It was decided that we should just find him and stalk him if possible. I liked this plan, the simpler the better. Daylight found us on our familiar perch straining against our glass and the murky, weak half-light, that seemed to last an hour longer than usual. The sun had finally risen and long cool shadows were thrown across the bottoms and canyons. The view through my binoculars was suddenly filled with the shaded bodies of several deer. I adjusted and settled by binos just in time to see him raise his head into the sunlight and the huge velvet rack was suddenly illuminated against the dark shaded sage and pine.
"I've got him". I told my brother who was beginning to lose faith in finding him before the heat of the day forced them into heavier cover. Just as suddenly as I had found them they filed out of sight into a shaded pocket. Five of them in all, they were all there, undisturbed. I am a firm believer in making the most of your opportunities and this was a golden one. He had headed into the same pocket I had scouted just days before. It was full of beds and in particular, one small group of junipers that was nestled against a large rock ledge. I had seen the buck in this bed once before and he seemed quite at home. This was all I needed.
I began making preparations for the stalk and rapidly began my half jog, half walk to cover the mile and a half of broken ground between us and the pocket of bucks. I made good time and was nearing the spot we had chosen where I would leave my possibles and continue in business mode. I took one last big drink of water, slipped another bottle into my side pants pocket, did a head to toe check of my camo and equipment, and began the final climb.
Thirty minutes later I was greeted at the top with a good view and a cool breeze. I had painstakingly glassed and watched for about ten minutes before I proceeded into the bedroom area. I saw no signs of deer and took the chance that there were no other unseen deer, or other animals in my way. A check of my watch told me that it was now 10:30 am. The sun had become a blistering hammer. The only relief was the shade of a tree I had stopped under and the steady southern breeze. I took one last drink, dropped all else that was not needed and began my final approach. I was still about 80 yards from a juniper that looked suitable to shoot from if necessary. Without knowing exactly where the bucks were, my plan was to stop there and not push it any further.
It was still entirely possible that I would find my buck in some inaccessible spot, and I would have to let them all go and wait for another day. I was still confident however, in the wind and the knowledge of the landscape. The ground between where I now stood and the tree I needed to reach was relatively open with little cover and patches of bare rock riddled with gravel. The pocket where I still hoped the bucks were bedded in was now below and in front of me. I could see the far sunlit slope but not the near shaded slope. I knew the shade was not going to last and that the sun would eventually win out.
I made a panoramic sweep of the area with my binos and found the tell tale outline of alert mule deer ears facing my direction. Even though I was only partially exposed, one of the lesser bucks had caught a movement and was looking my direction. I judged him to be about 80 yards to my right and 90 from the tree I hoped my buck was still under. I slowly crouched down and was relieved to find that the first 15 inches or so from the ground level were hidden from his view. I would like to claim the next hour of this hunt to be a comment on my own hunting prowess, but it would not be possible without drawing on my experiences hunting with my good friend, Randy Ulmer.
I closed the last 30 yards to the juniper in about 30 minutes using, for lack of a better term, "Randy's Magic" The small buck watched for a while then, sensing no danger, seemed to lose interest and I was allowed to continue. Upon reaching the juniper, I was suddenly aware of the 95 degree temperature. The shade of that meager little tree was wonderful. However, I knew that if I was hot, he was hot, and I had little time to prepare for a possible shot.
I performed a quick idiot check, from my shoeless feet to my hat. Everything was a go. I slipped all but two arrows from my quiver, placing them silently within reach, and nocked my new number one. Rising to my knees, I could see over the rock ledge and most of the ancient juniper that grew from the base of it. I was about 5 yards back from the edge but dared not lean out or show myself in the sun for fear of being spotted.
Second thoughts began to flood my mind as I realized my boldness had put me right in the middle of their bedroom and I was kneeling on the cedar chest. If the wind changed or one of a hundred other things was to happen it would be all over, maybe for good.
Right then I saw some movement. The top of the service berry bush to the left of the huge tree at the base of the ledge was being pulled and jerked by something. I eased up a few inches and the top of those huge antlers came into view. He was up and feeding not more than 15 yards away, and below me!
Due to the angle, I knew that I had room to stand fully without the buck being able to see my movement. With a steady breeze in my face, I slowly raised up in the shade of my humble refuge from the sun. As I stood I was able to check the small buck to my right and could see that he had renewed his interest in me. I was spotted, but the small buck was far enough away that it might not matter now.
I peered over the edge to find my buck happily ignorant of my presence. He began to move out of the shade to my left and fed briefly on a small service berry bush. I could see that he was going to eventually cross some open ground and continue on to better shade at any second. It was now or never.
I brought my Hoyt to full draw and took one silent step to clear the rock ledge. Only the top half of my body and my bow would be visible from the buck’s point of view. Just as I settled my top pin on the tiny ruffled pinch of darker hair at the base of his heart, he began to walk to my left. I tracked him with my pin and released as he moved. The arrow skipped down through some jumbled rocks as the buck lunged and bucked at the hit. He bounded in and out of sight until he vanished behind some thicker trees and into a small ravine about 90 yards away.
I scampered down in careful pursuit to gain a better vantage point. I had not heard or seen anything of my buck for about twenty minutes, so with as much restraint as I could muster, I continued after him. I found him lying on his side not far from the last place I had seen him. He was still and silent. I sat for what seemed a long time admiring the deer that lay just feet from me in the shade of a great round juniper. I was amazed at the time, at how quiet it was in that little draw, just me and my buck.
I checked the time again and found it was noon straight up. I made my way on sore feet back to where I had stashed my water and boots. From there I had a good view back to where my brother had been watching, and sleeping the morning away. I was able to signal to him to come runnin'. I met him where I had dropped my pack and after a brief but spirited account of the morning's events headed back to where my huge deer lay.
It is hard to describe what I felt after it was over. I thought of all the time scouting, the miles on foot, the heat and anxiety. After a lot of pictures and a good pack job, the day was finally spent. I will always remember the drive to camp, into the welcome sunset; it was a fitting end to a day I will never forget.
At the risk of sounding unimaginative, we simply named this deer, Buck. I have never gotten into the whole naming thing anyway. Buck officially grosses 222 7/8 and nets 195 1/8 Pope and Young as a 4x5. He has a very unique set of antlers, and I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to take such a trophy.
I own and operate White Rock Outfitters in Nevada. It is rare for me to be able to hunt for myself, I take advantage of every opportunity I can. I have always hunted with Hoyt equipment. My Hoyt bow was given to me as a tip from Tom Hoffman. Randy Ulmer helped me set it up. They are both good friends and great hunters. It is my great pleasure to hunt with them and I owe them a debt of thanks.
I am not a world champion shooter but my Hoyt bow evens the field by being forgiving enough to make up for my lack of good form.
Thank you for a great product.
White Rock Outfitters