photos are coming from the phone so hang tight!
Thursday the 18th, I left for a 10 day SOLO archery deer hunt in Utah. Solo bowhunting for me has always a spiritual experience being in Gods creation. This year, the journey ratcheted up a couple levels and became a spiritual experience WITH God. After drawing my tag months earlier, I connected with a guy on the net who hunted my unit last year. He was a typical bowhunter, nicest guy you would ever meet, ready to help. He sent me GPS waypoints to where he shot a great buck. When I arrived in the unit I knew very little, but the first place I went to was to the area recommended to me. In visually looking at it, it was a mountain of sage brush, a disappointment, and I immediately wrote it off and looked elsewhere. I mean, how do you spot and stalk a deer to a distance of 30 yards or less in sagebrush? Impossible! Expecting that I would have some time to kill in the afternoons and after dark, I brought a book. The Life Application Study Bible which I recently received as a gift. It is the Bible, with so much more including commentary, pictures, character descriptions, timelines and more. Opening weekend, I spotted a bunch of does, one 3 point buck and bowhunters. It was a slow disappointing start, but I did find time to read the Gospel according to John. I had read this book before, but this Study guide went deeper. John, it turns out, was a disciple of John the Baptist before joining Jesus in his ministry. John and his brothers James were nicknamed the Sons of Thunder. It says John wrote the book of John, first, second and third John, and the book of revelation. Two things stuck with me from my reading. 1. John 16:24 says “Ask and you shall receive, and your joy will be complete”. 2. The word “glory” seems to be mentioned frequently in Johns Gospel. If you look at the definition of glory, it can be used a noun or a verb and means magnificent. Monday morning prior to departing camp, I said a simple challenge prayer. “God, show me your glory today.” That day, I saw 10 different bucks. None where gaggers, but what an improvement! Weekend warrior hunters had disappeared, I felt alone in the wilderness. All of it brought joy, prayer answered.
For the rest of the trip, I continued with same simple morning prayer, and I continued to see bucks, but no large “gagger “bucks, so I moved camp to a drainage north and east in search of a “gagger”. The habitat looked just tremendous for wildlife. There was grassy old burns, water, and cover, but I found very few bucks or deer in this new location. I did find a really cool knob to sit on and glass for deer. There was a creek below the knob that flowed through a green meadow, thick juniper cover up the hillsides, and I could spin around and glass the mountain sides behind me. At daylight on Wednesday morning I started glassing. I glassed, and glassed, and when I was tired, I glassed some more. The only thing I saw was a moose with a calf. At some point, I had to stand up, take a break, walk around and look somewhere different. One of the places I looked was at my feet. In a sea of dark purple rocks, I noticed a white rock. When I picked it up, I was shocked to find it was a broken arrowhead crafted by a long gone fellow bowhunter. I’m 57 years old, been looking for arrowheads since I was a kid, and have never found one. It was a moment of pure, and glorious joy for me. My prayer was answered again, how magnificent. In looking at the broken arrowhead, this was a large arrowhead designed for large game, maybe buffalo, elk or moose? It appears to be inscribed with a buffalo rendering, look at the photo, you be the judge. At that moment, I had to consider the past. Years ago some bowhunter stood in that spot and launched that arrow at something. What a treasure! It gave me the momentum to keep glassing and thinking. Then the question hit me. Why was arrowhead broken? When the bowhunter launched the arrow, did it hit bone on an elk, buffalo or other critter and break on impact? Was it a fatal shot that fed the tribe, or a miss? Another thought then hit me. Maybe finding the head was a message? Is my own brokenness preventing me from seeing the treasures, glory, and gifts from god that have been laying at my feet for my whole life? Am I looking in the wrong places or blind to all of it? Maybe there is a message there, or maybe I was overthinking it? I glassed for most of Wednesday from that knob, while I didn’t see much, it seemed like sacred ground and a place to be. Thursday, I hunted a drainage to the south that had incredible habitat - forage, water, and cover but I only saw a couple does. Wednesday and Thursday were super hot, any deer I saw seemed to be in thick cover by 8am, hidden and unstalkable. The broken arrowhead continued to weigh on my mind. Was I blind to the gifts being laid at my feet? I had just finished day 8 alone in the wilderness. I had two more days to find and take a glorious buck, it was now or never time. At disappointment dusk, I made a decision to break camp and move to the sage mountain spot that was gifted to me and laid at my feet months ago. The spot I was blind to, and wrote off at first glance. I got back to camp well after dark, and packed up. I drove halfway there and camped by a lake. It was about 1am when I finally hit the sack. On Friday the alarm went off at 5am, I was exhausted but rolled out. Same simple prayer, God show me your glory today. I drove maybe another 5 miles to the sage mountain, unloaded the ATV, and waited for first light to start glassing. The mountain was big, and all sage but I learned it also had a few thickets of bushy tall shrub like trees, and some junipers. As I started up the road, I glassed it all using binos, and my scope. I would glass and drive a bit, and glass and drive some more. I saw some does, and a two point. Finally, I reached the mountain top and I could see for miles. All of sudden, my cell phone went off and a week of texts hit my phone. After texting my wife, and dealing with some business, I continued glassing from the top. I learned one thing, I don’t care how good your glass is, mule deer are hard to spot in sage. Having no luck, I decided to continue on the exact GPS location where I was told a gagger buck was taken last year. I went half way down the mountain and veered off on a