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Younger when I killed this buck!

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  • Younger when I killed this buck!

    I thought while you have nothing to do while waiting for Santa, you could read one of my old stories of a hunt. The following year, the lady shown in this story, killed her own mule deer and pronghorn.

    The buck appeared to be getting antsy as he began to walk right to left. My range finder had confirmed that he was 210 yards from the deep drain or ravine in which I was set up. Crawling up the steep sides to the lip of the drain, I was getting my muzzle just above the vegetation with my extended bi-pod.........but, I am getting ahead of my story!

    My wife, Storm and I had left Florida a week before the start of our hunt in Wyoming and had rested in Missouri for three nights, with her family. Arriving at the 1893 built log house on the ranch, on the evening of October 15th, we moved in to get a good night's sleep, in order to be ready to hunt on the morning of the 16th.

    The combo hunt for pronghorn and mule deer could take up to five days, or could be over in one day! I had hunted 11 times on this ranch since my first time being guided by the rancher, Dick, in 1992. On each hunt, I had been able to bag both my mule deer and my pronghorn. This hunt promised to be the same, despite reports that the previous winter had devastated the herds of deer and pronghorn.

    Dick showed up at 6:30 A.M., to drive us to the first location, where we would look for deer. Arriving in front of a four mile long, crescent shaped ridge that rose out of the grasslands, we soon spotted groups of deer and pronghorn feeding in the gathering light of morning. Many of the larger deer were already moving toward the higher, rougher country to lay up for the day. Most deer that we glassed were adolescent bucks or antlerless. Over toward the far end of the razor backed ridge, I spotted a high stepping buck with an obviously large body. Closer inspection through the scope showed us a wide, high set of antlers. Since he was in that high stepping trot, we were fairly certain that he would not likely stop until he reached the cover of the ridge, or a deep drain coming off the ridge, in which to feel safe. After he went over the lip of a drain, we did not see him again.

    Moving in the truck closer to the ridge, we spotted two big bodied bucks walking toward higher ground at about 500 yards in front of us. Dick's 60X scope revealed massive antlers on both bucks, being a minimum of 5X5! Dismounting from the truck, we began a stalk that hopefully would put us ahead of the bucks travel and in position to shoot cleanly.

    Reaching the top of a rise, I again spotted the bucks at what my range finder said was just over 300 yards. The grass was too high to get them in my scope from a prone position. There were no trees handy, upon which to get a steady rest and my mono-pod was no where near steady enough to give me a chance for a clean, humane kill, so I held off. The bucks again disappeared behind a fold in the ground we started off to try to get another position from which to shoot. Upon seeing the bucks for the last time, I once more could not get a firing position that would give me a good chance to make a shot and after the bucks went down into a drain, we did not see them again.

    In all honesty, I can say that I was happy to let the two big bucks go, as this was the first morning of my hunt and I did not want it to end so soon! If after five days of hunting I came up empty, I could accept that with the knowledge that I had had another quality experience doing that for which I have a passion.

    At that point I struck off alone on foot, to move down a drain, toward where it opened out into the grasslands. The drain snaked along for about two miles, running deep and having countless spots where a buck had the opportunity to lay up and still be able to see approaching predators coming toward his hide. On previous hunts, I had been able to take two bucks on just this sort of still hunt tactic. Working along slowly, I spent as much time standing and glassing, as I did moving. Twice, I had very good pronghorn bucks in my sights, but I was not going to fire my rifle in a area that I knew held trophy bucks, just to fill my pronghorn stamp.

    During the two and one half hours that it took to reach my rendezvous with Dick, Storm and the truck, I glassed a few lesser bucks, none of which I had any interest in taking. Meeting up with Dick and Storm, we agreed to return in the evening to see if either of the two grand bucks, that we had seen that morning, came out into the grass again. We knew that they were on the ridge and that they had not been spooked, so we had reason to believe that we may see them again.

    Dick suggested that we cruise some rough back country, where bucks were known to lay up for the day. These areas are arid, rocky and very hard to traverse on foot and impossible to access by vehicle. I worked down and back up two ridges with no sightings. One cannot expect to hunt out all of these ravines, as they are simply too numerous. An eastern white tail hunter just has to see the vastness of these areas to appreciate the fact that hunting them and bagging a trophy deer takes hard work and bit of luck. One can only try to keep going in the middle of the day, in the hope that one will stumble upon a bedded down buck and get a shot as he goes out.

    At around noon, I was atop a very narrow, razor backed ridge no wider than a city sidewalk. To each side, there were deep drains, running parallel to my ridge. Feeling like the king of my dry domain, I primarily scanned the right side, because on my left and also running parallel to the ridge, was a fence delineating the beginning of a neighbor's property, on which I did not have permission to hunt.

