Day was Friday; the date was the 28th of September, 2009 as I finished the final touches of packing my external frame packwith all the necessary gear and supplemental foods for the next 2 weeks of hunting in the high country. Anticipation was running on high as I stuffed everything I could into my pack. Just minutes after that I was trudging my way through the timber headed higher into the backcountry in search of a gagger buck.
Rewind three months and it was June 28th when I was online checking to see if I drew a general tag in one of my favored states of Wyoming. It read successful and my previous six months of planning did not go unnoticed! With the help from a very good friend I was able to narrow down an area to try my luck. I spent countless hours looking over maps and GPS data. I was determined to learn all that I could without making a scouting trip into the area prior to my hunt starting. Although I prefer to see it first hand; the studying of the maps and other data were very rewarding to say the least. I knew the lay of the land well before I ever got there!
It was late in the day when I left my truck and knew I would make it half way this evening, set up for the night and continue the rest of the way in the morning. I had studied the map and was pro-active on which route to take in but it wasn’t the best route. I should have been farther than I was but must have missed my mark somewhere along the line. Nonetheless, I set up camp and slept hard with even more anticipation in my throat that night! Being awakened by an elk bugle just before sunrise had me speedily tearing my camp apart and I was on my way a short time later after eating some high energy food. By mid morning I was standing in the very location that I was to set camp for the next 13 days.
After looking around a bit, setting up camp, purifying water, and grabbing a bite to eat and drink; I fell asleep in my tent to try to gain back some lost energy from the trip in. I awoke a couple hours later to a blue grouse making all kinds of ruckus in the brush next to my tent. As I peered outside and looked high up on the mountain side I got my first glimpse of the mule deer that inhabit the high-country. There were five decent bucks about 500 feet above my camp. They quickly dug at the side of the mountain and settled in under the brush for their mid afternoon nap. It set me into scouting mode and I gathered my gear in preparation for the couple of days of scouting before the season was to start. I had my hopes up to find a shooter right way and spend a couple of days learning all I can about him before trying to let the air out of his lungs.
The next two days were very rewarding. I saw some of the most beautiful country in the world and saw plenty of animals as well. I watched as a black bear and her three cubs ate berries from some bushes and rolled around in the lush grass, I watched a bull moose run around in the water like he was a little kid at the local pool, I watched blue grouse follow me around, I watched a couple of other black bears search for food, and I watched various mule deer bucks and learned all that I could about their habits and routines. There was three buck in my vicinity that met my standards when it came to the qualities that I expected. One buck was nicknamed “Trash-Talker” for obvious reasons. He had over 15 inches of trash on his top forks. The other was a high scoring typical nicknamed “Tank” but was in a very difficult spot for me to close the distance. The thirdbuck was an old warrior that I nicknamed “Too-Tall.” He had huge top forks but lacked front forked but was still a stud. I decided to keep him on my hit list for later on if I was unsuccessful with these other two bucks. This buck looked to be the oldest buck that I had seen on the mountain and I knew that putting an arrow through an old monarch such as himself would be a very rewarding prize.
By day nine on the mountain I had covered a lot of the area I was hunting; I came to know it well. I had a great opportunity at “Trash-Talker” but the deal wasn’t sealed for reasons that I cannot figure out. I knew I wouldn’t be seeing him again before I was to leave. I had three days left……….
My focus switched back to “Too-Tall.” He had been doingthe same thing for the last few mornings. He was feeding on an open ridge in the morning and as soon as the sun’s rays peaked over the mountain peak and laid its rays on him he would make his way back into the timber in a matter of a couple minutes. These big mature bucks don’t let the sun blaze its rays on them for very long before they head to the dark timber. This is verytypical of mature bucks.
It seems like an easy decision to go after this buck doesn’t it? Wrong! I had watched him the previous mornings through my spotting scope from over two miles away. He was three ridges away and to get to him would require a day move at least! I decided he was worth it and went back to camp and gathered the necessary gear needed to spend the night below where I thought the buck was bedded. I left just after lunch and made my way around and down below the buck. I misjudged the terrain and I didn’t reach the area that I was hoping to. When I was very low on the ridge I got the opportunity to meet a nice big bear face-to-face! Luckily he didn’t want to stick around and make friends so he headed in the opposite direction! Not much farther after that I set up my bivouac for the night and settled in for some restless sleep.
It was still dark out when I retracted out of my sleeping bag and got dressed. The eastern sky was beginning to lighten as I trudged farther up the ridge. When I reached an area that I thought would allow me to see the buck my heart began to drop. He was nowhere to be seen! He had the same routine the last few days but not today? What gives? Had my scent drifted up to him throughout the night? I pressed on along the ridge and much to my surprise I spotted movement ahead!
There he was! Much farther up on the ridge this time but he was still feeding and I had what I guessed 20 minutes to seal the deal. I looked to the mountain peak and saw that the sun was rising fast and the buck’s alarm clock would soon go off sending him back to bed. When I was within 150 yards I slid on my Sneaky Pete feet, removed my pack, shed a layer of clothing and was on my way; inching closer to the mountain monarch. He was with two other bucks this morning that were not quite mature but dandies to say the least.
As I crept through the edge of the timber something caught their attention. I ranged the buck at 90 yards and they were staring back and down at my direction. They had heard something. Luckily the breeze was blowing over my right shoulder and they didn’t smell me! I stalked closer and I was not seeing any sign of the bucks. Suddenly a buck raised his head and almost gave me heart failure! This buck was only 40 yards away and feeding back my direction. Just then it happened. “Too-Tall” lifted his head I ranged him at 35 yards! I looked towards the mountain peak as the sun laid its first rays on my face. Moments later the rays hit the bucks. Just like clockwork, “Too Tall” turned and came walking in my direction! I last ranged him at 29 yards as he made his way toward me. I came to full draw and sent a razor sharp broadhead through him when he passed by at 25 yards. After the loud crack of the arrow he bounded out of site, down the mountain into his last bed!
Emotions hit me……….11 days on the mountain and my plan finally came together. I had become to know this buck from 2 miles away and here I was now, sitting in disbelief as I just finished putting an arrow through him! The shot was great and I could see blood spurt from him as he put distance between us. My knees began to wobble and I sat down, tears ran down my face as I recollected all the events that led up to this. Many times I felt as if I was going to go home empty handed and here I was just now picking up my blood covered arrow. The blood trail was easy to follow. The buck picked the steepest part of the mountain to go down as well. Close to 150 yards below is where I found him piled up and twisted. I held his velvet covered antlers in my hand for the first time!
The next two days were spent packing out the buck and the camp. The first trip took care of the buck and I spent the night in lower elevation and regrouped and got the buck on ice. The following day I retrieved my camp; one more day after that I made my way home to South Dakota. It was one of the hardest, most rewarding hunting trips I have ever done. I was able to tag out on a buck that taped over the 180” mark with the lack of front forks; a buck that was a true monarch that had lived past his prime. I am truly fortunate and I thank the good Lord for this experience! I had hiked close to a hundred miles, climbed thousands of vertical feet and still, there “Ain’t Nothing Too Tall!”
About the author:
Jared lives in Rapid City, SD and still continues to honor the oath he gave to the United States Military and has started an online archery sales business called Trigger Addiction. (www.triggeraddiction.com) He attributes much of his success to his family; his wife Cami, Daughter Emmalynn, and Son, Jackson.