Wednesday, December 4, 2013

First Archery Hunt

Good day friends!  I hope all of you that call Utah home are having a fun morning of digging out from the snow that covered our state overnight!  One silver lining I guess is that we have to perfect temperatures behind the storm to get our lakes freezing.  Bring on ice fishing season!

Well, we've had several trophy elk stories posted on here this year, but we have seemed to lack a bit in mule deer.  I know there was a good deal of success, so if you have a story please send it our way! 

A good friend of mine, Jessie Davis of Cedar City, Utah had another stellar hunting year when it comes to muleys!  Jessie has shared a couple of impressive bucks with us in the past, (http://www.suhuntandfish.com/2012/10/jessie-davis-2012-muzzleloader-hunt.html) but this year he switched things up on us and took to the field in search of an archery buck.  Check out this awesome, very exciting and detailed story of his wife's hunt this year.

Congrats Sara and Jessie on a great hunt, and thank you so much for sharing it with all of us!

After sitting out the archery deer hunt my first year in the dedicated hunter program and just watching great bucks through a spotting scope because I didn't have a bow, I decided to get with the program and gear up for flippin' sticks.  I discussed my plans with my fianc√© Sara (now my wife) and she decided that a bow would be a great birthday gift for her to get for me (greatest fianc√© ever right?).  Not only did she decide to buy me a bow but if I was going to get into archery hunting she wanted to as well.  One February Saturday we made the trip to Sportsman's Warehouse in St. George and $1500 later we left the store outfitted with a Diamond Outlaw for me, a Bear Homewrecker for Sara, hard cases, releases, arrows and everything we needed to start out as fledgling archers. 

As the months went by we practiced with our new bows as much as time allowed and scouted for bucks to chase when August finally came.  Usually the months and weeks before a hunt pass painfully slow but this time opening weekend was coming up much faster than we were prepared for! Busy schedules prevented us from practicing as much as we would've liked and we were having problems with the peep sight rotating on Sara's bow due to the low quality strings that come stock on many bows.  Fortunately the people at Hurst Sporting Goods referred us to Craig Christiansen of Mammoth Bowstrings who put a quality string on Sara's bow and got us back in business!

Opening weekend finally arrived and I knew of a fantastic bachelor group of bucks that were hanging in an area where I scored on my best buck to date on the muzzleloader hunt two years ago.  As luck would have it, my family was going to be moving a herd of sheep right through that area on opening morning and those bucks were probably going to be buggered out of there from all the commotion.  My backup plan was to sit in a little draw where my brother had seen another good buck.  Opening morning came and went with no sign of this buck or any other deer at all for that matter.  Once we decided we were sufficiently cold and our legs were sufficiently numb from sitting motionless for so long we got up and spent the middle part of our day helping the family out with the sheep. 

After finishing our work, eating lunch and taking a nap we got back to the drawing board. Sara felt somewhat discouraged going all of opening morning and not laying eyes on a single ungulate that wasn't covered in wool.  Knowing this, I decided to try an area  that might not  be as productive for big bucks but would probably allow us to see more deer.  On our way to this place we finally started seeing deer and a few little bucks that Sara elected to pass on knowing what kind of bucks were lurking in our spots we just hadn't been able to see yet.  We were getting close to a turn-around spot when we saw three deer feeding in the aspens just off the side of the road.  Even with his head down I could tell one of the bucks was a definite shooter.  Sara hadn't seen what I had seen and she then proceeded to tell me, "one of them is a buck but he's just a teensy tiny one."  "What the heck do you mean teensy tiny?" I replied.  "That's an awesome buck! Get out, get an arrow nocked and try to get a shot!"  The Mac Daddy of this trio of bucks lifted his head and after seeing that beautiful, deep-forked 4 by 4 rack, Sara was ready to get down to business.  She slipped out of the Ranger and snuck down the road a little ways to get herself a clear shot.  I whispered to her to use her 30 yard pin and she came to full draw.  I couldn't believe it.  Her first day of her first archery hunt and Sara had a fantastic 4 point standing broadside and totally unobstructed at 30 yards!  Just as she was settling her 30 yard pin behind the bucks shoulder my worst fear happened:  he whirled around and bolted out of there into the thick quakies.

Feeling  utterly defeated we left the area with the intent of coming back again the next day to hopefully find him and get the drop on him.  I probably recounted to Sara about a dozen times how incredibly close we were and how sick I felt that it all fell apart when we were literally a second or two away from sealing the deal.  It was still fairly early in the evening and as I pondered the situation I figured that buck might not be spooked too bad and it might pay to go back and try to find him again before dark.  We aimed the Ranger back to the big guy's home and gave it a go.  We parked the Ranger and hadn't been hunting very long when we spotted three deer.  Yep! The Same group of bucks!  They were over one-hundred yards away at the time so we got into stealth mode and tried to close the distance.  The abundant rain we had that time of year made for some soft earth beneath our feet which was very beneficial for stalking.

