The next morning, I started out in a different vehicle with Latt Durrance and guide Paul Baker driving for his client -- the other Jack -- who was hunting deer. Paul Baker is one of those fascinating western guys that I love meeting on my trips out west. Upon graduating from college 25 years ago with a degree in finance he came home to take over operation of the family ranch, right next door to the Burch ranch. He and Matt Burch are good friends and Paul enjoys a break from his own cattle operation for a couple weeks per year when he joins the Four Horse Outfitters' guiding crew.
Paul handled my sometimes warped and biting sense of humor with grace. I was probably subconsciously nervous about my upcoming on-camera obligations. Later that day I awarded him with the LRH Good Sport award for putting up with me that morning.
Len and Paul
Latt Durrance is a friendly and interesting guy who came to BOTW a couple years ago. He now is one of the on-screen personalities and is also one of the teachers at the BOTW long range shooting classes. I can tell I'd enjoy shooting steel or rock faces with him some day.
We weren't seeing a ton of mule deer bucks for Jack where we were able to drive that morning, although we saw one that I would have been happy to shoot. Then the film crew was ready for me and we met up with them.
I am a serious outdoor photographer who has shot a lot of wildlife on camera. It is much harder to get a good photo of an animal than it is to simply hunt and kill one. So now we were charged with doing both. Get good images of an animal and kill it too. Nate Robertson is the Director of Photography for BOTW and I had chatted with him the night before over dinner. He was to be my camera man. I assured him I understand pretty well how difficult his job is.
Baby cheetah catching baby gazelle in Kenya. Photo by Len Backus
We got the vehicles a little too close to the first antelope buck we went after. We got out and tried to set up on him after making a stalk but they kept moving off. We followed in our vehicles by staying out of sight. We got out a second time and worked our way up a hill. We knew we’d see them again as we crested.
Sure enough, there they were. A nice buck and about 15 does. This second setup was up high with quite a photogenic vista. But the animals were already out at about 750 yards and by the time we got setup they were at 850 plus in a pretty good wind. Too far, we broke off and drove on to find a different quarry.
It is quite a challenge, I began to realize. How close do you get in a truck? If we had stalked from a much greater distance on this buck the first time we saw him we may have had a better chance to get an undisturbed shot. But – if we got no shot after a much longer stalk we would have burned a lot more precious time. With the mud slowing us down, time was off the essence.
Paul, Latt and Nate
Fairly soon we came upon another herd of 15 does and 2 bucks. We focused on the larger one and after parking quickly worked our way to a small dike or berm where I’d have a good slightly elevated prone setup. The shot would be 500 to 600 yards if they stayed put.
The gusty wind was quartering from the right at 8 to 14 mph. I was fortunate that Latt would be calling wind for me as my spotter. The buck was bedded down and we needed to wait for him to stand. He eventually stood and turned broadside for the camera – and for my shot. Matt was there next to me and I asked him to help me be sure the buck was clear of the does that had been milling around quite actively.
Now Latt was calling distance and the constantly changing wind correction value. The final distance and wind calls were 550 yards with a 1.5 moa wind hold. I broke the two pound trigger and the buck dropped like a ton of bricks. Perfect for the camera!
I had not been very aware of just how Nate had been filming the shot sequence but now he quickly moved in and caught the high fives activity. Then he asked for me to cooperate in a close-up of me turning the Huskemaw scope’s turret to 550 yards. My hand and the turret will fill the screen. He’ll insert this into the final tape, I assume. That was the only re-creation type of shooting we did.
Fonzy, Len and Latt
Then we did a trophy video shot with Latt and me and Fonzy, my guide. We also shot some stills. After we arrived back at the hunting camp we did an interview session. I was seated with Latt off to one side holding a light reflecting tool to even out the harsh sun lighting my face. Nate asked me a series of about 6 questions and filmed my answers which probably each took about 15 to 45 seconds. I had to re-do one answer because my phone rang. Look for this TV episode to run some time in 2014.
The lodge at Four Horse Outfitters is the best I've stayed at and the lodge staff really want to make sure you're being taken care of well. Matt Burch has done a super job on his recent expansion. Hunters stay in private bedrooms with two twin beds. There are multiple bathrooms and a very large gathering space for meals and relaxation. Some pretty impressive mounts of deer, antelope and elk grace the walls.
Original portion of lodge
Four Horse Outfitters:
"We offer two different hunts for mule deer. Trophy mule deer are our most sought after prize. We have healthy deer populations and get an opportunity to see a lot of mule deer in a day. With such healthy herds, you get to see some good mature quality bucks before deciding which one you like. The average on the trophy bucks our clients harvest is around the 160" to 165" Boone and Crockett score. We have a few hunters that are lucky enough to take bucks that go over 180" every year with several that are in the 170"- 180" class. Success rate is near 100%. The Management mule deer hunt is a great hunt for youth or hunters that are on more of a limited budget. The management mule deer are mature aged deer that have less than quality antler growth. They are sometimes old bucks that have passed their prime and can offer a great challenge. Trophy antelope bucks shot are usually in the 75" range with a few each year over 80". Success near 100% also."
Len Backus is the owner of www.LongRangeHunting.com. He has been a long range hunter since the 90's and is as likely to bag his game with a camera as with a rifle or a specialty handgun. His outdoor photography can be seen at LenBackus.com
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