My 2017 season started off like any other, early season antelope as always with my bow in August then onto elk for September followed by the transition to the rifle once October rolled around. I guide in Eastern Montana for elk and deer so I don’t always get a lot of time to hunt for myself. Though I managed to knock down my first Pope and Young antelope early in September then a month later help my best friend Jesse out on a beautiful 80” Eastern Montana antelope. So I guess you could say my season was off and running with time flying by, before I knew it I was showing up to camp at Stuver Outfitters for opener of rifle deer and this is where it started to turn…
Friday October 21, 2016. South bound with excitement, for this would be my first week guiding at this particular camp where trophy mule deer and whitetail can be found at any moment. It was noon when my phone rang. News of one my best friend’s growing up, his brother Brian had past due to some early health issue in life, not knowing what to think, I knew there was nothing I could do so I put it in the back of mind and continued on. That week in camp was full of laughs, good folks and a couple very nice mule deer on the ground.
Thursday October 27, 2016. The funeral service was held and I was able to catch up with life long friend Aaron as well as pay my respects to Brian, and the rest of the family. Heart heavy through the night thinking of my grandma who had passed on September 19 merely a month prior as well as thinking of those I have witnessed go too soon. The next morning I was able to go harvest a few mule deer does for a friend of mine in need of meat to feed his family, two children and a wife. He was very grateful and I was I was happy to help, for he had surgery on a broken wrist and was unable to hunt this season. Later that evening I was lying around and decided I would go for a drive. I wasn’t needed in camp for another 5 days so was just taking it easy.
Reminiscing more or less and appreciating the life I have been given, I arrived to the property I enjoy most. I parked my pickup with about 15 minutes left before sunset and walked up to the top of the ridge to watch it set and do a little mind clearing. This lookout is one you can see for miles and really reflect on the greater picture and have an understanding upon why Montana is referred to as “The Big Sky State.” Never seeing much for game, figuring I would leave my rifle in the pickup and to be honest I had left my everyday rifle back at home from the morning’s hunt. That’s when I saw him, what I thought to be the biggest muley I had ever crossed paths with.
Running back down to my pickup, which was only about 300 yards from the top, I grabbed my binoculars to further inspect this buck, for he was straight away and in the middle of a large group of does around what I was guessing to be in the 250 yard ballpark. As, I looked closer, I couldn’t help the fact I was staring right into the sun and the way the sun was glaring off of his horns I thought, this buck is a giant. However, some judge mule deer different but, my number one rule I have found to be most important is never judge a buck from behind. In fact, never judge any deer from behind for you are likely to be fooled.(Which is no secret) The wheels in my head sure started to crank as I had my .40 cal on my hip and 1911 .45ACP in my glove box back at the pickup.
The wind was right for me, but to pull off a stalk was going to be next to impossible to get an ethical shot with my pistol but, I have never been one to back down from a challenge. As I got to my pickup I quickly realized the rifle I carry for guiding, in case a hunter’s rifle goes down was in fact under my backseat still in its hard case. I hurried and pulled out my .270 Weatherby, snagged my range finder and back up the hill I went. The sun was starting to set, knowing I had 30 minutes left to shoot I took my time.
Still the only look I am getting at this buck is straight away grazing and by this time, some does had surrounded him so I couldn’t take a shot. A million things rush through my mind, including the one thing I couldn’t shake. “Why is he still standing there if he’s as big as I think?” We all know mature trophy mule deer don’t generally give you all day to screw up and be scatter as I had been, let’s face it; I was very unprepared that night. Here was my chance at bruiser and I’m in stuck limbo still deciding if what I was looking at could really be, or was it all the emotions from the past month blurring my judgement…
Fighting my head with all the variables, the buck turned broadside and was pushing one of the does next to him, opening up the lane I needed. I had ranged the buck right away before I had a shot and knew he was 284 yards I settled in and let him stop. As soon as he stopped I let a 140-grain berger VLD fly. At that distance I knew I had him, and it wasn’t a matter of if I could make the shot, it was when. He didn’t take another step, straight down he went and the does all turned and looked up at me. My season was over early but well worth it. I knew my buck could have been wider, but the forks coupled with the mass I had been looking at was mass like I’d never seen.
I had set out that night to catch a sunset, to reflect on a few things and get back into focus for the long season ahead. Never would I have dreamed the sun was going to be setting over 185 inches of bone that night. But, that dream I have had since I was a young boy was realized that night. A buck with a spread of 25” inside is a good deer anywhere, but near 14” G4s and almost 22” of mass each horn is truly something you don’t come across often. As a wise man once told me, these bucks seem to show up when you need them most.
We all have a different reason to why we hunt and why we do this year in and year out. Some are very similar to others; some do it for the horns, others for the meat and so on and so forth. But this is why I do it, it’s being out and enjoying nature, experiencing the things only mother nature can teach you and the number one thing big mule deer have taught me, is humility. They can break your heart; at the same time they can make it. This is why I am, and will always be Muley Crazy.