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"One Buck"

Dave's Arizona Buck
Dave(left) and Don(right) show Dave's "Strip" buck.
Sometimes a hunt is all about luck. Well, my 2000 Northern Arizona deer hunt would be no exception. It all started off in March when my fiancÚ, Lorie, and I made the trip to Kingman to take a hunters education course that Don Martin of Arizona Wildlife Outfitters was instructing. I had talked with Don off and on over the past year or so and finally got set up to do it. During the course, I remember Don saying one thing that will stick in my mind for a long time to come. It was that, "one person in this class will possibly draw a 13B tag, one person an early rifle elk tag, one person a sheep tag" and so on. I remember looking around the room and wondering whom the lucky dog was that would draw the "strip" tag.

Move forward to late July, another day of work, same routine. I pull into garage, then walked out to check the mail. Uh oh! Right on top of the stack of about twenty letters was two pink slips, mine for elk and Lories' for deer. Wait a second! Where is my deer pink slip? I proceeded to sprint to the house and rifle through the stack of letters only to find a small envelope from AGF that I didn't recognize. IT WAS A 13B TAG! I could hardly contain myself!

After the task of deciding whether to go guided or not, and talking with a few different guides, I decided that I would book my hunt with Don Martin and plans were made. Don and his partner, Jay Chan, also had tags, so Don was basically going to live on the "strip" for about a month to scout. I would be hunting with AWO guide Dan Reed.

Opening day found Dan and I heading south, while Don and Jay headed north. We got into the area we wanted to be at the perfect time, but quickly found that a few other guys on quads were already there. Oh well, onward and upward! Day one proved pretty uneventful with us seeing a few does and no bucks. Dan told me not get discouraged, "all we need to see is ONE buck". The morning of day two found us in the same general area, still only seeing a few does. Dan decided at midday that we needed to look at another area. After the 40-mile drive, we were where we wanted to be. We started seeing more fresh deer sign around some of the cattle tanks and even talked with a rancher that told us he had seen 9 or 10 good bucks a few months back at a tank a few miles down the road. Off we went, driving and glassing, cruising down an old two-track (I think it was a two-track) with a huge burn on our right and a brushy hillside on our left. Dan said it again, "all we need to see is ONE buck". We kept on driving and with about 45 minutes of daylight left, we spotted the "one" on the hillside to our left. We stopped and glassed him for about 5 minutes. I didn't think he was as big as he was, but Dan thought he was indeed a shooter. I wiggled my way out through the brush and set up for the 300-yard shot. I squeezed, he dropped, and then the excitement hit me. My legs were shaking uncontrollably, so I asked Dan if it was really cold, or was I just a bit fired up? He laughed and we went back to the task at hand.

The buck had dropped at the shot, but we kept glassing the hillside and the worst happened. He got up and started walking slowly uphill, not at all a good sign. I shot a couple more times, but missed. He disappeared into the cedars. With about 20 minutes of daylight left, we had a decision to make. Off we went, trying to get downwind of him on the ridge. Slowly we moved up the ridge, there he was! 50 yards in front of us, bedded! One shot to the shoulder and he was mine! He rough scores 182 and is 28 inches wide, 22 inches tall, has 6 5/8 inch bases and carries his mass all the way out. This was a great hunt with some really good people. Jay took a beautiful 4x3 and Don passed 20 some bucks. Dan was a great guy to have as my guide and we had tons of fun.

Written by Dave Nicholson