Haha thanks Wildlife. And yeah that rangefinder is about done. Heading out to the mountains straight from work tonight so I’ll try to finish it before. If not I’ll have plenty of time midday when the mule deer aren’t moving.
My Dad decided to head down to the meadow and cover that possible escape route, I stayed up to stalk them. There’s a big tree out along the cliff, the one they were next to earlier, and I figured there was a good chance they’d be near or beneath that. I slipped off my boots, drank some water, and dropped everything besides my range finder, my bow and my smoke in a bottle. I edged excruciatingly slow through the grass, trying to step on rocks and old cow pies as much as possible. Every little wiggle of an unstable rock made my heart jump. The wind was almost dead much of the time, then would gust hard as thermals passed over the cliff. Where the oaks end, there is about 20 yards of grass and then a shear cliff. I stayed as close as I could to the oaks. The issue is, if the deer are in the oaks I’m completely skylighted by the cliff.
The first clump of oaks is about 80 yards long, with a small cove and then a second clump about 50 yards long. The deer love to bed in little coves and nooks in the oaks, just like bass on a shoreline or weed bed. I expected to see deer at any moment, but the cove was empty. Passing across the ten yards of open ground to the next clump I went extra slow. Now it was just 50 yards along this clump to the edge. There, the big tree would be to my right and other smaller clumps dotted the area in front of me. Off to the left, there was a big expanse of shorter oaks along the edge of the cliff.
I eased along up to toward the end of the lump, one step every five seconds. I started getting closer to the end, each step giving me a bit more of a view. I took one more step and froze, in the deep shadow of a bush beneath the giant tree I could see something that wasn’t quite a leaf. As my eyes adjusted it spun around and the antlers of the same buck that had been poking out before were in view sticking out from the ground. I could see eyes or ears. He’s a beautiful 4x4, obviously mature. There were three bigger bucks bucks in the group but I wasn’t concerned with that. He was looking off to the left, not perked up.
I ranged the bush behind him, 34 yards. There would be no shot until he stood up unless I tried to walk straight at him. As I watched, another smaller buck walked around on the other side of the bushes. He found a cozy spot and bedded down. I looked around for a rock to toss but there were none small enough. I remembered that I had my smoke in a bottle in my pocket. I took it out and thought through my plan. The arrow was nocked, the sight was dialed to its him position, and my release was ready. I threw it into the bushes 15 yards to my right and it made one sharp thud.
His head snapped to attention. He stared directly towards it for a minute, my hands locked into my bow ready to draw. He looked away. After a few minutes, his rack leaned back, then jerked back up, then leaned back, then jerked back up. Then it fell slowly and disappeared below the ground. He was asleep.
I looked once again for a rock. All I saw was an 8 inch long stick beneath my foot. I thought, “Hey, that’ll work!” Squatting down as slow as I could, I grabbed it and stood back up and thought through my plan. I bent back my wrist and threw the stick long ways, WOOOOSH! All the deer exploded out of the bushes running away from me. How the hell did I forget that sticks made noise flying through the air. Rocks do not.
There’s a stupid fuggin lesson for ya.
I waited a minute and slowly edged forward to see where they’d ran. A monster 3x3 with lots of trash, about 35” wide was down at 125 yards looking back that way. I slid back around and worked my way up to the big tree to peek back down. All I saw was my dad standing where the huge buck had been. I got to the other side of the trees and saw five giant bucks at 500 yards hopping the fence and getting the hell out of there. My dad had tried to sneak up on the big bucks but there was another little buck he hadn’t seen that had busted him.
My Dad went to the north meadow and just saw one fat black bear wander around munching.
As I approached my usual spot, I saw the group of big bucks off 400 yards on the other property, but not before they saw me. I watched as they worked way off until they were a mile away. They laid down with the does and small bucks from the morning in a little patch of bushes in the middle of the wide open mesa. They obviously were done letting things sneak up on them.
I went and sat at my usual spot and saw nothing stand up from the bedding area. I looped back to the cliff, saw nothing sneaking around the back side. Then I went down and still hunted through the valley. I went down all the way to the bottom and saw nothing but cattle. I slowly worked my way up doing my best deer step on a big cattle trail.
About half way up the valley, I came around an impenetrable patch of locusts and saw a doe up the hill 20 yards to my right. Convinced there had to be a small buck with her, I cow called and deer stepped in a 30 yard wide circle around her bobbing my head. She was all alone and ran off after a minute of my shit.
