Mule Deer, Elk and Western Big Game Hunting -

"The Big Dog"
Written by Todd Kelly

The Big Dog
It was just about 8:30 a.m. when Wade & I stopped to talk to the guys. We had been hunting the backside of Pine Mountain for nearly 2 1/2 hours, since just before dawn. The sweet smell of sage brush in the cool desert morning caressed our senses, which were keenly alert for being up since four o'clock with little sleep. We had seen lots of does in the early light, but no big dogs, their term for bucks. It was time to move on, so we let the others know we were heading out to Pine Ridge, where we had seen a couple of forked horns the day before.
We had driven less than a 1/4 mile when we came around a small ridge jetting out from the mountain, "There's a couple deer right there!", Wade exclaimed pointing across in front of me.
"Right where?!"
"Right there!!!"

First I saw what has to be one of the biggest does in existence. Then I saw him... OH MY GOD...He was the largest buck I had ever seen in the wild. I threw down the bino's and grabbed my 30-06, my heart was pounding so hard I couldn't think. I got the rifle out the window and looked through the scope. He was about 150 yards out, prancing at an angle back towards the mountain. My scope was set on about 6 power, so I found him quick enough, but the crosshairs were bouncing from the top of him to his feet. I tried to steady, but couldn't. I prayed that I would fire as it crossed his mid-point somewhere.
KA-BLAM.................missed by so far it didn't seem to faze him.
I turned to Wade and shouted (though he was only two feet away) "I can't stop shaking!!!!"

Wade just smiled a big ole' grin. Wade is 37 and has been hunting out in this area with grandpa and dad since he was 5. I'm 49, I had hunted the last couple of years with some old friends, but mostly driving around, drinking beer, and having fun. This was my first time with the big boys. Two-way radios, GPS's, camo from head to toe, and hunting hard from dawn to dusk. Two months of getting ready, just to be prepared for this possibility........The game was on!

I looked back across the playing field, there he was. He had stopped about 200 yards out, his front feet up on a rock and he was turned and looking at us. I took my coat and through it over my outside mirror, leaned forward and had my front hand resting on the coat and my right arm leaning against the wheel. Steady as a rock. I got him in my sights, backed away and turned my scope to 12 power. He was still standing there looking at us. When I peered through my scope this time, he looked just like the advertisement for almost every scope I'd seen. At 200 yards he took up the whole field of vision. I put the crosshairs just behind the top of his shoulder. Once again I prayed that my aim be true and he not suffer. Still shaking inside, but the gun steadfast, I pulled the trigger.

Empty............ I had taken a couple shots at a forked horn the night before and forgot to reload. Damn. I through myself back against the seat and with the look of a confused and bewildered child yelled "I'm out of ammo!!"
But I hit the back of the seat with such force that it bounced me forward and though I could see the steering wheel coming, with no stomach muscles, there was nothing I could do.

After what seemed an eternity (maybe two seconds), I pulled myself off of the horn and back on the seat. As I pulled out the clip, Wade grabbed the cartridges. Instead of reloading the clip, he tried to put a shell in the chamber, but it missed. By the time I shook it out and reloaded it, my buck was about 250 to 300 yards climbing back up the mountain.
Still shaking, I had one last Hail Mary of a shot.
KA-BLAM..................connected somewhere, but he was gone.
Wade looked over and said "Well, I guess it's time for me to go to work."

I gave Wade my rifle and radio, and he took off up the hill to the right, where we figured the buck had gone. As Wade wound his way up through the brush, I found my binoculars and started systematically searching. I glassed most of the slope in front of me, covered the ground farther to the right, and was working across the crest of the ridge when I saw what might be a deer between two small trees. At about 400 yards, it was hard to tell, so I broke out the spotting scope and set it on my half closed window for support. I found the two trees on 15 power and turned the scope up to 45 power. It was that giant doe. She was just standing there, her head lowered so she could see under the branches. A small patch of sunlight was on her, with shade on either side.

