It is very tough for the team to stop hunting the ranch, it is an addiction!
It is about time that I share this story with my readers and friends on how the hunt really happened and where! It happen a few years back, lets say some 25 years ago, (which feels yesterday), during an opening day bow hunt in Central Oregon in the Grizzly Hunt Unit for Mule deer. The story is of humor, comedy of errors, or just plain hunting! We would be hunting the Rancho Rajneesh again or better known to the locals as “The Big Muddy” we spent a great deal of time over there, glassing, scouting and taking pictures of the deer and elk that thrived in the area. On this hunt I would be accompanied by one of my hardcore hunting partners Dave Brill who is a very accomplish bow and rifle hunter.
On this trip I actually let someone else drive their truck. This would work out greatly for me at the end of the hunt. “Dave it looks like I won the toss, so I get first shot at a Mulie buck” “Ok! Bubba, even if it is my truck and all!” “Ya! Dave, like you would let me drive your truck?” That was a great line to use, but the next day, I would have his truck while he hunted… I needed to get the deer meat into cold storage in Madras, Oregon. One of the grocery stores in town had a separate locker for game meat! Again we would be hunting one of our favorite spots in Central Oregon, which would be outside of Donnybrook, Oregon on the south side of the Rancho Rajneesh.
There was a couple of parcels we found ourselves going back too every year, as it was B.L.M., yet tied to a couple of ranches that we could pass through and sometimes hunt. Ah! You are wondering of the spot, well I will give you the spot of big bucks as near Hinkle Butte! Old man Crowley (Raymond) was a great man to know in the area! You could find him on his front porch at his home in Donnybrook along Gosner Rd. He had a number of parcels that bordered the BLM in the “Big Muddy Ranch.” This gave a save access into the BLM without being noticed. We were able to keep are secret spots to ourselves for over a 20 year time frame. This land is now owned by Young Life and a real estate broker in three separate parcels.
We had spotted a number of bucks during our trip into the area for the evening hunt. The morning hunt was a bust for both of us! I love to hunt the evening, as most everyone else has settled back down into their camps. It does not bother me to hike out in the dark when I am deep into the interior of B.L.M.; usually the evening is from about 1330 on. If I look back over the years I have probably harvest more game from 1300 until dusk! Figuring that big bulls and big bucks need to stretch a bit after their mid-day nap!
Let’s get back to the story, as I stated earlier, we had seen a number of bucks on the way in. As we were approaching the honey spot, I notice a real dandy buck up on the hill with what I figured at about a 29” outside spread and heavy racked. Hunt on, as I roll out the truck and took off with my pack, pack frame, crackers, light sweater, Leupold binoculars, camera, new Martin Onza bow, and Kershaw knives! Oh! Did I mention that I forgot water in my pack? The buck is working up the hillside and not knowing that I am behind him I figured. So quiet that I am in the stalk of this “Big Muddy” buck. He is working up in front of me through the Junipers, rocks and Sagebrush still in view at about 90 yards. I feel that I am closing the distance quickly and when I get within 40 yards I will just let him have it when I grunt at him and get him to swing broadside. As I turn the corner of the ridge I was working up he has disappeared, “what no way he is gone.” The wind was coming down the ridge into my face; I just missed seeing him turn into the draw…
Got over that little trip in the mind and decide to continue the hunt at a place we called the swamp.
As I approach the swamp, I see a lone buck standing at the edge of the water with lots of cover to work into him. The buck is not very wide, but tall and extremely heavy with abnormal points. As I get ready to drill him at 35 yards (he has no clue I am behind him), out of the corner of my left eye, I see about 25 bucks starting to get up in another part of the swamp in the cattails at about 45 yards. They were now in full line of sight. I swung onto this buck that was pushing 30” who was just standing their broadside looking me, as were all the rest. Easy shot and I took the shot, only to see it hit the only branch of Sagebrush sticking up at the boiler room. The arrow of course deflected and cut the hair off the top of the buck’s back. He gave me a smile and just walked off into the direction sun and they all stood out at 70 yards on the open hill side! “A bird in the hand is worth how many birds in the bush?” I would have say that was pretty wild and not ever going to be repeated in my lifetime of so many bucks taking a bath together at one time. I found a few empty Ivory Soap wrappers at the waters’ edge…
I am now over that experience also and moving on as I had more ground to cover and see what was out there. I move alone a Juniper tree line and spot 6 good bucks, one being swamper in a small basin at about ¼ mile away. To run the game down to within 100 or so yards, then put the final stalk on was great enjoyment for me. Mule deer with enough cover are pretty easy to sneak up on. I get to Juniper and Sagebrush along a B.L.M. cross section fence line that was next to the small barren basin which is about 50 yards from the deer. You wonder about the 50 yards and all! I used my range finder the wheel type and it said 50 yards to the big buck. I took a picture of the big boy also! You’re saying how many big bucks can this guy find? Well it was un-real, but real. The big bucks were there and everywhere around the area within a 50 mile circle. Alright being skeptical of my dial a wheel range finder (just got it), I felt the buck was no more than 40 yards as I drew back and shot through the brush, I should have believed the range finder, as the buck must have been 50 yards, as I watch arrow past under his belly.
