July/August 2012 EBJ (Issue 72) - My heart pounded deafeningly as I scrambled across the marble-like scree. At just over 12,000 feet, my lungs gasped for air. I hurriedly climbed over the knife-edged peak. "Antlers! Massive antlers,” I said. My adrenalin-filled arms swiftly lifted my binoculars to my eyes, as I scanned the basin below. I couldn’t believe my eyes; both bucks were bedding in a stalkable spot.
After they settled in, I slowly eased off my sweat-soaked pack, slipped my boots off, and slid on another pair of wool socks. Slowly, I inched forward in the red zone, cognizant of my every move. At 25 yards, I sat motionless; afraid any movement on my part would be spotted. An hour passed like minutes, and then I saw velvet antler tips dancing above the pines. My body tensed in anticipation of the upcoming shot. I kept telling myself to focus and pick a spot. The smaller buck emerged first and fed directly toward me. At 15 yards, any small movement would send him and my target buck racing into the towering pines below. Suddenly, the big buck emerged, 30 yards below. He began feeding his way farther away from me. My patience was tested as I watched him slip over a small ridge, exposing only the tips of his massive, velvet-covered antlers.