Mule Deer, Elk and Western Big Game Hunting -

"Beginners Luck"
Written by Gregory Farmanian

Beginners Luck
Last year was my wife's (Cindy) second year of deer hunting. Her first was unsuccessful, but she stayed interested and wanted to go again. We both applied as a party for a hunt in Northern California and were drawn. It is an area with few tags and few deer, but the trophy potential is good.

Our first day of the hunt was spent walking the public land areas near some alfalfa fields in hopes of finding game trails leading to and from. We found what looked like a fairly heavily, and recently used trail, most likely leading to a bedding area. Not wanting to disturb the animals in their beds, we decided to wait until morning and set up on a small hill overlooking a very small valley overgrown with thick sagebrush. Two main trails funneled to the bottom of the hill. I decided to put my wife on "point" on the top of the hill and I would go to the alfalfa field about one mile away. We both had Motorola Talkabout radios. Approximately five minutes after shooting time, Cindy called me on the radio and said "there are no deer here we are wasting our time". I told her to calm down and give it a little time. Five minutes and no deer, Wow, that's patience, I said. No more than five minutes later, a got a panicked call on the radio saying, "Greg, there's a huge buck walking right towards me". I responded by saying, "then shoot it!"

A minute or two later I heard a single report of a rifle shot. I listened for more, usually an indication that the first shot was a miss, but heard none. I was excited and was sure the buck was down. I tried repeatedly to contact her on the radio, but got no response. Turned out, she dropped the radio when she started running towards the buck to get a closer shot. She first spotted the buck at 150 yards, but felt she needed to be closer. She now knows that her .243 will reach out and touch a deer much farther than 150 yards.

I drove to the spot I had dropped her off and found her walking circles in an area apparently looking for blood. Not a good sign, I thought. I met up with her to hear the story. She was so excited she was unsure of where she was standing, where the buck was standing, where the buck went, or if she hit it. It was a priceless moment.

We were able to locate the Buck's exit tracks. After finding the lost radio, I had her stand were she thought she had shot and I started tracking. The soil was perfect for tracking, soft, moist sand. I found no blood during the first 500 yards and figured she had missed. I continued to track and found the buck bedded with two small forked horns on a sagebrush covered knoll. I was 90 yards away, had a tag, and easily could have killed him. He was up and moving to reposition himself and he did not appear hit or injured. I was tempted to take a shot, but knew I would get more satisfaction out of seeing Cindy bag this one.
I called her on the radio and walked her in. This took about thirty minutes and the buck was perfectly content, so I was not worried about him leaving. We had to sneak up to about 80 yards to get an unobstructed view of his bed. The buck was now bedded and we could only see his antlers. Cindy was in a prone position and ready to fire. I told her to stay ready because the buck would stand and reposition when the sun started bothering him. No more than 10 seconds after I said that, he stood up broadside. I could hear the "buck fever" in her voice when she asked if she should shoot. One shot and the buck bolted. I knew there was no way she missed at that distance, prone, so we started over.

Beginners Luck
I immediately found blood, but not a lot. We tracked it another 50 yards and BOOM, he exploded out of the sagebrush at 10 yards. Cindy started shooting and I could see that he had been hit again. He continued to run out of sight approximately half a mile. I knew this was not good. I got on his tracks while Cindy got the truck and met up with me on a road the buck had crossed.
One of her rounds hit his hoof making it easier to identify his tracks amongst the other deer tracks. He had stopped bleeding and was running at full bore.

We continued to track him for about three hours. Back through the alfalfa field and into more sagebrush. Cindy's excitement was turning into frustration and disgust for wounding such a beautiful animal. I encouraged her to stay positive and focused.
Ten minutes later, we walked up on the wounded and very exhausted buck bedded and inattentive at 15 yards. One well placed round ended the long hunt. Cindy was very excited and is now hooked.

The buck was a 5x5, 26" wide and scored 175. Not bad for your first buck. And yes, I did get much more satisfactions from seeing Cindy take this buck than I'm sure I would have if I had taken it.

Two months after the hunt, the Buck was mounted and hanging in the living room next to what Cindy calls my "Puny Bucks". I am a taxidermist and coached her through her first mount.

Click-a-Pic ... Details & Bigger Photos

Click-a-Pic ... Details & Bigger Photos

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