Jason’s 2017 Utah General Archery Deer Story
Like most archery hunters, my summer typically revolves around setting up trail cameras, glassing, and scouting new areas. Each summer I spend countless hours hiking and searching for a few mature bucks that I would like to hunt on opening day. However, this year was different.
On August 5th, I made the best decision of my life and got married to the most amazing girl. With most of my time being spent wedding planning and at my new job as a paramedic, I was only able to take one scouting trip during the end of July to set up a few trail cameras. I had hunted this area before and knew that if I spent a few days hunting I would be able to locate a good buck or two.
August 19th came, opening day of the Utah archery deer season, and I was stuck at work so I wasn’t able to head to the mountains until the 20th. With 4 days off of work, I headed to the trailhead solo with hopes of finding a mature buck. After 2 hours of hiking, I made it to base camp around 3pm. I had a couple trail cameras set up near camp, so I quickly checked those to see if any big bucks had been coming in during the past month. The first camera I checked had a handful of good bucks and one buck that would easily score over 200”. That evening I glassed that area, but had no luck finding the big buck.
The next morning I woke up with the anticipation of finding the monster buck that was on my trail camera. At first light, I hiked to the top of a ridge near camp and started glassing. I immediately glassed up a group of three bucks. I soon realized that one of the bucks was an old buck that I had seen in that area for the past 3 years. I watched the buck for the next 30 minutes or so, but decided that he wasn’t in a good spot for a stalk. While keeping an eye on that old buck, I started glassing for other deer. A few minutes later I had glassed up one of the prettiest typicals I had ever seen. If I had to describe my dream buck, this buck would be it. Tall, narrow, deep forked, and to top it all off, he had floating main beams! All my attention quickly shifted over to the big typical.
I watched him feed for over half an hour and he finally bedded down in the open, about 60 yards from the top of a ridge. As luck would have it, he was not only in a good spot, he was also alone. I knew I had a good chance of making this happen. I quickly packed up my gear and hiked over to where the buck was as fast as I could go. In my experience bowhunting, I’ve learned that mule deer rarely bed down for more than a couple hours at a time, especially if they are out in the open. Luckily, it was cloudy and the weather was cooler than normal so I figured he would be there for long enough.
I soon got to about 100 yards from where I had last seen the buck and took off my pack and shoes. I peaked over the ridge and saw the buck’s antlers moving near where last I saw him bed. I sat still for 20 minutes or so hoping he would feed towards me, but he never did. Just then a storm started blowing in and the wind began blowing very hard in my face. With the wind covering any noise I might make, I decided to make a move and try to close the distance.
A few minutes later I was directly above where I had last seen the buck, but wasn’t able to locate him. I slowly crept along the top of the ridge and peaked over, but still wasn’t able to see the big typical. I kept moving along the top of the ridge but there was no buck in sight. I started to think that maybe the wind had swirled and he blew out. Just then, I caught a glimpse of movement below me. The buck had fed up the hill and was now just 15 yards from me! He had no idea I was there and was calmly feeding.
For the next 15 minutes, I stood there on top of the ridge with an arrow knocked, waiting for a shot. The brush was so thick that I didn’t have any openings. As I stood there, I clearly remember smiling and laughing to myself about how awesome this experience was. I had never been this close to a buck of this caliber.
Eventually, the buck took a step to the left and there was a one foot gap between a large boulder and a branch. The buck’s vitals were completely exposed and I figured I could easily squeeze an arrow through that gap. I drew back while the buck had his head down feeding and put the pin right behind his shoulder. As soon as I shot, the arrow skipped off the rock and completely missed the buck! I couldn’t believe it! I was about to cry as I watched the buck run off. I knew that I had messed up possibly my only opportunity at this big buck.
Luckily, the buck had no idea what had happened and wasn’t very spooked. He slowly trotted off to the left and out of sight. I was heartbroken and knew the big buck wouldn’t make the same mistake twice and my chances of another shot were slim. However, I quickly nocked another arrow and quietly ran along the top of the ridge hoping to see the buck again. I got to the last large boulder on the top of the ridge and slowly peeked over. I could see the bucks antlers facing my direction! I calmly grabbed my rangefinder and ranged the tree he was under at 39 yards. Because of the steep angle I set my single-pin sight dial to 35 yards and drew back.
As I eased up to the boulder to get a shot at the buck, I realized that the buck had already bedded down and was trying to hide from whatever had spooked him. I had a clear view of the bucks vitals and felt confident in the shot so I decided to let an arrow fly. The arrow hit the buck dead center and the buck jumped up and took off down the hill.
A few seconds later I heard a loud crash and threw up my binoculars to see the buck lying dead under a tree, just 40 yards from where I had shot him. I couldn’t believe it! I couldn’t believe that I had just killed my dream buck! I couldn’t believe that I had missed him at 15 yards and I couldn’t believe that I was able to get a second shot at him!
As I walked up to the buck I was in complete awe. This is the exact type of buck I had been dreaming of harvesting for years, and it just became reality! I immediately called my wife, brother, and dad and told them the good news. My dad was heading back home with some of our pack llamas so I told him to turn around and come help me pack out the meat. He gladly turned around and headed to the trailhead. Three hours later I finally finished quartering up the buck and had all the meat hung in the shade. Soon after, my dad arrived with two of our best llamas, Conquista and A-Aron. We loaded up the meat and gear in the panniers and we headed down the trail.
The entire hike out I kept thinking about how amazing the past few months had been. I was blessed to get a great job, marry the most amazing girl, and harvest my dream buck. Before getting married, everyone told me that my hunting life would be over. But after this hunt, I can’t help but think that it’s only going to get better.