"Belated Birthday Buck"
Written by Bob Fraley
Bob and his father had a great hunt, harvesting these two great bucks.
The following weekend we made the five-hour drive and began scouting the southern half of the unit. That trip produced, we saw some nice bucks but not a lot of deer. We scouted a total of eight days, including one trip when I set up an appointment with the BLM Biologist who was extremely helpful.
My father and I called every Biologist and researched every magazine we could get our hands on.
I arrived at our campsite on September 27th. Wasting no time, I began scouting. I did not see any deer that day, but did find some deer sign. On September 28th I was returning to camp when I spotted two bucks. After glassing them I could tell that one of them was pushing 30 inches. That night my mom and dad arrived and I couldn't wait to tell them about the buck I had seen earlier.
Finally it was opening day. We hunted a rim where we had seen 12 bucks on one of our previous scouting trips. Two hours into our hunt, dad spotted a nice buck feeding about 500 yards away. We got to within 300 yards, but decided to pass on the buck.
He was about 24 inches wide, but had a broken horn. We spent the rest of the afternoon hunting other areas we had scouted. We found plenty of deer sign, but no deer.
That evening I told dad, "Let's go look at the area where I saw those bucks on Friday." We pulled up and started glassing the area. There was a ridge to the west and a ridge to the east running north and south, creating a valley. The bottom of the valley was grass and sand. Halfway down the valley was a strip of sagebrush that came off the ridge to the west and ran out into the valley, tapering to a point and ending. I spotted 5 bucks feeding on a small finger about 2 miles from us, there was only about 45 minutes of daylight left, so we decided to just watch the bucks and return the next morning.
While watching the feeding bucks, the largest of the 5 bucks raised his head. Sky lighted, we could see that he had a monster rack. My heart raced and I began shaking. I said, "Oh my God dad, did you see that?" The buck was atleast 35 inches wide and 24 inches tall.
That night it was impossible to sleep. All I could think about was how long it took to get here and would the bucks be there in the morning?
The next morning found us where we had last seen the bucks. I lifted the 10x42 Swarovski binoculars to my eyes and boom; there they were about 1/4 mile from where we had last seen them. We started up a ridge to our right, trying to gain elevation on the bucks and hoping to intercept them.
When we got to the top the bucks were nowhere in sight. We sat down against a large rock to break up our outline in the open desert. After a few minutes of glassing, we spotted the bucks about 1 mile away going away from us. We contemplated on what to do next. I told dad, "Let's sit tight and wait for them to bed down."
It was only 7:00 in the morning and for 2 hours we watched the 5 bucks feed. We had to take turns watching them in case they bedded, because we needed to know exactly where they were. There was nothing out there but grass and sand with a small rim that rose out of the desert a couple hundred feet high and a 1/2 mile long.
At about 9:00 a.m. the 5 bucks headed for that sagebrush strip in a single file line with the largest buck in the lead. They walked into the sage about 50 yards and one by one laid down. Dad and I could not believe our eyes, 5 nice bucks bedded down in the middle of an open desert with nothing on either side but grass and sand for miles.
We agreed to give them two hours, making sure they were comfortable and not anxious to get up and run. We were hoping this would allow us time to get closer to the bucks, since there was no cover.
It came down to this. 5 bucks bedded in the middle of a sagebrush strip approx. 500 wide with nothing between them and us but grass and sand. The longer we sat there the more I thought about how long we had waited for this, those trips over here away from my family, sleeping in the back of my dodge pickup truck, and eating freeze dried food.
At about 10:30, the wind kicked up in our favor, blowing hard out of the south. At 10:45 we put our packs on and began the 2-mile hike across the open desert toward the bucks. Halfway there, dad and I got about thirty yards apart with dad on my left. I looked ahead and saw a dead coyote lying under a small sage bush and pointed it out to dad. As we got closer to the bush, dad walked over to look at it and about 20 yards away a badger stood up, he wasn't happy to see us! The badger was snarling and taking a defensive stance. Eventually, the badger decided his territory was safe and laid back down and we went on our way.
As we entered the sagebrush about 400 yards away from the bedded bucks, we were spread out about 30 yards. With every step we picked the brush apart looking for anything that looked like a deer, or antlers. There was only about 50 yards of sage left when I heard dads Browning 300 go off. I immediately looked to my left and saw a nice buck running straight away from me at 40 yards. The .270 Browning auto was already at my shoulder as I fired three times. The buck dropped after the third shot. I yelled, "I got him! I got him!" I ran to the edge of the sagebrush and there laid two beautiful eastern Oregon bucks only 20 yards apart. To my right ran two smaller bucks and the big buck we had seen sky lighted the night before.
The 140-grain Nosler ballistic tip bullet did its job, hitting the buck once behind the shoulder. My buck measured 27 inches wide and 17 inches tall with 4 points on the right side and 3 on the left. Dad's buck stretched the tape to 30-3/4 inches wide with 4 points on each side. The buck also measured 5 inches at the base with double eyeguards on one side. Both bucks were harvested on public land and at less than 50 yards.
My father and I are not trophy hunters, just two men who enjoy hunting with each other. I feel fortunate to have stood beside my father and harvested two beautiful bucks.
I would like the thank my wonderful wife who gave birth to our second son on Sept. 10th, plus my mother who says she's the one who brought us the good luck. But I would especially like to say thanks to my father who introduced me to the outdoors and always made sure he had time to take me with him. Thanks Dad, and happy belated birthday!
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