January/February 2013 EBJ (Issue 75) - As most Eastmans’ Bowhunting Journal readers probably know, Washington State is not a mecca for mule deer trophies. But, being a three-point or better state, there are a few. I wouldn’t consider myself a trophy hunter. I am, however, a guy that will scout out two or three better-than-average deer and pass up numerous smaller deer until I get the one I want. I have burned a few tags and gotten some flack from my buddies who tell me they haven’t found a good way to cook antlers. But for me, I’d rather go without harvesting a deer than kill a small one just to notch my tag.
The 2012 archery season was looking promising, as I found two good bucks on land I could hunt. One was a wide, tall 4x4 that had good mass, but was lacking deep forks. The other I had scouted was a 6x8 non-typical that wasn’t real wide, but had great mass and character. All of my attention was on these two bucks until my dad called me up and told me to check out a cool drop-tine buck that was just a few miles out of town. There were a couple hours of daylight left, so my wife and I went out to see if we could find him.
It didn’t take us long to see him and some other bucks feeding in a CRP field about 600 yards away. When I got the binos on them, I could tell right away that there were two dandies in the group, but I didn’t know just how big. We watched the bucks and then I looked at my wife and said, "Well, here comes the hard part.” I was talking about getting permission.
It can be tough getting permission to hunt around the small farming community where we live. It seems as though there are at least a couple of hunters in every landowner’s family, and they like to keep the hunting pressure down until their relative’s season opens. Knowing and respecting this, I have always believed that it never hurts to ask and have been politely told no quite often. When I got the green light from the two landowners, I was very thankful and excited for the opportunity to hunt.
On Labor Day morning, just before daylight, I met my dad and his cousin Rod, a lifelong hunting partner who also had permission. We met in a wheat stubble field about a mile away from where the buck had been hanging out. As soon as we were able to use our spotting scopes, I saw a large buck feeding in a wide-open grassy field, just above a long, narrow sub-irrigated hay flat. The hay flat was in a coulee with short rock outcroppings on the edges. It was too dark to make out points, but by the size of the rack, we knew it was one of the nicer bucks. Rod and I started grabbing gear and making plans.
I felt bad for my dad because normally he would be right beside us during the hunt, but a recent back surgery had sidelined him for the season. This worked out well for Rod and I because we now had our own unpaid scout.
The buck was doing what big bucks do – feeding into the wind and heading to his bedding area. Rod and I moved a half-mile west of him to get the wind in our faces and started using the hay flat below him to move in closer and stay out of sight. We knew it would be easy for the buck to keep moving east without us knowing, and we had watched this buck enough to know he could bed down anywhere, so we needed to keep an eye on him.
For a full account of Ryan's adventure, go to page 14 in the January/February 2013 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.