In 2007, I was blessed to take my biggest archery mule deer to date in my home state of North Dakota (EBJ Sept/Oct. 2008). In the process, I learned that you can’t shoot a great deer if you keep shooting “nice” deer, a new concept for me.
When the snow started to melt the next spring, I headed out to the Badlands to look for sheds and scouting. While driving west, I contemplated my hunting goal for the upcoming season. I came to the decision that I would be pleased to tag any mature 4x4 or better buck with a good frame.
As usual, I spent endless hours scouting throughout the summer and found three great bucks, any of which I would have been proud to hang my archery tag on. I felt I had all three of them patterned.
In early August, while driving back to camp from another late scouting session, a big deer jumped across the road and into the ditch. I could see he had a good rack, and thankfully he stayed put as I stopped and turned the vehicle in his direction. When the headlights hit him, I was in shock and scrambling for my binoculars!! This buck was a nontypical and had great mass. He wasn’t particularly concerned and nonchalantly drifted into a nearby draw. That evening, the spring goal I had set for myself vanished and the three other bucks I had planned on hunting were safe!
Upon arriving at camp, I studied maps to determine where this buck most likely had come from. There was a big draw system surrounded by high buttes not far from where I had just seen him and I decided to start looking there.
I got up early, climbed a butte overlooking the draw and waited for morning light. I didn’t expect to find the non-typical right away, but shortly after sunrise he popped up in the bottom of the draw. Before long, he bedded down in the sun next to a large yucca plant. This was the first opportunity I had to really look him over. I determined he was a mainframe 4x4 with huge eyeguards, a large in-line point and three smaller kickers.
Up until that point, I had never had the resolve to hunt only one deer throughout a season and, if necessary, go without punching my tag. I decided immediately this was the deer I wanted and would invest all of my time and effort into getting a shot at him or close out the season trying. I watched him three more times before opening weekend and felt comfortable I had found his home range.
I arrived to set up camp before the archery opener, and that evening I found him in his usual draw. I watched him take all of the velvet off of his antlers, and he looked very impressive. That night I tossed and turned all night long.
The next morning I found him at sunrise and followed him through the buttes for quite some time before he bedded down for the day. Opening day for most big game seasons in North Dakota starts at noon, not sunrise, so I couldn’t do anything but watch him through the spotting scope. I watched him throughout the day as he changed beds, stretched, and grabbed a bite to eat here and there. Finally, about 45 minutes before sunset, he got up and made his way into the bottom of the draw and gave me an opportunity to move in.
I got the wind in my favor and worked to within 75 yards. He was feeding through the draw and working his way toward a flat right below me. I set up and ranged where he was going to walk out. I watched him feed and work closer to a perfect setup.
For a full account of Greg's adventure, go to page 18 in the November/December 2009 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.