Well, Going into this big game season, I had great hopes of holding out for a truely awsome buck. This spring I decided I wanted nothing less then a mature, heavy 5x5 and hopefully holding out for a 160" class buck or better.
As the summer went on, I quickly realized that with issues in the shop getting receivers, stocks and barrels in for customers rifle projects were going to be a problem and it appeared that most would be arriving around big game season. As such, just before the big game season, I had decided that I would be happy with any mature(5 year old or older) that was a solid 5x5. Score did not really matter to me. In fact, mass is much more attractive to me than anything on whitetails.
I scouted several times during the early part of the year. Saw some truely awsome bucks including one huge 5x5 that would be in the 175" range. Still in the area I saw him, it was more likely then not I would never get a chance to shoot him on legal ground.
Several other good bucks were spotted including one nice buck right at my house. I had only seen the buck in the dark of night but he was heavy and tall but not wide.
Friday morning I was taking my daughter to daycare. It was 7:15 in the morning and we drive down the 1/2 mile lane to the main gravel road. Just a 1/2 mile down the main road, there was a doe with a nice buck following her around. He looked like the buck I had been seeing but I had no binos to check him out so we headed on in to take the little one to daycare.
When I came back, I slowed down at the draw where the two deer had been earlier. There was a doe bedded down in some buck brush so I figured if she was there and in heat, the buck would be around somewhere so I drove back to the house, grabbed the truck which this time of year is always filled with all the goodies to go hunting and headed back to the draw.
When I got there, I stopped just so I could see the doe and looked through the binos, sure enough there was the buck, tucked in tight to the brush, invisible to the naked eye he blended in so well. I could tell the buck was heavy and mature but I could not tell how many points he had. He was obviously very narrow but had everything else if he had 5 points on each side.
I drove by and came back so I could mount up the spotter on the truck window. The deer were around 300 yards off, they are used to farm trucks around so as long as they do not preceive a threat and think they are hidden, they will not move. Get out of the truck and in most cases all you see are tails flagging all over hell and they are out of the country.
I eased the truck up so I could just see the buck, got on the spotter and he was looking directly at me. He set there for 15 minute not moving a muscle and then I looked down to turn off the radio. When I got back on the spotter, he was gone. I looked over the spotter and he was running up over the rim of the draw, He was VERY solid 5x5, easily a shooter and I had been watching him for 15 minutes when I could have been shooting him!!!
Drove back up expecting him to stop in the stubble as to not leave his doe, but no luck he was gone over the hill and away.
Feeling pretty silly about my mistake I headed back to the shop to work for the day. That afternoon I drove back down to see if he had returned to the doe, they were not there but I did catch a glimpse of a decent buck on the far edge of the field that looked like him. He was still around it seemed.
The next morning was warm and windy, about as bad as it could be to catch a big whitetail running a doe. Still, at 7:15 I drove back down to the draw. As I approached the top of the draw, I noticed a deer on the other side of the draw, just 15 yards off the fenceline of the road. I put the nose of the GMC into the ditch and put the spotter on the deer, sure enough it my my boy. I figured if he would let me range him, get the rifle, get out of the truck, cross the fence to be legal and get set up, I would end my season on him. I ranged him at 468 yards. Grabbed the rifle and eased out of the truck and circled behind the truck and crossed the fence, I was suprised he was still standing there watching me but I have alwasy found that big whitetails are much less jumpy if you stay in plain view instead of sneaking out of sight.
I set the rifle up, hold was between 3/4 and 1 mil down on the lightweight 7mm AM. As I took my hold I remembered thinking, my season is over!!! This bucks going home with me.
The trigger broke and the offside shoulder buckled. Good sign as always. The doe which I could not see boiled out of some small bruch and up into the stubble field, the buck followed and I expected him to drop within yards of the shot. He did not.
