By Travis Holmes
Utah, 2010, DIY, Private Land
RelentlessMar/Apr 2011 EBJ (Issue 64) - June 1 is “opening day” for me; that’s my first official day of scouting. I look forward to that day just about as much as the real opening day when I get to pack my bow and let some arrows fly. I found a couple of great bucks in 2009 and watched them all summer. I also hunted them for 24 days straight, but never even got the chance to nock an arrow. It was a frustrating year, to say the least. All winter I kept my fingers crossed they would come back and summer in the same place, but three weeks into June I still couldn’t find them.

On June 21, I found myself sitting on top of a canyon I hadn’t hunted in ten years. I had been glassing about an hour and all I could find was elk. Every clearing I looked in had elk in it. Just as I started to complain that the elk had taken over, my friend told me to look at the top of the canyon. As I glassed toward the top, six bucks fed out into an opening and one of them was a giant! It was the third week in June and this buck already had beams that looked like 24-inch bananas.

During the next month, I watched this buck several times a week and he just kept getting bigger and bigger. With no sign of the two bucks from the year before, I decided he was going to be the one. However, just about the time I gave up on the bucks from last year, I lost my new buck. It was still a month before the hunt, but I couldn’t find him anywhere. A herd of 150 elk had moved into the canyon and the giant typical had vanished.

Over the next four weeks, I looked in every drainage around, but could not turn him up. On the days I didn’t look for him, I started looking for a backup buck. Two weeks before the season I found another good buck - a great backup - but I hoped it wouldn’t come to that. I just couldn’t get that big typical out of my head. The night before opening day I sat down and watched video of both bucks and decided that since I hadn’t seen the giant typical in almost a month, I would go after my second-choice buck.

At 5 a.m. I had my backpack on and was heading down the canyon. By first light, I was set up on the edge of his bedding area. I could hear four-wheelers pounding the roads on top of the canyon and knew it wouldn’t be long before the group of bucks was headed toward their beds.

Twenty minutes after first light I glassed the bucks feeding down the ridge right to me! At 80 yards they froze. I checked the wind; everything was perfect. I started glassing in the direction they were looking and found four hunters in single file trying to put a stalk on them. The bucks let them get within about 300 yards before they took off for the next county. That was the last time I saw those bucks.

The next few days were very uneventful. I couldn’t turn up anything and there were hunters everywhere. I decided I was going to hunt the giant typical for the rest of the hunt.

After four more days of sitting on the same rock that I had been sitting on since June, I saw three bucks feed out right at dark, and bringing up the rear was the big typical. I couldn’t believe it; I hadn’t seen him in over a month. He was incredible, and had put on quite a bit more antler since then. I tried to video him but I was shaking so badly I couldn’t get my camera to focus. I couldn’t believe he showed up again and I had a very hard time sleeping that night. I just couldn’t get that big typical out of my head.

The next morning I left my truck an hour before light to get across from where I had seen him the night before. As the sun started to rise, I found five bucks feeding 200 yards from where the big typical was the night before, but I couldn’t find him. Finally, 20 minutes later, I caught a glimpse of a deer down near the tree line. It was him and he was feeding toward the stream in the bottom of the canyon. I kicked off my shoes, dumped my backpack, and tried to cut him off.

When I reached the stream, I glassed the quakie bench above me, but found nothing. I had the wind in my face, so I moved up to the next bench, and as I got to the top I could see velvet tips coming my way. Just 60 yards out, six bucks headed straight at me. I didn’t think with that many eyes coming straight at me I would be able to draw.

At 30 yards, the bucks split, with the giant typical and one of the smaller bucks following the top of the ridge. The others dropped down and fed past me. I thought it was all over as I watched the big buck feed past me, but suddenly he turned and headed straight for me.

At 21 yards, he stuck his head in a bush and started feeding. His giant rack bobbed above the bush and had me shaking uncontrollably. It was now or never, so I drew my bow. The smaller buck caught me and stared a hole in me for about 30 seconds before returning to his feeding.

The big typical walked two more steps and turned broadside. There was one big quakie over his vitals - I needed one more step. The next thing I remember was the dreaded sound of the bucks below winding me. They were now downwind of me and in two snorts it was all over. The giant spun and ran over the ridge.

I was absolutely sick, and I lay on the ground for 20 minutes cussing myself for screwing up a 19-yard chip shot. How could I have that buck I had watched all summer at 19 yards and not be able to finish the job?

The hike out of the canyon that day was a long one. By the time I got to my truck, my bottom lip was sore from dragging the ground.

That night I glassed the canyon, trying to find at least one of the bucks, to let me know they hadn’t left the canyon. I couldn’t even turn up a doe. The next day was just as bad; a few does was all I could find. I was starting to wonder if I would ever see the buck again.

On my way home that night, I decided I had better try something different. The next morning I left my truck an hour earlier to get in their bedding area before light and just crossed my fingers they would show up. I figured I couldn’t kill him through my spotting scope a mile away.

It was a full moon, so I walked into the canyon with no headlamp. I was able to get to their bedding area a full hour before light. The wind was perfect and I had a feeling that something good was going to happen.

As the first rays of light started coming over the horizon, I caught some movement 120 yards in front of me, but it was still too early to tell what it was. As the darkness faded into light, I could make out five bucks. They were down in the bottom of the canyon before light, headed to their beds early. I quickly slipped back down the ridge to get in front of them.

When I got to where I wanted to be, I started glassing. The deer were now at 90 yards, but I couldn’t find the giant typical anywhere. As I sat watching the other bucks feed, I suddenly heard a branch snap to my right. I looked over my shoulder and there, just 45 yards away, the giant typical stood feeding. Not wanting to blow another opportunity, I quickly drew back. When I drew, I heard the other bucks take off, but it was too late; the arrow was already on its way. I watched the buck bound over the hill and then I stayed put for half an hour.

I couldn’t hear anything so I went back up the ridge to my shoes and pack. I then hiked out of the canyon and drove to the top of the mountain for cell service and called a couple of friends.

A while hours later, we started to track the buck. For the first 45 minutes, we didn’t find anything - not even a drop of blood. The knot in my stomach was now in my throat and my bottom lip was hanging even lower than before.

As I started another pass along the bottom of the canyon, I looked up toward a dead log. It took me a minute to realize that the log had a giant set of antlers growing out of it! After all the dancing and yelling, I made it over to see my buck. I couldn’t believe I was finally holding his rack in my hands! What an awesome buck - this giant typical gross scored 206. This hunting season had some of the highest highs and some of the lowest lows, but in the end, what an awesome year.