Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Finding Joy in the Journey: The Tale of Trashy and Mr. Big

My wife Kim came running into the room last July wondering what, or from where the high shrilled scream was coming from. There I was grinning and giggling like a kid on christmas morning as I was reading the word "successful" on the controlled hunt draw result page, sadly and embarrassingly the shrilled scream was coming from me. My friends Jared, Blair and I had successfully drawn buck tags for an awesome unit.
Fast forward a month and Kim and I were talking about the hunt, poor thing was exhausted from hearing me none stop talking about it. She had mentioned that I probably would shoot a really nice buck off the side of the road. Lovingly I told her that I wanted to hunt, to find joy in the journey and do it right. All past general season hunts had been rushed and the pressure to shoot the first nice buck you see was there, not this time, we were going to experience it all, the ups and downs, the highs and lows. Call me weird, but there are few emotions that compare to leaving it all on the mountain, to experience the raw power of mother nature through the weather, terrain, blood, sweat and tears. This was going to be a very special season.
July 4th, I found a buck with Kim on a couples hike we were doing that haunted my dreams, really, I would dream of this deer and constantly think about the caliber of deer that he was. I knew I was after him or one of equal value or tag soup for the season. Mr. Big was his name and he was inspiring, huge typical frame with monster forks. Not super wide, but huge typicals seldom are, great mass throughout and just had an awesome look.
First thing that was important for this hunt and the season, I upgraded my spotting scope to better glass and pack ability. Second, it was new territory so I had to learn the land. Third, get or be in great physical shape cause I knew what it was going to take. Mr. Big lived in some gnarly country.
I will say this in all my stories of nice mule deer, be willing to do what others won't and you will be successful. Yea it burns climbing sheer mountains, yea it is easier on the recliner back home watching hunting on TV, but this is part of the journey.
Blair and I found ourselves opening morning in the area that we had been scouting, due to the fact it was difficult to get there judging by our sweat soaked clothes, we were freezing and had arrived at first light. Temperatures drop really fast after a good hike and you are glassing for some time in sweat soaked clothes. I recommend carrying a dry shirt to change into so you have a dry layer between you and the elements when sitting to glass, it makes a big difference. As the sun started to peek over the hill, little white deer butts started reflecting the morning rays. At our 12 o' clock we had a nice group 250 yards away and there was a really nice four pt that we had seen earlier in the year scouting. It was awesome to see this buck at over 900 yds then with just his velvet antlers above the sage, it made him look a lot wider than he was. Blair was leaving the next day to hunt elk in New Mexico so we decided to take him. He made a great high shoulder shot that you will see in the video I posted and the rest is history. He taped at 26" and was just a great mature buck. We put the whole buck on Romeo and he carried him out for us. Thankfully he was there because packing or dragging a big bodied buck through waist deep sage is discouraging, luckily Romeo has long legs and is very tall and makes it look easy.

This was a very fast hunt, but it was so because of the time that was put into scouting. Blair and I had gone up there on an overcast day and in an hour and a half counted 64 bucks. When Blair shot his buck that was the 10th time I had been there and had started naming several bucks. It is a lot of fun when you start to learn different bucks by name.

