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Feb/Mar 2011 EHJ (Issue 123) - As I studied the steep terrain through my spotting scope, I wondered where he had gone. Thirty days had passed since I’d laid eyes on the buck I had named “Tall Boy”. Had he left the area? Had he gone nocturnal? Every possible scenario went through my mind, but my gut told me he was still around. I was perched in my favorite glassing spot that gave a commanding view of the rugged basin. I had spent ten days scouting and hunting this buck in 2010, but our history together went way back.
Our first encounter was in 2008. I had backpacked into a remote drainage that I had hunted years earlier. Surrounded by cliffs, knife ridges and high peaks, I couldn’t wait to glass for deer. When he materialized across the canyon, his rack stood out easily. Though not very wide, he was tall and had big front forks.
While scouting in 2009, I located him again in the same basin. He had picked up an extra crab claw point on his left main beam and I thought he would score around 180. With a tag in my pocket, I would return for opening day with my buddy, Ben. During the hunt, an opportunity presented itself, but I made the difficult decision to pass him. There was a big, wide buck in the same drainage that looked a little better and fortunately, my decision paid off when I connected on him. He was a beautiful 29-1/2-inch 5x4 in velvet that grossed 183.
When 2010 rolled around, I backpacked into my honey hole again and could hardly believe it when I found a huge typical with a familiar crab claw point on his left antler. Tall Boy was back and better than ever! He had really filled out this year, was a little wider and just seemed to be bigger in every way, scoring well into the 190s. The rush I felt after finding him for the third year in a row didn’t last. On my subsequent trip, an early snowstorm had moved the deer to lower elevations and Tall Boy was nowhere to be found. Then, adding insult to injury, I met a local at the trailhead who knew about my buck and he informed me that an outfitter had located him as well. My secret spot was not so secret after all - I was discouraged but not defeated.
With five days of scouting behind me, I had set aside the first four days of the season to hunt. On opening day, two other hunters packed into my basin and set up camp. Tall Boy was still M.I.A.
Days two and three of the hunt produced more of the same and I was beginning to get nervous. I decided to move my camp a mile to the west to look into a potential secondary drainage where he could have been holed up - no luck.
After hunting hard for four days without seeing him, some of the other bucks in the area started to look pretty tempting. In need of moral support, I pulled out my satellite phone and called my brother-in-law, who is a fellow hardcore mule deer hunter. He would understand my dilemma. I explained my itchy trigger finger and thankfully, his response held great wisdom. “Potter,” he said, “don’t settle. That big buck is still in there; hold out for him.”
For a full account of Bob's adventure, go to page 15 in the February/March 2011 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.