Mule Deer, Elk and Western Big Game Hunting -

2nd Chance Monster Muley
By Russ Hudson

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An obsession with the buck I dubbed "Butch Cassidy" started in the summer of 2013. I spotted this buck in one of Utah's general units in the high country in early July. From then on I couldn't get this monster typical out of my mind. I continued to watch the buck all the way up to the start of the archery hunt and began to learn his habits and summer routine. I am fortunate enough to be apart of Utah's dedicated hunter program, enabling me plenty of opportunity to hunt and pursue this buck.

Of course the opening weekend of the archery hunt 2013 put me on the hillside where I commonly watched this buck feeding, waiting for him to bed down in a small strip of ledges where he was on top of the world and could see nearly anything approaching him. Late afternoon found my buck working his way to his bed, and me watching and wondering how in the world I was going to put a stalk on this buck? After almost walking away and leaving the buck for another day, I had decided to give it my best and try to move in close enough for a shot. As I learned with this buck and other big bucks alike, they don't get big by being dumb! But I was going to try and use his flaw against him. Over the years of stalking big bucks in the high country, I've found that the older smarter deer seem to stay put in their beds when being stalked. If they don't think you know where they are, it's possible to get close.
He was positioned in a way that he was watching over the basin below, but couldn't see very well the ledges above. I made my way to the top of the ledges in hopes he didn't hear me. Loose shale rocks and several dried up dead trees were all that stood in the way between me and my buck. As I made my approach, I happened to bump a couple small rocks and found it impossible to stalk quietly. To my surprise however, I made it to a nearby fallen log, and peered over to see the buck bedded only 40 yards away. He had no idea I was even there. With mountain goats in the area, I think he may have been used to the occasional falling rock.

Now I was facing a very intense waiting game. All I could see was the very tips of his rack. I sat down on the log and settled in for what was to be a once in a lifetime shot! I just needed the buck to stand up or to shift his body forward enough to expose his vitals. My heart was pounding and my adrenaline could not be more in affect, I had a bad case of buck fever! The next three hours seemed like days as I sat and watched the buck enjoying his day clueless to my presence!

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I could no longer handle the suspense. I had left my water at the top of the ledge and was baking in the 90 degree sun beating down. My buck fever was too much to handle, and I began to toss a couple small rocks in an attempt to stand the buck up. Well, it worked, the buck stood up and turned perfectly broadside, still oblivious to my existence. I drew back my bow with the extreme angle in the back of my mind. I released my Mathews bow to send my gold tip arrow, matched with my Montec T3 broad head, right over top of his back. My heart sank as I watched the buck of a lifetime trot away. I just blew it, how could I mess up such a perfect opportunity. The hike down was very difficult.

I returned to look for the buck several times throughout the remainder of the 2013 archery hunt, and spent nearly all of the 2013 muzzleloader hunt in search of him. All of my efforts were unable to turn up this giant typical. I had figured maybe someone else had taken the buck or he had moved completely out of the area.

The summer of 2014 brought me back onto the mountain in search of another mature buck. In the back of my mind there was still hope that maybe I would come across the huge typical four point I missed the year before. A limited number of scouting trips, due to a busy summer, turned up a couple good bucks, but nothing as impressive as my typical four point.

August 15, 2014 found me back on the mountain and preparing for another archery hunt. Due to the lack of water in the area, I made several trips in carrying supplies and water to allow an extended stay in the high country. After setting up camp, I made my way up the ridge towards the same basin where I had missed my buck the year before. With only a couple hours of daylight left, I sat atop the basin and started glassing the area. A deer caught my eye near the ledges. Could it be? At first glance through my Vortex Viper HD scope there was no mistaking that he was back!! I watched the buck in disbelief as he fed on the same hillside I had hunted him the year before. I watched the buck until the day faded into night. Making my way back to my tent, filled with the same emotions as the year before, I could not be more pumped. Although the sour taste of my miss still haunted me.

After a nearly sleepless night, I arose a couple hours before light to meet up with my cousin Wade. Hiking up to the top of the basin once again I replayed over and over in my head the failure. I was hopeful that I had learned from my mistakes and would be able to put it together this year. We watched as the horizon began to lighten. As soon as there was enough light to see, I spotted my buck 50 yards from where I'd left him the night before. He had teamed up with two more bucks, a decent 170" 4x4 with a cheater and a goofy non typical 4x2 with a few extras. It didn't take long before the bucks began to feed and started moving along the steep slope. The monster typical took the lead and was in route to the same ledges he bedded last year. I watched in disbelief as the buck fed his way along and proceeded to bed in the exact same bed from where I choked! I can't believe my eyes, I must be dreaming, who gets a second chance at a once in a lifetime shot?

The two other bucks followed onto the ledges, only to feed their way back down and bed in the bottom of the basin several hundred yards away from my big typical.

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The hunt was on! This time armed with my previous experience in stalking the same buck in the exact same location, I felt I may have a little bit of an edge. Still not sure if what was happening could possibly be real! A little slower and a little more cautious, I made my stalk on the same route. The fallen log being my end goal which would put me, once again, 40 yards from this incredible buck. I arrived and peered over the log to see again his antler tips. Unaware of my presence I settled in for the long wait, this time prepared with plenty of water and snacks. I was determined not to get impatient, I was going to sit there all day if that's what it took for him to stand on his own.

Forty five minutes went by, again feeling like days! I managed to keep myself calm this time around. Convinced that if I could hold in my excitement until after I released my arrow, I could make the shot. The wind must have swirled, he started acting a little nervous and within seconds he was on his feet. Standing there at 40 yards broadside was once again, my buck of a lifetime! I calmly drew back my Mathews bow and settled my pin behind his shoulder. I touched off my release to watch my arrow, this time, flying true. My emotions were a little different this time as the buck ran off, down the ledges. All my hard work, all the many hours of practice, all the years of hunting high country mulies came down to one moment. I finally did it!

After giving the buck adequate time, my cousin and I began to follow the blood trail. Adrenaline still pumping through my veins knowing I had just indefinitely killed the biggest buck of my life. A short distance later found me walking slowly up to a monster antler far above the grass. As I approached the buck I could no longer hold it in, my excitement peaked, and I began whoopin' and hollering. There's nothing quite like taking a beautiful animal like this, in their home, with archery equipment. I couldn't believe what I was putting my hands on, I could not have been more pumped.

Hunting to me, is much more about the journey than the end result. This was an experience of a lifetime for me, I truly do just enjoy getting out and putting my wits against nature. The fact that this hunt ended with a kill, just made it icing on the cake. I will remember this hunt for the rest of my life.

After properly measuring the buck we came up with a gross score of 203-4/8". Soon as my waiting to dry time is up I'll get him officially scored. His outside spread is only 25-1/2". Inside spread 23-1/8".

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