I think we’ve all met “that guy.” You know the one I’m talking about. “That guy” who is driving down a road casually looking for deer, ready to take a crack at the first buck he sees. Then, out of nowhere, a huge buck trots across the road in front of him and stops at thirty yards. “That guy” frantically jams his truck into park, jumps out with his bow and before he knows what has happened, shoots the buck of a lifetime. And I have often wondered how it would feel to be “that guy.” Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against “that guy,” because we all know it’s better to be lucky than good, right? Especially when bow-hunting high country mule-deer, a little luck can make all the difference!
In September of 2008 I was hoping for lady luck to shine down on me as well. I found myself in a familiar situation: strapping on my backpack to hike into the rugged high peaks of the Rocky Mountains on a wilderness bow-hunt for mule deer.
Ever since I began bow-hunting, nothing has enticed me more than lacing up my hiking boots and trying to put some distance between myself and the nearest road. This hunting trip would be no different, except this time I would be hunting with three new friends: Matt Bateman, Brad Roberts and Brad’s dad, Kent. All three of these guys were die-hard bow-hunters who, like me, had a passion and a love for hunting muleys. Over the course of the next five days the vertical terrain and high elevation of Colorado’s back country would challenge us, test our endurance and reward us with some incredible memories.
After a five-mile hike along a precipitously narrow trail, we found ourselves with just enough time to set up camp and quickly try and locate some bucks for the next day’s hunt. With daylight fading fast, we put our binoculars to use and quickly spotted two mountain goats feeding high above us on a rocky face. To our surprise, within 20 yards of the goats were two mature mule deer bucks feeding along a narrow sliver of grass.
Seeing two nice billys and two nice muleys together was a unique and awesome site! It gave us that pump of adrenaline we needed after the long hike in. Our stiff and sore muscles were instantly forgotten as the anticipation of the next day’s hunt crept in.
Just after sun-up the following morning we found the same two bucks again. They were positioned about 2,000 feet above us on a vertical rocky face. We spent the entire morning watching the bucks from below. Finally, around 1:00 in the afternoon, they bedded down for good in the shade of an over-hanging cliff.
Despite the challenging terrain that separated us from the deer, we all felt that the bucks had bedded in a very opportunistic location. Because of the cliff-face they were bedded on, it appeared from our angle that they could not climb higher, nor could they descend down the cliff face any further. The terrain to the East was a sheer drop-off as well. This left only one direction they could move in: west. Hopefully, their one and only “escape route” would soon become our shooting lane.
With this strategy in mind, Matt, Brad and I decided try to move in on the deer. Kent opted to stay in camp and watch the action through the scope. The hike was incredibly steep and rough. Before long, our legs were shaking and burning as we slowly picked our route up the cliff face, being careful to stay down-wind and out of site of the bedded bucks.
Two hours later we had reached the same vertical level as the two deer. From a safe distance we removed our sweaty clothes and cleaned up before grabbing a snack, guzzling a drink and changing into fresh clothes for the final stalk. We then drew straws to see where each of us would set up. The three of us then carefully snuck into position and waited for the bucks to move. It didn’t take long.
After no more than 30 minutes the bucks stood up. By chance, I happened to be in the best position to take the first shot that the bucks presented. From directly below the deer, I had to take a long and very steep shot upward. As fate would have it, my arrow flew true and the larger of the two bucks jumped as the Grim Reaper Broadhead hit home.
Unfortunately this sent him tumbling straight at me on an out-of-control death run at full speed. I thought I was going to have to bail out of the way as the fatally wounded buck began falling down the cliff. The next few seconds seemed to go by in slow motion as the buck fell, and crashed, and rolled and flipped and crashed and rolled and flipped some more on his fall before finally coming to rest 500 feet below us.
We all momentarily sat in stunned silence before the celebration and the high fives began. Despite knowing that the buck had most likely shattered every point on his rack during his fall, I was thrilled to have taken such a trophy animal with my bow at nearly 12,000 feet. Having some great friends to share in the experience with me was the icing on the cake!
We made our way down to the buck to find that he had indeed broken nearly every tine on his rack, but the velvet held them intact and the antlers were salvageable. My buck ended up being 25″ wide and gross scored 176 Pope and Young.
Later that night, as we sat in camp together eating our dinner of dehydrated Mountain House meals, I wondered why I had been the lucky one. It could easily have been Matt or Brad that had the shot opportunity, and yet I had been dealt the lucky hand. I couldn’t help but laugh, feeling at least for the moment, that I was “that guy.”
And I decided then and there that it’s okay to be lucky, to have the planets align, to have the Gods of fate smile upon you — to be king for a day … that it’s a okay to be “that guy,” even at 12,000 feet!