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A Thanksgiving to Remember

By Jackie Bushman

Jackie III, Jackie and Anne Tyler Bushman with Thanksgiving whitetails.
Jackie III, Jackie and Anne Tyler Bushman with Thanksgiving whitetails.

My family’s 2004 Thanks-giving hunt in Montana ended with my son, Jackie III, shooting a handsome 12-point whitetail while my daughter, Anne Tyler, drew a blank. That was partly my fault. I’d pulled her off several good bucks in favor of a really big one that I’d seen, but during Thanksgiving week he went AWOL with a doe and stayed that way until the kids were headed home.

So last Thanksgiving I was determined to help her shoot the first good buck that came around. After all, with a camera rolling, you can’t always afford to be too choosy. The day before our hunt, I had seen a very impressive 10-point buck with a kicker bedded with a doe in a ravine. We had set up one of API’s two-man ladder stands in a spot where the wind had to be just perfect, and I hoped we could sit there the first morning.

The wind was, of course, dead wrong, so instead we headed to a box blind we affectionately know as Park Place, where we saw a few small bucks. At breakfast, a neighbor came by to tell us a big buck had bedded with a doe up on a grassy plateau. One look through the spotting scope told me it was the same 10-pointer I’d watched the previous day. We got pretty excited about it, but there was no way to close in on the buck while he lay in the wide open. So Anne Tyler and I found a place on a hillside - not too close - where we could watch. When the deer started toward a ravine, Jackie III and cameraman Jimmy Little put subtle pressure on them from the other end to turn toward us instead of continuing into the low ground.

Jackie and Anne Tyler Bushman
Long hours hunting in Montana cottonwoods yielded a handsome pair of bucks for the Bushman siblings.

Something was working, because here came the doe with the buck behind her, about 200 yards from us. Anne Tyler wasn’t totally confident at that range, so she held fire. The doe suddenly stopped and bedded, but the buck sensed trouble and high-tailed it for cover. But these two were an item, spending plenty of time together, so we gambled that the buck would not stay gone too long. In his absence, we found better cover in a ground blind. I was munching some crackers at about 3:15 when Anne Tyler exclaimed, “Dad! Dad! There’s a buck.”

Sure enough, the 10-pointer with the awesome kicker was trotting back to that doe. I grunted loudly to stop him. It worked, but he was quartering toward us, and Anne Tyler didn’t like the shot. When he started moving, I grunted again. This time, he stopped broadside at 150 yards. Anne Tyler squeezed the trigger of her Model 7 Remington 7mm-08 and the buck was hers.

I couldn’t have been more excited for her. She was thrilled, too, because it meant she didn’t have to get up early the next morning to hunt. I guess a 15-year-old girl needs her beauty sleep!

With Anne Tyler’s buck on the ground, it freed up a little more territory for Jackie III and Jimmy, who had their sights set on a buck known as “Big Red.” This 9-pointer had been seen and even filmed by our crew a couple of times over two years. His red coat was unmistakable.

I’d had my chance at him in October. We were set up in a cottonwood, and Big Red was coming right to us until a rotten little spike got scared and blew on us. Big Red high-tailed it.

Subscribe Today!The week of our Thanksgiving hunt, Jimmy had seen him in an alfalfa field and set up a double-wide API ladder stand at the field’s edge to try to make good. Both kids hunted the stand off and on, but we couldn’t catch the awesome buck on his way to or from the field. It was puzzling.

On the last afternoon of the hunt, Jimmy and Jackie III decided to try a box blind beyond the ladder stand, tucked closer to the woods. Wouldn’t you know, Big Red arrived from behind them, chasing two does out of some nearby sedge. Jimmy then realized the buck had been spending his days bedded with does between the box blind and the ladder stand. That’s why they weren’t seeing him on the field when they sat in the double-wide.

Around 4:00, Big Red’s luck ran out. At 150 yards, Jackie III made a clean shot at the broadside buck while he walked through the sedge field, heading toward some does. The hunt for Big Red, in which Anne Tyler and I had also engaged, was over.

We’re all thrilled to have taken these bucks on our family hunt, but regardless of who shot what, it’s about being together. That’s what matters and that’s what continues long after Big Red is on the wall.

-- Reprinted from the November 2006 issue of Buckmasters Magazine