February/March 2013 EHJ (Issue 135) - It was still dark when Dad and I got to a little outcropping of rocks, surrounded by mesquite, overlooking a small tank in Coleman County, Texas. It was very cold, but the itchy wool pants and the Ronson hand-warmer helped. As it started to get light, I was focused on a salt lick next to the water’s edge. Not moving and church mousequiet, it was probably as close as I ever felt to my father. That morning under his watchful eye, at the age of seven, I had my first hunting experience. It was 1959.
Fast-forward to 2012. I was stunned to see that I had drawn one of the most coveted mule deer tags in Arizona. After only four years of applying, the late season rifle 12A West tag was mine. With only 140 tags for the area and a 10-day hunt, the odds of harvesting a trophy are very good, and the genetics are historically incredible.
My goal from the beginning was to not let this once-in-a-lifetime tag go unfilled. I began searching for the best and most knowledgeable outfitter I could find. Again, I was incredibly lucky in contacting David Pereda of Yavapai Outfitters in Chino Valley, Arizona. When we met for the first time to discuss the hunt, we hit it off and I knew I had made the right choice.
I met David two days prior to the hunt in Fredonia and we immediately began scouting. I was surprised to meet two lifelong hunting friends of David that were with him to help us glass. They had driven a long way just to help me find a great deer. With four sets of eyeballs, we began seeing deer immediately. We found a perfect overlook viewing two large valleys in Sowats Canyon on the western reach of the great Kaibab. The day before opening day, David saw a 195-inch buck bed down. We called him, "Mile High.” He was quite narrow but unbelievably tall. We thought he had 24-inch G2s. After getting a look at this buck, we decided to be at the same spot opening morning.
I couldn’t believe the amount of hunters who had the same idea. There were diesel pickups, ATVs and hunters on foot running right through prime areas. Even within the madness, David spotted "Mile High” and the hunt was on. We got into position at 450 yards, but before I could get set up, the hunting pressure spooked the really unique buck. What an exciting open day! David said, "No problem, I think we can do better.”
The next day, we glassed up a really nice, dark-horned 185 buck, but with eight days to hunt, David again said, "I think we can do better.” During the next four days we saw several nice 175 bucks and tons of does. The rut was really beginning to heat up. We thought that we could just go out into the sage flats and throw a rope around some of the younger bucks. It was a lot of fun watching some of the other hunters take some nice bucks, but David was looking something better, something special – something with WOW factor.
For a full account of JB's adventure, go to page 14 in the February/March 2013 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.