Saturday, September 19, 2009
Tyler's Big Buck Story
15 September 2009
I left home at 3:15 a.m. Tyler decided to play football that day, so I was on my own. Over half his team was ineligible to play due to grades, so he made sure he was there. He played offensive tackle that day (at 83 pounds) and corner back on defense. They lost 14-0 to Green River, but Tyler was there to support his team. I am very proud of him for doing what he felt was right, even though it meant he missed the 1st day of deer season--HIS FAVORITE DAY OF THE YEAR!
I headed up the trail at 4 a.m. and was supposed to climb a ridge Adam, my brother, had seen a really nice, 26 inch, 3x4, on the week before. I got on the wrong trail--there is a split and I wasn't sure which one to take--and ended up on the opposite side of the canyon from the buck. I was QUITE lost, in that the ridge wasn't anything like I knew it to be. I stopped and checked my map, but couldn't find any of the flats or lower peaks I was climbing, IT WAS VERY FRUSTRATING. But daylight was coming on fast and it was too dark to see any of the surrounding ridges to figure out where I was, so I kept climbing. I was over 9,000 feet by the time daylight should have arrived, but daylight was behind schedule. It was heavily overcast, and the sun couldn't make it through. Fog rolled in and off me for a half an hour before daylight finally came, 30 minutes late.
I glassed the hillside above me, but didn't see any deer. I had big cliffs above me, which meant I was on the opposite side of the canyon from where I was supposed to be. I dropped down a trail, used by sheep herders, and headed up country. I just stepped out of the trees and looked above me into the next basin. There were 3 bucks up there looking down at me. I ranged them at 418 yards. I laid down and started shooting. 4 shots later the deer had moved back into the basin they were in and then out on the higher ridge. I thought I had hit one of them and tracked him along the ridge--he was hobbling up the mountain. I ranged them at 530 yards. Two shots later my buck was dead. I shot him through both front shoulders.
As I cleaned up brass, etc., I heard the sickening noise of his body breaking as he fell off a 150-200 foot cliff. It wasn't a complete vertical fall because the cliff kind of follows with the slope of the hill, but as he bounced his way down the face he broke his back, shattered a front leg, broke off his main beam tine on his right side, shattered his face (nose really), hit hard enough to tear abdominal membranes, releasing this guts into his thigh region, under the skin. His hide, off his hind quarters, was completely torn away from the meat. The fat was sticking out from under the skin and had been pulverized into a sticky mass around his tail. IT WAS REALLY A DISGUSTING MESS TO TRY AND CLEAN UP.
His sternum was either shot in half, or it also suffered a fracture, right behind the front legs. On my 4th shot at 418 yards I heard my bullet strike pay dirt, but the buck just walked out of sight. When the deer reappeared higher on the ridge, the biggest buck, with the darkest antlers, was in the back of the line, hobbling along. After anchoring him, I climbed into the higher basin and checked it for another deer before going down to take care of mine. Thankfully I didn't find anything. The report back really puzzled me until I cleaned up my deer and I notice the sternum was severed. The problem was his body was so badly beat up from the fall that I couldn't tell how it had happened. There was some blood shot flesh around the wound, so it had to have happened before he died and fell off the cliff, I'm just not sure if I hit him at 418 yards and then at 530, or it I hit him with both shots at 530 yards.
I took him apart a piece at time, never really gutting him. I was done cleaning him up and had my backpack ready to go at 11:30 a.m. Adam was hunting to my SE, and he radioed me just before I headed down. He was too far away to see with my 12X binoculars, but I could clearly see the saddle he was sitting in. My truck was over 2000 feet below me and, following my round about path, 3 miles away. I made it there by 1:30 p.m.
18 September 2009
Tyler and I left home at 4:00 a.m. We had a half an hour ride, then a 2 hour hike to our 8500 foot bench 2 miles in, and 1500 feet higher. The first 1.2 miles is pretty easy going, its the last .8 miles, and 1000 feet that hurts. We spotted a small buck, right at daylight, 245 yards away. Tyler passed him up, hoping for a nicer buck. I spotted him a good one a few minutes later, and due to the openness of the basin, and the bucks 700 foot vantage point above us, we had to take a round about path to within 412 yards of where he was. When we got there 35 minutes later, he was gone. We laid around shaded by big Red Fir trees till around 1 p.m., napping and waiting for the buck to feed back out, but he never did. So we packed up and headed to the upper end of the basin, hoping to top out and follow the ridge line around, hunting the basins on either side of the mountain, as we worked our way down, and then home. But, this country is WAY bigger than you can believe, and when we topped out, it was obvious we didn't have enough time in the day to make our way around. So we started to hunt down the top of the ridge the buck had been on. We spotted a doe, bedded in the shade under trees, above where the buck had been. We spooked another doe out of her bed when I took a bad path through trees, making about as much noise as you could possibly make walking through the forest. Just below her we found a little pocket on the back side of the ridge that looked just like where we should find that buck. Instead we found a pair of fawns. We were about to turn back, but I decided to go a little further into the pocket. Tyler saw him first, a nice buck jumping out of his bed and headed into the trees. I handed Tyler the rifle. The buck crossed an opening below us, maybe 40 yards long. It was the only path he could have taken that would give us a shot. Tyler jumped off the rock we were on, clearing his shot path of trees, pulled up and fired just as the buck bailed off the far side. At the shot I saw his body flinch, and I yelled, "I think you got him". We headed down the mountain, across the flat, to where he disappeared. I sent Tyler down off the left, and I went over the top of the point. The buck was laying 35 yards off the top, piled up in brush and small trees! To say our celebration was LOUD and EXCITING would be an understatement!
The lightening storm hit an hour later, just as we were finishing up taking care of him. We spent 45 minutes crouched in openings 100 yards off the top, waiting for death, and literally praying it would not come. Lightening and thunder were simultaneous; we endured almost a constant pounding of thunder as lightening flashed above us for 25 minutes. The rain wasn't bad where we were, but down in the canyon below it really came down.Tyler has killed two 4-points in 2 years. This buck is 21.5 inches wide and almost 18 inches tall. He isn't proud of his kill at ALL!
This is only Tyler's 2nd year of hunting. He already has two four point bucks, a cow elk and two doe antelope. He has an elk tag and two more doe antelope tags to fill this year. We hope to get him a bull elk, if possible. We talked about running shots just a few days ago. He has been practicing with his scoped rifle, getting a fast sight picture. Our talk and his practice allowed him to make a fairly difficult shot, especially for a young hunter on this deer. As you can tell, I'm not very proud of my son! He's a great young man!