Mule Deer, Elk and Western Big Game Hunting -

"Sleeping In"
Written by Jeff Lester
Featured in the summer 2003 issue of Trophy Hunter Magazine

Sleeping In
It all started in 2000 when I was lucky enough to draw my first choice for mule deer in Arizona. The unit I applied for has very few deer, but usually with scouting and a lot of luck, a nice buck can be found. Before the 2000 season, I had seen only a couple of bucks there. One of these happened to be the largest I personally have ever seen alive. I guessed him to be over 200 B&C. Michel Cantrell, a friend of mine, and I had seen him on a waterhole two days prior to the beginning of my hunt. I planned to focus my attention around the area I had last seen him in.

On the second day of my hunt I jumped a buck less than twenty feet, but he never gave me a look until he was 450 yards away. I could tell that it was not the big buck I had seen, but a side profile made this deer look bigger than he was. This, in addition to my being trigger-happy, made me lay the lead down. After some tracking and nine rounds later, I stood over the buck I had jumped two hours earlier. He was a three-year-old 5x9 with really odd antlers. It looked as if his skull cap had shifted to one side. I was happy and disappointed at the same time because I knew I was not standing over the 200-class buck I had seen prior to my hunt.

Well, as luck would have it, I would draw the same tag in 2001. This time I told myself that I would go home without a buck unless he was big. Because of prior guiding commitments, I was not able to do any pre-season scouting except the night before my hunt. I decided to check out a spot I had looked at the year before. My friend, Jeremy had seen a nice 170-class buck on a waterhole near this area in 2000 and I remembered him telling me the buck had huge, five-inch eye guards.

Sleeping In
About two miles from that waterhole, Jeremy and I cut a large set of fresh tracks going down the two-track road we followed. The buck was heading directly into a basin I wanted to scout. My plan was to be high-pointed above the basin before light.

The next morning, I awoke in my warm bed next to my wife as I always do, but light from the rising sun woke me up-not my alarm! I had slept in on the first day of my deer hunt! I quickly threw my clothes on, grabbed my rifle and binoculars, and headed out the door. What normally takes about an hour to drive, I did in about 30 minutes. By the time I was even out of town the sun had already risen. I was in such a hurry that I forgot to grab my lunch or any water.

Sleeping In
Jeff Lester's 2000 buck is very different.
It has points coming off the beam like a whitetail.
I arrived at the spot where I planned to park and walk in. Usually, this would have been before light, but now it was close to 8:00 a.m. My plan was still the same: to get up high and glass, but because of how late I was, I decided to walk through the basin instead of around it. This would only take 30 minutes and I would be set up glassing. Well I had only walked about 20 minutes from my truck and was just coming out of the foothills into the basin when all of the sudden, the buck and I were face-to-face at 30 yards. He had either been bedded on the edge of the basin or just coming out of it; whichever it was, he had that look of "#%&@*!" and I'm sure I had the same look to him. Before my brain told my body what to do with that gun in my hands, the buck had whirled and was running like an antelope straight away. If he had gone left or right, I would have never gotten a shot. My first one cracked off at about 80 yards and missed. The second hit him high in the right hip. I sat down and pulled my bipod out for the third shot. The buck had slowed up to a fast trot and I could tell he was badly wounded. I squeezed that last round off and there was no indication that I had connected. I just waited and watched where the buck was going. As I reloaded and glassed, the wash he ran into, I worked my way around to the high point where my day was supposed to begin. It took awhile to relocate the buck bedded in the wash about 300 yards below me. With a dead rest, I was able to finish him off quickly.

After taking a look at the buck, I felt that it had to be the same one my buddy, Jeremy had seen, those eye guards were a dead giveaway, except he had put on a lot of size from the previous year. The buck grossed 198 5/8" and netted 192 4/8", with 41" of total mass. If you are wondering, the eye guards are just under size inches long. Luck definitely paid off this day, but hopefully I won't be sleeping in anymore, especially on the first day of the hunt!

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

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

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