It was Monday October 2, 2006. My wife and my son were in Nicaragua until October 20th, so I was free to hunt as much as I wanted this year. I was after the elusive blacktail buck that is intimately familiar with his home turf.
I had hunted hard with my bother and some friends on opening morning. My purchase of some boots for $20 or so at the local Bi-mart proved to be a bad investment for hunting boots, and my feet were pretty sore and I was tired.
I think the boots were made for the snow and not necessarily for hiking. I wasn't sure if I was going to go hunting that day, even though I had taken that Monday and Tuesday off work so that I could do just that.
So, I slept in and when I got up I decided to play Halo 2 on Xbox live. I was playing snipers and just annihilating everyone in my sights. You might wonder why I am even writing about my Halo 2 sniping, but I will explain myself a little later on. For some reason, all of a sudden I said, “to heck with this, I’m going hunting.” It was about 2:30 in the afternoon.
All of a sudden I realized that I was wasting precious hunting time. What had I been thinking? I guess I just needed some extra rest. So, I excitedly packed up my gear and headed out the door. I believe I arrived at the locked gate over by Brownsville, Oregon at about 3:30pm. I used to hate it when the logging companies locked the gates to their property during hunting season, but I realize now that it is probably more of a help than a hindrance. It keeps the hunting pressure down.
Walking up the dry logging road behind the gate, taking my time and being as quiet as possible I took note that the weather was warm and dry but the evening was pleasant. Not exactly the most ideal deer hunting weather, but I was very hopeful of seeing some deer.
I used my binoculars to look at every stump and through every bush thinking I might be looking at part of a deer; maybe an ear, or a tail. My heart started pumping harder every time I though I was looking at a deer. The area had been clear-cut about five or six years earlier.
When I got to a place where the road made a big loop back across the side of a hill, I headed up off the road, along the edge of a more recent clear-cut and some douglas firs that bordered it. The firs were about 15-20 feet tall and almost impenatrable. I was walking on an overgrown skid road. After 100 yards or so I sat down with my back against a stump staying very still and quiet, almost convinced that I would spend the rest of the evening right where I was.
After about half an hour, I decided to get up and continue making my way up the hill. I did this several times, but invariably, I would decide that I should move further up the hill because I wasn’t seeing any deer. Near the top of the round hill a stand of timber bordered the clear-cut; douglas firs and maples, I believe.
I decided to still hunt through a sliver of that stand of trees that went up to the top of the hill and opened up into a series of small meadows and then into an old clear-cut that had never been fully re-planted. When I got to the meadows I headed toward the back side of the hill (the east side) and sat looking at a steep clear cut that looked pretty “deery.” I had the intention of staying there the rest of the evening, but again after about 20 minutes I grew restless and decided to make my way back over the top of the hill and glass down into the bottom of the clear-cut that I was more familiar with.
On the other side of the hill, I found a big, flat stump to sit on. The view was beautiful. It was about 5:00pm at this time and a beautiful sunset was beginning to paint the western sky. The crickets where performing their intermittent serenade for me as they will on those fall evenings.
I was just enjoying being up on the top of the hill where I had a good view of the valley and the setting sun and a good view down into the bottom of the clear-cut, where it meets those 15-20 ft tall douglas firs. I was quite certain that a buck could walk out of those trees at any moment. I stayed in my position for quite some time. I even took off my backpack and ate a snack that I had brought along. Even if I didn’t get a deer, I thought, this was one of the most enjoyable hunting experiences that I would remember forever.
I don’t know why, but sometimes all my worries go away and I just feel happy and optimistic about life, and this was one of those times. I felt at peace with myself and with god and my family that was in Nicaragua. The family had been gone for a little less than two weeks and I had not begun to feel the serious longing for them that would come only a couple of days later.
