"Turkey Day Late Archery Buck"
Written by Josh Fitzhugh
I had recently watched an episode on the Outdoor Channel that featured Jim Zumbo successfully harvesting a nice mule deer in Okanogan County. The guide, Jerrod Gibbons, is an old high school buddy of mine. It just so happens that I harvested this buck just a stones throw away from where Jim Zumbo had just harvested his the year before. I felt privileged to hunt so close to where a legend, like Mr. Zumbo, had been hunting.
The thrill of spot and stalk hunting cannot be replaced by any other method in my opinion. How often do we spend six hours crawling two hundred yards just to possibly sneak a shot on a nice mule deer bedded down. Only the true archery hunters from the western states will understand this. It is an experience that you will never forget. We all make mistakes from time to time, but what we learn from those mistakes is what makes us better hunters. Nine times out of ten I will get right to the point of having a good ethical shot, there he goes with his does. Pull out the lunch and let him bed again. Besides, you will need the lunch for the next six hour crawl.
There I was four hours into a hunt, ten yards from a handful of does, 30 yards from a small buck, and the four point is at fifty. He had gotten up and re-situated at some point when I was out of sight for the last hour. The adrenaline is rushing; I hear my heart beating in my ear, stand up and draw my nerves say. Realistically, I am already in a position I know will not be successful. At best they will scatter and he will stop at seventy yards. So I chose to try and back out, but that was too late as well. Off they bound, in a single file line before I can even notch an arrow.
My wife knows what a phone call just before noon means. "I promise just a few more hours, I am too close to give up". I realize she is on the other end rolling her eyes and remembering the same conversation just a few days prior. What a wonderful family I have, Thanksgiving dinner postponed for me. I told them to eat but they insisted I keep hunting and they would wait. I am sure it was because they didn't want me to blame them for me being unsuccessful.
Back to the belly crawl it was. Once the herd was located again I began to pick and chose my routes wisely. I like to use a spotting scope from a vantage point to locate the deer. I will then sit and tentatively map out a route from sage to sage and crevice to crevice. I may have to improvise at some point but it is good to have the full route planned out. When the deer are bedded there is no need to rush, unless daylight is a factor. In this case, turkey dinner and a hungry wife might be worse. I crawled and slinked as fast as I could. I was just slipping into position on the buck, and the noise no stalker wants to hear; the blow of a winded doe. And we all know where the buck goes when the does run, especially during the rut.
"One last phone call, I have tore my pants crawling and sneaking too many times not to get this one." I decided to call the house one last time. "Ring…ring…ring….." A voice on the other end answers "Are you headed home?" Quick what do I do? "Is mom there?" I know mom will understand, she always does. This time I promised her just one more try.
I had one last shot to get my Thanksgiving buck. This time there was no time for me to wait for them to bed down. At this point in the hunt if I do not get this buck I might as well just plan on staying the night and having grouse for thanksgiving dinner. I decided to head them off in a small canyon at the top of the hill. I swung wide all the way around and out of site. I thought the buck was in back and might be bedding under the rocks. As I made my way to the top and back over to the draw I was anticipating coming across them at any moment. I beat them; I knew I had a shot. When I reached the place I was going to sit, there stood the buck I had been chasing. He had climbed above the does and was evidentially going to get a better view of the valley. It was a standoff; he had not seen me move but was sure I was something out of place. This time there were no other deer in my sight to bust me. What seemed like an hour was probably two or three minutes. My guess was he was standing at forty five yards. With my forty yard pin in mind I felt confident. As human nature has its way with a breeding buck, he turned to look for his does. I drew as quickly as I could, took a long deep breath, and sent the arrow plunging into his side. It wasn't a hundred yards later he was piled into the ground. I know how important shot placement can be and once again a buck falls in my sights.
"Phew, a sigh of relief" My father and sisters friend were there to help get the deer out just shortly after. The deer was hanging by four o'clock and Thanksgiving dinner was soon to follow. This was a Thanksgiving I had more than most to be thankful for; a loving and understanding wife, a wonderful family, and a nice muley to boot. This Thanksgiving story will be a great one to tell to my children and they can tell it to their children. I look forward to showing my kids how memories can be made by enjoying the outdoors.
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