Unanswered Prayers

By Brian Babbitt
Oregon, 2009, DIY, Public Land
Unanswered PrayersDec/Jan 2011 EHJ (Issue 122) - Who in their right mind would say that missing a good buck on opening day is a good thing? Well, if you asked my father-inlaw, Brian, he would; or at least now he would.

Opening day rolled around and an early fall storm settled over the area, bringing rain, snow, and wind. With high hopes of deer being on the move, Brian decided to walk a ridge that had some good-looking draws.

As he dropped down into one of them, the snow really started to come down. Deciding it was time to start heading back to the pickup, he looked across the draw and noticed two bucks standing midway up the ridge.

Centering his crosshairs on the shoulder of the larger buck, he slowly squeezed the trigger. The report of the rifle echoed throughout the draw, but the bullet had missed its mark. The bucks were soon on a dead run up and over the ridge top, never to be seen again. Cold, wet, tired, and frustrated, he headed back to camp with his head held hung low.

Four and a half more days of hard walking and glassing turned up only a few old does. I arrived at camp on the fifth day of season, and after driving six and a half hours, I was more than ready to help find him a buck.

We headed out that evening and walked about a mile up to the top of a ridge so we could glass into the rims off of the back side. After glassing for an hour, I headed back to the truck so that Brian could walk the ridge back to the road, with the plan being for me to pick him up. As he had done so many times throughout the week, he arrived at the pick up tired and frustrated - another day without seeing a buck.

The next morning dawned cold, clear, and sunny. I woke up with eager anticipation of getting an early start, and hoping we could catch a buck traveling back to his bed. We decided to head back into the canyon that we had glassed the evening before. The draw doglegged up the ridge and ended in some rimrock that couldn’t be seen from the bottom.

Halfway up the draw, Brian spotted a deer on the opposite side of the drainage. After glassing it for a while, we decided that it was a lone forked horn buck so we pressed on. Seeing the little buck gave us hope that this draw might hold some deer, but even a little hope for Brian couldn’t get the picture of the buck he had missed six days ago out of his head.

As we crested the ridge, we stopped to rest and look around. I liked the looks of the next ridge over and hoped for some rimrock to maybe spot a buck bedded underneath. To my dismay, there was no real hiding cover.

Brian Babbitt

Now that the original plan had fallen apart, we decided to follow the finger of the ridge out, jump on top of the ridge, and circle back to the truck, which was now over two miles away. As we came around the end of the ridge, Brian looked and spotted a deer about 200 yards away. When I turned to look, I caught the glimmer off of one side of his antlers. I set my tripod and camera down in front of Brian so he could get a rest off of it, just in case. I then brought my binoculars up and couldn’t believe my eyes.

The buck was wide, had long tines, and deep forks - I knew right away he was a shooter. Brian got settled in on the tripod, and I was just praying that the buck wouldn’t bolt before a shot could be fired. I watched the buck stand there broadside, just knowing he was going to start running any second. That’s when Brian’s rifle rang out, and the unmistakable sound of a solid hit echoed back to us.

The buck took off, looking as if nothing was wrong with him. Then, suddenly, the buck stopped, took two steps backward, and fell over. I turned to Brian, who was still locked onto the buck with his rifle, and said, “Do you know what you just did?”

He responded back, “How big is he?”

He put his binos up to take a look and all he could say was, “That thing is huge.”

Needless to say, we couldn’t wait to get a closer look. As we got about 40 yards away from the buck, something caught my eye. I reached down in the grass and pulled up a monster four-point shed. Once we got to the buck, I got to looking at the shed I had found. It was an identical match to the buck’s right side!

As we sat on top of the ridge, admiring Brian’s buck, he turned to me with a smile on his face and said, “It’s a good thing I missed that buck on opening day, huh?” We couldn’t help but to laugh.