Well this story actually started yesterday afternoon when I headed up to one of our hunting areas after a getting some work done in the shop. It has been cold the last few days, with high temps in the mid to high teens and lows in the 0 to 5 below range!!!
Anyway, I got up to our hunting property pretty late in the evening. Basically this was more of a scouting effort to get a feel if any whitetails were starting to get a little love sick with the cold weather. Its still a couple weeks early for the rut but extreme cold weather always seems to get the old bucks feeling frisky.
When I turned off the main highway there were six hunter on the neighboring property doing their best to sound like a military gun battle. The owners of the neighboring property have never allowed any hunting but this year they opened it up for hunting mule deer does. In the one hay field right next to our hunting property there are regularly +100 head of mule deer in it every night!!!
Anyway, these 6 hunters were pretty much doing nothing but wasting ammo and pushed about 1/2 the herd onto our hunting ground and were in the process of crossing the county road into our property when I came alone. Because of that I made a point to just drive up and down the road making sure they did not go where they were not supposed to.
Anyway, just at sun down, my cousin, the owner of the land we hunt on drove up as well to see what all the shooting was about. We set and chewed the fat for nearly an hour just watching on the would be trespassers!!
He told me of two big whitetails that had been crossing by his house the last couple mornings and evenings. This is pretty unusual for this early in the year but I decided I would leave the area that evening and try to get set up on the big whitetails in the morning.
We stayed on the hill until the 6 hunters finally left and then I headed home.
THis morning, I got up to the area and drove the 3 miles back into the back side of the creek bottom that ends up by my cousins house which is where the two bucks had been bedding up.
Now my cousin is a meat hunter and generally will pop a forkie mule deer for meat every year so big bucks are not is real interest so I was curious about the actual size of the bucks.
As it began to get light out there was nothing in the creek bottom but I decided to stay for another hour or so just to make sure the bucks were just not taking their time. Then just as the sun was about to peek over the horizon, I saw a dark spot pop out from under the lip of the creek cut back.
I got the spotter on him and he was a nice 5x5. Not huge, looked to be a 4 year old or so. Good spread but pretty short on top. He would have scored in the 135 B&C range. This buck crossed the flat of the creek bottom and then another deer appeared. This one was a young 3x3, nothing even considering shooting.
My cousin had said one of the bucks was a real beauty compared to the other one so I figured these were the two he was referring to.
I set there for another 10 minutes until the 5x5 bedded down and then I decided I would back out of the area and let them rest for the day. I took one last scan with the spotter over the valley before packing things up and at the far end of the creek where it cuts back into a deep valley I saw the tips of a rack. Only one side of the rack but it was dark and heavy. I only had a few seconds to see the antler and only saw the top of it but I knew this was a shooter buck.
And as soon as I saw the antlers he was gone below the lip of the creek cut back. I waited very anxiously for the buck to appear so I could see what he actually was but 5 minutes pasted, then 10, then 15, then 20 and nothing.
The small 3x3 finally bedded down as well and I was starting to get a bad feeling that I had a good shooter buck in range but that he was going to bed down under the rim and I would have no chance to get a shot at him.
Just as I was about to give up for the morning and come back in the afternoon on the buck, he stepped out from behind the cut back, about 100 yard closer then where I had first seen the antler.
I was not unhappy with what I saw. It only took a couple seconds for me to realize he was a shooter. Good Spread, good height and alot of mass. He was only a 4x4 but my favorite trophy quality is age and mass, points are a distant second place for me personally.
I had my heavy 7mm AM as well as "Little Green" with me. I was going to use the heavy until I realized I had forgotten to grab my modified drop chart I had developed the day before!!!
"Little Green" it was and I grabbed my rear bag, range finder and rifle and got out of the truck and set up on a small ridge.
I ranged the buck which was moving relatively quickly across the flat toward the smaller 5x5 which was dramatically smaller then the heavy 4x4. 649, 651, 653 and finally he stopped just short of the 5x5.
I took three quick readings, 655, 654 and 652 yards. I looked up on the drop chart and settled into the rifle. Found the correct hold, there was no wind at all so that was of no concern. I noticed the rear back felt odd but things were solid and I settled in for the shot.
