This hunt took place on the last day of the archery season in Oregon and it was my last and final effort to harvest a Blacktail Buck after a great deal of hunting during the season. It also would be the first time I exposed my young daughter to an animal of majestic qualities to her dead to look at and touch!
An extremely large buck just stood there looking at me, probably wondering why anyone would be down in a hole like this! This deer hunt was the end of a long Oregon deer season for me. Earlier that season, I spent four days at HartMountain in southeastern Oregon looking for one of the famous big mule deer bucks that dwell there. My vacation time had been changed and I was not able to hunt the first part of the season with my group. So getting that early jump on a big velvet buck was gone. I’d seen as many as 14 bucks in a group at one time prior to the season. Truly the big bucks had been stirred up by earlier hunters and were keeping their distance.
I found myself seeking a buck to take home on the last day of the late November hunt in the Santiam Hunt Unit in Western Oregon, just west of the National Forest Boundary in the BLM. It seems on the last day we (empty-handed) will do some strange things. The trip in itself was similar to my earlier trips in which I covered innumerable miles looking for greener pastures. I must have traveled 800 miles in three days only to find myself hunting in dense forest 30 miles from Portland, Oregon my home. On this trip, I was by myself, my partners having had their fill of hunting for one season. With the heavy rain & wet snow coming and going, I’d just about had enough myself. Then by mid afternoon it started to snow and by 3 PM there was about 4 inches of fresh snow on the ground. I was glad I’d missed a 60-yard shot at a small buck I should have not taken with the wind blowing. The small buck seemed to be playing king of the mountain standing on a ledge overlooking a deep canyon. If I’d hit him, he surely would have taken to the canyon below – what a pack out that would have been.
So, like any other sane bowhunter, I went down into the canyon. I decided to walk the naked alders and fir trees, which seemed to surround the small creek that wound through the canyon. I noticed some large deer tracks in the snow and told myself they must belong to a big Blackie. I hadn’t covered more than 100 yards when I just about stepped on a deer. I was so busy stepping over downed limbs and following the tracks that I didn’t even noticed the deer bedded under a fir tree. The most beautiful Blacktail I’d ever seen jumped up and ran out 30 yards and turned broadside to me and gazed back at me. Not taking time to count points, I was already at full drew with my Martin Cougar Magnum, set the 30 yard pin on the buck’s chest, and let fly. One would have thought I was shooting with fingers, ah I was shooting with fingers. The buck was no longer just standing, he’d flat busted out of there. He moved so fast I just shook my head and wondered if I’d missed. I went to the spot where the buck had been, no blood. Now the snow was really coming down and the wind had picked up in the canyon. My heart pounding in my chest, all I could do was follow the tracks in the direction he’d gone. I started to notice some foamy blood spots and walked about 80 yards on the blood trail, stopped, and looked around. There, in the ferns just below me, was the butt of a deer. He must have taken one last leap in this last breath! The broadhead had done its job; my shot was a bit high barely missing the heart. I was able to find a small road out of the canyon, thus was able to drive my truck with chains forward and aft down into the canyon. The buck was a heavy load to pull up into the bed of the truck, especially since I was wet, tired and the snow being everywhere.
My Columbia Blacktail had one of the most beautiful basket sets of horns a person could want, a very symmetrical four point with eye guards. He scored officially at 129 7/8 P & Y Net (Pope & Young). Never wait so long to get an animal scored! If he had not had a small chip off of the G-4 on left side, it would have made the B & C (Boone & Crockett) book along with the P & Y book during that time frame. Now in B & C is at 135 to be listed. I’ll bet that a great deal of hunters do not know that you can list your Archery harvested animals in Boone & Crockett also if it meets their standards. Double the pleasure of being in both Books! Sometimes it pays to do the unexpected at the last minute.
You can see from the expression on my daughter’s about her thoughts of seeing a dead animal lying on the ground. In the future I found she would not want to harvest an animal, but would get involved with the field dressing of animals on trips that I took her on.