October/November 2012 EHJ (Issue 133) - June 16th, 2011 was an incredibly exciting day in our household. The Idaho controlled-hunt results had been posted on line, and after weeks of nailbiting anticipation and years of putting in for these seemingly impossible-todraw hunts, the unimaginable had finally happened. My husband, Shane, son, Tyler, and I had drawn one of the very coveted late mule deer buck tags offered in Idaho. I knew that the next few months were going to seem agonizingly long, but with my husband’s archery hunt for elk that started in August, my son’s antelope hunt in September, and my own bull elk hunt in October, the time swiftly passed and November finally arrived.
On the first Friday of the season, my husband, son, and our close family friend, Brian, woke up around 5:00 a.m., loaded up our camp trailer, and headed up on the mountain. I had to work that day, but we had made a plan that I would drive up and meet them on the mountain after work. That evening I packed up our pickup, our other two sons, Cooper and Mason, and after a snowy drive at dusk we found where my husband had told us to meet them. As night fell I knew that they would be arriving soon to show us where camp was. Finally we saw headlights and new that it must be them. When they got out of their truck I noticed that my son had a huge smile on his face. As it turned out, he had shot his first deer that afternoon, a very nice 4 x 4 mulie. I was so excited for him, although I wished I could’ve been there when it happened, I was thrilled nonetheless. We all jumped back into our pickups and headed to camp as we knew that we had a full day of hunting ahead of us tomorrow.
The next morning my husband and I woke before dawn and headed out to an area where he had seen several bucks the day before. As we began hiking it seemed as if deer started appearing everywhere we looked. There were many small groups of does emerging from the trees and brush, feeding along the hillsides. We stopped frequently to glass for bucks, and although we spotted quite a few, none were worthy of the tags we held.
Eventually, we topped out on the ridge and began scanning the opposite ridges and draws. We spotted several bucks feeding, but no shooters. It was understood that this tag could potentially be a once-in-a-lifetime tag and we intended to treat it as such. We hiked down the ridge a bit further when I noticed a buck about 350 yards from us. He was a decent 4x4, but after watching him for several minutes I decided to pass on him. This was unfamiliar territory to me as I had never been much of a trophy hunter in years past. I had always been happy to harvest any deer as it meant meat in the freezer for our family. It had in fact become an ongoing joke leading up to this hunt that my husband shouldn’t let me carry my own gun because I would shoot any buck I saw. We hunted the rest of the weekend, but didn’t find the mature bucks that we were looking for.
The following weekend we dropped our sons off at their grandparent’s house and headed back up to camp. Our friend, Brian, once again joined us, as he seemed to be just as excited about our luck drawing these tags as we were. Plus an extra set of eyes never hurts your odds.
We hiked quite aways on Saturday, checking out several ridges. At one point my husband spotted a big buck on the skyline, but it disappeared out of view before he got a good look at it. Knowing the direction it had gone, and that the deer would be bedding down for the day, we decided to come back that evening and see if we could get another look at him.
That evening we hiked to a good vantage point to scan the area where we had last seen the buck that morning. Immediately we spotted several does filing out of the trees below us. Then we found him, bedded down a few yards from where the does were, a superb buck. We got down and started making our way through the trees and brush, trying to get a better look and potentially find a spot to set up for a shot. After about 45 minutes of watching the buck he finally stood up and turned to face us; he was only a 3x4. Still holding out for a nice 4x4, we once again made the difficult decision to go ahead and pass on him. The sun would be setting soon, so we decided to go back to camp and head out again first thing the next morning.
The next morning we woke to a blanket of fresh snow on the ground. We decided to change things up a bit and head to a different area on the mountain. After about a 30-minute drive we parked our pickup and continued on foot for another mile or two. It felt like we were on top of the world; we could see miles in every direction. Unfortunately, the only deer that we spotted were just that, miles away. After a couple of hours we hadn’t seen any bucks that we wanted to go after, so we decided to head back to our previous hunting spot and see if by chance there would still be some deer out and about that late in the morning.