Almost! Horseshoes anyone?
Now I am really bummed out about this whole hunt and rushing into the hunt and not believing first thoughts. Well there was still some day light left and I never give up until it is illegal to shoot.
I am now up on the plateau glassing down into another basin. All of a sudden I see a single buck at about 1000 yards out. I figure he is about 25” to 26” wide and a pretty good looking buck, plus the fact it about time to get the job done. He is feeding in the middle of the basin, but I could see that he was working towards the West. In his path of travel it would lead him past a big pile of dead Juniper trees. Hunt on, as I race to cover ground and get on the buck. Getting within a quarter mile of the spot that I would ambush the buck, I drop my pack frame. With only my Martin Onza (first run production Onza) I raced to the pile of dead junipers. I was completely invisible (another words he had not clue I was standing in the open and waiting for him) from where I was standing, yet I could see his rack as he moved along the pile. I went to full draw and had the 30 yard pin on the spot I figured he would come to once he cleared the pile. It is great that he covered the distance in a short period of time as the Onza had a draw weight of #90. It was mental thing in those days of bow hunting to have the biggest and baddest bow made! In the 21st Century my new Onza 3 with a draw weight of 72 is most likely about 100 fps faster than my first Onza and it was a hottest bow in the 20th Century! (Yes, I know believed the range finder and mentally plugged in points of yardage.) As he cleared the pile and was broadside to me, yet was still feeding, I let my fingers do the work. As the XX75 2317 26 1/2” with a 125 gr. Muzzy in flight the buck look straight at me into my sunglasses (he heard the bow, but it was too late for him). That was the last time I saw his eyes looking at me, as to my amazement the arrow hit him dead center in the mouth. “You got to be kidding me”, as the buck jumped over the side of the rim that I didn’t know was even there. I thought to myself as the light was fading, what I am going to do now? I set my bow down on the rim and started to glass in to the bottom of the canyon. It took me about 2 panic minutes to spot him hunkered up in the bottom (arrow went down this throat about 12 inches). Ok! I have found him, but I don’t have my pack frame or camera. I took off on a dead run to where I left my pack frame and ran right back to the rim. It took me another 90 seconds to remember where I left my Martin Onza. Finally I get myself down to the buck, take pictures as no one is going to believe this shot. I give the buck my “Hawaiian Cut” which puts him in quarters with the removal of backstrap and tenderloins. This is the only way I field dress big game, fast (30 minutes on a deer) and there is little blood! I get as much as I can on the pack frame along with the head and cape.
I have to climb out of the bottom and head back to the truck that would be waiting for me I hoped. It would be about 3 miles line of sight to get back and light was fading fast, real fast. There was a great deal of cheat grass and it made it possible to see for a while. I had decided to take a short cut to the road, which would be a mistake for me. It was now dark and dark, as the thunder heads over the John Day River were settling in. Thunder and Lighting now was everywhere, plus it started to rain. When the sky would light up I would move towards the direction of my pickup spot. I could see the micro wave tower light and that helped me for a while. I then lost all the grass and got into just rocks. I could no longer go forward in reaching the truck or Dave. I had lost the lighting as it would move further east towards Mitchell, Oregon. I was going to have to spend the night out in the weather with only a light sweater on. Did I mention that I had forgotten water, now I needed it for sure after eating the crackers? The crackers were pretty dry. It was a good thing that I trained in the desert on running missions with no water… The temperature had now dropped and my sweater was not enough at this point. I hate DIRT, (did I say I hate dirt?) but knew the only way I was going to make until morning, was to hunker down under a low hanging Juniper and bury myself in the dirt (dust). Though it was raining it would not last very long, as the storm had past. That is just what I did; waking up about every two hours to see if light had come finally over the John Day River. It was probably about 5:30 AM when I woke up again and could see a hint of sun coming over the hills above the John Day River. There was not a cloud in the sky now with only the sun to show up for the day!
Later in the day the temperature reaches about 98 degrees, same the first day. I was now up and getting the pack frame on with most of the buck attached. It was a good thing I did not try to venture further during the night; I surely would have found myself in the bottom of narrow rock crevice for life. There was no way that I would have seen the edge and would have fallen to the bottom. Making it out to the dirt road, out of no where, Dave and his truck appeared. Dave had driven the dirt road hitting the horn once in a while until about midnight, and then parked off the road until morning; he figured I would be ok with my military background!
I told Dave it was time for him to hunt the elk he had seen while he was coming up the road. I could get the front quarters out later in the afternoon! Dave never got on the elk again, but at the end of the season we went back to our spot and he killed a great buck! That will be another story, but I will let you see Dave’s buck from the last weekend of the archery season in 1987!
Morale of the story: Be Prepared – Have a Trusting Friend