Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Accidental Buck

Opening deer rifle season weekend had come and gone without success.  Ron and I hunted diligently for two days and saw numerous deer, but they were all young fork horns or six pointers.  I am really not fixated on hunting deer with big racks, but I had already killed a spike during bow season and really wanted to take a mature buck in rifle season.  Monday was a loss with a torrential rain storm lasting most of the day, but Tuesday would present another opportunity try to fill my remaining buck tag.

I awoke early that morning to find that the rain had ended, but the weather stations indicated almost 2 inches of rain had fallen the day before.  I would need to take an ATV to get into my hunting area or at least that was my plan.  The four wheeler was uncooperative in the cold of the morning as it nearly refused to start.  After applying the choke and warming up the engine, I was finally on my way until I ran out of gas five minutes into my journey!  I coasted to a stop and turned the fuel tank on "reserve" allowing the remaining fuel to be used.  I proceeded down the muddy trail and found that the waterway I normally drive through to get to my stand was completely filled with water (it was about 6 feet deep) and was utterly impassable!  I sat there for a moment and looked at the water as it quickly swept by.  "There must be another way" I thought to myself.  Actually there was another route that required me to drive across a neighbors field so I turned around to try the alternate route, but then I remembered my fuel situation.  I might not have enough gas to make the trip there and back with the detour.  I would have to head back for more fuel.  I grumbled all the way imagining herds of deer frolicking around my tree stand while I was making trips back and forth to get gas.

As I returned to the field (after refueling), I saw a deer in the middle of a wheat field looking at me.  I stopped the ATV and grabbed my binoculars.  He was a good 8 point buck, but he was completely unreachable in the middle of the field.  Just then he turned and ran into a pasture nearby.  I quickly assess the situation and drove the ATV to the opposite side of the pasture and parked beneath a pond dam.  I eased over the dam to scan the pasture with my binoculars.  I spotted a doe and a buck about a quarter of a mile away grazing where the pasture ended and the wheat field began.  There was barely enough cover for a stalk, but if I stayed low, it was possible.  I grabbed my homemade shooting sticks and rifle and started to sneak toward the buck.  I would advance about 10 yards and stop to glass the area where the deer were feeding to make sure they hadn't seen me and then proceed to the next mesquite bush or clump of grass.  I repeated this process until I had closed the gap to 300 yards.  It was a wet and miserable process since everything was soaked from the rain the day before, but the wind was in my favor and I was making progress.  Once I was close enough to better assess the deer, I realized that the buck I was looking at was not the same one I had seen in the field.  This one was huge!  He didn't have many points, but his main beams were massive and deep brown in color.  It was obvious this was a mature buck, probably 5 or 6 years old judging by his body size.

I was so excited that I successfully snuck this far, but my joy soon became disappointment as I assessed my next move.  I had crawled up a slight elevation in the field and between me and the deer was a depression that served as a water way.  I should have been able to use that depression to close the distance to 200 yards or less but there was a problem.  The initial buck I had seen in the wheat field was now in that water way between me and the larger buck.  Both bucks put on an entertaining show as they displayed their aggressive behavior of snorting and walking stiff legged while their hair bristled (trying to scare off each other).  It was obvious the smaller buck was way out of his league and he kept a safe distance from the larger buck.  Just then, I heard something that sounded like hooves.  I lowered my binoculars and looked to my right and there stood a spike buck no more than 30 yards away.  I froze, hoping that he wouldn't sound the alarm.  Several minutes passed and finally the immature buck decided I was nothing to be concerned with.  He trotted away from me and more importantly away from the other deer!  I looked back at both bucks only to find that the smaller buck had decided to bed down!  "Dang it" I muttered to myself.  "I will just have to wait them out".

