Montana, 2009, DIY, Private Land
The 2008 season had been a special one for me - I had taken my largest bull to date with my bow. I wasn’t expecting the same kind of luck again, so imagine my surprise when my brother, Kyle, called and told me I had drawn a mule deer tag. Then he told me he was just joking, and then he said that was a joke and that I really had drawn a tag! Then again, that I had not. I was about ready to go ballistic on him, but then he got serious and told me that I really had drawn it.
I was so excited when I got home that after double-checking my results and getting permission from my lovely wife, I was out the door to look for deer. It was a short 30-minute drive to where I wanted to scout. Kyle couldn’t pass up the chance either, and came along. That night, with light fading fast, we spotted a decent deer. We took pictures of him and looked at a couple of other deer in the area.
The next few weeks were spent talking to landowners and looking at new public land to hunt in the area. I was both excited and nervous about having the tag. I knew there was potential in the unit for good bucks, but knew a lot of tags go unfilled due to people holding out for a monster. My goal was to take a 170-class buck or better with my bow.
Opening weekend found Kyle and me in an area I had scouted that required a long ATV ride in. We were about seven miles back in off the main road. We saw elk and deer the first morning and one good buck, but no arrows were launched.
Kyle went to hunt from a stand that night, so I went out alone. That night I ran into a giant. I was hunting an area where a bird hunter had seen a tall buck. I came around an island of trees and there he was with a huge forked horn. He was a box-shaped main frame 4x4 with good eyeguards. I knew right away that I would take him if offered the chance. This was not the night, though, and I had to watch as they worked away from me. I tried to catch up a couple of times, but never could. Without much choice, I backed out and planned to return in the morning.
I was back the next morning, but couldn’t find the big buck. I did, however, find a couple more decent 170-class deer. I came back that afternoon with a tree stand and set it up near a potential source of water. I sat in the tree until 7 p.m., but saw only one deer and a coyote.
With the feeling that my current setup wasn’t getting it done, I got down and slowly made my way to where I had seen the buck the night before. I cut though the trees above the island this time.
My hunch paid off when I saw him, and he was only 100 yards out! I planned a stalk and ten minutes later I was within range, but he wasn’t within view. Patiently but intently, I started looking around and he suddenly stepped out. I drew quickly and released, missing right over his back. I was sick, mad, and screaming at myself inside, but it made no difference; he was gone.
For a full account of Branden's adventure, go to page 44 in the May/June 2010 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.