The Blacktail Legend

By Mike Lee

Mike Lee

Mike Lee
Oregon, 2009, DIY, Public Land 

He was an absolute brute! In fact, brute is an understatement. Some would say, “They just don’t make them like that anymore.”

I knelt down on the grassy hillside to steady my balance and recall feeling the cold, wet grass soak through my knee, but all of that didn’t matter right now! This was it! I reached down to pick up one of the largest blacktail sheds I had ever witnessed.

Now that I had found his shed, the chase was on! This is when the pursuit of the blacktail of my lifetime all started. Ever since that day, this buck has been a part of me. For the next three years, this buck haunted me. I referred to him as “Legend,” as he was definitely the king of this mountain.

Big wily blacktails are my animal of choice. Blacktail deer country is steep, thick, and relatively challenging to hunt. Oak and brush-choked draws, steep canyons, and large stands of timber make up much of the landscape. The low-lying gray brush native to southern Oregon can hide deer with ease. The bucks usually don’t even need to be lying down to be hidden. Sometimes we make bets over how many deer are in a patch of brush. In fact, one time we counted over 40 deer in a small patch 150 yards long.

I found Legend’s sheds 250 yards apart and started scouting him the very same summer with intentions of killing him with a bow. He became my entire focus.

The following year I bowhunted him but couldn’t even find him during early season. I came to the conclusion that this hard-to-pin-down buck was a migratory deer and only moved into the area during the rut. The only season that he had any hunting pressure was during muzzleloader season and this would prove to be my golden ticket!

I searched every inch of Legend’s winter range the following spring and found a few exceptional sheds, but not his. I worried that perhaps he didn’t make it through the winter. I tried to remain optimistic, thinking that we had a light snow pack the year before, which might have made him move up with the snow line earlier than normal before shedding his antlers.

The results came out in June and I drew the coveted muzzleloader tag. There was no scouting to do at this point, because he would not be in the area until late. I just had to get my gear ready and be patient for November to come.

When November arrived, I hunted the buck fairly steady for two weeks. I couldn’t locate him and began to feel the pressure! In fact, I was having a hard time finding mature bucks at all.

About the tail end of the third week, I made a morning hunt. It was drizzling a little bit, so I could only see a couple hundred yards in front of me. My glassing efforts were a bust, so I decided to make something happen by sneaking through the creek with the wind in my face.

Mike Lee

For a full account of Mike's adventure, go to page 24 in the August/September 2010 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.