After sitting on the stump for about 45 minutes, I stood up and stretched , then began to move across the side of the clear-cut hill, so that I could see over a little ridge that was blocking my view of the rest of the clear-cut. On the other side, there was a tree trunk that was bent over at a ninety degree angle. I stepped up onto it and stood there looking over the terrain. My attention was mostly down hill.
After five or ten minutes I heard a branch break over to my right- a sound that I had heard many times before. I was sure it was a deer. I looked over and about 50 yards away I saw him bounding through the brush, quartering away from me! His horns looked massive!
I couldn’t tell from that angle how many points he had, but it didn’t matter, he was one of the biggest bucks I had ever seen while hunting and definitely the biggest buck I have ever had a chance to shoot at. It is hard to describe the moment I saw him.
Time seemed to stand still. The buck was almost iconic in his majesty. He was wise and wily, elusive and evasive, beautiful and breathtaking. I had lost faith that blacktail bucks grew that big anymore, but my faith was now as fervent as ever! I can’t explain why, but I remained incredibly calm. My thoughts must have been racing a thousand miles per hour, even though it seemed like I had all the time in the world. In the moment, I completely forgot I was standing, or perched, rather, on top of the bent over stump.
Miraculously, I didn't lose my balance. All these thoughts went through my mind, but they were in the background of my mind, the background to what I was seeing, and the background of the one clear though that probably meant the difference between success and failure, "You're only going to get one shot. You're going to have to flip your rifle's safety over to the fire position while keeping your eyes on the deer. Pull the rifle up and follow him and pull the trigger before he goes over the side of the ridge. Make it count!" And so I did! I followed him with the reticle of my old Tasco 3-9x40 rifle scope in the middle of his vitals.
The .243 seemed to bark like a .22. I felt no recoil. As I took the shot I thought I saw him go down, as if he didn't even take another step. "I got him," I thought, but I couldn't be sure because he was right at the edge of the ridge when I last saw him.
It was at that point that I remembered I was standing precariously on a stump that was not more than seven inches wide! I quickly put the rifle's safety back in the "safe" position, jumped down into the brush, making a mad dash, thrashing though the dry and choking vegetation towards my deer. I was determined that if that deer was still running down the other side of the ridge, I would get to him before he abandoned the clear-cut. "I think I got him but I'm not sure," I almost said out loud as I made my way across the side of the hill. I got to where I thought I had last seen him but there was no deer or blood anywhere.
I started to panic a little and made the last 20 yards to the edge of the ridge an all-out sprint (the edge of the ridge was a little further than I had originally thought. Well, I got over there and didn't see anything. I stood and looked for several minutes, sure that if he was still there I would see him, but I didn't. So, I decided to go back to where I thought he ought to be, still a little unsure of what I should do.
I looked around for what seemed like five or ten minutes. I was starting to get worried, but I was determined to keep looking until dark if I didn't find him. I made my way a little further down the side of the hill than I had searched previously and all of a sudden, there he was, laying just the way I imagined he would be, with one bullet hole right through the lungs, right where I had been aiming when I pulled the trigger. From this angle he looked smaller than he had the first time I saw him.
I let out a long, loud and jubilus yell like you might hear a football fan make when his team makes the winning touchdown of a bowl game. The sound of my yell echoed through the surrounding hills and lost itself in the distance and the setting sun.
He was a heavy horned four point with eye guards! I called my brother right away to let him know. He was quick to share my excitement as he is an avid hunter as well and had harvested a buck that was a little bigger than mine a year or two before in the same area. We speculated that the two deer might be cousins as their horns are somewhat similar in formation. I was surprised to hear my brother say he was going to drive all the way from Springfield to Brownsville to help me drag him out if I needed help, and that we could take the deer over to his father-in-law's house to hang him up and skin him. I excitedly agreed.
I hope you can imagine my joy and excitement as I knelt down and grabbed my trophy by the horns and turned his head from side to side, admiring him. If you have never hunted, I am not sure I could ever put this excitement into words.