As the trigger broke, the rifle twisted violently to the right. The instant I felt this the thought popped into my mind that I had just muffed the shot on the biggest 4x4 I have hunted so far!!!
When I recovered from recoil I was just in time to see the bullet land about 1 foot to the right of the big buck, just as I expected with the rifle getting away from me.
The reason, well, what I had felt that seemed odd with the rear bag was that the swivel was tight around the left ear of the bag because of the set up of the rifle. At the shot, the sling spun the rear back and allowed the rifle to twist.
No time to worry now, the bucks were spooked but had no idea what had happened or where it came from. I raked another round out of the magazine and corrected the rifles position so the sling was loose. The buck started trotting dead away from me and I was beginning to think the game was over when he dove down into the creek bottom, out of sight for a second and then came up on the other side on a slightly higher flat and turned broad side to me.
The good thing about hunting an area all your life is that you know the area intimately and I knew that lip he was standing on was roughly 750 yards from my position. I took the hold, I placed the -2.5 mil hash square on his shoulder and settled my breath for a split second and then the lightweight 7mm AM barked and nearly instantly all four legs pulled up under the buck as if he was a jet liner taking off and pulling up his landing gear.
The big buck fell to the ground as the dramatic "Thwack!!" drifted back to me confirming what I had just visually witnessed. A very solid high shoulder hit, just what I wanted.
I raked another round in and watched the buck but he only rocked his head a couple times and then was still.
I set back and caught my breath and replayed the events of the hunt and how everything could have been wasted many times by the slightest things, me leaving early, him bedding down under the hill, him turning trail and running out of sight after the first shot, but not, everything worked out well and he was on the ground and my Montana deer season was over.
When I got down to him I found he was even larger then I had expected. He was a clean 4x4 (western count) with very long main beams and great eye guards. He was also extremely heavy with based that were clearly in the 6" range and he carried his mass well throughout his rack.
The big 200 gr ULD RBBT had performed perfectly. 1/2" hole in and 3/4" hole out through the top of the shoulders. THis has been typical results with these bullets at any range on heavy deer size targets.
When I got him cleaned up and loaded in the truck I headed back to the point I shot from and took a laser measurement just to confirm the range. Three measurements averaged 745 yards. My personal big game best so far!! Not the +1000 yards we see alot of but that will come, hopefully in a couple weeks!! [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img]
This pic shows off the long main beams of the buck and some of the trash on his bases.
You can see the deep crab claws on this view which really add up his score.
This view shows his good spread, good height and heavy mass and eyeguards.
These pictures really do not give this buck the justice he deserves but I was alone and had forgotten my tripod for remote pics. Just remember this is a 300 lb class animal with that rank on it and it puts things into perspective.
He has quite a bit of trash on his bases which I really like. My previously largest clean 4x4 measured 135" B&C and I knew this buck would be in the 140 class.
When I got him home and put the tape to him I realized his main beams were both slighly over 2 feet long and he ended up with a score of 148 and some change. For a clean 4x4 I was VERY happy!!! In my area you do not see to many clean 4x4 bucks pushing the 150 B&C range so I feel very fortunate.
He is by far the best 4x4 I have ever taken. Now it is time to try to get some more work done in the shop and fine tune my heavy 7mm AM for my hunt with Shawn here in a couple weeks.
One thing I would like to point out that would have prevented my first shot miss. When you feel something odd with your set up when you get ready to take a long range shot, take the time to figure out what it is and correct it. Everything needs to be perfect at long range, if its not you get what I got, a miss a foot wide because the rifle shifted.
Take the extra couple seconds and make sure you have a solid stress free set up on the rifle. By stress free I mean that you do not have to apply any real force to the rifle to get the reticle to where you need it to be on target. It should sit on target where you want it on its own. Then you can come into the rifle for the shot and the chance of having a flier because of a poor rifle set up is greatly reduced.
It happens, I am first to admit it but if you think something is not quite right, find out what it is and fix it before the trigger breaks. I was lucky to get a second chance, that does not happen often with a 6 year old whitetail, even at long range.