Washington Mule Deer

I learned about this buck in August 2003. My cousin had seen him and three other monster bucks cross the road about two miles from my usual hunting grounds but on private lands, I thought there would be little to no chance of running into them. He told me where they had crossed and I went up to see if I could tell where they were hanging or if it was possible to hunt for them along the Yakima River. It seemed that they were crossing the river, so I decided to hunt along the river opening day, it would be my best bet.

Unfortunately plans don’t always pan out. I had forgotten to take into consideration the fact that the buck had to survive both archery and muzzleloader hunters and the amount of pressure these two groups would put on them most likely would send them where most of us public land users couldn’t go, private and peaceful grounds. Sure enough, scouting out the river during these seasons showed me that I wasn’t the only guy with interest in finding these bucks. There were an unusually high amount of hunters along the river and I was out of ideas on how to get to these big boys.

A couple days before season opened for high powered rifle I decided I would forget about the big boys and concentrate on helping my brothers bag a couple, its three point minimum where we hunt, it can be very difficult to find a nice buck in Washington and I wanted to see every body bag a deer. My thinking was to go up find a typical little three point and help one of my two brothers bag it.

I awoke at 3:00am with a stomach ache and couldn’t get back to sleep it was somewhat of a bright night and made up my mind to head out way earlier then I or any other normal person would. I live in a desert valley that is surrounded by pine covered mountains and if your lucky you can see a lot of game in the early morning out in farmers fields or along side the road. It was one of those mornings that you had to have one foot on the gas and one on the brake, deer were everywhere and it was to dark to see the antlers. I made it up to my usual spot and put on my pack, strapped my 243 rem. to my back and headed out with high hopes of seeing a couple legal bucks.

I have a route that I hike it juts me around about a 900 acre hunting area of rolling hills, small reservoirs and steep mountain ridges. It was one of these mountain ridges that froze me right in my tracks, I had been creeping along at a snails pace in the dark just listening for twigs to snap or shadows to go racing bye, I usually hold tight and wait for light if that happens the game doesn’t wander far. As I looked at the mountainside I could see the early morning hue starting to light up the horizon when I thought I saw movement. I froze!!! I knew I had been made or at least thought that, I didn’t move for about ten minutes slowly lowering myself closer to the ground so I could pull my Swarovski’s out and see what it was. Glassing the hillside at about two hundred yards is pretty tough to do in the dark, fortunately it was my lucky day and this buck was silhouetting himself in the horizon. I couldn’t tell if he was a three point, all I could tell is that there were some pretty descent sized horns sticking off his head and now I wasn’t sure what to do. Should I go get my brother and let him take a wak at him or wait till light and see how big this guy was? I was thinking your typical 20″ WA state muley, as it grew lighter and I could see how truly massive this buck was there was no question on who was going to shoot him, it was going to be me and as long as that bad boy didn’t sneak off before I could take a shot he was as good as dead. It was an easy 200-yard shot with Lyman peep sights; there were no worries. Light did come and all that was left for me to do was put this big boy in the dirt. I drew on him from the kneeling position unable to make it close to a tree for some bracing, sought out a good sight alignment and sight picture, held my breath on the exhale and started to squeeze. The buck stood up and bounced off before the hammer fell, someone or something spooked him.

I headed after him knowing the buck crested the mountain and headed down the other side to the next ridge. I made it to the top of the ridge he was on and started glassing the other terrain and by golly if this wasn’t my lucky day there he was out about 450 yards, according to my laser range finder. And this time I had a tree to brace myself on. He was headed strait up and I wasn’t going to let him get into the trees I drew down on him and squeezed one off, he dropped and rolled down the hillside stopping about 50 yards from where he had been hit. I congratulated myself and headed after the downed animal, as I approached I noticed this was no 20 inch buck or even a 25 it was massive and heavy horned, the fourth points were fanned about three and a half inches, just magnificent.

I drug him out taking up most of the morning and afternoon. My brother hearing the shot soon showed up with a not another buck you son of a b… look on his face. I said, yaw sorry, I just couldn’t pass him up. He said I wouldn’t have passed him up either. As we got him back to the car port my dad saw me drive up and could see the right side of his rack sticking out of the back of the truck and knew it was big. Turns out it was the nicest buck seen taken in the area in over sixty years. At least no one has said they have seen a nice one like that in recent memory that I have talked to in the Kittitas Valley. Beautiful 28 inch spread not yet scored, but hoping for the high 170’s. My brother saw his brother last day of elk season, looks like next year is going to be fun.

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