    After about forty five minutes of still hunting down the ridge, but moving quietly and standing to glass, a good buck broke cover and began making his way up the steep sides of the ridge on my left. Sure enough, he was on the wrong side of the fence and I could not think about taking him. I did however, use his move to practice getting into a prone position and acquiring him in my scope. The buck's entire back was in my crosshairs. While he was walking briskly upwards, the shot would have been an easy one to make at 250 yards, as I had his entire backbone to sight on. A shot that would have surely dropped him. Watching him clear the drain and go over, I continued on, concentrating even harder on my right side of the ridge, in hopes that another good buck would break cover.

    Carrying along rope with which to fashion a harness to drag deer is a must on these hunts, as the truck would not be able to get to where I had a chance to make a kill in these deep drains. A drag of at least one quarter mile would be called for. In the past, Dick and I had managed hard drags and had not had to quarter the deer to get him out. A pattern had been formed on earlier hunts that big bucks taken these drains, required a lot of work to get them out!

    After again finding Dick and Storm with the truck, we took a lunch break and then began to glass wide open areas for pronghorns. In total, I was on foot for four and one half hours, during that day and by five o'clock, I was ready to sit in the truck and glass the area in front of the crescent shaped ridge, where we had seen the three big bucks that morning. Counting the buck who broke cover in the drain at midday, I had already glassed four good bucks, any one of which I would be glad to hang on my wall. In the past, I had held off taking any deer until the third or forth day of the hunt, because I so enjoyed walking, glassing and hunting game. However, at 69 years of age, I told myself that after having all day to still hunt the ravines, I was ready to take a fair sized buck, if a shot was presented.

    We sat in the truck in fast fading daylight, glassing the same grassy areas that we had scoped out that morning. With forty five minutes of shooting light left, we had seen a number of bucks, but none with trophy sized racks.

    Suddenly, at what I estimate to be about a half mile distant, my 10X binoculars revealed what looked like a large bodied buck feeding next to a telephone pole. Comparing his body size to the other deer nearby and to what I knew was the thickness of a telephone pole, I felt certain that he was big. Dick got on him with the 60X scope and confirmed that the buck was large bodied and carried a good rack. Dismounting the truck, I began working my way in circuitous route, toward the buck. I found a drain that would lead me closer and slid down, attempting to make little or no noise.

    I had to concentrate on breathing deeply, in order to not get short of breath, as I do when I am getting close to where I believe that I will make a shot. After years of hunting, I am not immune to buck fever and need to talk to myself, inside of my head. "Keep cool! Move quietly! If he is in range, you can make the shot! Don't blow this!"

    Easing up to the rim of the drain two times, I could not see the buck. On the third try, I had him at over 400 yards, but felt that I could move closer while remaining un-detected by the the herd. The final time that I bellied up to the rim, the range finder read 210 yards to the buck and I knew that at that range, my 280Rem. 7mm bullet would hit right where I held on the deer.

    Again, I was aware that my shooting light was rapidly fading, so I extended my bi-pod and held on the deer's neck. At a longer range, I would've not attempted a neck shot, but at 210 yards, I felt confident that I could hit the neck, shooting off the bi-pod rest. A few of the deer were looking directly at me, and the big buck was moving a couple steps at a time, as I took a number of deep breaths and began to go for the trigger let off, holding my sight picture as steady as I was able to do. I felt the solid recoil as the 140 grain AccuBond bullet left the rifle's bore and slammed home. Taking a split second to recover, I did not see the deer go down, and was uncertain whether my shot ran true, or not! The other deer milled about as I scanned the flat area, but did not again see the buck. Rising from the drain's lip, I could make out a hump in the field where the rest of the deer were now moving away. I had, out of habit, jacked another 280Rem. cartridge into the chamber and kept the rifle raised in the firing position as I moved forward, alternately looking with my naked eye and scanning through the scope.

    I was now sure that the lump on the field was my fallen buck.   The arching curve of the antler pointed skyward. When I got to him, I probed the body gingerly with my muzzle, just to be sure, then sat down with him for some long minutes, savoring the entire experience with the warm buck's body under my hand. The neck shot had killed him in a much more humane manner than given to most factory killed cattle. His wild, free life was snuffed out with little to no pain, as the bullet had perhaps caused bee sting pain, before within thirty seconds, he was in deep shock and within a minute, dead. I thanked God for allowing me my hunting life experiences.

    Within minutes, Dick and Storm arrived with the truck and we took our photos and did out field dressing work. Dick and I struggled to load the 212 pounds of dead weight up onto the high bed of Dick's four wheel drive truck bed and we headed out to hang the deer for the night. In the morning we would make our way to the meat processor and my deer because double wrapped and frozen table meat.