Mr. Big had disappeared.  I was starting to get discouraged when I hadn't seen him in several trips and was wondering where he was holed up at. Trashy made his debut the day after Blair left and I was solo on the mountain, had spent the night on the mountain and was very exhausted as I had climbed a boulder field that afternoon. This is important, so please remember, exhaustion will convince your mind that you shouldn't go on anymore, to admit it was a good run and to just end it by shooting the next buck you see. I was there, feeling this with my back against a boulder in the shade. Then one little forky came walking out of the treeline, few minutes later it was a single file of around twenty bucks and some does. About half of the bucks I had a name for, and exhaustion was telling me that tripod, or crabclaw were looking mighty fine tonight. The wife probably would appreciate the completion of the hunt as well as I had used lots of family time to be on the mountain. All these thoughts were brewing when 600 yds away a buck I had never seen before came out of the trees following a couple does and a smaller buck. He had points sticking out the side and was very dark horned. Game ON! It was a race now, light fading about twenty minutes remained, I couldn't get a good rest, I was dialed in but no shot. I took off down the hill to close the gap and the group of bucks that came out earlier busted me and started blowing and running everywhere. By this time Trashy was gone, and I felt stupid, frustrated, and even more exhausted both mentally and physically. There is a key point to this, that served me two trips later. The terrain looked nothing like it did from where I had scouted before, the ground had swells, and different features that looked flat from 900 yds away all those other times scouting, but now I knew how to maneuver it, and it payed off later.
Three days later I was back, fueled with the knowledge that Mr. Big didn't roam alone, Trashy was also now on the menu. I went to a new area where I had initially seen Mr. Big, right at dark I snuck into a clearing about 600 yds long by 300. I hadn't seen many deer here so I had not wanted to hunt it. From the edge I glassed to the middle and saw a doe with two fawns. After a minute I decided to just watch the three of them, mind you I just passed over them the first time because of the size difference and it was getting dark. Upon further review the doe was actually Mr. Big and the fawns were two four pts with him. Yea, I know, grab big stick and hit thyself in the forehead for being an idiot, it happens. Range was 420 yds and he disappeared on flat ground, really, on flat ground, I was going crazy trying to pick him up as it was almost to dark to shoot. At the last moment that sneaky devil popped out right on the edge of the timber looked at me and stepped into it at 500+ yds. Two big ol' pigs had eluded me within three days right at dark, I just decided to be grateful I had seen him and that patience would pay off. I walked over to where he was and there was a wrinkle in the landscape that he followed that allowed him to sneak away or what I thought disappear. Now tell me big bucks aren't smart.
Jared came up that saturday, he is in school so we had one day to get it done. With two big bucks on the same mountain, the adrenaline was pumping, as we were hoping he could connect with one of them. After glassing all morning, we glassed up a bedded buck in the rocks. He was the big three pt that I had been seeing all season. Not wanting to pass on the opportunity and with limited time Jared made a nice 425 yd shot on him.

When things happen, they happen fast. That evening we were at the clearing where I had seen Mr. Big, the plan was to watch there until half an hour before dark and if he didn't show up then high tail it to where I had seen trashy. He never showed so we went over to our outcropping where we glassed from and waited. Several bucks showed up, but no Trashy. Right about the time to head out some deer came out of where he had come out last time, and there he was, cheaters and everything. One final confirmation through the spotting scope and the thumbs up from Jared and we were off. Now this is important, had I not known the terrain, Trashy would probably still be alive. When we got over there, there was a small plateau, and I told Jared he would be at the bottom. We peeked over and there was a single deer feeding. I was very anxious because the sun was shining right into my scope and I could barely see, let alone know if it was him. Jared kept asking is it him, is it him, and I am answering I don't know because I can't see his head. Just then he tilted his head just a fraction back and I saw an antler tip with a cheater on it. I almost yelled it was him as the hammer fell.
Ode to Trashy. He lived like all big bucks do, he had his big buck habits and was very careful, both nights he wouldn't be farther than two leaps from the timber. Both nights he was the last buck out of the timber, making it very hard to scout him and move in on him. He lived in a place where few people want to hunt. Thank you Trashy for the journey, 13 times on the mountain and  I will never forget it.

Author notes:
1. Buy good glass, if you don't have a spotting scope, don't expect to find big bucks. 13 times yielded 410 bucks.
2.KNOW the terrain, not just where you are sitting but where the buck is living so that you know how to stalk in on him.
3. The body can go farther than the mind. Push yourself to the limits, even when your mind tells you to give up.
4. Hunt with like minded people who are as crazy as you are. Thank you Jared and Blair
5. Have a way to pack them off the mountain, makes the end so much sweeter.
6. Big bucks live in their little holes and are smart creatures of habit, they are there even when you think they have moved on.
7. Most important, enjoy all of the journey from purchasing the tag to the dinner plate.
Thanks for reading!

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