It was our second time hunting this area and prior year was simply an incredible story. Without much detail we found these 2 bucks running together at the very end of the archery season along with 3-4 other decent bucks. On opening morning of the rifle luck was in our favor and netted both of us the largest deer we had ever even seen while carrying a license. Mine was the wide non-typical, his was an incredible clean 4.
Sadly this year a new 2 track had formed in the “Valley”. Along this 2 track was the disturbing and unmistakable line of wooden post with flagging marking a new well location. Sadly in the near future the Valley would fall victim to development.
Not long before we decided to leave uncle Chuck spotted a buck laying in the shade of a cut bank. Being the only deer we had seen (or at least the only one close enough to judge, we fixed all glass on him). Rack looked heavy but lacked any width and no real tine length. In the current location there was not much else to tell. Age? Body Size? Etc. As we prepared to leave the valley for a different location the buck had decided it was time to shift positions. As he stood, the body shape and size indicated a mature buck, but the rack seemed even less impressive. We watched as the buck re-bedded in the wide open sage flats.
I had always considered a mature buck to be a trophy regardless of head gear. In many years of hunting Colorado Deer I had never really taken a “mature” buck despite having a few really nice racks on the wall. So it was with mixed emotions that we decided to leave the buck and glass other locations while the cool morning air might have the animals still moving.
We glassed over 2 other areas finally giving up on locating any other deer by mid morning. On our way back to camp I could not help but see if the buck was still in his bed. We snuck back out onto the ridge and sure enough the buck had moved but only 20 to 30 yards. I decided that I was there to hunt and I should at least attempt a stalk as I had never even hunted deer with a bow. Being later in the day I surprised the thermals were still in my favor.
I left my pack and scope on the ridge with my partners. After a few minutes of discussing hand signals we had a plan. I would sneak my way into the buck and from up top my spotters would watch the whole thing unfold. Most importantly we had worked out a series of coyote calls if the buck decided to blow out.
The first obstacle to my stalk was a steep hard panned hillside. I needed to drop the 400 feet in elevation from the valley rim into the valley bottom. Most importantly I had to do it out of sight. I found my way down a steep little cut. As I maneuvered I could imagine that I was quiet possibly the only person to have stepped foot in this little cut as there was no other reason to be in that location. From my little cut I began to make my approach. As you can see from my sample pictures of the area, there is not much cover and without first locating an animal and approaching with a plan, the hunting with a bow would be pointless.
My approach would take me to the buck from the south/south west. The buck was bedded facing almost due east on the north side of a small hump. From the valley floor things looked different, luckily after a few minutes of glassing I found a bush near the bucks location and then I saw just his tips above the sage.
Now just 800 to 900 yards to cover.
After 2 attempts at trying to go in straight from the south and running out of cover quickly, I managed to find a little cut wash that went towards the buck more form the west. I knew this was dangerous as the wind almost always blows from the west in this area (atleast it seems to during coyote season). It being my best cover I quickly covered 600 to 700 yards leaving me about 150 yards left when the wash went flat with no cover.
To this point the buck had stayed bedded while I crawled, crouched and walked. He still was facing nearly dead away from me. It was at this point when the stalk became critical. I was well with in the spook zone if the buck had any reason to get nervous. I was also at a point where I had absolutely no cover at all. From my current location I had around 75 yards wide open baron hard pan ground to cover. From a standing position I could easily see the buck ears and presumable his eyes were I able to look close enough. From a crawling position I could only see antler tops.
So I began my crawl. No directly at the buck as that would have left me exposed but just to the south of the buck where I could get back into the cover (knee high sage). I still remember the crawl a few feet, glass, still have antlers crawl a few feet etc.
Just as the plan was looking to work and when I was still about 25 yards from cover a large golden eagle decided to pay the buck a visit. It swooped down at the buck, getting the buck nervous, then on a third of 4th swoop it got the buck to stand. At 100 yards out my 2 hour stalk was all but over. I froze huddled into a little ball in the wide open flat as the buck stood and looked around. Twice I felt as if the buck looked right through me.
After a brief but intense moment the buck turned and slipped just out of sight behind his bed. With the buck on the move and out of sight I quickly hustled to the cover and re-gathered. I looked to my spotters on the hill for any indication of the bucks location and actions. Most importantly I was waiting for the coyote howl that was the signal to pack it in. With my binocs I could see my buddy giving the sign that the buck was feeding. At this point I was now only about 50 yards from the old bed location. The ground was hard panned in the flats with gravel and noisy as heck. On the bumps it was softer sand but covered with cactus, thorns and dried out sage. I made the choice to pull y boots off knowing that from my location to bucks bed was going to be noisy. With my boots off I knocked and arrow and began my approach. As I approached the bed I did not see the buck, knowing he had to be close as my buddy never sounded the horn, the realization that I am going to pull this off began to sink in. I slowly stepped up and looked. Took another step and looked. Finally I saw a small patch of back hair in the little cut wash I had been using. Sure enough the buck had fed into the cut wash I had left earlier. However in this new location the cut was deep enough to hide the bucks body with only an occasional glimpse of antler or back being seen as he pigged out.
Locked in on the buck and already well with in bow range I slipped up for my shot. One step at a time just waiting for an angle and for the vitals to be exposed. Finally at 8 yards the buck stepped into a window. My 20 yard pin settled into the pocket of the quartering away buck and the fletching disappeared in an instant. Having happened so fast I literally had no idea of the shot and its result. The buck bolted out of sight and down the cut bank.
I looked back to my spotters high on the hill and they were giving me the thumbs up sign.
In hind sight I wished I would have caped him. It is not very often you get a full velvet buck with a slicked out coat...
Wish I had pics of his rear teeth...
I post this as motivation for my upcomming fall. For the first time my family (wife and 2 kids) will be taking on the southern Wyoming sage together. We will be attempting a return to greatness as mom and dad hunt with our kids ages 6 and 10.
It will be a blast and a great fall!!!!