December/January 2012 EHJ (Issue 128) - The buck stood perfectly still, only thirty yards away, staring directly at me. He watched my every move as the snow slowly fell between the two of us. The doe that accompanied him slowly meandered through the small trees toward the creek. The crosshairs bounced along the buck’s vitals – there were four days of hunting season left. My finger gently squeezed the trigger, but I stopped. My dad’s words echoed through my head, "Only shoot a really big one.” So this young 4x4 lived another year and looking back, it was the best deer hunting decision I’d ever made.
I grew up hunting whitetails in the woods of northern Idaho. The Palouse, where we live, offers some of the greatest diversity of big and small game anywhere around. Hunting elusive whitetails, however, is my favorite.
In 2007 a photo tipped us off that a big 160s 5x5 lived in the area that we hunt. We hunted all year, shooting several other nice bucks, but we never did get a chance at the buck in the photo. The next year yielded the same results.
In the spring of 2009, Del Achenbaugh, a good friend of ours who recently moved to Idaho from Pennsylvania, found the 2007 sheds of the trail camera buck. With a 19-inch spread, the buck grossed 161. Two things were somewhat unique to the sheds. One, they were found at the edge of a CRP field near some open timber, not the usual hiding place for a buck of this caliber. Secondly, the buck didn’t seem to shed its pedicles. The inside of the antler, for nearly an inch at the base, was concave. In 2009, the hunt continued, but my dad and I still couldn’t find this buck.
As the 2010 hunting season inched closer, it was obvious that it would be a much different hunting year for me, compared to years past. It would be my first year in college, so I decided to stay close to home and enrolled at University of Idaho, only 20 miles away, allowing more time for hunting. A caribou-hunting trip to Alaska was also in the mix. We left for Alaska on August 31st, which would cut out the best part of the archery deer season and set me two weeks back in schoolwork, but it was definitely worth it.
After returning from Alaska, I spent most of my time catching up on schoolwork and reassuring my mom that I would get the grades to maintain my scholarships. I did get a chance to do some archery elk hunting near the house, and I shot the first elk that I found. I spent the rest of the archery season scouting for my dad’s rifle elk hunt and catching up on school work. I decided to go on a last minute scouting trip on October 9th, the day before the rifle deer and elk opener. The scouting trip yielded no elk, but I stumbled upon a ten-point deer antler, and it laid only 20 yards from where I had had a treestand last year! This shed antler also sported the unique hollow base that the sheds Del had found nearly a year and a half ago - the buck was still alive. He had grown considerably and now sported nearly seven, yes seven, brow tines and had bases pushing eight inches.
For a full account of Levi's adventure, go to page 18 in the December/January 2012 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.