10/7/16 Klymit Static V
Honestly the 2012 Utah hunt season started out rather slow for me. I had decided I was going to commit 100% of my efforts to helping my wife harvest her first elk with a bow and help my son harvest his first big game animal along with helping my two brothers kill elk in Wyoming. In doing so it left August and September for me dry on archery hunting elk and mule deer in one of my favorite units. I was fine with it because of the caliber of bucks that will show their face once mid November kicks in and figured I would have plenty of time to hunt them then. I also figured I would be able to get my wife Nicole a bull quickly so I could hunt September and help my good friend Rich on his limited entry muzzle loader elk hunt. Everything ALWAYS looks better on paper doesn't it! Well it was 2 days before the muzzle loader deer season opened when I laid eyes on the biggest buck I've ever seen on the hoof, an absolute giant mule deer. I had committed the rest of my season to him at that point however I was never able to re-locate him due to whatever it may be, hunting pressure, 4 wheelers, and domestic sheep all played a factor in this I'm sure. With time ticking down on the rifle portion of my dedicated hunter tag I did something I normally don't do when I found another great buck deep in a snow filled canyon, I listened to reason! My time was getting cut short to hunt this year due to work and a 10 day COlorado mule deer trip we had planned for Rocky Mountain Athlete. The story of this buck goes like this ... I had hunted hard almost every day of the rifle season trying to locate that giant buck I nick named Mr. Erehgawtto (I crack myself up) the reason I named him that is because when I first saw him but after instantly having a maintainable cardiac arrest I had a quick scene play out in my mind of me taking this buck and saw myself saying THANK YOU as I looked to the sky in awe when the STYX song Mr. Roboto popped into my head and I couldn't shake it lol. It was Friday October 26th I had decided earlier that day as I got off work early I wasn't going to call anyone to go out with me. I wanted to burn out of the city, get to the mountain, and just do a solo shot for the night. Well when I reached the parking lot I saw a familiar truck and smiled to myself. It was one of our RMA member's Tyler Salmon. I text him and he told me where he was and I met him there after about 1-1/2 hours of hiking and glassing as I stopped for breathers along the way. He was planning to camp out in a rock pile & watch a nice, fairly open area that bucks frequent through often. After chatting for a few minutes I decided to boogy another half mile up the canyon quietly to not spook anything that may come into his area. As I walked through an opening heading for a North facing canyon I cut several tracks in the snow. I was surprised to see so many to be honest. I continued & cut two good buck tracks in the fresh powder & followed them about 350-400 yards around a nasty steep north facing rim expecting to see these bucks right in front of me at any any second but this was not the case. I went about another 50 yards to a ridge top where it opened up a huge view down into a rugged canyon.
I instantly picked up a dark spot in the snow and knew it was a deer. I Threw up my Vortex Viper HD 15X50 binos and bam! I see a nice rack on top of a bedded, quartering away buck.
I eased down to one knee slowly and unsnapped my pack & took out my camera. I shot some video of this buck. This is where the debate with "reason" began. Was this buck worth the rest of my season? The rest of my opportunities to find Mr. Erehgawtto? After a few text messages and a long chat with myself about only one day left on the rifle hunt and being realistic with my time restrictions this year I decided I was going to take the shot. Feeling super comfortable with my Browning BAR .300 WSM I went ahead and ranged the buck knowing with light fading fast I would have no chance to get closer after studying how I would have to approach him if I tried. The reading came back at 500 yards even. I chuckled inside knowing my exact holdover at 500 wondering what are the odds of an even yardage reading at that distance? I contemplated again after putting the crosshairs on him twice, both times squeezing the trigger while still on safety to check myself with a good trigger pull. The third time I held on the buck I instinctively released the safety, settled the crosshairs at my holdover point (+20.4" @ 500 yards) exhaled as the trigger collapsed and BOOM! The shot cracked the silence of the majestic Western canvas before me. My ears rang and the buck jumped from his bed. Fatally hit the bullet seemed to have found its mark as it raced over the dense Oak Brush choked ravines entering the left side of the buck and breaking his off shoulder. As he tried to make it up the canyon, only 3 legs functional I watched intensely waiting for him to tumble backwards but he didn't! I second guessed my shot and decided to put another one in him to ease his pain as quickly as possible. Guessing the distance now I let the .300 roar yet again. As I squeezed the trigger I miss! I ready myself again and hear a smack down the canyon instantly after touching the trigger the 3rd time and the buck bolts straight down hill about 40 yards and beds down. I'm in disbelief that he is still alive, again replaying my shots in my mind feeling confident with 2 of the 3. I have but one round left, I have to make this shot count! By this time my hands are numb from 20 degrees in the dusk of the North slope and deep snow. I focus hard and squeeze my last shot. The buck stands from his bed, his head hanging low reminding me of a worn out horse after a long hard trail. I watch him until dark as he stood motionless through the last 15 minutes of light. Just as dark sank in the buck turned around and bedded where he was standing. I was sick to myself, losing confidence in my shots with each passing second. Having to back out and hope he would die quickly was all I could do until the sun rose 12 long hours away. It was a quiet ride home replay after reply shot through my mind. I felt so good about my first, third, and last shot but was baffled that he still had his head up at last light.
