With my 2013 season quickly coming to an end, I’ve begun to look back over the last few months and the up’s and downs it presented. Bowhunting is much like a roller coaster; the ride leaves you breathless and sometimes sick to your stomach but once it’s over you can’t wait to get back on and do it again. This was my first season attempting to capture (on film) what it’s really like chasing Mountain whitetails. And while the experience was eye-opening to say the least, I ultimately failed to accomplish my goal. The morning I shot my buck (see accompanying photos), the weather was so bad (rain, freezing rain, then snow) my cameraman simply couldn’t risk exposing my costly equipment to the unforgiving elements. Despite my endless thoughts about getting good footage, filming and how I plan to accomplish my goal next time, I still had the pleasure of arrowing a mature buck who nearly got away. And in all honesty, that’s what really matters most to me. Sure, I would love to have shared my moment of truth with you on film….but it just wasn’t meant to be.
While my buck only sported 6 points last year, he was still a worthy adversary; very mature and rarely showing himself during daylight hours.
I’m guessing this buck was somewhere between 6-7 years old. Judging by the “black” tooth he had and the absence of most of his other teeth, he had seen his fair share of hunting seasons and managed to survive them all. The 7 point was truly an old mountain warrior. I had never laid eyes on him until that fateful morning and I only managed to capture 2 images of him in as many years. The plan was to hunt him last year but after suffering a severe knee injury 2 weeks before opening day, I took the first good buck I encountered. I simply wasn’t in condition to wait this buck out. This year was much different. With my knee in much better shape (not sure it will ever be 100% again), I was committed to waiting him out for as long as I could. However, the beauty of my stand location is that I seldom have to wait very long for a shot to materialize. The key is waiting until the right time and NEVER hunting my stand before that.
Post season scouting in 2012 proved vital for confirming that this high-horned buck was using the area during the rut. Only a deer with tall antlers could have made this particular rub.
The morning of November 12th was the first day I had hunted this stand. It started out very wet but the forecast called for freezing rain and then full-blown snow; perfect conditions for staying home….and that is exactly what I wanted the deer to think. I assume, at least in my mind, they believe nobody would be crazy enough to be hanging in a tree under those circumstances. That might explain why this was the 8th buck I encountered that morning. While a few managed to walk directly under my stand, a few got too close for comfort and actually came close to fighting each other. It was exciting to watch and would have made for great footage. Even had I not killed a buck that morning it still would have been an awesome experience. Watching all of the buck action and fighting the harsh elements (something I actually enjoy) made the morning very memorable.
Our only encounter in 2 years proved to be fatal for this buck. It was a bittersweet moment for sure. And, of course, shortly after the shot the skies cleared and the weather settled….perfect for filming.
So, after a few hours on stand and multiple buck sightings, I turned to watch a familiar trail…and there he was!! This particular trail has funneled 5 mountain bucks into my lap over the last 6 years. Stomping up the steep terrain like the king himself, the buck crested the small ridge-finger beneath my stand and briefly stopped to observe his surroundings. This is typical behavior for most of the bucks that travel through the area before deciding which way they want to go; up the point past my stand and on to the doe bedding area behind me, or down the ridge to “no man’s land”. The choice is really simple. Unfortunately, for them, death typically follows their decision.
This buck spent so much time in his bed (my theory) that both of his front legs (knees) were completely worn to the hide and he had actually developed “leather-like” patches from getting up and down so much. This might explain why I never saw him and rarely got an image of him….he simply stayed in his bed until dark.
As the buck made his way past my stand, snapping small limbs between his horns with each step, I readied my Mathews Creed for the shot and waited for just the right moment to come to full draw. As his head passed behind a small tree I quickly started to haul back the bow string, during which time the ice and snow began to “crack” away from my jacket like a handful of chips being crushed….not good. He briefly turned his head in my direction but to my surprise kept moving. While peering through the peep sight I gave a loud “uuurrrpp” and stopped him dead in his tracks just before the tangled brush swallowed him up. Our eyes met just milliseconds before I launched my Thunderhead tipped CX RED into his chest. With trembling hands I watched as he dropped and rolled down the snow covered hillside. Moments later I was admiring his dark, heavy antlers for the first time. It was well worth the wait.
Killing him proved to be the easy part.
With just a few short weeks left in the season I have one more buck on my “wish” list. Maybe Santa will deliver him. If not, that gives him one more year to grow and one more year for our chess match to continue… which is alright with me. I like a good challenge.