the boys third shot rang out.
After seeing that it was a big buck, instinct took over and I hit the dirt, setup the bipod. As I was doing this, the boy shot his 4th and final round and began reloading and his dad began shooting (as well as another guy 80 yards to our right).
After the dad shot two rounds, the buck disappeared into a deep ravine. I really didn't think it would reappear until it was way out of rifle range.
The buck seemed to be gone for a good 10 seconds before appearing again on the other side of the ravine. When he reappeared he ran another 30 yards to the top of a small ridge and stopped. He was at what I guessed was 400-425 yards. There were no other shots after he came out of the ravine, so I assumed everyone had lost track of him.
Anyway, I waited for the buck to stop and when he did I shot. The buck dropped like a rock, and I yelled out, "there's, he's down!"
I watched the buck for about 10 seconds as he kicked for just a couple seconds then laid still. I thought all was over, and turned to the dad and boy next to me to basically apologize for shooting the buck. But, if I hadn't, that deer would have gotten away. I'm sure of it. I felt really bad that the boy had missed...he really should have been the one who killed the deer.
When I looked back to relocate the buck, he was gone. After 2 minutes of glassing, I spotted him bedded down the hill about 80 yards. He was obviously very sick. I took my time and shot again....I believe I hit him again.
When he jumped up another guy shot, then I shot again (that time for sure missing). The buck made it 30 yards to a stand of pines and laid down again. I waited for him to come out of the pines for several minutes, and when he didn't, I decided he must be dead.
After all that, I turned to my son and said, "I think we got the big buck!" and down the mountain we began.
As we made our way down the mountain, ANOTHER guy also was sneaking down the hill. He had seen the buck go into the pines and was sneaking in, then he shot at the buck twice.
Devan and I arrived at the deer and that guy said it still had its head up so he finished it off. I thanked him for finishing the deer for me.
Then, ANOTHER guy shows up at the deer. It was the brother of the guy who finished off the buck. He explained that he thought he had also hit the buck...and probably did. After I showed him where the buck had first gone down after my shot, he agreed that he had shot it after it was already wounded. We found plenty of blood in the spot where it had first gone down and my hit was such that the buck probably wasn't going to go far.
Thanks to them for finishing the buck off. I don't think the buck would have made it far, but you never really know.
When all was said and done, I figured that there were atleast 5 hunters who were trying to kill this buck. I shouldn't have been the one to kill it, that young kid should have. But, he and his dad missed. After they shot 6 rounds, I couldn't help letting one loose myself. Heck, I was there for that deer too!!
I still feel bad for the kid. The two other guys who were hunting for the buck and who had also shot at it, were also a bit bummed. They had arrived 3 days before the hunt opened and saw the buck. They also "really" wanted to get him.
So, there's my hunting story. Hunting is much funner when there's not 4 other guys on the same hill you're on 7-1/2 miles from the nearest road. It's also more fun when you don't get kicked in the head by a horse the day before the opener. I'm glad my son was there. I wish it would have turned out better (you know, less hunters and less kicks in the head), but sometimes you get what you get.......just deal with it.
We got the big buck and that was pretty darn cool.
He's a little over 30 inches wide, has 8 points on one side and 7 on the other.