Sorry for the long post and read of my recap of my mule deer hunt from last December.
In December 2019 I took my best Mule Deer to date and I killed him on my lease in West Texas. This story actually starts back in 2015 when I was hunting in an area in the middle of the ranch and found 5 bucks with a group of does. One buck in particular was what I thought was a 3 yr-4yr old and another younger buck that were laying on a gravel pile just across the road from the main group of deer. I was only about 45 yards from these two bucks and never looked that direction since all the other deer were across the road to my right. When I started to drive off I noticed them laying in the brush and took a few pictures of them.
In the 2016 season I hunted this area looking for this buck to see how much he had grown but never could find him. On the last Friday of the season I killed a 5x4 in a different area of the ranch. I decided to stay and hunt with my friends on Saturday. On Sunday it was just one friend, Charlie and myself on the ranch. I hunted with him all day and in the morning we found a group of does with an unusual looking buck...he was a 5 pt WT rack on his right side and normal 5 pt MD rack on his left side. Charlie decided to pass on him due to the buck not being wide enough even though he had great mass and mid 160's or so on score. He and I both thought he was 4 or maybe 5 yrs old. I felt just from the face color and body size that it was the buck I had seen the year before even though the rack was not the same. He was only about a mile east of where I had seen him the year before.
In the 2017 and 2018 season I did not get back on the lease due to a family member with health issue. I kept up with my friends on the lease and no one saw this buck at all in those two seasons. There were some good bucks seen and killed just not that buck.
Things worked out for me where I could get back on in 2019 and I was excited to say the least. On Friday morning of opening day it was only my friend Jimmy and myself on the whole lease. We really did not discuss where we were hunting but both ended up in the same 6500 acre pasture. It was very foggy at daylight where I started on the east side and Jimmy had driven out on the same road but to a different area of the pasture on the west side. My plan was to work across the middle of the pasture and glass the area where I thought the buck from 2015 and 2016 season might live at. The fog was thick and hung around till it got warm. I did not see any deer and worked across the pasture and found a couple of deer but not the bigger buck. I was still not sure he was even alive. I ran into Jimmy when I got to the west side and he had seen one pretty good 4x5 buck that walked off into the fog. It was not what he was looking for anyways so it was easy to pass on him. He and Charlie had gone back to the ranch in January 2019 after the 2018 season to see if they could see any larger bucks during the rut. They found two really big bucks in the same pasture (we were hunting) that were on does and one more larger framed deer in another area of the ranch. One of the bucks was in the area of the buck I was looking for. I felt it was a different buck than I was looking for even though he looked big from the phone pics Jimmy took. That evening and the next morning Jimmy hunted that same area continuing to look for the buck he had seen in Jan. I hunted far west on Friday evening and up northwest on Saturday morning. I did see 1 6x6 young MD buck working 4 does. Jimmy saw a few deer but not much for buck size on Saturday morning. Charlie had gotten to the ranch that day and now there was 3 of hunting. Saturday afternoon, Jimmy went back into the area he was hunting and I went to the far NE corner of the ranch to hunt. About 4:45 Jimmy called me to see what I was seeing and I replied 8-9 does and one small buck is all but deer were moving. He had found a large group of does with 3 or 4 bucks and one really big buck with unusual antlers. They were about 200 yards from him chasing and running in the taller brush. I asked him if he was going to shoot the bigger buck...he replied "I have not made my mind up since I have not gotten a real good look at him..but he is big". About 20 minutes later at around 5:10 he tried to call me and I had my phone on vibrate and never felt it when he called. About 5:16 he called me back again and I asked him "if he needed any help loading the buck up?" He laughed and said he passed on him but he was really big and probably would never see another one like him. He describe the buck as a typical WT 5pt on his right side and then a tripod on his left side with extra points and a lot of mass. I told him..."that is the buck I was looking for yesterday in that pasture". I told him I would shoot him in a heartbeat and he immediately said "come on"...I looked at my phone clock and it was 5:19 and I was already driving that way. The biggest issue was it that it was at least a 45 minute drive across the ranch but I new where he was at. He did not think I could make it to him in time but I new I could. I had 2 routes to choose from, one was a bit shorter but had 5 gates/gaps to open with all pasture roads and the other route was 2 gates and a long stretch of main road. I took the longer route with less gates and better roads. At about 5:50 he called me again as I was just past the last gate and about 2.5 miles to 3 miles from him. He said where are you at cause all the deer had fed off to the west. He said he was just going to sit and wait on me to get there. I sped up and made a decision to head across country in a straight line thru the greasewood and mesquites to him..no roads at all for a mile. I new the area but was not exactly sure on his location but at 6:00 I spotted him and got to him at 6:01....I had legal shooting light till 6:19 but not a deer in sight. We quickly discussed a plan and headed west about 300 yards to where he last saw the deer. We stopped and