It all started on Sept. 15, 2009 when my friend A.J. Angelovic and I were stalking a nice buck we had spotted in a deep alpine basin. In route we were spotted by 4 or 5 bucks that were bedded at around 250 yards away. We stopped and glassed each and every one of them and I remember taking a little longer looking at a young 3X4 that had a pretty good mass. I remember saying he would be a pretty good buck in a few years, but it seemed like we said that about almost every buck we looked at. After glassing the bedded bucks, we continued in route to our vantage to get a closer look at the buck we spotted. I wasted little time in deciding to harvest this buck. The pack out was an adventure in itself, leaving me with one of my most extreme adventures in my memory bank.
The following year my son and I set out for a Labor Day archery hunt starting out where A.J. and I had left off the previous year. After a few failed attempts to get my son on a 190” buck we proceeded to the top of the mountain to a good vantage. After about 15 minutes of glassing I noticed a nice heavy buck lying in the shadow of a pine on top of a pinnacle. I watched the buck for almost 2 hours before he even turned his head to get a good look at his frame. I noticed a few extras on both sides of his rack with a 3X4 main frame and mass to spare. As I sat there watching the buck with my son, I named him Heavy Hank. We watched him for the rest of the evening until he got up to feed getting several pictures through my spotting scope. As he was feeding he picked up a friend that I nicknamed Wide Willy. He was a nice framed 30” buck that I was pretty interested in, as I have never harvested a 30” Muley before. I knew there were only a couple weeks until opening day so I spent as much time watching as my personal time would allow at work. As opening day approached I told myself that if Willy was in velvet on opening morning, I would try to harvest him but if not I wanted Hank. Well as luck was on Hank's side, Wide Willy had a perfect velvet rack and Hank was impressive with his mass but was hard horned and only 24” wide. Opening morning came and Willy was bedded at 500 yards. I put him in my scope and shot and missed. Not once but three times. I looked at my scope and realized I was only on 4 power but in the excitement I did not even notice. I watched Willy wander off into the timber. I gathered my pride up and my shooting sticks and decided to give the buck a few minutes to calm after the commotion. I let about 20 minutes go by. Then I followed the top side of some cliffs in the direction the buck disappeared. Glassing after every couple steps I noticed a doe and a fawn feeding 30 yards away. I got lower to the ground and went about 20 more feet and found the 30” buck feeding away from me and just below him Hank was feeding parallel to him. They were about 70 yards out and I shot dropping the velvet buck in his tracks. Hank lives on.
2011 started out with me starting my season checking on Hank. When I arrived at my vantage I started glassing and it didn’t take long for me to locate Hank and his new buddy I dubbed Hank Jr. He had a very similar frame as Hank, just not as much mass. The two bucks seemed inseparable and were easily found morning and evening. I spent several weekends with the bucks and I knew Hank was nearing the 200” mark. Now I will say I really wanted to harvest this buck but thought “if only he could make it one more year.” After showing my friend Mark the pictures and video, he convinced me to give him that chance to make it one more year. As I was driving up one morning, Tre Heiner with Double Diamond Outfitters called and I suggested, “Let's go look for some deer.” He loaded up his horse trailer and off we went. Covering a lot of country in a short amount of time we found a lot of good deer. Well we eventually found a buck that really interested me. Now I know it was in Tre’s best interest to get me farther from his camp, but it was a lot of fun and I found out that he was wise beyond his years. What about Hank, you ask? Well If I was hunting 5 miles away, I could not baby-sit him but my son suggested he could. My son dropped into the basin for three days hunting and with the promise to leave Hank for me the next year. I wound up harvesting a buck on opening day again, not my target buck as he disappeared as soon as he shed his velvet. I found a buck in a slide not far from my camp that I mistook for the target buck, and down he went. After the season I could not wait to hear from Tre to see if he was able to get Hank. When he finally returned my call and told me that they did not kill Hank, I was relieved but worried for the 11 months that followed.
