Mule Deer, Elk and Western Big Game Hunting -

"An Exciting Hunt"
Written by Justin Russell

The Excitement of the Hunt
While growing up, my dad has involved me in all of his hunting trips, whether it was hunting the eastern part of the state for the elusive monster mulie or near our home in northwest Washington hunting the blacktail.
For years, before I could hunt, I would just tag along, listening to my dad and sister talk about what they had seen each day and reminisce about bucks they had taken in the past. I couldn't wait until it was my turn to do some hunting!

Finally, my first hunting season was here. It was all that I had hoped for and more. And, with only two days left in the season, I connected on my first buck, a 2-point blacktail.

When the 2001 hunting season rolled around, I was again full of anticipation and excitement. We arrived at our cabin in western Washington on Friday and after a restless night we were up at 4:00am. After a quick breakfast, my dad, friend, Michael Taxdahl, and I headed for the trailhead.
It was dark when we began our walk and still dark when we arrived on the lookout's where we planned to hunt opening morning.

At first light we spotted a nice 3-point and another mature buck, which we couldn't tell exactly how big, but knew it was definitely what any of us were hunting for. The bigger buck ran down the ridge, but just before entering the timber it turned broadside and looked back at me, offering an opportunity at a quick shot. I slid the safety forward and squeezed the trigger, but all that I heard was one big click. I had forgotten to put a shell into the barrel!
As quickly as he had appeared, he was gone. The 3-point kept side-hilling along, so I motioned my dad to hurry and get up the hill. Just as he disappeared from my sight, I heard the roar of his gun. The buck had run out at fifty yards offering him a great shot.
I hurried my way up the canyon to where I thought my dad would be and I quickly spotted him dragging the buck. I rushed to see how big it was and to offer my assistance.
Dad had it all under control and instructed me to go up about two hundred yards and watch the other side of the canyon-I guess he didn't want me to miss out on opening morning?

Just as Michael and I sat down on a rock, I spotted 4 does with another deer following about fifty yards behind them. It was a very tall 3-point! I still had my mind on the bigger buck I had seen earlier that morning, so I told Michael to lie down and take the first shot.
I'm not sure what happened, but after Michael's shot, the deer just stood there as if nothing had happened. I followed Michael's shot with one of my own, but also missed. Nine shots later, and we still hadn't knocked the buck down. We couldn't understand how every shot had missed, so we headed down the hill to check it out. We found nothing, so we headed for the truck in disbelief.

The Excitement of the Hunt
On the ride back to the cabin, I realized that the last time I pulled the trigger was my eighth shot, my last shell! So, I decided to use my dad's gun, since his tag was already filled.
That evening found Michael and me in a new area, split up after about a quarter mile hike. Twenty minutes into my walk, I came over a small hill a spotted thirteen deer all standing there looking at me. I was busted!
One by one they ran out of the draw, the last one was a small 2x3. I had already decided to take the first legal buck I saw that evening, so I laid my pack down and squeezed the trigger. All that flew was dust! I chambered another shell and fired again. And again, nothing but dust and the buck was gone. I snuck quickly around the hillside, hoping for another look. To my surprise, there they stood about 150 yards out. I took another crack-another miss!
The buck just looked at me, so I chambered another round and squeezed the trigger once more. This time I hit right over the buck and all the deer ran around the hill. I ran back in the direction that the deer had gone, and there he was again. I raised the rifle and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened! I was apparently out of shells, so I thought?
I just sat there and watched the buck feed on the hillside and every once in awhile he would glance up at me, just mocking me. I opened the chamber and looked down the barrel, nothing.
As I sat on the hillside, watching the buck below, I thought about how many bullets I had left with. I was sure that I had five! Then I realized that I had only put four in the gun and one was still in my pocket.
I reached in my pocket and there it was, probably one of the best things I had ever seen, one last chance to fill my tag. I had found the fifth shell I had left with sitting right in my front pocket. I put it in the chamber, put my pack down, took careful aim and squeezed the trigger, only to see the bullet hit right in front of the buck and off he went. So much for the lucky fifth bullet!!

I got back to the cabin to find out that my dad and his friend had been watching me through a spotting scope. They had watched me chase that deer all over the hillside. After listening to everyone's story about what they had seen that day, I retired to bed.

The alarm went off at 4:30am the next morning and I was up and ready to go. Luckily for me, a very nice man named Chuck Gallagher had lent me five shells for that day. If it weren't for him, what happens next wouldn't have been possible.
After a quick chat, Michael and I were on our way up the road headed for the horse trail. We proceeded along the horse trail until we arrived at the ridge where we intended to spend our morning hunt.
We began working our way up the steep shale rock covered ridge just as it became light enough to see. After about two hundred yards, I turned around and Michael was sitting down, still tired from the previous days hike. I stopped and waited for him, but he just sat there, so I went on my way up the ridge. I worked my way up to a good vantage point on the top of the ridge where I sat and waited for Michael to catch up. While sitting on the front part of the rock I spotted three does. I watched them for several minutes, and then walked around to the other side where I could see the backside of the ridge.
As soon as I looked down the backside of the ridge, I saw a big gray bodied deer enter a clump of brush. I threw my pack down and waited as he fed out the other side. Right when he came out I saw his big black horns and knew he was what people spend their whole lives hunting for. I put my scope on his front shoulder, took one deep and squeezed the trigger.
I watched this brute drop in my scope. After yelling for Michael to hurry up, I ran to look at my trophy. After one final shot, I had my buck of a lifetime.

I would like to send thanks to Tom, Greg, and Jeff Moody. And, Chuck Gallagher, Chris Seidel, and one of my best friends, Michael Taxdahl. I especially send thanks to my dad for giving me the opportunity to be in the outdoors and having a chance at fulfilling a dream like this.

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

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

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