After running 300 yards, I was getting a bit worried and they were not running toward a ranch house so I couldnot shoot. At 400 yards I was getting really nervous. At 500 yard running, I was getting sick and at 600 yards, the buck jumped a fence onto another property owners land. His shoulder was broken high in the shoulder, how could this deer still be running after a 1/3 of a mile????? That sick feeling was settling in my stomach although I was sure of the shot and hit.
I went to the truck and drove up and drove down the field road that ran along the fence line the buck had jumped over and out of sight. I was not overly concerned as I was good friends with the owner of this other property but had not talked to him about hunting on his property this year.
As I gogt half way down the field road, the doe busted out of an irrigation ditch just across the fence from me. About made me crap down both legs!!! Still, she was alone, no buck, good sign but still no sign of the buck. The fields across the fence was 1/2 short grazed alfalfa and 1/2 wprked ground so any dead deer would be easily seen for many hundred yards.
I continued down the farm road and had seen nothing along the tall grassed irrigation ditch execpt a small white stake I had seen out of the corner of my eye. Got to the end of the road, turned around and came back. For some reason when I got to the point where the white stake was I looked over and it was not there. I stopped just to look a bit harder and after a few seconds a set of antlers lifted up over the tall grass and then fell back down. Always good to have some luck in your pocket!!!
Even though the buck was just 8 yards over on the other property, I drove over to the land owners house to ask permission to recover my buck.
After the usual 1/2 hour chat with the ranch owner I headed back to the buck and got my first good close look at his rack. he was tight, VERY tight, in fact the narrowes mature buck I have ever taken. Inside spread is only 10.5"!!!! His eye guards were also a bit week at only around 4" long but they were very heavy and bladed nicely which I like. Other then that he was very nice. There are just not that many bucks around this mature so I was fortunate to get him.
This view shows why I was sitting there for 15 minutes with the spotter trying to figure out what this buck had to offer. I could see his mass, he was tall, at least a 4x4 but other then that, I could not tell what he had to offer. I was in fact surpised when he turned and ran, looks totally from the side and I was just lucky to get a second chance. Those do not happen often with mature whitetails.
Now with two weeks left in the season, was it a mistake to shoot this buck this early, up where I prefer to hunt, the potential for larger bucks is real but its also a real possibility to eat a tag. A mature buck like this is hard to let walk, especially a second time!!!! Anyway, he satisfies all my goals for my buck this year. He scored in the 145" B&C range which for a 10.5" wide buck with weak eyeguards is a pretty impressive score, especially for this area. Biggest buck I have taken around here prior was a 149" and he was a solid clean 6x6 typical so not even close to the class of this buck in maturity.
All in all, very happy with my buck.
So why did he run so far???? Apparently he was standing more quartering toward me then I thought as the bullet impacted just ahead of the onside shoulder and centered the offside shoulder knuckle causing severe damage. We hear all the time about shots on the fringes, well, had this been a lesser round, I suspect I the chances of loosing this buck would have been greatly increases as the bullet never entered the chest cavity. Only thing that killed this buck was the bone frags that damaged the offside lung, other then that, he would have gotten away, again, luck is always a good co pilot to have. Even if your prepared, luck is a good friend to have. Anyone that things a 7mm AM is over kill for whitetails, in this case, I would have wanted nothing other then that rifle especially knowing where that bullet landed. Why did it land in front of the shoulder, I was paying more attention to the buck then the wind, remember I said it was windy and warm, pay attention to that wind, almost cost me a good buck by a clean miss or worse, wounded him which would have been very hard to live with because of a mental mistake like that. Even at slightly less then 500 yards, a 10 to 12 mph wind will get you no matter what your shooting. As alway, always learning still.
Also have stories about my brothers +160" mule deer hunt, my Dads mule deer hunt and my whitetail doe hunt, all very successful. When I get time I will post those.
For now, back to the shop and another good buck ready for the wall to join the other big boys I have been fortunate enough to run into!!!
Hope everyone else has a good season as well. Now back to working in the shop and focusing on getting rifles shot.