RG3: Buck of a Lifetime
by: Ryan Yardley
I drew a Dedicated Hunter tag and was anxious for the season to start. August finally rolled around and we had already seen some amazing bucks, but there was one in particular that I had my eye on.
I hunted long and hard during the archery hunt. I had seen a handful of good bucks but none that I wanted to hang my tag on. The days were long, but it's always fun to try and outsmart these amazing animals. The archery hunt came and went without success. I soon found myself preparing for the muzzleloader hunt.
My daughter Kailee had drawn a muzzleloader tag. We hunted the same area as the archery with the hopes of running into some of the big bucks we had seen during the summer. We were confident that the bucks were still in the area. Kailee connected on a big buck the evening of opening day. We felt confident that it was hit good. We tracked the buck for miles but had to give up the search as the light faded into darkness. We were back on the track at first light, however, the blood soon disappeared and by the looks of the track we could tell the buck was now moving out into new country with no problem. We were both very discouraged.
The night before the last day of the muzzleloader hunt, I called my buddy Mike Nielson to see if he wanted to make one last run. We were up early and headed to our favorite spot. When we arrived, we noticed something was different. It was a very cool morning and there was a slight breeze. There was a feeling of fall in the air. It had been a very hot summer and the cool air felt great. The weather was making the deer move. Mike said, “The migration of the deer is starting. I can’t believe all the deer we are seeing.” We were seeing lots of does and fawns but no bucks. We stopped and glassed several hillsides and small canyons. The morning sun was starting to rise and we were both getting a little nervous because we had not seen anything. Mike had a feeling that we needed to check one more area that we had not been in. We had seen a big buck on our cameras all summer that we had not seen in awhile. We named him RG3 because of his incredible G3 on his right side. We drove to the area and started to watch and glass.
We were talking about how fast things can happen during a hunt and how you need to be ready for anything. I was admiring the beauty of an impressive canyon and how I longed to find something worth taking. Mike suddenly stopped and said, “There's a buck!” He grabbed his glasses and threw them up. Then he said abruptly, “You need to shoot that buck right now!” I grabbed my muzzleloader and bailed out of the truck. I threw the gun up but could not find the buck. I scanned the hillside for what seemed like eternity, and then finally I spotted him. There he was! I could not tell exactly how big he was, but trusted Mike’s judgment and his reaction. Mike is a Mule Deer Guru. I knew he must be worth taking. The buck was quartering away about 90 yards up hill. I knew I had to act quick. I placed the cross hairs on his front shoulder and turned one loose. As smoke filled the air, I watched the buck jump. The memory of the right antler flashing in the sunlight of a crisp October morning is forever etched in my memory. We felt confident the buck was hit but how good, I wasn’t sure. He ran full steam following the shot. Thoughts of Kailee’s big buck, which we were unable to recover, flashed through my mind. Anticipating a follow up shot, I reloaded quickly, and sprinted in the direction the buck was last seen.
As I ran up the hill, the adrenaline flowed through my body. The realization of shooting a big buck was surreal. I desperately hoped I had hit him good. I slowed to a walk as I quietly surveyed the pines, looking for blood or any sign of the buck. Without notice, there he was, and he was down for good. His antlers looked good from a distance. I hollered at Mike and said, “He’s down, come up here and let’s see what he is." The buck had ran about a hundred yards and then expired. Mike quickly made his way up the hill, and we approached the buck together. As we got closer to the buck, our eyes got really big. There was no ground shrinkage. Mike’s eyes got extremely big as he instantly recognized the buck as RG3. I couldn’t believe it. We both hugged and shared “high fives” as we had just experienced something that happens to very few hunters. He was a monster with exceptional mass and tall tines.
What an amazing experience to kill a buck like this on public land. I want to thank my buddy Mike Nielson for his help. I'm glad he was there to share in the experience. I would also like to thank Travis Roundy for all of his help and for his amazing skills as a taxidermist. The shoulder mount turned out awesome. I had RG3 officially measured with a gross score of 202 1/8” and 190 2/8” net. After the mandatory drying period, he officially makes Boone and Crockett and Long Hunter record books. He was truly a buck of a lifetime and an experience I will not soon forget.