August/September 2012 EHJ (Issue 132) - As the sun broke and began to shed light on my location, I found myself glassing an area where I had turned up some good bucks in years past. It was a week into the general archery season. Prior scouting trips to different areas hadn’t turned up anything exciting, so I decided to check out some desolate country that I had hunted in the past. I’m a sucker for hunting steep, rocky, cliffy terrain simply because most people won’t venture into these kinds of places. Often times you don’t see a lot of deer, but if you manage to turn one up it’s usually a good one.
As I continued to scan the steep, rocky landscape I caught some movement high up on a ridge about 600 yards from where I sat, and that’s when I first laid eyes on him. I knew he was a special deer almost instantly; one of those bucks that every hunter dreams about having the opportunity to put their tag on. He was a typical fourpoint with a hooked cheater off his right G3. He was exceptionally tall with length everywhere, and exceptional mass all the way up. I only had a couple minutes to look him over before he was out of sight, and into the thick, steep, rocky cliffs that he called home for the summer. I quietly snuck out of the canyon and couldn’t wait to tell my dad and my wife, Kasey, about the buck I had just found.
I knew that getting within range of this deer with a bow would prove to be extremely difficult, simply due to the terrain he was hanging out in. My wife and I were not going to let a few cliffs and steep slopes deter us from pursuing this amazing deer. I’m fortunate enough to be married to an extremely amazing girl, who shares my passion for hunting mule deer. She was just as excited as I was about the giant buck. We were going to give it everything we had and try to harvest this buck of a lifetime.
We spent the next month hunting this buck, learning his every move. We managed to locate a small, secluded seep in an area not far from where the buck would bed every day. One evening, while trying to turn him up with our glass, I caught a glimpse of him at this seep just before dark. I knew it would be a great spot for an ambush, but I was always concerned about the wind giving us away. We had thunderstorm after thunderstorm and the wind was too unpredictable every time we debated about setting up there. We set up on the buck several times over the course of the archery hunt in another spot he frequented, hoping he would feed into our setup. We managed to get within 70 yards on two occasions, but could never manage to get any closer. I was proud of the fact that we managed to creep in and creep out on this buck, without him ever knowing we were there. I never wanted to bump him, fearing that we might not see him again.
As I made my way off the mountain on the last night of the archery hunt, headlamp lighting my way, I could only hope that the giant buck would be in the area when the muzzleloader hunt started. That’s what’s great about being part of the dedicated hunter program here in Utah, you have the option to be out hunting during all three seasons.
The next couple of weeks were extremely busy and I didn’t have time to return to the area to keep tabs on the buck. I got to camp the night before the muzzleloader season started. My wife couldn’t make it for the first few days of the hunt, so it was just my dad and I. The only thought that was running through my head was hoping that the giant buck was right where I had left him.
For a full account of Justin's adventure, go to page 40 in the August/September 2012 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.