A Year of Sleepless Nights

By Kevin Jensen

Eastmans' Bowhunting JournalKevin Jensen
Utah, 2009, DIY, Public Land

Opening day of the 2008 Utah general season archery hunt found me hunting an area where I had located a couple of shooter bucks earlier in the year. After battling freezing temperatures and gusting winds for the first half of the day, I decided to check an area where two good bucks had come into my trail camera a few days earlier. Walking down the trail in search of a vantage point, I spotted some orange bodies about 500 yards from my position. I quickly set up the spotting scope, and when I focused it, a big buck graced my view. I instantly knew that this buck had everything a hunter looks for in a deer - wide, heavy, and long tines. I estimated him to be about a 190-195 typical.

That was the first encounter I had with “my buck”. Fifteen unsuccessful stalks later, the bow hunt passed and the muzzleloader hunt began. The muzzleloader hunt only provided one glimpse of the monster buck, and that was at 1294 yards. To say disappointment had overcome me would be a major understatement. However, I vowed to return in 2009 and do everything in my power to harvest him.

The next year, in 2009, my scouting began at the end of May. A month went by but none of the many trail cameras I had placed in his basin captured a single picture of him. I knew I had to change my plan of attack.

July 7 found me scouring the basin that my buck had lived in the previous year. After two hours of glassing, all I had turned up were three smaller bucks and a handful of does. The sun’s rays now lit up the entire basin and I thought that the morning was over. That’s when it happened.

Making one more pass with my binoculars before calling it a day, I spotted a lone deer next to a patch of trees. I hastily panned the spotting scope toward the deer’s position. As the deer came into view, my heart skipped a beat. It was him! I knew right away that he was huge. He was bigger, had packed on more mass, and had grown a kicker on his left G-2. I had finally found him.

Over the next five weeks, I made as many trips as I could into the “honey hole”. The giant buck demonstrated a very predictable pattern and showed himself on nearly every occasion.

Finally, after months of scouting and preparation, opening day arrived.

A Year of Sleepless Nights

Opening day proved uneventful. Day two proved to be better as he finally showed himself, but only for a few minutes before feeding into the trees to bed. Day three, the 17th of August, turned out to be my lucky day. Waking well before light, I decided I would try a different approach. I arrived at the head of the basin as my surroundings began to gain light. I slowly began skirting around the rim of the basin, and after 20 minutes of walking, I came to a stand of quakies. I decided to sneak a few steps at a time and stop to glass the small openings in the trees.

As 100 yards went by, I caught movement ahead of me. Pulling my binos up, all I could make out were does and a small two-point. Not wanting to spook the deer, I remained still until they fed out of sight.

Once again I began sneaking through the quakies. Not long after starting, I noticed movement 65 yards from my location. It was the same group of deer I had just encountered. I decided to watch them for a few minutes to make sure nothing else had fed out to them. That’s when it happened.

After glassing them for a short time, antler tips started coming toward me over the horizon. My jaw dropped to my feet when “my buck” appeared within bow range. I was within range of a Boone and Crockett buck! My only dilemma was that sagebrush covered all but the top third of his body, preventing me from taking a shot. To make matters worse, he fed down the ridge and out of sight. Not letting my spirits get down, I headed back the way I came, hoping this would allow me to see the deer again.

Ten minutes passed and I continued to sneak through the trees. Glancing to my right, I spotted the same does and then out stepped the big buck. I wasn’t in a spot that offered a shot, so I had to sneak 15 yards directly toward the deer, but now a new problem surfaced: he was quartered away at an angle that wouldn’t allow a clean, ethical shot. Unbelievably, I watched him feed into the trees and out of sight again. I leaned against a tree in disgust and thought, “Here we go again.”

As quickly as frustration overcame me, it disappeared. Velvet antlers came back into view. My heart was beating faster than ever and adrenaline kicked into high gear. I was within 50 yards from him, and he kept feeding closer.

A Year of Sleepless Nights

He now offered a clear, broadside shot at 43 yards, so I eased back on the limbs and came to full draw. Typical for my luck that day, the buck stopped right behind a doe. Hoping he would step out from behind the doe, I held at full draw for over two minutes. Finally, I had no choice but to slowly let down. As I did this, the doe caught my movement. Luckily, he paid no attention to the doe and began walking again.

When the doe looked away, I once again came to full draw. The buck stopped behind a low-hanging branch, but to my good fortune, it was only for a short time before he continued down the trail. As he stepped out, I anchored, picked a spot, and released. The arrow buried itself right in the sweet spot. It was an adrenaline-charged, close encounter end to my quest.

After a short 40-yard blood trail, I found him piled up. I was overwhelmed with excitement. He gross scores over 206 inches and will net above the Boone and Crockett all-time minimum. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to harvest such a great animal. To do it with archery equipment is just icing on the cake.