It almost looked like legs at the bottom of the shadows on the left, but even at 45 power I couldn't tell. After a few minutes of straining my eyes and trying to make out any shapes, he suddenly lowered his head out of the branches and shook it at her. As if to say "get out of here, you're blowing my cover." It was him in there. He was hidden so well, I would never have seen him without her. His head lowered in the classic sneak position, he stood there, frozen, magnificent.

Whether the shaking inside me was back or it never left, I'm not sure, but the game was on once again. New rules however, since I gave Wade my rifle, and my radio. Damn, what am I going to do now?
I could see Wade hiking farther up the hill to the right, but the buck was above him to the left. It was like watching two trains heading towards each other. I wanted to yell, or honk the horn, do something...anything! I kept waiting for Wade to turn and look at me, so I could point him in the right direction, but he never did.
After 5 to 10 minutes, I couldn't take it any longer. I whipped the truck around and headed back to where we'd last seen our friends.

About a half mile back up the road, I came across Debbie at the other truck. The boys had headed up after a 4 point they had seen. I grabbed her radio and told Wade the buck was above him, 20 yards to the left. All he heard was, "Above him 20 yards."

As he started walking straight up, Debbie got on the radio and said, "Wheels has a big buck spotted and will lead anyone willing to it."
Aaron responded in a whisper, "I'll be right there." When on the radio, Aaron has a tendency to talk in a rushed whisper when he gets excited, this was a perfect example.
His truck was another half mile up the road, and he was about a half mile up on a ridge. Within five minutes he was at the truck.

"So where is this big 'ole hog dog?'' he asked, with the grin of a 12 year old about to look at his first playboy.
It must have been at least 10 minutes since I left, so I wasn't positive he'd still be there. But when we came around the corner, I could make him out with my naked eye.
"There he is!!" I burst out, pointing up at him, as I dove off the side of the road.
"Where?!" asked Aaron peering through his bino's in the vicinity I had pointed. Then, in the same breath "Oh my god!"

Looking much cooler, still, I could see he was rushing as much as I was. He grabbed his 7mm, my coat, and was out leaning across the hood of my truck in a matter of seconds.
KA-BLAM..............out of the trees and running.
Aaron grabbed his radio and yelled, "Big buck running north on the ridge!"
KA-BLAM..............Just as the majestic-beast turned to go over the top, Aaron let out one more shot. Then he was gone.
But to my surprise, he turned and gave one last look over the top of this rock outcropping. His head outlined against the sky, his rack was bigger than I had thought. It was the first time I saw just how regal he looked.............I shuddered.
He was Magnificent.

He was gone, over the top where the fourth person in our group, Lance, has been listening and waiting. As the buck started down the backside at a run, from 300 yards, Lance took it down with his first shot. As it began to get up, he put one shot behind its ear.

All we heard were two distant shots. A few minutes passed. Then Lance on the radio, "Somebody wanna' give me a hand?"

As the 3 guys carried him the mile or so down the backside, it gave me some time to reflect on the day. How fortunate I was to have friends as these and to be a part of such an adventure. My heart had beaten harder than it had in 20 years. I don't think it slowed to normal until about 5:00. The boys covered the mile in less than a half an hour carrying the giant animal between them. He was a five by six, twenty-seven inches across, seventeen high, and over 200 pounds. The largest buck anyone in the camp had seen taken in all their combined years hunting. I blessed his body and spirit and thanked god for the hunt and for the chance to be out here in his country.

Special thanks to Wade and Aaron for their time and help. To the whole hunting party for accepting me so warmly into camp and allowing me the chance to have one of the most exciting times of my life.

Editor's note: Todd Kelly is a T11-12 paralyzed vet injured 19 years ago. Besides being a musician and songwriter, he taught disabled skiing in Oregon and at disabled veteran games in Colorado for 9 years. Started playing tennis at 40 and ended up #2 in the states in his division. A few years ago he bought a jet sled and started learning the local rivers. Now hunting, fishing, and camping seem to be his main focus.
Todd writes, "I had not skied, played tennis, or hunted before my accident. I would not have thought any of this was possible after. Like I tell people, just get out and do something. The more you find you can do, the more things you'll try. "

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