Saturday, November 12, 2011

2011 Muzzleloader buck!

What I hunt!  I didn't think I could have so much fun hunting without pulling the trigger myself! 

To be honest I had been hunting elk with my brother on the Dutton for about 7 days and I was a little burnt-out from all the hiking and climbing.  The opening morning of the 2011 muzzleloader hunt turned out to be a hot one...short sleeves on a 6:00 AM four wheeler ride?  Yep!  By evening I didn't have much ambition, but promised my buddy Zach Kunz I would be ready for the evening hunt.

Zach arrived at my camp about 6:00 PM, straight from work.  We had a decent drive to get to the spot I had chosen, so we quickly threw our gear in and tore off.  We dumped a four wheeler where we intended to come out, and drove to the other side of the canyon ready for our 3 mile hike.

Disappointment quickly returned!  The ground was so crunchy with the hot and dry conditions, and the afternoon temps were in the mid 70's.  As we worked our way around the top of the canyon, we spooked up several does but never got but more than a glimpse of them slipping through the trees.  Frustrated, we pressed on...hoping to get to the more open country on the other side of the canyon where we would glass.  The head of the canyon became worse...a thick, tangled mess from all the broken, downed trees from a heavy snowstorm the past winter.  We crawled through the mess and began to make our way out into the more open side hill.

Things didn't improve as planned!  As we made our way out of the last patch of thick oak we ran a herd of cattle straight up the draw in front of us!  I was so utterly ticked off!  It figures...all this way for nothing.  Change of plans...we would work our way up a ridge line and over to a spring where I had jumped a big buck a month earlier while checking a trail camera. The buck was incredible...when he ran across the hill in front of me I thought it was a small bull elk!  Easily over 30 inches, tall, deep forks.  Yep, we would go find him.

As we proceeded into a small clearing...the cattle above us still tearing through the trees...I was stopped by a whisper from Zach, about 50 yards below me.  "Jason...Jason, look right up there".  I looked up the hillside and was amazed to see the buck looking down on us, about 70 yards away!  He was quartered away from me, I could only see from the point of the shoulder up.  His mass was amazing, he stood, frozen, looking at me.  I didn't dare move for the shot...then glanced down at Zach, who had a perfect line on the buck.  "Take him!  Take him Kunz, you've got him!"  With that Zach raised up and touched the shot off.  The buck was knocked off of his feet and flipped over.  YES!  The celebration began!  But a bit to early!  As we shouted the buck took off!  My heart sank!  Zach quickly reloaded and we tracked the buck down the draw. 

After a short pursuit we caught up with the toad, broadside, 40 yards.  Zach raised and finished the job. 

The buck was a little over 25 inches wide, this buck sported amazing mass, a strong 5-point frame, sweet eye guards, and a kicker on one side, a double kicker on the other...a 7 X 6. 

I'm pretty sure the cows ended up helping us.  I believe the buck was looking back at them running and assumed we were "part of the herd".

Now the work of a mile pack out began!  Starting at about 7:00 PM we finally arrived at camp at nearly 11:00 PM!  A lot of sweat, a four-wheeler breaking down, and a lot of scratches and bruises later, this was to be a hunt I would never forget!  And what a thrill for Zach, his biggest buck taken to date!  We never tire of telling this tale!

And for the buck we were trying to find at the spring?  Well, he's still out there!  Throughout the muzzleloader hunt, and later in the rifle I was never to so much as catch a glimpse of the big guy again.  Hopefully we will be sharing that story here next year!