LAST EDITED ON Sep-29-19 AT 11:19 PM (MST)
Here's a long winded story for those who want to read it. Otherwise you can skip to the pics.
After 15 minutes of searching for a dead buck, blood, or any sign of a hit, my heart began to sink. Did I really miss again? How could I have possibly missed at 65 yards? Then it dawned on me, maybe during the smoke screen aftermath of the Thompson Omega, .50 cal, muzzle loader blast, the buck had ran out of the tree line and into the open grassy hill side. As I approached the opening, I had high hopes that I was right.
The muzzle loader general season hunt in Utah opened on September 25th this year (2019). It's a great time of year as usually the aspens are turning golden and the scrub oak and maples are a blaze in red and orange. This year, likely due to the long wet spring, the trees were holding out and were still green. September 25th is also special because it's my birthday.
Eleven years ago the 25th fell on the second say of the Utah general season muzzle loader hunt. I had been discouraged in camp at the end of opening day after hearing how many bucks my hunting friends had passed on . I had only seen a couple of small 2 points and some does. My best friend and hunting buddy encouraged me to get up early with him and we'd be the first ones on the mountain for the morning hunt. I 'm so glad I did as I ended up shooting a monster of a buck. That hunt has been my favorite and opened my eyes to the fun of having a buck mounted on the wall.
Fast forward to this year. I kept thinking in my mind and aloud to my brother who would be hunting with me, that it would be so cool to get one again on my birthday. There were 4 of us in camp for the opening. My brother and a husband/wife duo went to an area with a big pronounced rock that is named after my brother. He was the first to get a big buck where we hunt and he shot it while he was sitting on the Rock. I was going to do a 2 mile loop through the aspens and push deer towards the rock.
About 600 yards out of camp I was hiking up just inside an aspen tree line. Out in the brush something caught my eye. In the shade of the early morning, just at shooting light I saw a heavy 3 point buck staring at me. He was around 23-24" wide with good mass and medium deep forks. As I brought my binoculars up to look at him, I saw a bedded 4 point right below him. The 4 point was better than the 3 point, so I grabbed the range finder and the 4 point stood up. 188 yards. As I raised my gun the bucks started to move. I thought I had a steady hold as I squeezed off the first shot on the mountain that day. When the smoke cleared, I could see the brushy opening explode with deer. Many does and 3 two points ran every direction. The 3 and 4 point bucks ran down below me but closer than they were when I shot. I could already tell that I had missed entirely. The .209 primer had expanded and I couldn't get it out of the gun to reload. Had I been able to reload at a normal pace, I could have got a 100 yard broadside shot off at the four point. However, after he saw me fidgeting to reload the gun he took off.
I was a little deflated, but spent the next hour scrutinizing the open hill side. I knew I had missed but wanted to be sure there was no blood or sign of a hit. Nothing... So I continued my push.
On my route I kicked up 3 does that had a small 2 point with them. Later I jumped up a doe and two fawns. Another 500 yards and three more does jumped up, two of which I saw first. I was coming to a large open grassy hill side. The same one from the opening paragraph of my story. About halfway across the opening I saw movement. Out from the aspens came a 2 point and a spike x 2. They were running straight towards me. The 2 point saw me and veered uphill. Out from the aspens came a third buck a small spike. He came comically close to me before he realized I was a danger. I was laughing to myself as I continued across the hillside.
As I approached the tree line I glassed in as deep as I could to make sure I wouldn't blow out any deer. I went into the tree line about 65 yards and sat on a log for a snack.
I heard something below me. It did have four legs but instead of a buck it was two hunters coming from the direction I hoped to go. I talked with them for a bit and was excited to find out that the 175-180 class four point that my son stalked to 55 yards on the archery was still alive and in the area. They had seen it the night before the opener and had it on trail cam. I wasn't too excited about continuing my push in the exact direction these other two hunters had just came from, so I sat back down on the log and had a pop-tart and Gatorade.
After about half an hour I heard something behind me. I turned to look and heard a loud buck snort just as my eyes focused on a large 4 point. He and two other bucks had entered the tree line exactly where I had come in. Oh no, my muzzle loader was resting against the log I sat on. I swung around to grab it and throw the hammer back. Then I swung back around to face the bucks. The large four point was now just a flicker of grayish tan flashes running through the aspens. A large three point in the velvet had ran back into the open hillside from where they came. I felt like a quarterback going through his progressions with time coming at me like a 260lb line backer. The first and second bucks were not available for a shot. The third buck with them ran about 10 feet and stopped to see what I was. I wasted no time and brought the scope up on him. I could tell he was a shooter but saw no antler detail and wasn't exactly sure how he compared to the other two.
Back to the first paragraph in my story. I quickly reloaded and walked up to the tree line where the buck had stopped when I shot at him. No buck. Where was he? Self doubt about the shot, a search for blood, and then the idea that he must have followed the three point out into the open. As I exited the tree line and took a few steps out, antlers materialized above the grasses.
As I got closer I saw that he was still in the velvet. He was wide. I had just shot a good buck. A few steps closer and a 6 inch extra beam/browtine came into sight.
Happy birthday to me. I was so excited. I couldn't even remember what day it was or catch my breath.
Here is the buck on the ground where I walked up to him.
I radioed my brother to tell him I had just shot a good buck. He asked me where I was and he'd come help. As I tried to find a description he'd understand for my location I realized I was 150 yards above the exact location that I had shot a nice buck 11 years earlier to the day. My brother knew the spot. Walking up on that first big buck was almost the same experience as this buck. I didn't know the first buck had two left side and one right cheater until I saw it on the ground. Nor did I know it was 28.5" wide. It was taken on my birthday just as this one was. I call this new buck Déjà Vu. As I walked up to him he had an extra beam or browtine and was 28.25" wide. I was even wearing my same lucky hat.
Here's a field photo I know he won't score well due to the weak forks but he's wide and with he extra coming up out of the base I don't care.
Now to the capeing/quartering job. As I was skinning to get to the quarters, I found my 295 grain aero-tip power belt mushroomed on the far side of the hide. Here's a pic.
After I got the meat from the right side I flipped him over to work on the other side. As I was skinning my knife hit something metal. There was a calcified expandable broad head with no portion of an arrow in my buck.
Broad head skinning pic.
The broad head had not expanded. It was the equivalent of a field tip. It had entered no-man's land right above the lungs and below the spine. My brother and I both remembered that last year on the archery my buddy (who years before had encouraged me to get up on my birthday and get a good buck) had hit a wide four point. He said that one side was wider than the other. I had helped look for the buck but none of us ever found or saw him. We texted him to send a pic of his broad heads.
Broad head pic
The broad head picture matched the broad head I took out of the buck. My buddy was happy to know that the buck he had hit had survived and grew bigger. We sort of share this buck. I'm looking forward to the mount. The wound from my buddies shot the year before confirmed something that I had learned. When a buck recieves an injury on one side, he'll often have an antler deformity on the opposite side. Thus the extra growing out of the main beam.
Here's the pack out.
As a parting shot here's my buck from eleven years earlier.