Ever since I was a young boy my mom has gotten after my dad for ruining me. From the age of three, my father has taken me hunting. I can remember those long steep hills we would climb chasing mule deer in Southern Idaho. I would hold on to the straps hanging off my dad's pack and he would graciously pull me up the mountain. I also remember hunting with a lot of my Thompson family and we would come out with truck loads of deer. It was then that my hunting addiction was born.
It has been a life long journey of mine to kill a buck that would net over 180 P&Y. Although Idaho has been known to carry some bucks of this caliber and bigger, they don't exactly flourish in this state like some of the other western states so I knew it would be a challenge.
I am very fortunate that my old man raised me hunting and taught me everything I know about it. I have had a very successful hunting career, and from the age of 14, when I picked up my first bow, it's all I can think about. It consumes my every thought and drives me to push myself to the limit. I have been fortunate to harvest a deer, elk, and antelope almost every year with archery equipment and I don't exactly shoot the first one that comes in; I try my best to only harvest mature animals.
Here in Idaho you somewhat have to choose whether you are going to hunt whitetails or mule deer. After several years of being successful with the whitetail, I figured it was time to re-chase my dream of killing a monster mule deer. After hunting hard all season I did not turned up a single buck that would hit that 180 mark. However, I hadn't given up hope yet because there was one more late season I could hunt that runs the entire month of December.
My first trip up there we got into deer right away. It hadn't snowed in weeks and the snow was ever so crunchy which made stalking almost impossible. We spotted a really nice 160 class, 4 point from miles away with our optics. By the time we made it over to them, the deer were transitioning over the mountain to where they would spend the day bedding down. While putting a stalk on this buck I kept glassing across the canyon at the other side of the mountain where I killed a 27, 4x3 four years prior to this hunt. I never did turn up a single deer over there and was discouraged because I was still looking for my mystical 180 buck. Our stalk couldn't have worked out better on this nice 4 point and we got in position to make a 45 yard shot. My good buddy Kody was up to bat and was more than excited to take such a nice deer. I had the video camera ready and was super stoked to get it all on camera. When he let the arrow fly I heard the ever so sought after thwak! Now, luckily I was filming this or we would have thought Kody just smoked the biggest buck of his life. After watching the footage we realized the deer jumped the string and Kody had barely nicked the top part of his back. Even though we knew it wasn't a lethal shot, we wanted to do the ethical and right thing and track this deer down to make sure he was going to live, or be able to put another arrow in him.
I contemplated on telling this part of the story, but anyone that has bow hunted knows that sometimes these things happen. We all prepare ourselves year round so that we can be the most ethical hunters possible, but sometimes bad luck is thrown our way. Tracking this deer took us clear to the bottom of the canyon and up the mountain that I had previously been glassing so hard to turn up a deer. Once we got to the bottom I decided to climb up the opposite side of the canyon so that I could be Kody's eyes in case he jumped that buck. Once I made it to the top, I continually was glassing that canyon in search of Kody's deer and any other deer that might appear. To paint a picture this draw was mainly open, with some sage brush and only a few small patches of trees. After watching this canyon all day and seeing nothing, deer started popping up out of nowhere! Several different herds and a lot of nice bucks all over that canyon. Kody had finally caught up with that buck. After trailing him for several miles, he said that it ran off like a thoroughbred horse and was confident that he would survive. I determined that my 180 buck wasn't located in that canyon and I started to crest over the ridge into the next draw when something told me to take one more look at the canyon I was in. Only 300 yards straight across the canyon my buck appeared into an opening like it was Bambi's father, with all his glory!
Now this part of the story my wife doesn't get, but that's all right maybe one day she will. Even though this buck has been in my dreams for most of my life, Kody was on the same side of the hill as this old warrior and I knew that if I directed him into this buck it would be our best chance of harvesting him. Sometimes, hunting is more about the memories made and bonds of brotherhood created than about just myself. Barely having any cell service I was able to get through to Kody and tell him about the bomber buck below him and was able to give him good enough direction to guide him within 40 yards of him. As it usually goes with hunting, the stalk didn't work out and we watched this old buck disappear out of our lives faster than lightning.
We headed for home and back to the daily grind of our jobs but all I could think about was getting back up there and finding that buck. My 2 place ATV trailer had sheared a bolt that held the leaf spring to the frame and needed fixed before going back up. While working on the trailer I pulled the leaf spring into place and the entire trailer fell off of the jack stands and right onto my head. I was sitting Indian style underneath the trailer and it folded me in half like a taco. The good Lord was watching out for me that day and gave my 110lb wife the strength to swiftly lift the 800lb trailer off of me long enough to crawl out from underneath. Instantly I thought I broke my neck, I laid there motionless for what seemed like hours praying to God to spare me! I slowly did a function check and could move my feet and hands and new that was a good sign. My wife rushed me to the hospital and they did an x-ray and MRI on my neck and determined I didn't break anything and was extremely lucky.
It took me 2 weeks before I dared go back up after my dream buck, I could barely move my neck and the pain was severe. When I put my backpack on it felt like my back was going to fold in half and give way. My wife and mother both begged me to stay home and heal up, but that wasn't an option. I could walk and pull my bow back and that's all the healing I needed. I took a few more buddies up with me this time, thinking there was a chance I might have to be packed off the mountain instead of a deer. We wasted no time and I sent my buddies down a ridge where there is usually good deer and I went straight to where I last seen the king of the mountain. To my utter surprise, we almost instantly spotted him no more than 300 yards off where we last saw him 2 weeks prior. He was bedded under a tree and there was one more buck about 70 yards from him. Again, the snow was crunchy and I knew this would be my one and only chance at him. I sneaked through a thick draw to conceal myself and prayed that he would think the noise was coming from another deer. When I got to my destination and looked up to where he was bedded he was gone! My heart sank but I quickly did a sweep of the area and found him only 67 yards away out of his bed feeding! All my pain went away and I drew my bow back flawlessly, nothing mattered at that moment because instinct took over and all I really remember was the nerves taking over after I touched that trigger.
I have been blessed with the ability to keep myself together while shooting at animals, but after I pull that trigger I absolutely loose myself! Adrenaline kicks in and I am a wreck, I suppose the day that feeling goes away, than my passion for hunting will also. I heard the thwack and quickly raised my binos up to see where I had hit him. There was no purpose trying to see where I hit him for he had expired by the time my eyes focused on him, for he only went a mere 40 yards and tipped over dead.
Ground shrinkage is a real thing. Most animals I have walked up to tend to shrink a little but this were not the case for he actually grew the closer I got! After all the high fives and the adrenaline started wearing off, the realization that I now needed to pack this deer four miles down hill with a messed up spinal cord considerably worried me. After all the pictures, quartering him up, and divvying up the load I dreadfully put the back pack on and headed down the hill. To my surprise my back didn't fold into a taco, In fact with the 70+ lbs on my back it seemed to adjust my spine back into its comfort place and I couldn't feel any better! I strongly believe between God and that deer, it healed me to the point that I can function to this day. A life long journey happened so quick that it seems like it was all a dream. My buck green scored 189 and after the drying period I had him officially scored at 183 3/8 P&Y which if I were to enter him into the book would officially put him at #10 in the state of Idaho for typical mule deer. I am extremely grateful to my father for showing me the ways of our ancestors and so grateful for the wonderful friends and family God has put in my life, this will always be one of my greatest hunting achievements of my life.