My dad decided to have me drop him off at a pond way beneath the mesa in thick oaks to see if he could find any bucks we hadn’t messed with.
After dropping him off, I took off on the ATV to head up to the mesa and hunt the strip of trees that I’d hunted on afternoon 2.
As I got up to the mesa, shooting light was just breaking. I was hauling ass towards where I park when I saw three nice bucks silhouetted to my left in front of the sunrise. I kept driving past them since it was wide open grassland with no chance for a stalk. In hindsight I should’ve turned around and driven back to the gate then set up for an ambush. That was obviously the direction they were headed.
As I drove away I thought, hey they didn’t even spook. I could probably shoot them from the ATV...
I parked the ATV, hopped out and screwed on my stabilizer and threw on my quiver. I went to grab my phone for a flashlight to check the arrows.
Shit, my phone fell out of my pocket and was somewhere back along 3 miles of ATV trail.
I held the bow in my hand, turned around, and drove back towards the deer. I was almost back to the gate when I finally skyline them again to my right. I jumped out of the ATV, crawled around the back, and ranged the biggest one. 81 yards. Perfect. I went to dial my sight and realized it was too dark to read the numbers still. I grabbed my phone as a light - shit, no phone.
I crawled forward to the headlights and dialed it in and turned around kneeling for the shot, my preferred shooting position. I went to draw back, and the deer all had had enough and ran off.
I got back in and drove to the usual spot. Ducking under the fence, there were about 200 cattle within 100 yards watching me.
I started down the trail to my spot and the cattle decided it would be fun to stampede in front of me for the entire damn walk. I got to some small clumps of trees and slowly worked my way forward. There’s one rocky outcropping with a few bushes that I sit at to look over the meadow beneath and to glass further out for stalking opportunities.
I got to the rocks and stood and glassed for a minute. I didn’t see anything.
I moved forward beside the bush to get a view of a bit more land. Two bucks charged out from right beneath me, a huge 4x4 and a forkhorn.
They ran out to the first of a few big clumps of trees and vanished.
I waited a minute for them to settle down, then followed behind slowly. I figured they would be in eyesight once I got to the first group of trees, about 80 yards away.
I got 30 yards across the meadow before I saw the big buck looking straight at me through the clump of trees. He’d run to the nearest cover then just sat and waited for me to expose myself.
A frontal 60 yard shot through trees isn’t the brightest idea, so I turned and walked away from him. Once behind brush from him, I ducked down and started to crawl back around. I got to about 30 yards from the bushes before I realized I was going to cross another hole where he would be able to see me.
I sat there running through options for a few seconds before I saw them start walking around the bushes to the right.
I turned kneeling, ready for a shot. The big buck came out first, angling slightly away. I ranged him at 73 yards and I dialed my sight to 75. He stopped without me making noise, right where I hoped he would. Both bucks looked off to my right where they’d last seen me.
Just as I drew back, he lost interest and turned away from me, walking straight away up the hill. I turned my interest to the forkhorn.
I settled my pin on his heart and let the arrow fly. THWACK. He ran off over the hill.
I walked up to grab the arrow. Meat and fat.
I’d dialed the sight to shoot the big buck walking away, but the small buck had still been about four yards closer. In the haste I’d forgotten to aim low. Yet another mistake. At 75 yards, a four yard misjudgment quite a few inches of vertical drop.
I scoured the area for blood and any sign of the deer, but found nothing.
I drove back down to the cabin looking for my phone and never saw it. I hunted out from the cabin, walking around 5 miles through meadows and beautiful oaks. All I found was one doe and a ton of bear poop.
We drove around and eventually found my phone on the trails.
Being the last day, we decided to slam some energy drinks and push through every bedding area we knew of.
First we started with the north meadow. My dad went up above and set up in the escape route and I worked through all of the bedding areas. We saw nothing besides a few does.
As we hunted the north meadow, we could see a huge storm approaching from the west.
Next, we headed back to the main valley. As we approached the hill with all of the bedding, we saw two does and a forkhorn up on the hill by the clump of bushes that I missed the huge buck in. The forkhorn was on the neighbors and the two does jumped onto our property. They started working back towards the neighbors so we gave up and busted them to get back to the game plan.
I went up and over the hill to the far side of the cliff to set up on the escape route. My dad walked around the right side of the hill and started slowly moving through all of the bedding.
After 15 minutes of waiting, I got a garbled radio from him, “Shot...fork horn...bush... no blood... gonna keep looking.”
