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"The Sunshine Buck"

The Sunshine Buck
The "Good Ole' Days" sure sound like they were a lot of fun!
During the fall of 1958, I was hunting deer with Fred and Henry (Possum) Speck of Eldorado, Texas, and Bob McCulloch of Sonora, Texas, in Archuleta County near Navaho Peak approximately 6 miles northeast of Chromo, Colorado. We had hunted all morning and were heading back to camp, hunting along the way. It was midmorning on a beautiful, sunshiny, clear, and very cold day. Possum and I were riding our horses through the shin-oak high along a ridge watching for deer as we went. There was hardly any snow on the ground and Possum and I was watching everywhere as we rode.

Suddenly, Possum said "My god what a buck" and was looking down below us about 300 yards into a ravine. I looked down and all I could see were these huge horns shining in the sunlight as the deer walked through the shin-oak. I bailed off my horse as fast as I could trying to get my gun out of the saddle scabbard so I could get a shot at this tremendous buck. In the meantime, Possum had decided that this huge deer was an elk and was saying we had to go to town and get an elk license. He was so taken with the size of the deer that he walked directly in front of me while I was trying to get in position for a shot. I told him that it was a huge buck and got around him and was able to take an offhand shot at the buck with my Winchester 300 H& H. I was shooting 180-grain handloads and the buck just kept walking as if he had not been hit.

The buck walked about 30 feet toward a deep ravine and disappeared except for the huge horns that remained in sight. All I could was the huge horns sticking up, but could not see the body of the deer. I aimed where I thought the shoulder was, or what I thought was the shoulder, and fired again. This time I saw dirt fly up and the horns did not move. Possum was so excited and was still telling me that it was an elk. I told him it was deer, but he did not believe me. We continued to watch the horns and they did not move. I told Possum to stay here where he could see into the draw and I would go down and try and jump the buck, maybe one of us would get a chance before he made it into the deep ravine. If the deer made it to the bottom of the ravine, we would never be able to see him and he would probably get away.

I dropped down into the canyon and did everything I could to sneak up on the spot where I had last seen the buck. As I got close to where the buck was I could see the horns still sticking up. I finally walked up to where the horns were and realized that the deer had fallen into a deep crevice and his horns were lodged in the walls of the crevice. The body of the deer was totally out of sight from where Possum and I had been standing. I yelled for Possum to come on down off of the ridge and bring the horses. Until now I had not been very excited, but as I continued to look at the buck, it dawned on me just how big this buck really was and I really got excited.

I had seen one buck in Tin Cup near Lake City a few years earlier which was bigger. I think that buck would have gone 40 inches, I was hunting with a guide and he also thought that the deer was an elk and he wanted to push the elk to other hunters who had not killed one. I told him that the elk was a deer but he did not believe me and the deer made it into heavy brush. I told myself that I would never make that mistake again.

I still couldn't get over how big this buck was. We broke open a quart of Old Charter to celebrate. The next day Possum took the deer to Pagosa Springs to show it off. He spent most of the day there and people kept coming up arguing between each other whether the buck was a deer or elk. Some would say it was a deer then turn around and say, "No it can't be a deer, it has to be an elk". People even came by our camp and would argue with each other for the same reason. Six days later we took the buck to Eldorado, Texas and weighed him at the icehouse. He weighed 275 lbs dressed. This buck has 6 " bases, 8 points on his left side and 10 points on his right side. He is 25 inches tall and 37-1/2 inches wide. The buck has never been officially scored, but a rough score puts him close to 233 gross with a net of around 198 B&C points. He is pretty impressive and until this day, I can still see those horns shining in the sunlight.

Written by Hunter Henderson as told by Sam Henderson Sr.