I was perched 20’ up in a tree when the buck stepped out into an opening 32 yards away broadside, the afternoon sunlight giving his body the appearance of a bronzed sculpture. It wasn’t until he turned and looked my way that I realized his antler spread would be close to 30” wide. This was a buck worth trying for. I drew my Mathews bow and placed my 30 yard pin behind the shoulder, telling myself to concentrate on a smooth release.
I found myself at this moment after having applied for a late season Eastern Oregon archery deer tag last spring. Like so many other people I apply for one of these coveted tags and if not drawn then hunt the general archery bow season. However this year I was fortunate to draw one of these tags and knew then I could concentrate during the general archery season for elk, as I now had a deer tag that would occupy my time in November.
The area I selected to hunt was a vegetation transition area that had timber in the higher elevations with a mosaic of juniper and sagebrush lower down. It was with high anticipation that by the time I started my hunt this second week of November the mule deer bucks would be rutting and moving into the lower country. I knew it really wasn’t going to do any good to pre-scout this late season hunt as the deer usually don’t move into the area until higher elevations get hit with snow. I was just going to hope I had enough days in the hunt that deer will have been forced into the area by the weather. However, as my hunt date approached it was apparent the weather was not going to be cold and snowy as what I hoped for. In fact it was going to be mild temperatures with bright sunny days. None the less I was going to focus hunting from either a ground blind or tree stand regardless of what the weather was. My record for stalking mule deer over the years has not been very productive, so my strategy was going to be, “wait for them to come to me”.
Upon my arrival in the area I glassed a number of deer, which was more than I expected to see. But there didn’t seem to be any rutting activity going on yet. At least there were some deer already in the area and I knew from my experience that when the larger bucks start into the rut they can just appear over night from nowhere, so the fact there were at least some deer in the area was encouraging.
After a day of glassing I noticed several different groups of deer hanging out in one particular area. With one of these groups was a small 2x3 buck. I had also glimpsed a larger buck slipping through the trees, but I wasn’t able to get a good look at him. It was in this area that I would put a tree stand up and hope for the best.
The following morning I worked my way into the area with my tree stand and climbing ladder. After selecting a tree that gave me good visibility in most directions out to 40 yards I began unloading my Oregon Pack Works pack of my safety ropes and climbing harness. With my climbing ladder assembled and secured to my tree of choice I could then begin to safely attach my stand and additional safety ropes. After about an hour the stand was safely in place about 20 feet off the ground. I was ready for the afternoons hunt.
At about 1pm I climbed into my stand and settled in for the wait. The afternoon was gorgeous as the winds were light, and the migrating birds were abundant. From a tree stand you see nature in its most natural state. For the most part, wildlife goes about its business completely unaware of your presence. On this first afternoon I had only been in the stand for about two hours when I saw several does moving through some trees about 200 yards distance. Then the 2x3 buck I had seen a day earlier, showed up behind them. The deer appeared to be working their way towards me as I patiently waited. In the mean time I continued glassing a distant ridge about ¾ mile away when I spotted a nice buck lying in a clump of sagebrush. At that distance it was difficult to tell just how big he was but it looked like he might be around 150-160 P&Y. It suddenly appeared that the area had potential.
About 1 ½ hrs after seeing that 2x3 buck and his does, they suddenly fed out of a group of trees about 75 yards in front of me. I had a front row seat as the sun was starting to set over the horizon. I also knew that I wouldn’t be able to get out of my stand until well after dark since these deer were so close to me. Then for some reason a yearling walked away from the herd and walked right over to my tree. While it was standing at the base of the ladder, I glanced over at that buck and here he came at a trot. He was grunting all the way. That buck ran right up to the base of the tree and I had to look down between my toes to see him. Whatever the buck was saying caused the yearling to turn and run back to the herd. Then the buck trotted back to his herd too. Moments like that are priceless. As the deer moved off I was able to climb down out of my stand and think what a good day it had been.
The next day I climbed up on a high ridge to look across the basins and not a deer could be seen anywhere. I knew that the deer were more active in the afternoon/evening and by early morning were probably off resting up somewhere. So morning hunts were out of the question if I didn’t want to disturb the area with my presence.
So at 2pm I climbed back in to to my stand to begin another afternoon’s hunt. The afternoon was again very quiet with the wind dead calm and birds flying everywhere. I had to remember to watch for deer and be careful about becoming mesmerized by the tranquility of the afternoon otherwise something would walk right up and I wouldn’t be ready. As it was that would have happened if I hadn’t looked behind me for some reason, for there was a deer working its way through the trees my direction. As it came through an opening I could see it was a buck, but I couldn’t tell how big yet, until it stopped 32 yards away as I had described at the start. When the deer first stepped out I could see it was a nice 3x3, but I was still undecided about whether I should shoot. My decision was made for me though when it turned and looked my direction. I estimated the antler spread to be close to 30”. I had my Mathews in hand and when the buck turned to look away from me I drew. I had to close my eyes to settle my nerves knowing that I had limited time for the shot, but I needed to coach myself mentally “Do not rush the shot”. When I opened my eyes my 30 yard pin was right where it needed to be, thus I began to slowly trigger my release. As my arrow left the bow it flew perfectly to the spot behind the shoulder I was looking at. The buck launched forward at full speed and after about 150 yards, collapsed.
The inside spread of this magnificent buck would measure just over 29” wide.
This brought to an end a wonderful experience that will yield another memory for life.
Comments will be approved before showing up.