4:30AM found me throwing on my Sitka Gear and orange vest once again and heading out of the house. I chose to wear the Core base layer along with the Traverse Hoody and 90% Jacket for my top half and for the lower the Core base layer under the Mountain Pant. I've found this set up work well for me this time of year and I pack the Dewpoint rain gear when needed. I had recruited a good friend of mine and his horses to make the trip up the steep mountain faster and to keep this buck from suffering any longer should he have not expired through the frigid night. As we arrived, not being able to get the horses all the way in due to the steep, treacherous terrain we hustled to get around that canyon rim in hopes of spotting my buck laying dead where I left him just hours ago but this was not the case. Leaving me no choice, I had to track this buck! After devising a strategic plan Tyler & I made our way in, side-hilling the canyon on a slow descent to where the buck had last bedded with Jeff dropping down lower to push any deer up the rugged canyon to our position. As I approached the buck's bedding area I quickly picked up the glow of crimson in the brilliant white snow. We headed straight to it and the worry sank in as to what kind of tracking job I was about to encounter. I picked what I thought was the right track and began easing my way through the thick oak brush yet there was no blood with the trail. I was sick! The trail quickly turned and went straight back to the bed with the blood in it. With Tyler looking in the canyon to the East I had 2 choices, one set heading almost straight up hill and one set running directly down a little pocket draw. Thinking to myself there's no way a buck with a broken leg is going to want to go UP this canyon I decided I would just quickly check about 20 yards of the uphill track for blood then go to the lower track if none existed. In minutes I found myself on the lower track heading down. After only 5 yards I picked up the blood trail. It looked really good and my spirits were lifted a little.
The buck had gone about 20 yards and re-bedded, soaking his snow packed bed with blood. He moved again only to bed down 25 yards away repeating the process twice more with the same results. I wondered for a split second if I was bumping him? The thought vanished as I knew if I had pushed him he would not bed down three times in 65-70 yards. I decided I would follow his track to a pine tree that was on the point of the little pocket draw that would afford a good view of the canyon below. As I came around another pine about ten yards from where I was to begin glassing for him I saw his right beam and forks sticking up under that very pine I had decided to go to.
Instinctively I shouldered my rifle but I knew he was dead by how he was laying. My buck was frozen and stiff giving me relief knowing that he had not suffered long after leaving him through the night. Jeff and I took some video and photos and had a good laugh about my third shot as it was evident where it had struck the animal almost blowing a portion of his right antler off. In my defense the angle he was standing below me my shot would have only been just high over his back but I had however struck his antler. I was glad to see it still attached and took extra caution hauling him off the mountain to not break it off. We then began quartering my buck for the haul to the top.
This is the first time I've ever had to back out on an injured animal and I definitely don't like the feeling of it however I know it is part of hunting and I know by doing so I made the right choice especially after finding my buck within 80 yards of where I had left him. I couldn't be happier with this deer. He's roughly 28" wide and I honestly don't care what he scores. I enjoy every minute of the outdoors I can get my hands on. I love the effort that is involved in back country hunts, and I love the pain of success. I dare say I even love the pain of tag soup sometimes! It's hard to be disappointed when you know you gave it all you had, leaving it all on the table if you will. To me that's what it's all about. I wish each of you all the success you deserve in the coming seasons.
On a side note I hear all the time how terrible the deer hunting is for general season hunters here in Utah but I've yet to experience that. I believe without doubt Utah has some incredible deer hunting in all the general units but most of you will have to work hard for good bucks. I want to thank our RMA Sponsors Vortex Optics and Sitka Gear for their quality products. I don't buy or use gear that I don't trust. Both of these companies have aided in the successes of my hunts and I couldn't be happier with their gear.