I heard some crashing and thought deer were coming, but nothing showed.
As I sat there, the storm clouds started coming over the cliff. Lightning flashed brighter and brighter and huge gusts of wind ripped in every direction.
He eventually radioed again and said he was going to head down into the valley and couldn’t find any blood. I said okay, wait up and I’ll join you. I’m not planning on getting electrocuted today.
I pushed through locusts tearing at my camo and came around the cliff edge. I saw him 120 yards away in the meadow gesturing frantically to up on the hillside. The fork horn was up there! Game on!
The cliff was to my right, concealing my movements. Where the deer were is where the cliff breaks into a steep bowl that they can get up and down. I had to walk through dried thistles, thorns and brush to get there. I pride myself on stealth, but this was impossible.
I said fugg it I’ll just be a cow and blasted through it quickly until I was close to where I could peak around.
To my left was their favorite clump of trees, a 15 yard diameter cluster completely cleared to dirt beneath with beds. It is surrounded by locusts and thorns and has a clear view up the hill for danger.
As I stepped in front of those trees, I saw a doe and a fork horn up on the hill above me.
The fork was down and to the left of where the doe was in the picture. I tried to find some semi stable footing in the loose rock and ranged him. The range finder cooperated, 51 yards. I drew back and could not get stable. I shuffled my feet and aimed back up at him. I thought, “holy shit I need to practice uphill shots more.”
I settled on just above his heart and let it fly. It hit about 6 inches back from that in the back of his lungs with some guts. Shit. He took three steps forward and turned towards me.
He was quartering hard towards me and obviously wasn’t going to budge. I nocked another arrow with a two blade kudu that I knew could punch through the chest.
I drew back steady and once again got very unstable. Standing on a steep slope aiming uphill is not something I trained for. I got it steady and let it fly. It hit just to the left of his sternum in front of his shoulder and went up through the vitals. He ran three yards and turned broadside and I took my third arrow and shot again. I think it went into the lungs but couldn’t tell where it hit exactly.
He ran up on top of the hill where I couldn’t see and fell over. My dad radioed and told me his head was still up. I was out of arrows and asked him to run up and hit him again. Both of us firmly believe in shoot until their dead.
He busted through the trees and got up onto the hill. The buck was 20 yards from him. With the doe still watching, he nocked an arrow and drew back.
He shot through the grass and the arrow slipped off of a hidden rock and broke the bucks front leg. The buck stumbled up and he put an arrow straight through the vitals. The buck died in seconds.
We had both just emptied our quivers on a fork horn. That about sums up how this season has been . I will be adding uphill shots into my training.
At this point, rain is starting to come down and lightning is getting very close. We were up on the highest point on the entire mesa.
My dad suggested we skirt around the steep side and hike back to the ATV to avoid going up to the very top of the hill. I said, “No, we should just go over the top, that hill is rocky and treacherous.” He insisted that he did not want to go over the top.
50 yards across the hill he crashed behind me. I turned around in time to see his head smash into the rocks and his bow fly through the air.
I ran back to help and he sat up slowly into a rock. He stared at his arms and legs trying to figure out what hurt and what didn’t. I’ll spare you the picture, but the end of his pinkie was almost completely broken off and pointing in a completely different direction. It was open down to the bone. He had a gash on the side of his head as well.
I took his bow and ran both bows back to the ATV through pelting rain and drove back to get him. He insisted on grabbing the deer before getting him back to the cabin to head into the ER.
I drove the ATV up and over the hill top, pouring rain and lightning all around us. I dragged the deer over, picked it up and threw it in the back.
He was able to hold his bow the whole way back in rocky terrain. This man is the toughest old fugger I’ve ever met. He told me to get it and skin it and get everything in order. I helped him change and wash off his face paint and he drove himself in to the ER.
My uncle runs the ER but had just flown out of town. He told us that the worst doctor they had was on duty. My dad is a veterinary surgeon, and the whole time she was cleaning and stitching his finger she was asking for his instructions. Her splint was so sideways we had to redo it to get blood flow to his finger.
This has been one hell of a season. Just got back from a few more days alone in the wilderness.
Sometimes killing is messy
But you two got the job done
I really hate the feeling of an empty quiver but I totally agree once you have drawn blood keep shooting
I hope your fathers finger heals well
I am glad it wasn’t worse than a broken finger
Congratulations on some great time spent with your father and putting some venison in the freezer
Many memories made on this trip!
Thanks for posting