The 12-Year Wait

By Troy Thomas

Troy ThomasTroy Thomas
Idaho, 2008, DIY, Public Land

For me, like many serious hunters, the next season starts as soon as my last animal is tagged. Planning, dreaming, and wishing all off-season, I also train as hard as I can to be in top shape.

Last year I had wonderful success, taking a 26-inch mule deer and a 330 archery bull. In order to top that, I knew I would have to work harder and hunt smarter than I ever had. I needed to keep my hunting skills growing and evolving to harvest these evasive trophies on public land. I was hunting an area in Idaho that I hadn’t been to since 1996. That year I had taken a massive buck that scored 182 B&C. My goal was to take a buck that would rival my first deer from that same area.

I hit it hard for a week without much luck, so I decided to venture out to a new spot. The seventh day of my hunt found me in a new area. I glassed the deep canyons and burn-scarred timber patches without much luck, other than a few small four-points. I made my way down into a large clearcut bowl that looked prime for a large buck. I arrived at 10 a.m. and began to glass the thick, brushy hillside. I quickly spotted 30 head of elk bedded in the center of the clearcut and a nice 4x3 buck searching for does.

As I was examining a unique 5x6 bull, I heard some leaves crackling behind me. I turned, and to my amazement, three does and a nice buck were feeding on the ridge only 150 yards away. I could see the buck was tall and heavy, but he was very narrow and I wasn’t sure what kind of tine length he had. I had set my minimum at 180 B&C and didn’t want to take something that would disappoint me.

I waited patiently for him to turn his head, and he finally took a few steps forward and revealed his deep forks and bladed points. I shifted from my spotting scope to my Savage Model 110 chambered in .270 WSM that was already resting on its bipod, ready for a shot. I picked up the buck in my scope, but he had moved behind some brush as his instincts started to overpower his desire for the does.

I skirted down the bench to get an angle through the brush, but as soon as I did, he took two bounds and was over the ridge and gone. I took off after him while the does stared at me in amazement as I ran within 25 yards of them. They finally scattered.

The buck first ran to the south, which would have put him out in the open, and I figured he would doubleback to the north into the thick brush of the clearcut. I made my way through gaps in the brush and after a few minutes heard crashing. I spotted him trotting 150 yards ahead and took an ill-advised shot. The buck bailed off unscathed into a brush patch where the vegetation was over ten feet tall and as thick as could be. I knew that there was no chance of being able to still-hunt him after that, so I returned to gather my things.

The 12-Year Wait

For a full account of Troy's adventure, go to page 18 in the December/January 2010 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.