March/April 2013 EBJ (Issue 76) - Playing the lottery, you look at the jackpot and think, what if; then you look at the odds and think, I wish. When they draw those numbers, deep down, that hope comes back and you really feel like you have a chance to win. Normally, this hope turns to disappointment.
The same could be said for controlled tags. Most of you know what it feels like when your draw results finally show up in the mail or finally become available online. You look just to see if you drew that tag that you never thought you would. I have no idea what it feels like to see your name on that low-percentage tag, but my buddy Nick does. He had just hit the jackpot.
Nick and I had met through other friends after we graduated high school. We were all addicted to archery and had shared many hours and miles looking for that elusive blacktail, that raging bull, or pretty much anything that we had a tag for.
After many years of bowhunting, Nick had taken his first blacktail buck in the fall of 2011. It was during our general archery season and I feel fortunate that I was able to be by his side and experience the event first-hand. Being able to witness someone’s first kill lets you relive some of the memories and emotions you had with yours. The buck that Nick arrowed at a mere 30 yards was a beautiful, almost symmetrical three-point with double eye guards. Then, it was off to the taxidermist.
The following year, that time had come, that time of year that everyone constantly checks the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife website, hoping the draw results have posted. I received a phone call from Nick one day with what I thought at the time was a joke, saying that he had drawn one of Oregon’s coveted late season deer tags. This is the type of tag that you draw once in a lifetime, the type of tag that you hope you draw once in a lifetime. Emotions ran through my body and mind – shocked, angry, jealous, and excited, all rolled into one. It was going to be a good year. Or, so we thought.
Our hunting season got underway with an early August archery antelope tag that Nick and I had both drawn. Even though we were both unsuccessful, the trip was not wasted. We had learned a lot....a lot about what not to do. Now, we’re building points to hunt speed goats in Wyoming.
Early November had come and it was now time to prepare for the jackpot. Scouting trips had revealed a good population of deer that were somewhat easy to locate, but no large bucks decided to reveal themselves. Overall, the scouting trips had paid off; we were able to learn the land, the maps, and just get a good idea of what terrain was going to be like so we would know what to expect. Opening weekend couldn’t come soon enough.
Nick and our friend, Chris Phillips, headed over for opening weekend. Chris was going to do some shooting of his own, except his was going to be through a viewfinder of a video camera. From the beginning, our main goal was to document everything, and at all costs, get the kill on camera. After many encounters, the buck of Nick’s dreams never showed himself. Opening weekend was gone and the title of cameraman was soon to be mine.
The weather forecast app on Nick’s phone was checked frequently that week in hopes that a storm would blow through. A storm was due, and after a long, sketchy trip in the snow pulling a trailer we had arrived at camp and were excited for what was to come.
After a restless night, the morning had arrived and it was perfect. The five to six inches of snow that blanketed the ground seemed to excite us even more. On our short drive to a trailhead that we had planned to hike into, we had encountered three good bucks in a quarter-mile span. None were what we were looking for, so we carried on.
After several hours of hiking we had only came across several does and a small forkhorn that had all been headed down. After a quick chat, Nick and I decided to head back down to the lower country where we had spotted the bucks on the drive in. No deer showed themselves the rest of the day and night quickly came.
The following morning we had decided to hike to the top of a ridge that would seem to give us a good vantage point of the valley that the deer had been migrating to. When the sun finally began to show itself, so did a large buck across the draw, about three hundred yards away. After watching the buck for several minutes we decided that this could be a buck that Nick would go after.
For a full account of Nick's adventure, go to page 14 in the March/April 2013 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.