Monday September 1st 2012 marked the beginning of what may now be a tradition. I was lucky enough to glass and put an effective spot-and –stalk on a forked horn mid-day. I circled around the deer while he fed and got above him before making a great lethal shot. My brother and I, later that night, were still hunting and found us stopped looking around only to have a nice forked horn walk out right in front of us. I ranged the buck and he was able to put a lethal broadside shot in the deer.
365 days later my brother and I were on day five of our seven day hunt. We had seen some bucks, but were not able to release any arrows. Monday morning came way too early as we decided to drive 1.5 hours from camp to hunt another area. The downside to this spot is that the ridge we glass is a west facing slope and thus putting us on the east facing slope to glass it. You have a mere 15 minutes, 25 with good glass, to locate deer and do your best to keep tabs on them before the sun blinds you. At first light I was able to locate two bucks, one of which appeared to be a large antlered deer. As soon as they were spotted they moved into cover feeding into a small ravine. We stuck it out and used the shade provided by the small trees, shrubs, and brush around us to attempt to continue to glass the ridge. At 0900 we decided to go back to the vehicle to get some snacks and hike to a different vantage point. Upon arrival we found a flat tire. Go figure, last year we had 3! We spent 30 minutes getting that taken care of before finally setting off to a different vantage point. When we got there we found a group of does in the area the bucks were spotted some four hours ago. Thirty minutes later the bucks came out, but now we are battling the heat waves and can just make out that one is a 4x4 and the other appears to be a 3x3. Both are mature deer and well worth a stalk. We wait until 1215 before we head back to the vehicle and circle around to the mountain they are on. At 1315 we are heading down the ridge for the stalk, making sure to hit every one of our pre-selected landmarks. As we approach landmark #2, I catch movement and stop. I pull up the glass and see it is a coyote, bouncing up and down trying to get a mouse. It was quit comical, but then the coyote decided he was done and headed straight for us. This had us sweating bullets because if we spooked him he would turn and run straight down to the bedded bucks. Luckily for us the shade and camo confused him. As he got to within 20 yards and started to bob his head trying to figure out what we were. He went right, then left, then back to his right before proceeding further up the mountain. We hit land mark #3, pulled out our baer’s feet and started the final 150 yards down to the last landmark which hopefully should put us 55 yards above their last known spot. As we approach the upper end of the last land mark we stop to look around in some shade. Through the trees in front of me I spot the rack of the 4x4 and my hearts starts to palpitate and I start to get a little dry mouth. I point out the deer to my brother who is following my lead. We watch him for a second then have to move another 20 yards to the next shade spot between two trees in order to get a shot. Moving like a ninja walking on paper we step our way over some dry branches to get to the shady spot. As I ease out into what will be my shooting lane I lay eyes on the biggest blacktail I have ever seen and he is a mere 60 yards away. My estimations of the landmarks were spot on and it was sure luck that he was on his feet and feeding out in the open. At this point everything else around me became white noise. My heart is beating very rapidly and I start to get that tingly feeling all over just like the one you get when you fall asleep on your arm. I hear my brother tell me to “relax and breathe.” I remember him saying this despite my full concentration on the buck that stands before me with his vitals covered by some small scrub oaks. I am doing my best to stay cool and calm ensuring that my movements are as slow as a chameleon on a limb. I range the deer at 60, then the tree next to him and get 60. I range the scrub brush blocking his vitals and it reads 48. Immediately I know that my arrow would fly over the brush and could hit the deer without issues. Total time elapse is now about one and a half minutes. I then catch movement directly in front of me and slowly pull up the Swaro’s to see the 3x3 and doe up and feeding as well. I realize they are only 45 yards away, but are in thicker cover. My head slowly turns back, putting my attention back on the 4x4 who is munching away on some oak leaves oblivious to his surroundings. I now see and focus on a small red leaf which is covering his vitals, almost exactly where I want to hit. I range the bush again and the deer again just to make sure, but before I can move forward with the shot he takes two steps up the hill. He is now broadside to slightly quartering to me and his vitals are in the wide open. When this happened I drew back and started into my routine. I wear glasses and the shade/sun/shade/sun caused the halo on my .19 pin to be fairly large. I focus on the spot I want to hit and pull back releasing the arrow. Immediately I felt the bow jump in my hand and not a good jump. My grip must have been a touch off, but I watch my arrow fly and hit the deer. I see it hit and it appeared to hit high and mid-body. I feel an immediate let down. All the practice and the biggest blacktail I have ever laid eyes on may have just been gut shot! My brother and I talk it over and conclude that it should have been a full liver hit with a possibility of catching one lung. We wait an hour and slowly make our way to the arrow. It is covered in super dark blood with no smell of gut on the shaft. I feel a huge since of relief as that hour sitting there re-living the 3 seconds over and over was not easy. Whether he was a spork or the new California record, waiting for the recovery can be trying for any bow hunter. It takes us a while to find the location of impact and the first specs of blood, but we start the trail. I let me brother know that we are only going to go a short distance and if the blood doesn’t start telling me he is dead, we would back out and give him more time. Luckily for both of us it was not necessary as he only went 120 yards before lying down. We had lost the trail about 80 yards into it and decided to split up. As my brother went high and I went low, he whistles for me. As I get closer he whispers “I smell a dead deer.” I immediately feel a rush of excitement and ask if he sees him to which he replies, “no, but the blood here looks really good.” Talk about an immediate emotional high bubble burst. As he is saying this and after I hear the dreadful, “No” I am turning my head and looking further up the trail. Directly in front of both of us I see what appears to be a light brown cow lying behind a pine. I tell my brother and slowly pull up my binoculars to check him and it was all over. Whether it was fate or karma we were the two luckiest brothers living in that moment. We ran to each other and hugged, it had been a long season and the little bit of saline that came from our eyes told it all.
After packing the meat and cape out we drove back to our camp. We got things put away and had intentions on driving into town to get the cape in a freezer. On our way down the mountain my brother reminds me of our fortune exactly 365 days ago. We both laugh and say it would be awesome if he had the chance to fill his tag. Not ten minutes later I turn a corner in the road and with ten minutes of legal light left my brother tells me to stop as he just saw 3 deer off of the road. I slow down and finally come to a stop. We both get out and start to side hill towards the deer that were feeding in a small clearing. As we get closer my brother tells me that one of the deer looked like a buck we had seen a number of times in this area. We step out from behind the tree line and see two does and the buck. He is a non-typical having 3 points on his right side and one point dropping over his eye on the left. The buck is feeding and is quartering away. As my brother draws his bow he asks for the range and I tell him “35.” He is at full draw and within a few seconds he releases hitting the deer behind the last rib exiting dead center of his chest. The buck was dead within a minute and ran all of 40 yards. Standing in the last bit of light we both looked each other in disbelief. As we hugged and stood in silence I know we were both re-living all that took place not only that day, but also 365 days earlier.