Risk and Reward

By Justin McLaughlin
Oregon, 2011, DIY, Private Land

Justin McLaughlin - Risk and RewardJanuary/February 2012 EBJ (Issue 69) - As the heavy 28 inch wide 4x4 came running down the draw to within 20 yards of my ambush site, I couldn’t help but feel a little lucky.

It had been one week to the day since I had first spotted the buck feeding on an open hillside with a couple smaller bucks with about a half-dozen does and fawns. They eventually fed their way up to some bumps and bedded down for the day amongst the sagebrush. With a good wind, I attempted somewhat of a stalk. I crept to within 100 yards, mainly trying to catch a better glimpse of the wide buck, when the does and fawns started showing up from all directions. With minimal cover, I tried to conceal myself in some taller grass when one fawn ran past me at less than 10 yards away with its mother right on its tail. I’m not sure if that doe saw me or smelled me first, but regardless, the gig was up. With three loud warning blows, the hillside erupted with deer scattering everywhere, leaving me alone and feeling somewhat dejected.

Being that was my first stalk attempt on the first day of the season I wasn’t too disappointed. However, I still was not exactly sure of the bucks size. The only thing I had to judge him by was the pictures I had taken at nearly 500 yards away, and by those I guessed him to be around a 25-or 26-inch wide 4x4. After blowing the deer out I had decided to give that area a rest and try elsewhere. Over the next six days I covered a lot of ground and saw plenty of decent bucks, but nothing close to the one I had seen on opening day.

It had been one week since hunting that area and I had a good feeling the buck might be back. With the wind in my face I hiked by starlight out of the canyon I had parked in and headed toward the wide buck’s feeding area.

As the sun breached the horizon, I was extra cautious not to skyline myself. With about a mile left to go, I slowed my pace and glassed often. A few groups of smaller bucks, does, and fawns were out feeding on the open hillsides. With very little cover, moving along without being detected seemed to be quite a challenge. Crawling from knoll to knoll and glassing, finally produced two bigger bodied deer about 50 yards from the spot where I had originally seen the wide buck on opening day.

Justin McLaughlin - Risk and Reward

For a full account of Justin's adventure, go to page 32 in the January/February 2012 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.