Three scouting trips and not a buck over 165″ to show for it. My hunter was coming in just over a week and I could not turn up a big buck. I was beginning to feel a little pressure. A film crew was coming to video this early season mule deer hunt, and I really wanted to find him the kind of buck this ranch had produced in the past. In fact, the year before I was lucky enough to have a tag and took a 197” muley buck.
I left my home 2 days before the hunt to try and find a shooter. Another guide and I went out that evening and were able to locate a great shooter buck. I was relieved; finally a buck worth shooting. The next morning we headed to the opposite end of the ranch to check a few spots we knew held deer. I was watching a west face about a mile away when I saw a deer in my binoculars. It was so far away, I switched to the spotting scope to discover it was a decent buck. I then saw another and another. Before long, 6 bucks were up and feeding on the hillside below some ribbon cliffs. Out of nowhere a giant buck stood from his bed. I immediately knew this was a buck of a lifetime. My buddy took a look and exclaimed, “that’s a stud!” And boy was he right. At that distance we could just tell he was big. I was pretty sure I could see a small cheater on his left, and an inline on his right, but I was not positive. We watched the herd of bucks until they bedded down, then headed back to camp. We now had two shooter bucks located for sure. A little pressure was gone.
Back at camp I found out that due to a scheduling conflict, my hunter and the film crew were unable to make the hunt. At first I was frustrated that they could not make it and get this hunt on video. But after talking it over it was decided that my friend Tony and I would guide a different hunter together and hopefully be able to find this buck again.
Tony and I headed to town to pick up the new hunter. On the way to town I told Tony about the buck. When we arrived at the appointed gas station, we met our hunter Arnie for the first time. Initially, I was a little worried he might not make the tough climbs we had in store for him. But he sure did prove us wrong. This 61 year old was in shape and dedicated to shooting his best muley buck ever. Arnie was very excited about this hunt. I was also, but decided not to tell him about the buck we had seen for now.
In the dark as we traveled to our glassing point, Tony and I were able to get to know Arnie a bit better. He owns his own custom jewelry shop in California and tries to get out and hunt whenever he can; mostly blacktails in his home state. Though he had been after mule deer a few times in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Montana, he had yet to shoot a big one. He told us he was willing to hold out until the end if that’s what it was going to take to kill a giant. At that point I decided to let him know I had found the giant buck I wanted him to kill a few days earlier. I explained this deer lived in a very tough spot to hunt. The buck and his buddies were living way out on a ridge that was well over 800 yards to the next ridge over. I don’t know if Arnie really understood how hard it was going to be to kill this deer.
As the night turned to day we found ourselves behind our scopes searching for the buck. I was more than a little shocked that by noon we had located every one of the bucks but the big one. I realized then, it might not only be tough to get a shot at the buck, but also just to see him again.
That evening we all went back out and glassed the back side of the ridge. I was guessing that they would get up as the sun got on them and they would cross over onto the shaded side of the ridge. And that is exactly what happened. But once again, only the buck’s buddies were spotted. On the way back to camp I asked Arnie how long he was willing to hold out for this deer. I knew this was a difficult question to ask a hunter that had never seen the buck, so I explained that he really was that big. I also let him know that we would probably only get one chance at the buck. Arnie then told me he was willing to hunt for this deer until the last day, but would really like to get something. In fact he said, “that 4-point we saw this morning would do just fine.”
Well the next morning went the same as the first. Sightings of most of the same deer, but no big one. That evening we went back, only this time I sent Tony and Arnie down the ridge in case we saw him. In the evenings we were seeing the deer right at dark. We would not have had time to get down the ridge before dark. So the plan was to be in position in case the buck showed. Well the giant buck did not show, but we did see a possible shooter buck. I signaled to them to move down the ridge more, but by the time they got there the buck had slipped through the brush.
The next day was the same as the day before again. It was getting warmer every day. This was not turning into the easy kill of a giant buck hunt I previously thought it might be. We again decided to have me spot from afar, with Tony and Arnie down the ridge. Again we saw a bunch of the same deer, just not the big one. On the way back to camp Arnie said he was getting ready to kill a deer soon. We decided one more day on the big buck and then it was wide open.
As the sun dawned on the 4th day we found ourselves sticking once again to the plan. I watched Tony and Arnie hike down the ridge and then began glassing the far ridge. I immediately spotted the 4-point and 2-point that I had seen with the giant 6 days ago. After an hour, I had yet to see another buck. As I was checking out the 4-point for the hundredth time a buck stood up out of his bed. He had been in plane view the entire time but I could not see him. There stood the giant deer; there was no doubt in my mind. I quickly found Tony in my scope and gave him the signal to sneak down the ridge. The buck and his buddies continued to feed as they closed in. When they reached some ribbon cliffs I could tell Tony could see the buck now and I watched Arnie lay his backpack down and set up for the shot.
At this moment I zoomed in my scope on the buck and waited. Man was my heart pounding. I was praying Arnie would not miss, and would stay calm. It was weird not being right there with him at this moment, but I knew Tony was telling him all the right words. It seemed like an eternity for that buck to turn and give Arnie the shot he needed, but turn he did. I saw the buck crumble to the ground and roll into the brush. A full 7 seconds later I heard the report of the rifle, then I let out a yell.
It took me 45 minutes to reach Arnie and his giant deer. The buck was all that I thought he was and a bit more. As we all stood there in awe, I noticed tears in Arnie’s eyes. That was cool. Arnie had believed that I had seen this buck, and was patient enough to wait for it. And now he had the buck of a lifetime on the ground. It was a long hard pull out of there with that deer, but we all were still so excited about this hunt we hardly noticed.
Arnie’s buck ended up with a gross score of 202” and the horns were 27” wide. He did indeed have a small cheater on his left antler and a small inline on his right. This was by far his best buck to date, and he plans on coming back next year with The R&K Hunting Company. He decided to bring his boy along to hunt big buck in the beehive state. Now the pressure is really on to top that buck.