Late Buck tag of a Lifetime
Got the kids on the bus, sat down in my empty, quiet house. Log into Facebook, it's blowing up with news that the Special Permit Drawing Results are out. Regardless of what they hold, hunting seasons for us are always about spending time with our family, enjoying the outdoors and teaching our children the lifestyle. So far, this year is a bust for anyone getting drawn for deer or elk, but I've saved my own to check for last. Considering I had been putting in for this particular deer permit for 16 years, I had every reason to be jumping for joy! It was my year, I was drawn! Every hunting season is filled with it's highs and lows, and every hunting season is worth waiting for, but this year, I was going to be on cloud 9 until it got here!
I call my husband with the news. I am hiding my excitement by calmly telling him no one got drawn for any elk permit. Somebody got drawn for a deer permit though! I can hear the anticipation through the phone. “It's my turn” I say. He's just as excited as I am.
Flash forward to November. We've had a tough, long season already. John hunted all of Archery season, only to fill his deer tag opening day of Muzzleloader Season. We hunted along for Conner all of Muzzleloader season, and into Rifle and filled his deer tag in October with a great buck. All along, I've been dreaming of what was in store for me this year. I've been dreaming of getting a beautiful buck in the snow and what those pictures would be. That was my goal, and the day we arrived at our Cabin was a blizzard! We only had 1 full day to hunt with our kids tagging along. I would have loved for them to be there when I saw the right buck I was after, but that just wasn't the case. That first day we just didn't see much for deer, and we said our “Goodbyes” as Grandma took over. They had to return to school and she was going to enjoy the opportunity of spending that next week with them. And Johns Dad, was going to tag along for my hunt. For us, it was time to dig in and get to work figuring out where the quality of deer were at that I was looking for.
I was relying on the boys to judge the deer for me and tell me if they were something I was after. They knew what caliber of deer I was hoping for. It was a couple days into hunting hard, dark to dark, in the snow before we saw something I was interested in. Our encounter was quick, too quick for me to be in position, and the fog was working against us. We backed out in order to not push the deer out. This area was holding the deer though and I knew if we kept coming back, something would pan out.
Day 6 of the hunt. The only day Johns dad decides to stay home and catch up on some rest in hopes to feel better. He says to keep him posted on what we're seeing and wishes he was with us. We're back in the same area, and we've seen several “Quality” deer in here now and just haven't been able to make it happen yet. Today, the fog is once again against us. We decide not to push on and just wait it out. The fog lifts and we creep over the crest of a nob. Deer! We're glassing hard, we see some smaller bucks with some does. I can hardly believe my eyes when I look up the ridge and here comes this huge deer charging down the mountain, looking to fight without a doubt. This is definitely a deer I am after and we think is one we've already encountered in here in the days prior. A tough old 2 point is also ready to battle, we were sure there was going to be a brawl, and then, the fog rolls in. Of course! We're left waiting, and back out.
The fog is lifting, and we creep back. Not a deer in sight! Really, you've got to be kidding me. We come up with a game plan. We're sure the deer did not come past us, so they must have worked themselves away from us and the lay of the land is too rolling for us to see and the fog continues to roll in and out. Our plan: Head up the ridge and try to make our way completely around them and try to cut them off. There is a tree line way out and we can come down the tree line and hope to see them from there. At the top, we stop and wait out some more fog. We tried to creep over and see if we could look down any of the shoots, but all we're seeing is fog.
We decided to move forward with our plan. We're inside the tree line and start to make our way down. Every so often, we move out of the tree line to peek and see if we can spot anything. Nothing! We continue down until John thinks we're at a good spot to head out. He doesn't want to go any lower. We are out of the tree line and nothing to hide behind. We can't see very far because of fog, so we are moving slow. Stop to glass, move. Stop to glass, move. “Jamie, a doe just stood up in front of us. Get down and in position, those bucks have to be here too”. I see it. I drop and get the gun up on my knee. I'm watching the doe. She sees us but isn't too concerned right now. She's looking through the fog too and we're crouched down in some brush, when John sees the horns of a buck bedded below her. As we scan around, no other bucks. John goes back to check the horns, he's up and moving now, headed up the hill toward to the doe that is watching us. He's in the Rut big time and is completely unaware that we are here. His focus is on her. I can see that there is going to be an opportunity to take him as he gets closer to the doe. John tells me this is definitely a buck I want. If he continues his path, he'll come out in an open patch broadside, under 100 yards away from me. My gun is in position and I'm holding in the opening. He appears in my sights, safety is off, he stops and I pull the trigger. It was a miss! The buck whips his head, comes toward us a couple steps and looks right at us, a frontal only opportunity. I'm already reloaded and on him. This time in confidence he's mine, I shoot and he drops!
Now, I wish I could say he was down for the count and that was all it took, but it wasn't. I hadn't hit quite in the center, it was a little to the left. But still good enough of a shot, it slowed him down as he got up and started down the mountain. My adrenaline was pumping hard and my confidence that this deer was coming home with me is what I needed. He was the biggest, toughest deer I've ever gotten, and in what seemed like forever (was only a matter of minutes), I had taken the final shot that put him down.
His body was huge, neck swollen, tough as nails! I pulled him out of some brush, speechless and holding back my emotions (not for long). Hugs, Woo Hoos, Hollering, Picture taking, and excitement. We recount what just happened, So Fast! We weren't able to get my whole hunt on video like we wanted. We got bits and pieces, but it was more important that I had John focused on helping make this happen for me by keeping his eyes on the deer the whole time, that a video was not priority.
We call his dad. Made some small talk (holding back excitement). In a very mono tone voice, I ask him if he's feeling up to helping pack out a deer today? “You got him?!” I got him alright. He says he'll be out the door in 5 minutes. Takes him a while, it's a bit of a drive from his house and quite a hike, but he made it in with his pack-board and some sleds to help pack him out. Our phones are blowing up after sending some quick pictures out to my parents and other family and friends. They all know what we put into our hunts and what this means for our family. It's not just the sport, or the kill. It's about enjoying the outdoors, spending time with family, constant learning and teaching and being proud of putting some meat on the table and knowing where it came from, sharing our stories of triumphs and trials, and most of all, holding on to the memories.