The Barefoot Buck

By Tracy Bennett
Idaho, 2010, DIY, Public Land

Tracy Bennett - The Barefoot BuckDecember/January 2012 EHJ (Issue 128) - Waiting for draw results is just as painful as waiting for opening day of hunting season. When the results came out, I hurried home like many other hunters do, to see what my fall was going to look like. I was preparing myself to be let down, but when I seen that I had drawn the mule deer tag I was after, I was honestly shocked.

I had hunted this unit back in 2005-2006 with a good friend, Lance Uppendahl, and he took a 190-inch buck in 2005. Then in 2006, another friend, Darren Gilbertson, shot a great buck that stretched the tape to 32 inches. Over the years, between shed hunting and bear hunting, I’ve found tons of great bucks in this unit and I was finally going to get my shot at taking one.

My job is one that requires me to work four on and four off. The nice thing about the four off is that it allows for plenty of time scouting. From July through October, I spent at least two of every four days off scouting.

The first trip out was with my sixyear- old son, Landon, and we turned up eight bucks in a field about 120 yards below us – the best buck we found would go in the mid 190s. There’s nothing better than watching your son get so excited watching deer feeding on the hillsides. On days that I wouldn’t take Landon, he’d quiz me the second I got home on what they scored, and which one I wanted.

As my schedule turned out, I had three days off before the opener, so I took the second day of the season off as well. A week before season, Lance and I went scouting and we located a buck through the spotting scope that looked really good - deep forks all the way around and excellent height. I told Lance while watching him, "I would shoot that buck opening day.” Lance told me he was too far away to make that call, but I quickly told him that I was going to be out there on that ridge to get a closer look on opening day.

When opening day came around I had conned my cousin, Ryan Bennett, to tag along and help glass and pack if we got lucky. I only slept two hours the night before and it was noticeable the next morning – I was dragging. We left camp at 4:30 a.m. to get out on the ridge before daylight. The ridge we were on was about five miles long and was straight up and down - a total nightmare if you get a deer down, but that’s why they’re there.

As we waited for daylight, we could hear elk bugle in the background – what a great way to start a hunt. When daylight approached, we started seeing bucks in every direction. Right away we found a 180 buck, but since it was so early in the hunt, we let him go. A little while later, about a mile and half out, I spotted a buck on a ridge half way to the river below us. When I put the scope on him I could tell he was tall, heavy, and had great front forks, but I couldn’t quite see what he had for backs before he fed over the backside of the ridge.

Ryan and I were sure he was one of the bucks I wanted, so we made a plan and started to move in the buck’s direction. On the way, we kept bumping into other bucks but none of them compared to the one we had just seen. When we made it to the ridge the buck was last on, it was 11:30 a.m. I could see a bluff about 500 yards below us that I thought looked like a good vantage point, so we walked down to it and set up.

Tracy Bennett - The Barefoot Buck

For a full account of Tracy's adventure, go to page 26 in the December/January 2012 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.