desert drop [part II-the opportunist]

Part II, continuing on from the time after Steph shot his buck, making him “tagged out”.

A little history; coming into this season, I had decided to hold out for a “good  buck”. “Good buck” has a lot of different interpretations…it could be a 170″ buck, it could be a 24″ buck, it could be a three point or better…to me, I wanted something I could be proud of. Not like thats different from years past, but I wanted to be able to whack a buck that would make me happy.
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Steph and I loaded his buck into the truck, looked at each other and shared a laugh. “Well, I guess that means I’m tagged out,” he chuckled, “lets go see if we can find you a buck!”

We hopped in the Toyota, and headed up to a basin that had a few small seeps and a big aspen draw. We quickly glassed up a couple deer, which we decided were does and headed further up the draw. Steph and I both were focused on the ridge adjacent to us, and looking 200-600 yards away; after meticulously picking through the draws and shadows, we hadn’t turned anything up…then I noticed something down in the dry creek bed below us.

“Right there Steph,” I said, pointing down at the creek. From what I could see, there was three deer, but all we could see were the hind ends…I scanned further to the right, and saw a forked horn buck looking up at us.
“Buck! Right there!” I “calmly” hissed at Steph.

As soon as we saw him, he dropped into the creek with the does and fawns; Steph and I made our move down the hill. I quickly nocked an arrow and Steph got the camera ready to go.I ranged where the buck had been standing, 74 yards…within me effective and comfortable range…then, as my heart raced, and my arrow danced with nerves, I got to thinking…

Was this the buck I really wanted? I knew he was just a small fork, but I was nervous and excited as if it was my first time hunting. Would I have loved to have hammered the 160″ plus 3×4, I missed two days prior? Absolutely…but that opportunity had passed. I thought about it…Steph probably wanted to hold out for a “good” buck after shooting an elk on the second day, but with a baby and wife at home, he did the right thing and made good on his opportunity. He eagerly sat behind me, with the video camera in hand to catch the whole thing…what more could I ask for; to have that opportunity, in God’s country, with my huntin’ buddy?

My best friend was at home, waiting for me, my beautiful fiancé…ever supportive of my hunts and expeditions; would it be fair to say to her, “As much as I would have loved to come home and see your beautiful smile, that buck just wasn’t what I wanted,” that surely wasn’t a phone call I wanted to make. She has sacrificed a bunch for me to chase my dreams.

To my family and grandmother, who have never missed a beat in supporting my endeavors…I owed it to everyone who have supported me, to make good on this opportunity. I had already shot a big antelope with my bow, on video…and this would leave me with a couple weeks to chase elk; aside from all that, I was envisioning a freezer full of meat.

I worked all year for an opportunity, and if this buck presented me with such, I would make good on it.

Just as I finished the conversation with myself, in my head….the buck walked up onto the bank of the closer side of the creek, and started feeding on a bitterbrush. I looked back at Steph and gave him a head nod upward (“Got him?”) which was returned by a head nod downward (“Yup”). I turned my attention back to the buck, and slowly pulled the rangefinder to my eye…55 yards. I moved my Montana Black Gold sight down to my mark, clenched my release and pulled back my bow.

If you would have told me prior to the hunt I’d shoot a “small buck”, I wouldn’t have agreed…but in that moment there was no better buck on the mountain, than the one standing broadside in front of me.

I aimed, as the pin danced around the shoulder, and came to a stop right behind the crease, and just high of center (for the downhill shot). The buck stared at me, and kept staring as I watched the arrow arc and drop right to where my pin had been. He jumped up, hopped the creek and made a quick 60 yard dash. It was all over in a few seconds.

Watching the shot, the hit, and the buck quickly expire…there wasn’t a happier guy on the hill. Sure, I wasn’t going to have to make a run to the taxidermist, but in the big picture of things, that doesn’t matter. What matters is that, on that sage covered hill in eastern Oregon, on the 28th of August, I was presented an opportunity….for which, I couldn’t be more grateful!

Being able to make those calls to my fiancé and family, and share the excitement, is what it’s all about. We took care of our two bucks, and headed into town with a cooler plum full of venison, two happy bowhunters.

I learned a very important lesson on the hill that day; this life I’m living, and the things it in (loved ones, family and friends) matter so much more than how many inches of antler you bring home. Having a good relationship with your significant other, family and friends is far more important spending weeks on end away from them chasing a “good buck”. Be thankful for everything you have, cherish it, and never take it for granted…take advantage of every opportunity life presents you with.

As I embark on a new journey in life, which will be getting married in October, I couldn’t be more thankful for the lessons bowhunting has taught me and I couldn’t be more blessed, as I get to marry my best friend.

Life is good, God is good!

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