MonsterMuleys.com

"The Backtracking Buck"
Written by Chip Craig
Edited by Rod Hart (Alpine Productions -- Professional Writing & Editing)

Chip's Idaho Giant
Chip's 37 1/2 inch monster has 11 points on each side and gross scores 252 P&Y.
My 2001 Idaho muley was well known around the area where I harvested him. I spent many hours filming the big nontypical, as did many other people who were familiar with him. And the big buck paid a price for his fame, with numerous hunters flinging arrows at him after the season opened. It was sort of a twist of fate that led me to success, as my uncle and I had originally planned on hunting coyotes that day. But I had been thinking a lot about the big buck, so at the last minute we changed our plans and went deer hunting instead.

Heading out to one of the areas the nontypical had frequented, my uncle and I had just barely set up when the big buck walked into view. My Bushnell rangefinder read 40 yards as he continued toward our location. At 37 yards I drew my Hoyt Hypertec bow, released, and was rewarded by the "smack" of the arrow striking home. When we rushed over to where the deer had been there was a good blood trail, which led me to believe I'd made a solid hit. Wrong!

At first the buck's sign was easy to follow, with numerous spots of blood dotting the snow. But after following the trail for quite some time the blood drops became less frequent, finally disappearing as the animal made a big loop back to where I'd first hit him. By then I was really beginning to worry, and the events that followed proved to me just how smart a big mule deer can be.

I was thankful for the snow, which enabled me to follow the buck's tracks to where the sagebrush ended at edge of a large open plain. At that point the trail just seemed to disappear, so I made a big circle, trying to read the sign. Fearing I'd seen the last of the wounded buck, I wondered if I had somehow gotten on the wrong deer tracks. But then, how could deer tracks in the snow just suddenly end? Fortunately, my uncle, who had been watching the wounded buck from his location on a high point 400 yards away, saw the whole thing.

Incredible Mass
The Mass on this buck is incredible!
Unbelievably, the nontypical had come to the edge of the sage, then swapped ends and backtracked for nearly 100 yards. The wily buck had then jumped off the trail and ran another 100 yards to the side before lying down. He was hiding only about 75 yards from me as my uncle tried in vain to get my attention. After moving down to where I'd lost the tracks, my uncle wasn't sure of the buck's exact location, so we moved slowly ahead, carefully scanning the sagebrush with each step.

All at once the buck leaped to his feet and bounded away before I had time to loose another arrow. But in that brief moment I could see blood staining both sides of the animal, so I knew it was just a matter of time before he succumbed. But again, things didn't turn out to be as simple as I thought they'd be.

As my uncle and I continued on the trail, we soon came to a small hill. Peering over the crest, we were dismayed to find that the nontypical had joined up with five other bucks. Soon, the herd disappeared over a nearby ridge and we lost them completely. We knew the only alternative left to us was to find a vantage point and start glassing. Patience paid off, however, as 90 minutes later I spotted the bedded bucks.

One of the best archery bucks taken in 2001
They don't get much better than this!!
With my uncle remaining behind to keep an eye on the herd, I began the stalk. Fifty yards from my destination, four of the bucks jumped to their feet and ran away, but my buck was not with them. I figured he must have died somewhere between where we'd last seen him and the spot where the other bucks had been bedded, so I stayed put, carefully glassing the surrounding terrain. Thirty minutes later, the nontypical stood up and I sent a Beman ICS 400 Hunter tipped with a Bear broadhead through both his lungs. I had my buck!

The rack on my monster buck is an 11x11 that measures 37 1/2 inches wide. With five broken tines and 13 inches missing from one main beam, the old scrapper loses nearly 30 inches due to antler breakage. And if that isn't enough, after the photos were taken and we grabbed the buck to move him, one of the antlers came loose at the base, which means he can never be officially scored for the record books. (We came up with an unofficial gross score of 252 and a final net of 234 P&Y.)

I have seen several other huge bucks in the open archery area where my deer was taken and many others that show fantastic trophy potential. Another giant buck was also taken from the unit in September of 2001. Yes, we grow them big here in Idaho, but you have to know where to look. This smart buck threw me off a little with his backtracking trick, but like they say, "Big deer don't get big by being stupid!" I hope all my fellow hunters out there enjoy this story as much as I enjoyed the hunt.