Carefully and discreetly we inched closer and closer to the feeding bucks using whatever short trees and bushes we had between them and us for concealment.  When the bucks were preoccupied with feeding we would take full advantage of their inattentiveness and cover some ground.  As soon as a head popped up we would stop and hold statue still, barely even taking a breath.  Not long into our stalk we got totally busted by the two smaller bucks.  A feeling of helplessness washed over me and then we discussed our options once again.  We could either keep after them and likely not get a shot, or ease out of there to avoid booing them too bad and try it again in the morning.  Sara said she wanted to keep at it and if we got a shot great, if not, oh well. 

The smallest buck, a yearling spike, didn't like the situation at all and ended up silently sneaking away.  A goofy looking 3 point returned to feeding but would often glance in our direction halting our advances.  Astonishingly, the big buck we were after was completely oblivious to the fact we were there and continued feeding without a care in the world.  After awhile he even laid right down!  The closer we inched forward the more unglued the 3 point became.  I felt that at any moment he was going to blow it for us but we were still a little too far out for a shot so we had no choice but to continue pressing forward.  We finally got to a point where we had a nice open shooting lane through the trees but the big 4 was still laying on the ground and the 3 point was on pins and needles as we were standing about 50 yards from him.  We closed the distance another 5 yards and the little guy had all he could take and blew out of there.  This response from his buddy immediately caused the big 4 to jump up out of his bed but fortuitously enough for us he stood in his tracks to study the threat for a moment before bounding away.  This was the opportunity we had been waiting for all throughout this stalk: an unobstructed broadside shot at 45 yards.  This distance was at the outer reaches of the range we felt comfortable taking a shot but I knew Sara would be good for it!

I told Sara to use her 40 yard pin and hold just behind the shoulder and kind of higher up on the body to compensate for the deer being a little bit further than 40 yards.  She came to full draw took a good aim and let it rip.  Being used to the instantaneous consequences of pulling the trigger on a rifle I felt like that arrow sailed through the air for eternity.  I watched the arrow lose trajectory as it got closer and agonized over whether or not it was going to reach the buck or fall harmlessly at his feet.  It felt surreal how long this was taking.  An audible "whack" and a visual of the buck mule kicking his back feet before taking off running snapped me out of my reverie and I exclaimed to Sara that she drilled him.  After a brief moment of celebration we walked over to where the buck was standing and looked for blood.  A few minutes of searching revealed no blood, no hair, no arrow or any other indication of a hit.  We walked the direction that the buck ran for a short spell and didn't pick up any blood there either.  I replayed the image of the shot in my head and I felt like the arrow might of hit just a little bit low and a little too far back for an optimal double lung hit.  We didn't want to risk pushing a wounded buck or give him a surge of adrenaline that could possibly carry him for miles so we backed out and decided to give him a few hours to lay down and get stoged up. 

We drove the Ranger down the mountain on the Green's Lake Subdivision road into Cedar City and hooked up with my brother Dustin and told him our story.  He had some infra-red lights that are supposed to make blood glow in the dark and suggested we go up with them and try to pick up some blood that way.  Sara had taken her shot at approximately 7 pm and we got back up the mountain at close to midnight giving the buck 5 hours to expire.  We went back to the point of origin I had marked with my hat and went to work looking for blood.  We combed a lot of ground with those lights and still hadn't managed to pick up one single drop of blood.  At this point Sara started to have doubts if she even hit the buck or not.  With the nerves and adrenaline of taking the shot Sara hadn't seen what I saw or heard what I heard and wondered if maybe I had just wanted her to make the shot so bad that I was just willing myself to believe I witnessed what I said I had.  I told her I was certain she had hit the buck and we would look for it first thing in the morning light if we didn't find it tonight.  Suddenly, Sara told me to be quiet and listen.  Somewhere off in the trees we could hear the unmistakable noises of a large animal moving.  We knew there were horses in here but these sounds didn't sound like the steady, plodding movements of a horse.  It sounded like the intermittent thrashing of a struggling animal.  Still not being sure if this buck was going to be down for the count or not we decided to get a bearing on the location we were hearing the sounds from and come back at first light.  Sara and I went back to our camp and Dustin went back to town and told us he would meet us back up here at first light. 
 

Daybreak found the three of us once again gridding the area in search of a dead deer or anything that would indicate the path that he was taking.  A sense of urgency was starting to envelop us now.  It had been over twelve hours since the shot had taken place and if we couldn't find him now in the broad daylight,  what were our chances of finding him later?  No more than 20 or 30 minutes into our search I saw what looked like the belly hair of a deer on the ground out of the corner of my eye.  I was almost certain this was our deer but I didn't want to celebrate prematurely and get my search mates all excited about finding a deer only to cause tremendous disappoint a moment later when this "deer" that I found was only a tree stump or a log.  I walked over to examine more closely and sure as the day is long there was Sara's buck lying there dead.  I hooped and hollered and called Dustin and Sara over and after an obligatory congratulations and photo session we began a short drag to the truck. 

 
This 22 inch wide 4x4 was easily Sara's best buck to date.  His antler spread wasn't exceptional but he had great tine length all over and beautiful deep forks.  We ended up taking him to JD Anderson of Wildstuff Taxidermy for a shoulder mount.  I ended up scoring on a 4 point of my own later in the archery hunt though it wasn't quite as impressive as Sara's was.  Our first archery hunt was an incredible success and we cannot wait to do it all over again next year!