Redemption and Reflection - By Matt Eastman

Going into the 2013 mule deer hunting season, I had set some personal goals for myself. These goals were important to me and I made it imperative that these goals be met. At the top of the list were two goals: My number one goal was to pay tribute to my late grandmother Lena Bernal and my late grandfather Don Eastman. My idea of honoring them was by killing a big high country mule deer. And by doing this, I would reach my number two goal. My number 2 goal was to redeem myself from the previous season. Redemption: I had extremely high hopes for the 2012 season. I would be teaming up with my good friend Bobby Mick and together we would chase Wyoming high country bucks with our bows in hand. But, a week before the archery season, I completely tore my PCL in my left knee. Long story short, I missed most of the archery season. With some luck and strong determination, I was able to get myself into the high country and hobble around just enough to watch Bobby take down a true Wyoming backcountry gem. After Bobby killed the buck we dubbed “Mister Frazier”, my knee had enough and essentially, my 2012 season was over. The 2013 scouting season couldn’t come fast enough, and once July rolled around, I found myself in my element; the Wyoming backcountry. With a mild winter, and a pretty moist spring, hopes were high for great horn growth. It was only a matter of time until I peeked into the right basin at the right time and locate true Wyoming monster buck. Well, that was my plan anyway. After several scouting trips, I located some good deer, but nothing that made me lose sleep at night. Locating nice, typical 170”-180” bucks seamed easy, but I was hoping to find a buck around 30” wide and hopefully with everything else that would make your heart stop. So essentially after failing to locate that one-buck that I wanted to focus on, I decided to just go with the flow and go in blind into some new country during the rifle season. Once the rifle season arrived, I found myself high on a mountain with my wife Stephenie, and 8-year-old son Kaden. Stephenie wanted to give the high country a try. I decided on a place that I would be semi easy for a day hunt. Semi easy, because Stephenie was about a month along on her fourth pregnancy. After a long hike straight up the mountain, we located a 3-point buck that Stephenie liked. After the buck bedded down, we made our move and reached our desired location, which put us approximately 100 yards away from the bedded buck. As we waited, Stephenie prepared herself for the moment the buck raised from his bed. Luckily, it didn’t take no time at all. When he rose to his feet to stretch, Stephenie knocked down her very first high country buck. It was a special moment on the mountain with my wife and my son Kaden. After the pictures, I got the chance to show Steph and Kaden how to break down a buck and how to debone a deer in the backcountry. IMG_3072 IMG_3075 But things took a turn for the worst. With the ominous storm clouds moving in, I got in a hurry while making a cut on the buck. My knife slipped, and I punctured my left leg just below the knee. I couldn’t believe that I made such a foolish move. I remained calm and looked at Kaden and said, “Now that’s what you DON”T want to do buddy”. Kaden was not impressed, and I felt like an idiot. Luckily I had an extremely brilliant RN (Registered Nurse) on the mountain. Stephenie doctored up my leg, and I went back to work on the buck. We made it back to the truck just in time after the three-mile hike. The storm finally hit as we arrived back at the trailhead. The drive home gave us some time to reflect on the events that took place that day. It’s always special to spend time chasing bucks in the Wyoming high country with the ones the mean the most in your life. Reflection: A couple days later, I headed back the mountains, solo, to make good on the goals I had set during the preseason. After setting up camp after the long hike in, I gathered my gear and soon found myself looking into a high, lonely, Wyoming alpine basin. I was once again in my element. It wasn’t prime time yet, so I found myself thinking about the events that had occurred during the last year and half. With the passing of my Grandma Lena, and then the passing of my Grandpa Don, I began reflecting on their lives, and the impact that had on my life. I could feel their presence. I could feel them looking down on me and I could feel their smiles. It truly was a special moment. IMG_2811 My grandmother Lena had a heart of gold. Full of love, she always loved being around her family. She was always there for me and was always one of my biggest fans. The fact that I mostly hunted solo drove her absolutely crazy. She never could understand why I had to hunt this way, but she was always so proud when I returned from my hunts with my trophy. In her living room, was a small display of my “Trophy Shots”. Not only was it my pictures, but a huge collection of pictures of all of her grandkids. She was extremely proud of all of them and it was evident to see when you entered her home. My grandpa Don was also one of my biggest fans. Growing up and mostly focusing on football, I always knew that my grandpa Don would be at my games. In fact, he was one the biggest sport fans in Green River. He too was extremely proud of all his grandkids. We spent a lot of time together in the outdoors. We spent a good amount of time hunting and fishing together. I will always remember fly-fishing on the river with him on a windy day. As I was casting, I pulled my rod back and the wind carried