Another year, another deer!
I was able to connect with a great deer on this place last year and looked forward to the hunt. My deer last year was a tall, narrow buck with great mass and this year I was looking for a wider deer that "looked like a mule deer."
With work and other obligations, I wasn't able to get out very as much time as I would have liked, but was able to squeeze 5 days together that I would be able to hunt. I chose to hunt the last week/weekend of the season because later seems better (closer to the rut) and the weather. First part of season was very warm. After talking to the guys that were there before me, it seems I made the right decision. They were seeing some deer but it was hit and miss and the mature bucks just didn't want to move much.
I drove in mid morning on the first day of the hunt, got everything situated and headed out. I decided to hunt a part of the ranch that I haven't ever been on. The place is very large and I have only hunted it once before, so there are plenty of places I haven't seen. I headed North and wondered through the terrain looking for glassing points, making notes of the terrain and trying to remember what roads I went down. I saw a few doe and a couple of forkies, but didn't expect much, just learning for in the future.
The next morning I headed out and decided to hunt the areas that I knew from the previous year. The deer were moving some, but not great. It was cloudy and getting colder, but not freezing yet. I was finding the deer in the lower areas and only saw a few moving on the upper sides of the hills. Seeing this, I switched locations and started hunting the draws more and was able to run across a few more deer. Light rain set it in about 1 or 2 and limited visibility, so I moved to another area I haven't hunted. This area is flatter with some draws, so visibility reduction wasn't as detrimental as trying to hunt the hills. Again, saw some deer but nothing mature.
That night, the rain changed to snow around 11 or so and we woke up to about 6" of snow. Everyone else slept in. They all told me and another guy that I trust greatly told me that these deer won't move in 15 degrees and that much snow. Only one other guy told me that they would...and he was wrong
I hunted all day in the snow...well most of it. Had to take a little time out while I was stuck in a washout that was covered with snow
Anyway, it snowed most the day and we ended up with about 8" of snow. I didn't see a deer until around 4:30 or so. I moved to one of the bigger mountains with deeper draws and started walking them out and throwing rocks in the bottoms to push them out of bed. I was able to push a few out, but again, nothing mature.
The next morning was cold, very cold, but the weather had broke and the skies were clear. I headed out in the morning and started seeing deer coming up out of the bottoms. They were finally feeding on the tops and I found two mature deer but they weren't what I was looking for. Before noon, ended up seeing around 22-24 deer and couple of mature deer. While I was running out of time, this was a great sign. At noon, I went by HQ and ran into one of the other guys. I ended up hunting with him the rest of the day. He has hunted this place for a pretty good while and I was able to learn a lot from him in the short amount of time we hunted together. He showed me some of the places he likes to glass from and took me to some places on the ranch that I haven't seen. We saw some deer and one mature deer with a group of doe, but again, he wasn't what we were looking for. We ended up hunting that evening in an area that I wouldn't have chosen and we saw 22 deer. For the day, I ended up seeing almost 60 deer...
The next day was going to be my last day, as I had to get back. I hunted with the same guy that morning and we went to start the morning glassing an area that I had hunted pretty heavy, just glassing from a different perspective. We were waiting for the Sun to break over the mountains so we could spot better and were telling stories. I started glassing just to pass the time and spotted a deer almost a mile away. It was a big body and by himself, so we knew it was a buck. We got out the spotting scopes and started looking at him. I could tell he was mature and wide. I couldn't see fronts, but the guy I was with said he thought he could see one but couldn't make out the other one.
I told him we needed to see how to get down to him and he asked if I wanted a better look. I told him "No, I am about 98% sure I am going to shoot that deer." So, we mapped out a route and took off.
We came down a ridge line, crossed a bottom and came up behind a smaller ridge that we thought he was relatively close too. I eased over the top staying low and spotted him about 300 yards out. I was staying low and moved back down to talk to the guy I was with a minute and the deer caught the movement. Not knowing what I was, I can only think that he thought I was a doe over the ridge, because he turned and started coming right to me. He came to about 180 yards, turned broadside and I let it fly.
Well, shot felt good and right behind his shoulder. He bucked like it was good hit and I watched him through the scope thinking it was a 30 yard run and die kind of shot and that is when the rodeo started... He went 30 yards, 40, 50 and I realized he wasn't falling, so I opened fire. I knew I had connected on a couple more but we watched him drop into a draw about 500 yards away.
We talked about rather to wait him out or go down and see if we could push him out. We knew he was hit but even though we both witnessed the first shot, we weren't real confident in how lethal the shot was simply because of the distance he went. I decided to go on down to him because if he decided to keep traveling in the bottom, we wouldn't be able to see him.
We pulled down close to where we last saw him and I headed toward the bottom. He jumped up about 60 yards out and shot four more times. Ended up putting 5 out of 8 shots into him and the last one in the neck is what finally put him down.
While it wasn't the one shot and dead that I prefer, I still got it done