On August 14th, 2012 I received a phone call that no person ever wants to get. I learned that one of my very good friends, Darrell Bozarth had passed away at his home in Indiana. I hung up the phone and sat there with tears running down my face, in shock that a dear friend and hunting buddy was suddenly gone.
More than just a dear friend, Darrell was an incredible bow-hunter, with numerous Pope and Young trophies to his name. I had spent the last three years bow-hunting whitetail deer with Darrell in his home state of Illinois. They were some of the most memorable and enjoyable hunts I have ever been on. I was with him one morning in November of 2009 when he arrowed an incredible 176” buck. I will never forget the smile on his face as we walked up to his giant fallen buck in the woods that morning.
That’s how I’ll always remember “Big D”….hunting in the woods with a smile on his face. Darrell, you are greatly missed. This story about my Utah archery buck (which we nicknamed “Big D”) is written in your memory. Gone but never forgotten pal……..
In early July, I found myself hiking alone at 4:00 AM to begin another early morning scouting trip into the high rugged country of northern Utah. Three hours later I was looking through my spotting scope high above me at a buck that took my breath away. He had a heavy typical frame, but also had numerous cheaters and non-typical points. Later that afternoon, I told my good friend, Matt Bateman that I thought the 8x7 rack would score over 200.” I’m always hesitant to throw that magical 200” number out, and I can probably count on one hand the bucks that I had seen in the wild that I think would legitimately score over 200”…..but I was pretty confident that this buck would surpass that mark.
I spent the next 5 weeks hiking in every few days to keep an eye on “Big D” from my glassing point over 1000 yards away. As the hunt grew nearer, so did my confidence that he was killable. Although he was in some steep, nasty rocky country, he was sticking to the same general routine. I knew that his predictability could be the one chink in his armor that could work in my favor.
Three weeks before the opening day, I hiked up onto a rocky spine that “Big D” regularly crossed on the route to his bedding area. With shovel in hand, I dug out and cleared two blinds at different locations on the spine. I built the first blind high on the spine. This blind would be used if “Big D” worked his way up into the cliffs. My second blind was lower and would be in an ideal location if “Big D” worked down to his lower bedding area. Then I dug out a small area between some pine trees that was just big enough to pitch a one-man bivy-tent. This would be my splinter-camp. I then pitched my tent and rolled out my sleeping bag, pad and pillow. Although the hunt didn’t start for three weeks, I wanted “Big D” to get used to the scent of my tent and gear being in the area. I also hauled in enough water for me to shower with when I hiked in on the opening weekend. I wanted to make sure that I could be as scent-free as possible if I was going to be camping and hunting right in ”Big Ds” back yard. Even though the swirling winds would be difficult to predict in the high elevations, I took every precaution I could to wash thoroughly and cover my scent as best I could. I firmly believed that if I did all that I could to control my scent and not blow him out of the area, that I might get a crack at him.
Friday afternoon I slipped up into my bivy-camp high up on the rocky spine. I then showered with the water that I had hauled in earlier that summer and cleaned up before nestling into my tent for the remainder of the evening. Twelve hours later, I was tip-toing into my upper blind in the pre-dawn darkness, hoping that “Big D” would stick to his routine just one more day. At 7:00 AM, I heard the sound of a deer working through the rocks below me. My heart jumped as I saw the massive outline of “Big Ds” antlers materialize out of the thick pines and timber. He was moving low across the spine below me. I had to move fast! I slipped out of my upper blind and worked my way down to the lower blind. I held my breath as I crawled the last few yards into the lower blind and was relieved that I had moved into position with being detected.
Closer and closer he came. My excitement was building by the second! At 50 yards, I lifted my rangefinder to get a read on his distance, but “Big D” sensed my movement. He lifted his head and immediately pegged me as I hunkered in the shadows. For the next 60 seconds he stared me down, undoubtedly sensing that something was wrong. Finally he’d had enough and turned to bolt. I knew at that moment that I had to take a shot or my window of opportunity would vanish!! I drew my bow, quickly put my 40 yard pin on his front shoulder and let my arrow go!
In the next half-second, my arrow slammed into his front shoulder, penetrating down through his back and lodged into his spine. “Big D” dropped like a rock and began rolling down the steep rocky face. 50 yards later he abruptly finished his head-over-heels tumble and lay still. I exploded from my blind and ran the 100 yards down through the rocks faster than Usain Bolt!! I frantically put another arrow in him (maybe even two) just to make sure that he wasn’t going anywhere!! And just like that, it was over.
“Big D” was awesome!!! His massive rack had 8 points on one side, 7 on the other and was over 31 inches wide. We taped him out at 213 inches!!
I sat there in disbelief as I held the velvet covered rack of this massive high mountain muley. I felt so fortunate to take this great deer in such challenging terrain with my bow.
In no time, my good friend Matt Bateman was at my side giving me hugs and high-fives of celebration and congratulations! Then we sat there with ear-to-ear grins, enjoying the unbelievable excitement of the moment. Before long, our celebration turned to silence as we couldn’t help but think of our pal Darrell who had passed away earlier that week. As our thoughts turned to Darrell, our smiles remained…and grew even wider. Darrel, a diehard bow-hunter and a dear friend, would no-doubt have been smiling with us.
In fact, I believe he was.
In your memory, Big D…….