the fly right into my cheek. I hooked myself, walked up to grandpa and asked if he could help. He grabbed his pliers, smiled at me and asked, “Are you tough?” I said I was, and he quickly pulled the hook from my cheek. He taught me a lot through out my life. He was a great man, a man I was extremely proud to call my grandpa. That evening I mostly reflected, as I failed to locate any deer worthy of pulling the trigger on. The next morning I glassed my tail off, but I just couldn’t turn up any good deer. I was about ready to throw in the towel for the morning glassing session when I decided to look into a few avalanche chutes before I called it quits. I quickly spotted two deer making their way to their beds. I quickly got my spotting scope on them and realized I was looking at a buck with huge fronts. Just before he reached his bed, he gave me a quick look at his width. I got excited when I saw this particular view. I could tell he was wide, had huge fronts, and possibly just a three point frame. I decided to make a move on him and at least get a closer look. He was exactly a mile and half away, so I had my work cut out for me. As I moved in on his bedding area, a lightning storm moving in and forced me to hunker down under a stand of pines. Eventually I backed off as the storm lasted most of the day. That evening after the storm let up, I got back into position to glass the buck, but I failed to locate him. Strangely enough, the buck was nowhere to be found for the next couple days. I had to return back to work for just a few days and made plans to be back in hopes of relocating the buck. After a long couple days back at work, and non stop day dreaming about how big this buck could possibly be, the time to finally hike back into this backcountry had arrived. My first day back, I found myself in a better location that would give me a closer look of the buck, if I could relocate him. I failed to locate the buck that entire day and started to wonder if he had fallen off the face of the earth. The next morning I really didn’t know what to expect. I located a few small bucks that I had never laid eyes on before. Time passed and I started to lose hope. In the mean time, I watched a herd of elk move across a steep chute that was more suitable for mountain goats than elk. In the herd was a good 340” bull. It was a real treat watching them carefully pick their route through the rocks. Once again, I was about ready to lose all hope for the morning glassing session, when I made one last scan through the binos. I picked up a deer, and judging by the size of the body, it was a good buck. But he had his head behind a small scrub patch as he fed. When he lifted he head, I realized it was him! He had moved one mile south of where I originally located him 5 days ago. As I looked him over, I realized that he basically only had a three point frame. I knew he wouldn’t score high, but I really liked his width and his fronts were huge. As he made his way to his bed, I planned my stalk. I was stoked! It took about an hour and a half to reach the knife ridge he was bedded on. He had chosen his bed well. He was bedded just below 10,000” on a high knob that gave him a view of the entire basin. As I reached my desired location, I realized it was not what I wanted and I had to change plans. I failed to find him in his bed, but I knew exactly where he was. I decided to push the issue and make things happen. I ended up circling around the basin. This would allow me to push him out of his bed and force him across the basin, giving me a shot of approximately 150 yards. Easy right? Well that was my plan anyways. As I moved in on his bed, I started to wonder if he had moved off during my stalk. I was right there, and I still could not find him with my binos. I continued to move slowly in his direction, when I finally jumped him out of his bed, only 15 yards away. At that moment, I thought my plan sucked and my adrenaline kicked in. As the buck jumped out of his bed, he looked my way, and then headed the opposite direction, into the basin. I must admit, jumping him out of his bed only 15 yards away and seeing his rack that close, really makes the “Buck Fever” kick into high gear. As he high tailed for the opposite side of the basin, I placed my cross hairs on him, waiting for him to stop and look back in my direction. Finally, he reached the other side of the basin. But it appeared he wasn’t going to stop. It was now or never. At the report of the rifle, I dropped him in his tracks. I was pretty stoked with the shot. But, it wasn’t as good as I thought. As I made my way to the buck, he jumped up and tried to make his escape. A couple more shots and I finally had him down for good. Buck fever got the best of me, but that’s why we hunt. As I reached the 29” buck at his finally resting place, I was over come with emotion. I was in deep, in the Wyoming backcountry, with my trophy at hand. I was in my element, and I had reached my goals. My emotions quickly took over as I looked into the sky, and thanked my grandparents. I could feel their presence, and their smiles as they looked upon me. I thanked them, told them how much I loved them and missed them, and dedicated this buck to my late grandparents. IMG_3125 IMG_3137 I put together a film of my season. From scouting, to the end of my deer hunt, the story is all here on film. Please note that I did this video for myself and to share with others. The video has nothing to do with Alti2ude Outdoors. It is simply of video I played around with to share with others.      

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