As I hit the trail at 4:45am, it was cool, but as August goes in Northeastern Nevada, it would be 100 degrees, by noon. This is a spot and stalk hunt, so my plan is to get as high as I can, as early as I can. With luck, I'll see some feeding or watering bucks on the way.
At about 12:30, I perched myself on a large boulder group, blending myself into the rock while having a snack, I sat quietly and glassed the area for that special sleeping buck. From about 300 yards away, I watched a beautiful and very tall four-point muley go for a midday sip from the nearby stream. He had been nestled into the trees along the lip of the stream bank. I watched him finish and move right back under that lip for more relief from what was now about 95 degrees, even at 7500 feet.
I couldn't see just how far up the stream bank he went or if he even did, but with many grazing cattle in the immediate area, I didn't want to cause a stir. I moved in closer, but chose not to go for the stalk just yet. It's very common in my area, that the deer will get up from their bed, water, graze a little and bed back down in a better position from the sun at 10am and again at 2pm. My hope was that the cattle would move out and my thought was that if this wall hanger goes undisturbed, he will water at the same place in just a couple hours. So, I sat myself down at about 100 yards from the hidden bank he earlier emerged from. Quietly, I watched as the cattle grazed about, appearing to be almost on top of him. But still no sign of even the antlers over the top of the brush.
We all have a nap time on our hunts, and it was now mine. I was tucked in between several sage brush that stood anywhere from 2 to 6 feet tall and I chose to cool down by taking off my long sleeve shirt, while laying back in the shade of the bushes. (But don't fret, I never actually slept. I had propped up enough to see movement, should my friend move again.)
This is the part of the story that gets funny, and I get plenty of teasing for. But I feel the need to give some
background before I carry on.
When I hunt, I carry a pack that weighs about 40 pounds. For years, my shoulders would be so sore at the end of a hunt, not because of the weight, but because the straps from my lady wear, would dig into the tops of my shoulders, even causing bruises at times. Several years ago, I decided that discomfort was enough to let go and leave the lady wear at home, when I hunt.
Now, back to the story... About an hour into my spa time, I heard a noise from the stream bank. Of course I sat up, glassed the area from the seated position (still without a top on), but when I couldn't see anything, I put my shirt back on and took a high knee position to see over the top of the sage brush.
Nothing. Must have been the cows.
I sat back on to my right foot that was now flat to the ground and slowly turned to my right. And there he was, a peeping Tom... My beautiful wall hanger buck not 15 yards from me! My first thought was, "Thank God I put my shirt back on"! My second was "how am I gonna reach my bow that is just
a foot behind me, without spooking him?"
He was curious, but the wind was right, my scent was right and most of my movements were right. I had given him very little reason to know exactly what I was and that I was a threat. Not moving a muscle, I watched him from under the bill of my visor. He moved in closer and closer, looking for a smell. At 5 yards, he started to divert around me instead of straight to me. With his eyes on me every step, I used very brief opportunities of the brush covering his full view to grab my bow and knock an arrow. His attempt to work the wind took him behind me, I can feel my shot opportunity coming as he was moving between taller sage.
He's behind a large bush, just 10 yards now, almost broadside with very little cover on his vitals. My right foot now sleeping peacefully, I used my right hand to turn my body for a knee shot. I'm set, the shot is almost perfect, I attempt to attach my release to my string, and...
No release! AHHH!
The release had sucked up into my sleeve when I put my shirt back on! I panicked! I worked as quietly as I could to remove my release from my sleeve, but in the same moment of my panic, my 4 point Peeping Tom, was no longer curious and decided it was better to just move out. Within a few bounds over the sage brush, he was over 100 yards away, stopping at the crest of the hill, just long enough for me to attempt a shot with my camera.
Just those few seconds wasted to find my release cost me a shot.
I did catch up with him about an hour later. Grazing quietly about another 100 yards from where I last saw him. I stalked in to 29 yards, and I had to pass on the shot because of too much cover between us.
Deer watching from top
There are a few bucks that continue to haunt me, and this is surely one that when I close my eyes; I see standing just 5 yards from me, tilting his head, wondering what this crazy lady was thinking. I close my eyes again and see him standing at the crest of the hill, looking back at what was almost his end, as if to say, "keep your shirt on lady, I'm not going on your wall today"!
I don't imagine I will ever forget this encounter, and should I try, my friends won't let me!