road to the right. The road curved around the mountain, and above the road I noticed the start of a thicket. Off in the sage flat, there was a group of cattle around a water tank. I parked the ATV, grabbed the bow and started to walk. As I approached the thicket, I was constantly glassing. Move slow, glass. I did this nonstop, picking apart the thicket for any sign of deer. Finally, for a brief moment I saw the body of a deer. I couldn’t see the deer’s head so I had no clue if it was a buck or a doe. As quickly as I saw it, it disappeared. My options were to wait and see, or go in and be aggressive. It was an easy choice; I was there to find glory. Notating the last position of the deer, I picked a route to follow. I felt confident I could stay out of sight if I entered the thicket in the middle and stayed behind the larger bushes leading to the last location of the deer. The wind was perfect, blowing in my face, occasionally on my right cheek as I headed up the mountain. As I got to 100 yards out, a hidden doe and two fawns blew out to my left. She snorted, I think they winded me. I decided it was time to knock an arrow. This time I said another simple one sentence prayer, “God, guide my arrow to its mark.” I continued up the mountain, very slowly, very quietly watching every step, glassing frequently. At 40 yards, I spotted an antler. The buck was bedded in the exact spot I saw it, between two skinny but tall junipers. With the buck bedded, I had excellent cover to get to what turned out to be 24 yards away. Now I was in position, and had to wait for the buck to make a mistake. The buck was bedded in a position that it would be looking straight at me when it stood up, so I would also need him to turn broadside once standing. What are the odds? I sat, watched and waited while the wind continued to be in my face. After 10 minutes of waiting, about 1pm of day 9, things changed. Suddenly, a different buck walked in from my left, and directly up to the bedded buck. The bedded buck rose, and the two bucks were standing nose to nose. Both bucks were 4 point bucks in full velvet. The first buck had deeper forks so I assumed it was a better buck but he was slightly quartering to me while the new buck was absolutely broadside at 24 yards. Prayer answered again, Gods glory was now standing 24 yards away from me. Within a second or two of the buck standing up, they both turned their heads and were staring directly at me. Oh shit. To complicate matters, a big gust of wind hit my back headed toward the bucks. I had milliseconds to react! Which buck do I shoot at? I drew my bow, picked a spot, and sent my arrow on its way knowing the rest would in Gods hands. I heard a thwap, and crack. The buck on the right blew out to the left, and buck on the left blew out to the right. I shot at the second buck, while he might have been slightly smaller, he presented a superior broadside shot. As the buck bolted I was watching the edges of the thicket to see if the buck exits the thicket into the sage. I never noticed the deer leave the thicket so I walked up to look for the arrow. The arrow was buried in the dirt with a light coating of blood, a complete pass through, 100% penetration. Glorious. I sat down and waited 30 minutes to give the buck time to die. I felt like the shot was good, but to be honest it was absolutely the fastest draw/release cycle I have ever executed, and when the bucks blew out it was chaotic and confusing. I could not say for sure if the shot was good, I would need to trust and have faith.
After waiting 30 minutes, I started looking for a blood trail in close proximity to the impact. I could not find a single drop of blood in a 30 yard semi circle of where the buck exited the shot zone. With that discouraging news, I decided I would hike out the ATV, drive back to the truck, get game bags and other supplies to give the buck additional time before expanding my search.
I returned about 3, Thankfully, I could drive the ATV up to about 200 yards from my shot, so if I could find the buck, the pack out would be glorious. I hiked up to the juniper bed and started looking for a blood trail, slowly and methodically. Unfortunately, couldn’t find a thing. Time for another simple prayer, God, I am putting my trust in you, help me find the buck. I kept looking for blood and a body, nothing. I exited the thicket and got on the ridge, scanning for a body on the sage. Nothing. I headed back into the thicket examining exit routes. Finally, I found a spot of blood. According to the GPS, it was 158 feet from the point of impact. Another 12 feet, another spot of blood, then nothing. I felt like I must be blind. Then, my eyes were opened with a message. I noticed a coyote running into the thicket. I’ve seen plenty of coyotes, but this was different. A large bird, don’t know what it was, was chasing the coyote and dive bombing him. The coyote was bounding over the sage, and the bird was on his tail. I think God was sending a blind man a message. I started walking in the direction of the coyote, about 20 or so paces on my right lay the buck. Prayer answered! The buck died yards from where I was advised to look months before. While the buck isn’t a “gagger”, he is absolutely the most gloriously magnificent buck I have ever taken with my bow. What I was shown that day was without a doubt a gift and a treasure. In looking at the shot, it was magnificent, and I just need to glorify God for his arrow guidance, and delivering on requests made. The arrowhead will be a treasure and reminder for the rest of my life of Gods gifts laying at my feet, if I just open my eyes and look.
In closing, I need to give a thumbs up to the Gospel according to John, if you get the chance, read it. I also will testify a simple prayer asking to see Gods glory worked for me, give it a try. If you made it this far, can I get an Amen?
Fabulous story, Steve! Congratulations on another wonderful adventure in God’s creation! Well done!
God is so good. His gifts are daily. As saved Christian’s? If we do t see them or are able to acknowledge them, that is at our feet. A condition of the heart.
Congratulations and God Bless.
Thanks for sharing a great story and CONGRATS!
Isn't God Amazing??
Your story is like a breath of fresh mountain air. Thank you for sharing it. Congrats on a fine hunt and trophy.