Okay, here's a few details:
This hunt was provided courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife draw hunt system. This hunt is for three days, only, and only four spots were available. I have been trying for several years, to get drawn, however, have not been successful. Prior to the hunt, I called and was advised that there was one standby position available. Being very anxious, as I have never hunted in this area, nor have I ever had the opportunity to hunt Texas desert mule deer, I drove the 7 hours, "hoping" to get lucky. At the time of my arrival, there were 13 other guys there, just like me, hoping to get lucky.
Like I said earlier, the good Lord smiled on me.
At orientation, we were advised for a buck to be legal, he must have an outside spread of at least 18 inches.
Prior to the drawing, I met another guy there, James, and we immediately "hit it off". We realized we both grew up in the Fort Worth, area. We teamed up, and were both selected. After orientation, we quickly set up camp and set out to scout our area.
The first afternoon (January 2), I saw several deer, however, no "shooter" bucks.
The next morning (January 3), my partner and myself hiked up the mountain, where the biologists told us he had seen a couple of nice bucks, a couple of weeks earlier. The hike up the mountain required approximately 1 1/2 hours, just to get to the area we wanted to hunt, we split up and spent the entire day hunting, before we came back down. Again, I saw quite a number of deer, including bucks, I did not find a "shooter". I did see desert bighorn sheep, which was pretty cool. These were "obviously" off-limits.
The next morning (January 4), I went to a different location, where I had not scouted previously. Before first light, I parked my truck beside the road, and hiked approximately 1/2 way up the mountain slope. From there I began still hunting laterally, across the slope. At approximately 7:45 AM, I spotted a buck up-slope from me, and after checking with binoculars I realized he was a small fork horn. My rangefinder showed that he was at 254 yards. However, immediately I realized there were quite a number of does also in the area. Knowing that we were hunting during the rut, and as this buck was definitely "immature", and with the large number of does, there "must be" a good buck there close by. After careful glassing, sure enough, further up hill, I saw him. I quickly looked around for a rest, so that I could possibly make a shot. The closest place was about 20 yards to my right, where there was a drainage from the mountain, with several large boulders. I slowly eased my way to a boulder, where I got set up. However, once I got into position, these deer had become nervous, and had moved further upslope. It took me a few moments, to find the buck that I was looking for, and when I checked with the rangefinder, he was at 309 yards. Presently, he turned broadside and holding at the top of his back, behind the shoulders, at my shot, he dropped in his tracks. My Remington 700 - 270 caliber, loaded with 150 grain Federal Premium ammo, did the job.
Having spent the last couple of days in this area, at this altitude, I knew I had my work cut out for me. However, I don't think I was quite prepared for this. It took me 50 minutes to climb up to where he dropped. My Garmin GPS told me that I was at 5020 ft. elevation, and 3/4 of a mile from my truck. When I looked back downhill, from where he was laying, I said to myself "what in the world was I thinking". It looked like it was straight down. I am 61 years old, and too "fat"
. Where I live is approximately 500 ft. above sea level. I definitely was not accustomed to this altitude. I knew I would have to take it very slow and easy. I was carrying my rifle and a backpack. From the top, I set down my pack and rifle, and would drag the deer approximately 10-20 yards downslope. Then I would climb back up and get my pack and rifle, and repeat this process. By 1:00 PM I was approximately 1/4 mile from the road, and totally exhausted. At that point I had used all the water I brought with me and come out of 3 layers of clothing. The temperatures were in the 20s when I set out. I took my orange cap and marked a tall cactus, left the buck at that spot, and hiked out to my truck. I drove back to the headquarters, and the biologists graciously offered to help me get the deer to my truck (what an awesome guy). He went back with me to the area and by 2:30 we had this buck loaded in my truck. I was a happy & relieved man.
Even now, it seems surreal. It is hard to believe that I got selected and then was able to score a great buck. I did a moose hunt in Alaska several years ago, and up until now that had been the hardest hunt ever "physically", for me. However, this one topped that. I can honestly say this is one I will always cherish. I worked my butt off for this one. It was totally worth it!! My face hurts even now, I'm smiling so hard.
I am attaching a couple more photos here.
This is our camp, with Elephant Mountain in the background. Gorgeous place.
This is my buck, in the spot where he dropped.