Switching Gears

By Patrick Hagens
Wyoming, 2009, DIY, Public Land
Switching GearsDec/Jan 2011 EHJ (Issue 122) - It was October 16, the second day of rifle season for elk and deer. I had already filled my archery elk tag, so I was mostly there to be moral support for my good buddy, Kenny, and his son, Lance for their elk hunt. Kenny, who taught me a lot about this area, took me up on my offer to come along and help out. My main focus was being a good helper, but I carried my rifle in case I happened to run across a big mule deer buck.

I have always had a fascination for big mule deer - their huge bodies and the big racks have been a fire burning inside me since I can remember. My dad brought home a mule deer from Colorado, before I was old enough to hunt, and I remember wanting one of my own ever since. My father started more than just a desire for mule deer in me; he started a total obsession for hunting and the outdoors.

We were hunting in the thick junipers and deep-cut rimrocks, and the area looked easy until you got into it. It didn’t take me long to figure out why people were scarce and game plentiful once we got deep into this rough country.

Kenny killed his bull, which now left the focus on getting Lance’s cow. While hunting we ran into a guy from California who happened to see a very large mule deer. We blew it off more than we should have, figuring he was exaggerating. Looking back, I probably should have paid a little more attention.

Evening was upon us and we were working our way through the junipers, trying to get to a place where we could glass. We finally found a good knob that overlooked a lot of country.

I spotted three elk right away, but they were a long ways off. While glassing the elk (a small six-point and a couple of smaller bulls), I spotted two deer bedded 300 yards from us. One was a three-point, but the other was clearly bigger.

When I looked at this deer straight on, he showed me everything he had – big mass, great width, and long tine length. My heart leaped into overdrive and I tried to describe the buck to Kenny the best I could. All I could get out was, “Big!”

I scrambled to set up my shooting sticks, but when I looked up he was gone! I went into complete hysteria, worse than I can ever remember. I had just found a buck that had more antler sticking out of his head than I’d ever seen, in range, with a tag, and I lost him.

Patrick Hagens

For a full account of Patrick's adventure, go to page 24 in the December/January 2011 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.