It’s that time of the year. We’re creating new memories to last a lifetime, and new stories to share with good friends. So with the “North American Hunter-TV” camera rolling, I took my second buck of the season. This one completed the challenge of taking two bucks in two states (Montana and Wyoming) during one trip.
For the Wyoming deer, we hunted a ranch not far from Hulett, best known as the home of Devils Tower National Monument. (We took a quick mid day tour there, too.) By the standards of this part of the country, it’s a small ranch of 1,200 acres, but loaded with game—whitetail, mule deer, turkeys and even a growing population of elk.
Our first sit proved the rut is starting. We recorded 10 different bucks scraping, mock battling tree limbs, sparring and bird-dogging does. Only one appeared to be a shooter, but the view of him was on the skyline a half-mile away as he herded does
After consulting with the ranch owner, we selected another area for the next day’s sit. He told of us of a really big mule deer buck he’s only seen a few times over several years. When he has seen it, it’s always been in the same creek-bottom between the lowland feeding area and the higher elevation bedding area off his property. We decided to give it a shot.
On stand in the morning, mule deer were the first to show, but in the form of seven does and fawns drifting along in a loose herd. We watched them and took great footage in the growing light. Then whitetails started to show here and there—does, fawns, small bucks.
At 9 a.m. the cameraman and I agreed on a nature break. We each hiked away from the tree we were sitting under to eliminate some coffee. It felt good, because the predawn temps had been in the low teens, and we’d been sitting for more than 2.5 hours with little warming movement. Thank heavens for hand warmer packs!
We’d no more than settled back into position when a small buck walked into a clearing on the creek-bottom 250 yards in front of us. He sauntered across the opening into the timber without a care in the world. He’d no more than hit the woods when a second deer stepped into the clearing. It appeared to be an average 4X4, but with a stiff gait and pot belly. With a long face and defined hip bones, he had the look of an old buck.
The camera rolled, though we figured he’d take the same route as the small buck into the timber, but in the middle of the clearing he turned and walked toward us. He ambled, stopped and stared, grazing along the way. He came straight down the creek 155 yards in front of us. With the bright sun shining on the frost still on his back, the buck looked around then dropped his head to drink. He took several long pulls from the creek, surveying the terrain between each.
I watched this unfold through the riflescope of my .30-06 Thompson/Center, rested on the Bog Pod tripod in front of me. After this third drink, the buck stepped back and turned to his left going broadside behind my scope’s reticle. I took a deep breath, let it half out, steadied the scope on his shoulder, and squeezed the trigger.
Like the Montana buck 2 days earlier, this buck collapsed where he stood. His head and neck rested in the creek. We had another great hunt collected on video for the 2012 “NAH-TV” season, and I had a second deer to supply my small family’s protein needs through the year ahead.
Upon reaching the downed buck, it was a pleasant surprise to find an additional small point on one side, making him a 4X5. And inspection of his teeth proved suspicions he was an old-timer. Already in declining condition, even with a world of great feed around him, this guy probably wouldn’t have made it through the winter.