When we got back, we hiked as quickly as we could to the area we wanted to check out. Once there the first thing we saw were fresh tracks in the snow…wolf tracks! Never a good sign when you’re big-game hunting. We had seen this wolf ’s tracks before, outside our camp trailer and on all the roads in the area; this was definitely his territory. Hoping this wasn’t going to affect the amount of deer we were going to see, we continued down the ridge. We stopped again to glass when we noticed a small group of does in the trees below us. Suddenly my husband said, "Right there, there’s a buck! It’s a shooter!” Lying on the hill directly below us was approximately a 170-class 4x4. As I tried to get set up to take a shot, the buck stood up and trotted into the trees. Frantically, we watched and waited, hoping he would step out below us where the does were standing. A moment later the buck appeared, running up the other side of the draw at a distance too far for a decent shot. Heartbroken, I realized that this would probably be the nicest buck we were going to see. We decided to hike around to the other side of the ridge with the hope of cutting the buck off, but we never found him again. Cold, exhausted, and sore from hiking all weekend we went back to camp, packed everything up, and headed home.
Immediately we started making plans for where we would go the following and final weekend of the season. A couple of days later, Brian stopped by. He was headed up on the mountain with a friend of his to go cow elk hunting. As he was leaving that evening he said that he would keep an eye out for a monster mule deer. Laughing, I said "Give me a call and I will be there right away!” Little did I know that I would receive that call the very next morning.
Around 8:30 a.m. the next morning I received a call from my brother-in-law. He said that Brian was trying to reach me on my phone, but hadn’t been able to. I hung up and dialed Brian’s number immediately. Brian answered his phone in a whisper and told me that I needed to come up on the mountain right now. I was babysitting for a couple of friends that morning and was due in the office that afternoon, so I wasn’t sure how I was going to make this work. Brian then went on to describe the buck he was looking at and I knew that I had to make this happen. I made a few phone calls, and thank God for amazing friends and family, I was able to head up on the mountain to meet Brian.
Frantically I threw on my camo and boots, and then gathered my binos, backpack, .25-06, and bullets. The last thing I did before leaving my house was left my husband a voicemail, as he was out of cell range until noon. I told him that I was headed up to meet Brian and hopefully kill a monster buck. With my scribbled directions in hand, and an overwhelming fear that the buck would be gone by the time I got there, I drove to where Brian was waiting. When I arrived I saw Brian’s ATV and a spotting scope set up next to it. As I approached him I expected him to break the bad news to me that the buck was gone, but by some miracle it had bedded down with a doe under a bush about 1,600 yds away. We decided to try and make a stalk on it.
We hiked as quickly and quietly as we could using a small hill between us and the buck as our cover. When we topped out over the hill we stayed behind some brush and checked with our binos to make sure the buck was still there. Sure enough, he was still lying there. We were still about 400 yards away, so we belly crawled another 100 yards to get into range for what I felt was a comfortable shot. With Brian keeping his eye on the buck and doe, I slowly maneuvered myself so that I was leaning against a rock. I got set up with my bipods and then took a few minutes to catch my breath and get relaxed for the shot. Finally, feeling confident, I took my first shot.
The doe jumped up and ran up the hill, the buck slowly got to his feet and sluggishly started walking across the hillside. He kept stumbling and turned broadside, so I took another shot. Although he never looked as if he was going to make it very far, I had this fear that until he was down there was still a chance he would somehow get away. Finally, he dropped. In a tearful celebration, Brian and I high-fived, hugged and promptly started trying to reach my husband on his cell phone.
After about 30 minutes, Shane called. I answered the phone and told him that I had just killed a 200-inch 6x8 buck! He couldn’t believe what I was telling him! He said that he was going to drive up and meet us on the mountain. Brian and I packed up our gear and started the hike over to where the buck fell. As we got closer, his rack got bigger, and I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. Brian lifted the bucks head and I started sobbing. It was the most majestic mature mule deer I had ever seen! All of the years of hunting had paid off in a huge way! As it turned out my 200-inch 6x8 buck was actually bigger than we thought scoring right at 220!
When my husband finally arrived he was beaming with pride. He had introduced me to the world of hunting when we met 15 years ago, and had been with me on every hunt up to this point. What an amazing day, I will never forget this hunt for as long as I live, or this truly once in a lifetime buck!
A few months later, Roger Selner of the Eastmans’ Trophy Deer tour was at a show in Idaho and officially measured my buck for me. The buck officially scored 222-2/8 gross and 217- 4/8 net B&C.