I set my sights on taking no less than a 30" buck this season (yeah I've tried that one before). I was at least planning on holding out to the last day of the season for a trophy. After 5 days of scouting without seeing anything close to a shooter I had my doubts. The opener was a dissappointment. I only saw 3 bucks; a forky horn, a 3 point, and a 5x5 that was about 22". On day two, I changed strategy and started looking for bucks at lower elevation, away from the larger pockets of deer (and hunters). I was looking primarily in isolated sagebrush pockets and primarlily from above, at least when possible. It was like trying to find a needle in a haystack or a giant game of 'Where's Waldo the Buck'. I glassed until my eyes hurt, but started seeing some decent bucks. I passed on a 75 yard shot at a bonified 28" to 30" buck (a very short, wide, 2 x barely 3). He was in a group of four decent looking bucks that I spotted and stalked from 1.5 miles out, only to pass on all four of them. By near days end I had passed on several nice bucks, which is something that I find to be rather difficult and fatiguing (yeah, I know...poor me...).
At close to sunset I found myself in an area between two steep rims, an upper and a lower rim. I had not seen a deer in hours. The road ended about 100 yards from the edge of the lower rim. I grabbed my binocs and took a short walk to look over the rim and see what was below. After glassing for a several minutes, I took a few steps forward and looked directly below me (about 150 yards straight down). I immediately saw antlers. Not having my rifle with me, and knowing that I was skylined, I hastily backed up and literally ran for my rifle. I grabbbed my 338 LM, my Swaro RF, my Stoney Point tripod sticks, left the binocs, and quietly returned to the rim. I carefully scanned down from the exact point where I had seen the buck a minute earlier, but couldn't see him. I slowly inched my way forward and down the rim looking below me. Nothing... Then I notice something below me and a little ways to the left; two bucks bedded down, looking away from me, with no idea that I'm there (how perfect is that!). The closer buck was a 4 x 4 that was a little wider than his ears, the further buck was a heavy spike of similar width. Neither of them looked like the one that I had glanced a few minutes earlier. I continued to carefully sneak down the rim scanning below me (as I still had a large blind spot beneath me). Then the spike busted me, jumped up, and trotted off with the 4 x 4 right behind him.
As I watched them run away, I detected movement below me and to my right and spotted the original buck trotting off. He looked big and boxy! I immediately got on the Stoney Point Sticks and started trying to judge him and make a quick decision. He only put his ears out (down) for a split second and he looked like he was at least 3 or 4 inches past on both sides (pretty close estimate, too bad he only had 20-inch ears!). I still wasn't sure if I was going to take him, but set up for a shot. I chambered a round, ranged a point in his projected path, right ahead of where he would dissappear into a draw (432 yards), dialed 7 minutes on the scope, then took off 1/2 for the downward angle, then settled into the rifle. This was my fall back position if he didn't stop and turn broadside earlier. As it turned out, he had no intention of stopping. As he approached the point of no return, I made the split decision to take him if things lined up right and I felt confident with the shot. Everything felt good, I lead him slightly, and felt the trigger break. He dropped immediately, DRT, like a dropped sack of potatoes! Not even one kick or twitch. It was approximately 5 minutes after sunset.
I hurried back to the truck and grabbed a knife, saw, headlamp, pen, gps, cell phone, zip ties, and a camera and hurried to climb down the rim before it got too dark to find him. As I looked off of the rim I could only see one faint trail that was washed out about a mile back and knew that I wasn't going to get him out that night. I made my way down between a few small cliffs and found him.
There was some definate ground shrinkage, mostly due to the smaller-than-normal ear size, hence the name 'The Fools Buck'. I took a couple of pictures, gutted and tagged him, and had a great time navigating my way back up the rim in the dark and finding the truck. Thank goodness for GPS.
Here's a picture of him as he hit the ground:
A few more from the next day:
One with the spokes model/better half:
And here's one hauling him out:
love those jet sleds, even without snow.
I hit him in the back with a 300 gr SMK, shattering his spine (note that the bullet impact was ahead of the bloodshot area) . The bullet exited at the crease of the shoulder, leaving a 2.0" - 2.5" exit hole. In retrospect I should have taken another half moa off for the angle. Not bad for 432 yards running (actually trotting). You can see the extreme angle of the shot from the bullet damage picture below: