by Marc Warnke
As seen in the July/August 2007 issue of the Mule Deer Foundation Magazine
I am a committed bowhunter and during last year’s Alberta moose hunt with my good friend Mike White, I saw some gagger muleys that I just couldn’t keep out of my mind. Mike owns Legend Outfitting and I’ve been working for years to mule deer hunt with him. He has often told me about how in one field you could see , mule deer, moose, , and bears – and I had to see it for myself. However, when I showed up this year, the first thing Mike spoke about was how the area had taken record levels of rain in the last few weeks and that the animals had completely changed patterns.
Even though the current weather trends were putting a cramp on things, every evening found me faithfully sitting in a treestand which overlooked a huge hay field. There were a lot of mule deer hanging around this particular area, including a 200-inch buck that Mike had pre-scouted. Although we were struggling to find the hogs, we stuck with it and on the second to last evening, at last light, a wide buck that I knew would push 200 suddenly came out. Due to the circumstances, I knew that I couldn’t close the distance in time so I had to let him walk. The great part was that I had finally found my buck; the bad part was that I only had one day left to get him.
The next morning, we anxiously searched for the buck. But unfortunately, he was nowhere to be seen. During my last evening hunt, I decided to come in on the backside of the field so as to disturb the field as little as possible. It ended up being a good thing because as soon as I began scanning the area, I immediately saw the buck 500 yards on the edge of the field. Had I approached with my normal entry, I would have undoubtedly spooked him.
Now, I’m a bowhunter that will occasionally pick up a rifle if needs be and on this trip I had brought my .300 Winchester. Although I hadn’t taken an animal with it for five years, I still felt fairly comfortable out to 300 yards.
There was a small knoll between the buck and me and I figured that if I could get to it, I would be as close as possible and still be within my comfortable range. I quickly cut a shooting stick and began crawling the 200 yards. Before I knew it, I was within range and without wasting a second, I set my stick, gathered myself mentally, and put the crosshairs on the buck’s shoulder. However, after taking off the safety and beginning to squeeze the trigger, I suddenly let back down because I didn’t quite feel steady enough. Five seconds later I was repositioned, but when I pulled my scope back up, I was shocked to discover that I couldn’t find the buck. Had he bolted? I pulled up my binos and he was nowhere to be found. Had he smelled me? I checked the wind, still swirling but predominately away from him. After minutes of debate, the only thing I could come up with was that wile I repositioned, he had bedded down. I began scanning with my Swarovski 15’s but after several minutes I could not even pick up his antler tips. Having no physical evidence that my “lay down theory” was correct I still decided to stick it out until he stood. Although I was praying for confidence in my instinct, I doubted myself the entire time.
A long two hours later, the buck finally stood up, and he looked spooked. The classic I just smelled something body language. Not wanting to let another opportunity pass by, I quickly put my crosshairs on his shoulder, squeezed, and WHAP! Thinking that I hit the timber behind him, I jacked in another shell, and just as he was entering the bush, I squeezed again – but again, I heard the same wood-filled thud. As I walked to the spot where he entered the bush I beat myself up the whole way. But when I got there, I was truly surprised to find a small speck of blood and ten yards further, I found massive amounts of blood. My heart began to sing the dead buck song and 100 yards later, I found that I had indeed hit the great buck both times. I was elated to know that I did a lot of things right that day.