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"The Seven Rivers Monarch"

Keegan's Buck
Keegan's buck is 20 inches wide and 16 inches tall.
Seven Rivers is an area in southeastern New Mexico that my father has hunted Mule deer in for over 20 years. When I started hunting in 1989, at the age of 12, I knew a little bit about this area already. Since then, I have hunted season after season in the area, and this past season was no different. In 1998 and 1999, I harvested some fine mule deer bucks. Those two years were the best I had seen for big bucks since I started hunting. Every year I scout it hard, and for the past three seasons, I have been seeing bucks in the 20 to 26 inch class. So I knew that with what I had seen the last couple of years, that the 2000 season would be excellent hunting.

During the first season in 2000, a couple of my friends harvested good bucks, a six point and a ten point. Finally opening day of the second hunt was upon me. The weather was cold, rainy, and windy, making the hunting a bit tougher. Although the weather was not optimal, my father and I saw a few small bucks, but no takers. By the second day, the weather conditions were even worse. The pounding rain and thick fog made hunting near impossible. Because of that, we elected to hunt the higher country to the south. Dad and I decided to drive for most of the morning, atleast until the conditions got better. Even driving and looking for deer up on the high rim roads was difficult to do because the fog had limited our visibility to about 30 yards.

Around mid-morning, the fog was trying to clear up some and we saw a herd of sixteen deer. One was a buck! I noticed the sky was clearing up as we made our way down a steep hill, so I figured that by the time we got to the highway, the weather would be clear enough to make an afternoon walk back into Seven Rivers. It turned out that it did clear, so dad and I took off back to my favorite area. We slowly drove, hoping to see a few deer along the way. The drive did not produce any deer, but we were looking forward to what the walk would do for us.

When we began walking, at about 1:00 in the afternoon, the sky was mostly clear, sunny, and warming up. About 45 minutes into the walk, I found some very fresh tracks on a hilltop not too far from where I had harvested a nine-point back in 1998. I knew good, quality bucks hung out in this area, so I was not surprised that one of the three sets were that of a big buck. I followed the tracks about 30 yards before going back to locate my father. I let him know that I was tracking a buck and that the tracks were not very old at all. For a good quarter-mile we tracked them until we reached the bottom of a canyon that lead out into the flats, I knew we were getting close! At that point, my father left me and walked back to the truck. There was a road that ran out into the flats just below the canyon I was in. I knew that he would be on the road in about an hour and could cover that end in case the deer were way ahead of me.

I hadn't covered another 25 yards when I lost the tracks. After a little thought, wandering, and circling, I was back on them about 30 minutes later. I followed slowly for another 200 yards,then lost them again.

The sun was getting low and I didn't have much time to spend trying to find the tracks again, so I climbed to the top of the ridge to spot. I reached the top and began walking in the direction I the deer would have gone. As I made my way east, I slowly zigzagged across the ridge, paying close attention to the canyons on either side of me. I knew that since I had lost the three sets of tracks in this rocky terrain, that being high and doing this would be my best bet. I finally saw dad driving around making his way in my direction, so I knew he was doing what he could. As I reached a brushy spot on the top of the ridge, I spotted a small buck and a doe staring at me about 150 yards away. I knew that they were two of the three I had been tracking!

I had just enough time to look at them with my scope before they bounded off the hill. When they got out of site, I quickly ran over to where they had been. I was still up high on the ridge and knew I could see them no matter what. When I reached a spot with an excellent view of my surroundings, I did not see the deer. I was not expecting them to disappear so quickly! They were still close, but I was just not seeing them. I was guessing that the big buck was with them, so I walked another 25 yards to get down off the ridge. Suddenly, I heard a thundering series of thuds just in front of me but still out of site. It was only 75 yards away!

I ran in attempt to see the deer, but only caught a glimpse of the third and final deer. That little glimpse revealed a big buck and a great rack. I didn't have a clear shot at first, but quickly moved to where I did. Surprisingly enough, with him running at a dead sprint, I finally hit him with my 5th round from 300 yards away. I had to reload my Winchester .243 in a hurry because he hadn't gone down. By the time I put three more rounds in, he was gone.

I again, ran off the hill, through a brushy draw and across the road to the base of the hill where he had been standing. I started walking, when he suddenly rose up in front of me about 50 yards away. His back leg was broken, but he was still trying his best to escape. I could not get a clean shot, so I ran after him keeping him in site and within good range. He only ran another 100 yards before going down again. By this time, my dad had gotten out of the truck and was about the same distance I was from the buck. With my father and I cornering him from two different directions, this would be his last stand.

One final shot, and the buck was mine. I joined back up with my father before we walked over to the buck. When we saw him up close, we knew he was a trophy. He was about 200 pounds and has a massive typical 10-point rack on him. My father and I had never seen antlers as massive as what this buck has. Further more, the antlers were very symmetrical with long dark tines. After we dressed the deer and returned home, we measured the width and height, which came out to 20" x 16". Even though it was not the 26 incher I was looking for, the heavy mass made up for it. Besides, with the rack being as pretty and massive as it is, it should score close to 170 B&C. All I have to say now is, what a hunt, it will be one I will never forget.

Written by Keegan Rodgers