discussed the next plan and weighed our options. I new there was a deeper draw about 100 yards to our west and about 20 yards to the north was a stair-step drop off that led into another canyon that fed into the draw to our north. Unsure of where the deer had gone, I told Jimmy lets go north and then west since it would waste more time to come back. Jimmy started his Ranger and turned to the right and had only gone 10 yards when I saw a deer off of the drop off to our north. I got him to stop and we started glassing. We had a Yucca about 10 yards directly in front of us and it was between us...I could see to the right and he could see to the left. I could see a doe when we stopped then I found a total of 5 but no buck. Jimmy found a buck with his head in a Yucca whipping it like a rutting buck. It was a 3x4 younger buck in the group so we new we were on the group. Deer were moving from the blocked vision area of the Yucca off to the right when I spotted a bigger buck moving in on one the 5 does. I said to Jimmy "is that the buck?" pretty much knowing it was.... but he could not see him. He finally saw him and said yes. I ranged him at 229 yards. Not sure why I did not shoot off the Range but I grabbed my shooting sticks and hopped out of the Ranger. I went to the edge of the drop off and all the deer were now looking at me. I sat down and put my rifle on my sticks. I bent my right knee and put my left elbow on my right knee for better support. The buck had turned and was facing me dead on at just over 210 yards I guessed. The sticks were setting on a large flat slick rock and they started to spread causing a drop in my aiming point. I lifted them up and set them down better and squeezed my left hand around them to hold them upright. The buck was still looking directly at me and finally the 3x4 walked towards his doe. The bigger buck turned his head to my left and just lifted his right leg to turn to the buck when I sent a round into his neck/shoulder crease area as he opened up for the turn. With the slick rock and rifle recoil I heard the hit but did not see the buck fall and I was chambering another round. I got back on the sticks as found deer moving away but they all stopped and looked back up where the buck was at. I had not heard or seen him run but I heard the impact when the bullet hit him. For 5 minutes I sat scoping deer and could not find the buck nor see him on the ground. All the deer were looking real alert back to where the buck was standing when I shot. I finally turned around and looked at Jimmy and he was looking at me...I shrugged my shoulders to indicate "was he down? I don't know for sure"...he shrugged back and me like he did not know for sure either. I thought crap...I know I did not miss but what Jimmy later told me what he had meant with his shrug was the buck was down but he could not see him. I walked down slowly and seen deer starting to move off but still no big buck. I was above him but still could not see him. I got down to the Yucca he was standing close to but still could not see him...finally I heard weeds/grass rustle a little and saw a leg move up and down. He was on his back with his head rolled up under him but not completely dead. I had my scope already on 5 power so I stepped back a few yards and put one in his brisket and vitals. He would have died from the first shot but I was not taking any chances. Jimmy was on the phone with Charlie telling him I had just shot a big buck and Charlie asked "is he dead" just as I shot. To which Jimmy replied after my shot "he is now". Still not having seen the bucks antlers very well other than knowing he was a 5 pt WT rack on his left with a tripod on his left G2, I picked his head up out of the grass and found a double mainbeam on his left side plus 3 extra flyers off his mainbeams. The mass was outstanding and he had great spread with 17 points. I called Jimmy on my cell and told him in these words.."you fxxked up man"..he said why?.. and I said "this buck his huge with a ton of mass and you should have shot him". He said "I told you he was big but he was not what I was looking for, that is why I called you since you were looking for him"
I took a few quick pics and we struggled to load him and get out of that drop off with the little light we had left. I tagged him quickly and gutted him then we loaded him onto my Ranger from his. We still had about 2 miles to navigate thru brush to get to the road and it was getting dark quick.
Later at camp I took this pic to show the kickers better.
Couple of days later I was hunting with Jimmy and we went back to the spot and I took these pics. The little Yucca to the left was the one that was between us and those deer that afternoon. When I got out I was able to sneak down to the next Yucca. I took my shot from the left side out to the knob out in front of the camera. It was 229 yards from where we parked and the buck was to left of the one Yucca on the left side of it. He had turned and was facing to me.
I thanked Jimmy for calling me to tell me about the buck and asked him again why he did it. He told me "he knew I was looking for that buck and that buck I deserved it since I was a good friend and hunted very hard." Jimmy had his mind set on the other buck and hunted him hard the rest of the season but never saw him. He set his goals for one buck or nothing at all and he went home happy with the hunt. There is something about hunting with friends that can not be said enough. They are special in many ways and do things because they are just great people. I have very few friends and Jimmy is my best friend. We talk on the phone all the time and have hunted together since the mid 90's. He has had some health issues and had to miss time from the lease for it and was glad to be hunting again also. He had no regrets about letting me shoot that buck and is just an all-around great guy. There are just no many people like him in this day and age. That is why I call him my best friend.