Flirtin’ with 200 Inches What a Way to Start Out
This wasn’t my first hunt but it was definitely the most memorable. With the support of my family, I was able to have an experience of a lifetime.
After two years of unsuccessfully drawing a general season deer tag, or any tag for that matter, my luck changed. I drew my 2014 general season rifle tag. As soon as my oldest brother Clay found out that I had drawn a tag, the game was on to find me a big buck. He promised me from the beginning that he would be the one helping me out. The youth in the state have the option to hunt all three hunts if they draw an Any Weapon Tag, so I chose to stick it out and hunt with my 7mm-08 during the rifle hunt.
The scouting started in early August. My dad and brother Clay decided to put up a few trail cameras in a hunting area that has always been their favorite. Through the summer there was nothing promising; just a group of small bucks and a lot of does that were regularly posing for the cameras. However, there was a big track that we kept seeing in the area so we pursued it, giving it all of our attention. After checking our cameras, and still not connecting the buck to the big tracks, my dad followed his gut and moved one of the cameras to see if we could catch him.
We had spent so much time scouting and up until the week before the hunt started, we still hadn’t found the big buck. Needless to say, we were discouraged. The Friday morning before the opener, my dad and Clay drove out to another location in hopes of finding a big buck. With no luck that morning, they went to check the cameras one last time. What they found on the camera my dad had repositioned the week before changed everything. We found the one! It was on.
Opening morning found us hiking in the dark, for what seemed like 10 miles, before we got to a vantage point. We sat there and waited, and waited, and waited, just hoping we could find him. I honestly don’t know how my brother could sit for that long glassing, but we were determined. Finally, after what seemed like a century, Clay spotted the buck. The only problem was that he was too far for a shot and going up a nasty ridge, making it hard for me to see him. We had to come up with a risky game plan to see if we could get in front of the big buck and try to get a shot.
We dropped down from our vantage point and swung clear down and around to climb up another point to see if we might be able to find the deer bedded. We could see pretty well but the bowl we were looking into was covered with thick cedars and the wind was not helping. It was blowing right down into the area where we thought the deer would be. As soon as we got into position, we were spotting deer left and right under us and knew it would only be a matter of time before they would get spooked because of our scent.
I got situated so that I could get a good shot if the big buck stepped out. The suspense was killing me and I was getting anxious with all the deer staring at us. There were several smaller bucks in there and Clay kept telling me, “Don’t even think about shooting one of them! He’s in here somewhere!” Finally after about an hour, one old doe got nervous and that’s was when things started to happen! Everything started happening really fast! As soon as that old doe turned her ears back and took one step, all of the deer scattered! One of them just so happened to be the big buck we were after.
He looked massive as he took the lead of the group of deer starting to trail out. He was so big that all I could do was stare. The next thing I remember is Clay grabbing my gun out of my frozen hands and telling me I needed to follow him if I wanted to get a shot. After a rock climb and a quick sprint down and around the ridge, we found the deer single filing their way out and up a hill three hundred yards away. They stopped near the top and turned like most deer do, to see what was going on. That was the biggest mistake that buck would ever make. I was already prone, bipod out, and with the crosshairs right where I wanted them. I knew it was going to be a tough shot because he was quartering away, looking back right at us. At that moment all of the training, practice, and instinct took over as I slowly applied pressure on the trigger, trying to control my breathing, and BOOM! The next thing I remember is hearing my brother say, “Nice shot Kelli, you got him! He’s down!”
All I could think about was getting to my deer. I was already on my way before Clay could gather all of our gear. We came around the corner where I hit him, and there he was piled up in a cedar tree. I was so excited. When I grabbed his antlers and pulled his head out, I thought my brother was going to have a heart attack! He was so much bigger than we thought he was.
After all the celebrating, high fives, and tons of pictures, It was the feelings of gratitude and Thanksgiving that took me back and reminded me how blessed I was to have the opportunity to hunt and to have taken such a beautiful, magnificent animal. I was really glad my brother was there to share that memory with me that will surely last a lifetime!
It was a long haul out. It really was such a rewarding experience for me and a hunt that I will never forget. I am so grateful for my dad and brother and the time that they put into helping me get my first ever big game animal. What a way to start out! This awesome buck unofficially taps out at 194 5/8”. He is a true trophy and will be a tough one for me to beat.