I was determined to wait as long as it took to take this buck.  He was by far one of the biggest deer I had seen in years.  While I waited, pinned down in my location, I began to wonder why the deer were in this pasture in the first place.  There was no real cover in the area and if you had asked me if this was a good place to hunt any other day, I would have said you were crazy.  It appeared that the doe had lured the bucks into this field during the night and had not retreated to cover as they normally would.  Neither buck was willing to leave the doe as she appeared to be ready to breed.  My thoughts flashed back to the situation at hand as I saw a pick-up slowly cruising down a dirt road about a quarter mile away.  They slowed down to look my direction probably because they saw my hunter orange hat.  I also assume that they had binoculars and could see I was deer hunting and began to scan the pasture for my quarry.  After a minute they proceeded slowly down the road, continuing to look for the deer until I think they saw them.  By this time the deer had also seen the pick-up and they were getting nervous.   The pick-up accelerated and left the area without incident, but they had inadvertently changed the direction of the buck I was pursuing.  Just moments ago the large buck and the doe had been grazing toward me at a snails pace, but now they were trotting away from me.  Even the small buck bedded down had gotten up to trot away.

Now was my chance!  As the deer moved away, they were walking into another depression and I would be able to use the waterway in front of me as cover to close the distance.  As soon as the deer were far enough that they couldn't spot my movement, I ran as fast as I could while hunched over.  I reached the ridge and eased over the top with my binoculars to assess the distance of the deer.  To my surprise they were considerably farther than I anticipated and were crossing the wheat field!  "He is getting away"  I said under my breath.   A plan quickly formulated in my head and I set it into action.

I ran back to my ATV, covering the quarter mile in minutes.  The same distance that had taken me nearly an hour to cover by crawling and sneaking through the brush.  I got the ATV on the same road the pick-up had been on and raced to other end of the wheat field a mile away.  I intended to ambush the buck as he exited the field.  I couldn't know for sure where he would choose to cross into the next pasture, but I had a hunch.  Once I got close to my intended ambush point, I left the ATV at the road and ran into the pasture barreling into a row of trees that would conceal my presence.  My lungs were aching and I was really feeling old and out of shape, but there was no time to stop and rest.  If I didn't act fast this deer would be gone.  I hurried through the trees and reached the edge facing the field.  I grabbed my binoculars and began to scan in the distance for the deer, but I didn't see anything.  As I continued to look, I thought I might have chosen the wrong place for my ambush or maybe they beat me here and had already passed.  I lowered my binoculars and was amazed to see the big buck less than 50 yards away staring in my direction.  "It's the big buck" I said breathlessly to myself.  I grabbed my shooting sticks using them like a monopod.  I found the buck in my scope as he continued to stare in my direction without moving.  I knew any second he would bolt, but I was still shaking from sprinting into position and didn't feel steady enough to shoot yet.  I took a deep breath, exhaled and focused on settling the cross hairs on his shoulder.  I became relaxed and squeezed the trigger with a steady pull.  The shot rang out and the buck dropped in his tracks.  I was stunned, relieved, and euphoric all at once.

The deer had 7 points with really heavy mass and a main beam that curved up to form the first tines.   I estimate his field dressed weight to be about 200 pounds and have I retained his jaw to age him later.  Finding him in the most unlikely place had been a complete accident driven by the unusual circumstances of the morning.  I probably had driven right past this buck that morning on the ATV and had my path not been blocked by high water and my ATV not ran out of gas, I would have never seen him.  He is a unique and beautiful buck that I feel privileged to take.  This was a hunt that I will never forget!


  1. T. Chris,

    Beautiful story and fantastic looking buck. When you said waiting for a mature buck, you weren't kidding. I really enjoyed the read.


  2. Wow that's an awesome buck! Great Color...
    Paul Files

  3. AZ Wanderings, thanks for the kind words. This buck far exceeded my expectations as he is not the norm for this area.

    Paul, thanks, I still get excited just looking at the photos and reliving the experience in my memories. Good to hear from you! Hope you are doing well.

  4. Great story, that is an impressive rack there.

  5. Awesome read, great buck and nice blog!

    You've got another follower :)