I had hunted over a fourteen year period and hadn't harvested a buck so big or beautiful. I had harvested others but none so majestic. I thanked God for such a great blessing. I still thank him today, because that moment renewed my passion for hunting. I had lost that passion over the last couple of years, a passion that burned bright in my teenage years. I think a lot of people find it easy to believe that the best hunting was in the past, but I learned that day that it's just not true, at least for me I know it's not.
There are plenty of trophies out there for the taking. My subsequent internet surfing of blacktail buck pictures confirmed this fact even more. My buck, though unique, isn't singular. There are hundreds, if not thousands of big bucks like mine out there, but you are going to have to sharpen your hunting skills and techniques if you want to catch a glimpse of one during general rifle season.
Not to say that I am an expert hunter by any means, and not to say that there wasn't a considerable amount of luck involved in my hunt. Undoubtedly there was some Divine intervention. I am sure that wise old buck would have snuck away from me if that one branch wouldn't have snapped under his hoof. Blacktail bucks are known to sneak off quietly without even an experienced hunter hearing or seeing them.
Lastly, I promised I'd explain what playing Halo 2 has to do with shooting deer. I think spending a couple of hours playing Halo 2 on Xbox live earlier that day sharpened my instincts and shooting skills. That may seem like quite a stretch, but they do say that video games help sharpen the ol' hand-eye coordination. : ) To be honest it was quite a miraculous shot.
After field dressing my buck, "the real work began," as they say. I started pulling him down the hill and about halfway down I saw two hunters walking up towards me. I was a little worried at first, but I waved down at them as they were obviously wanting to meet up with me. When they saw me wave they started yelling questions about what exactly it was that I was dragging down the hill. I explained myself and they offered to help, and thank goodness they did! It was nearly a mile back to the pickup and it was getting dark quickly.
As they helped me they commented several times that he was sure a big buck and that they didn't think they grew them like that anymore. I remember one of them had a pistol in a holster on his hip and I looked at it and worried now and then, afraid that they might be plotting to steal my deer, as I had never had someone so eager to help me drag a deer out of the woods before.
It's kind of sad that we have to worry about such things these days. It's too bad that you can't just trust people like you used to. I'm only 28 years old but I can still remember times when I felt like you could trust your average Joe quite a bit more readily than you can today. You never know when you are going to run into a crazy. My fears were unfounded and it soon became apparent that they (and I wish I could remember their names) were there to help me and share in the wonder and excitement of a fellow sportsman's success.
Don't get me wrong, I don't hate anybody and I don't want to take anybody else's freedoms away either. When we made it back to dad's old blue truck we loaded the deer in the back. Boy was I tired! It would have taken me all night to get that deer down to the truck without the help of these fellow hunters who were willing to forfeit their evening hunt to help me out.
Of course they did mention that they thought I'd probably scared off every deer within a five mile radius when I let out my bowl-game-winning-touchdown holler. I thanked them very much and they congratulated me. I offered to buy them something cold to drink as a gesture of my gratitude. I was delighted when they accepted and we headed to the local Dairy Mart.
We met up with my brother there and enjoyed a cold softdrink and got a couple of comments about the buck from from the passersby. I said goodbye to my newly aquired friends and my brother and I headed over to his father-in-law's house and got him hung up.
The only problem is that, my biggest buck ever was this one, harvested in 2006. Then in 2007 I harvested another nice buck; a three point. You can read about the story in this blog. Now you might not consider that a real problem, and I really don't either, but I find it interesting that the 2007 buck was a bit smaller than the 2006 buck and the 2008 buck was even smaller than the 2007 buck.
I figure at this rate, if I'm lucky, I'll get drawn for an antlerless deer tag in 2009 and harvest a doe! Heck, that would be just fine with me!
of course not, now you start over again, this time with both a big buck and a doeReplyDelete
Very nice blacktail, I need to come up and shoot a buck one of these years. Nice job. Sorry I'm commenting on all of your stories and photos. :)ReplyDelete