    Leaving the meat processor at about 8:00 A.M. we cruised in the truck and glassed for a pronghorn buck. I glassed two bucks with decent sized horns, but rejected them. Then I saw in my binoculars, a buck who's horns hooked over in a very handsome fashion and decided to try a stalk on him. I was able to slide up to a rise that over looked the feeding pronghorns.

    The pronghorns are said to have 6X vision and as soon as I raised my binoculars, I saw that the buck and most of the herd were staring right at me. I knew that at most, I had seconds to get off a shot, before the entire herd bolted. After quickly taking a range finder reading that showed the buck to be at 265 yards, I got the rifle in the firing position, atop the bi-pod and let off a round, aiming for the bucks heart/lung area. After recovering from the mild recoil, I saw the buck take two steps forward and fold up, kicking only a few times, before remaining still. Again, my follow-up round was chambered and I held the crosshairs on him, but a second shot was not needed.

    Repeating our photo op. scene, we loaded the pronghorn buck and drove to the meat processor. I was almost sad, that in a day and a half, I had filled both my stamps and the heart pounding excitement of the hunt was over. However, I had several hundred rounds of 22-250 loaded for my second rifle and we were then off to gun some prairie dogs.

    We had good shooting on prairie dogs for a day and a half, polishing off all the cartridges that I had hand loaded for this trip. I felt Father Time creeping up on me, as my shots of over 300 yards dropped my "hit" average down. Within 200 yards, the Savage Model 12, heavy barreled varminter, laid every PD low without strain.

    The trip out to the ranch was 2250 miles, according to MapQuest. By time we got there, we had logged over 3000 miles, to include side trips to Mt. Rushmore, The Crazy Horse Memorial, Devil's Tower and the Custer Battlefield. Upon arriving home, we had logged a total of 5340 miles. I am blessed to be retired, so we are never rushed on the journey out and back.

    While I have been blessed to have gotten a bull elk and countless white tail deer on other hunts, I continue to book with Dick and hunt the northeast Wyoming area, even though the deer found there are generally not of world class size. I return to that ranch in part, because Dick cuts me loose and allows me to hunt on my own, as much as I care to do so. Many guides/outfitters will not do that, and in fact do everything but pull the trigger. I am not knocking that sort of over guiding, but for me, I will go for the fair chase hunt where I am allowed to leave the guide behind in the truck, while I do some hunting on my own. On a number of trips, I have found my deer and my pronghorn while on a wide swing, on foot. I find the game and I make the decision when to take him. I like that!

    I believe that every eastern white tail hunter owes himself at least one mule deer hunt in the great west! I have been blessed to have hunted a fair number of places, to include Australia and Mexico, but for me, nothing compares to the Montana/Wyoming area for great hunting experiences. Unlike the eastern woods, where most white tail deer are taken from stands, the western hunts allow me to swing out and move over vast areas of the countryside and seek out mule deer.

    I have again booked the final five days of the Wyoming season for 2012, at which time, I will be 70 years of age. Lord willing, I will keep coming back.
    Best regards,
    Steven L. Ashe

  • #2

    Steve, Very good writing and an adventurous story. I enjoyed every minute of it. It is however, very difficult to read as the mass of type all runs together.

    Would you mind if I reformatted it with paragraph breaks and spacing to make it easier to read? I'd enjoy doing so as I'd get to read it again. RD
    Every once in a while in life we need a policeman, a lawyer, a doctor and a preacher. We need a farmer three times a day, every day.

    Et Canis Manducare Canis Mundi


    • #3

      Rockydog wrote:
      Steve, Very good writing and an adventurous story. I enjoyed every minute of it. It is however, very difficult to read as the mass of type all runs together.

      Would you mind if I reformatted it with paragraph breaks and spacing to make it easier to read? I'd enjoy doing so as I'd get to read it again. RD
      My eyes my eyes. Please do it.
      Those that worship animals will eventually begin sacrificing human beings.

      "Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire." - G. Mahler


      • #4

        Certainly Rockydog. Have at it. Reformat any way that you think will read easier for other old coots like myself.
        Merry Christmas,


        • #5

          good story.
          having spent a lot of time over in that area [Gillette, Casper, Laramie, etc.]
          and it being about as far east as I ever go. [except for some places in No.Dak.]
          it was pretty easy for me to visualize the setting.


          • #6

            Steve, I simply broke the story roughly into paragraphs with a double space between, and then more or less into short Chapters as things unfolded. I only changed two words in the whole thing to change a senence from presnt tense to future tense to divide a chapter. Let me know if anything else needs to be changed. RD
            Every once in a while in life we need a policeman, a lawyer, a doctor and a preacher. We need a farmer three times a day, every day.

            Et Canis Manducare Canis Mundi


            • #7

              Great story. Loved it.
              Those that worship animals will eventually begin sacrificing human beings.

              "Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire." - G. Mahler