August 2012 could not arrive soon enough for me to take my first trip into “The Pure” to check on Hank. I was blessed with the company of the most important young lady in my life, my daughter Kaylyn. We set camp up as fast as we could so we could get to our vantage and start looking. From 1 p.m. to dark I looked at a few bucks and could not find him anywhere. In fact, I could not find hardly any deer. At dark we headed back to camp with the realization that he may not have made the previous season or winter. When the sun arose the next morning I headed back to the lookout but not before checking on Miss Kay. She said she would like to sleep in. The basin was full of smoke when I started to glass, making it difficult to identify anything in the basin. As the sun came up, the smoke became more dense and impossible to glass. Just as I was ready to pack it up and head to camp for breakfast, I looked through the basin one last time and I noticed two bucks come up from the depths. I knew I could not see if it was Hank or not at that time but as the sun rose the smoke started to clear and exposed the first buck. It was a nice 28” wide buck, the other was lost in the timber. I watched the buck for about 20 minutes before the other buck came out and as soon as I saw him I knew it was Hank. I was breathless to say the least. His typical frame grew, he was more massive than ever and he had an inline as well as the cheaters that he had the previous years. He has always had an impressive eye-guard on his left side but it grew an extra two inches, and the right which had been nonexistent was grown out to over three and a half inches. I got a few pictures and headed back to camp just to pick up and head home. Work became torture and I would catch myself lost in daydreams about the buck. With each Friday I would get my pack ready and head back to “The Pure”, back to my vantage and watch him briefly each morning and spend the rest of the day looking for him. I communicated with Tre as little as possible about the buck because I knew he would probably be one of my challenges. As the days passed I learned that my P.I.C. (partner in crime), cousin Calah was going to be able to ditch school for a few days and join me. Well the time finally came and I picked Calah up in Salt Lake City at the airport with packs loaded and headed to camp. We had three glassing shifts before the opener. We watched him the morning of the 14th for about 10 minutes getting a little bit of video and a couple pictures through my spotting scope until he bed down. After he bedded I changed my plan for the last and final time. I knew he had not been at the only water hole in the basin for two days, at least in the daylight, and I knew I saw him within a 500-yard radius of where I shot my 2009 buck 90 percent of the time in the early morning. So I told Calah where we would be when the sun came up the next morning. It was about a mile to the only spot we could descend the mountain from camp but we could not drop into the steep basin with lights on so we had to wait until there was enough light to see our feet in front of us. We snuck down making as little noise as possible but still managed to roll a few rocks down the steep slope. When we got set in, the first thing we did was arrange the tripod to shoot off of and the binoculars and range finder for easy access. We sat quietly for about 20 minutes when I swear I heard something and I pinpointed a deer. I looked through my binoculars and discovered it was a good buck. I set the scope on him and confirmed that it was in fact Hank. In the meantime Calah ranged him and called out 384 yards two times and I don’t remember hearing her say anything. I pulled the spotting scope down and laid my rifle across the top, found the front shoulder and eased the trigger. At the report of the rifle, I looked through my scope and Hank was down. I sat the rifle down and Calah looked at me and asked if he went down and I said, “Yes, he dropped right there.” She gave me a big hug and then the reality set in. 4 years, 3 documented, and Hank lying 384 yards away. I let Calah walk up first and run the video of me walking up so I could capture the emotion of walking up on a 4-year adventure. As I write this my son, daughter and Calah are all sleeping as I sit and look at Hank's fresh European mount as it awaits the taxidermist in awe and appreciate all the times spent with my friends and family watching him roam the great, rugged Rocky Mountains.
Hank has over 23” of mass per side and a giant typical frame with relatively short main beams at 24”. His left G4 is just over 15” long. His gross green score is 223” and he nets 187 Typical green after all the deductions. He is my new favorite 180+ in buck.
In closing I would like to mention that as we were taking pictures, Calah would have to often remind me to look at the camera. I would look down in awe at the last 4 years lying beside me. I did not smile in a lot of the pictures because I was not happy, I did not smile because I felt it inappropriate. I guess my subconscious took over and knew reverence was more appropriate then celebration. R.I.P. Hank