By Chris Peddicord
6:30 p.m. - Arrived in Sheridan, Wyo., a bit earlier in the afternoon so we'd have time to do some scouting. From a high point overlooking some alfalfa fields, it is clear there are a bunch of deer here. Over a period of a couple hours, we see well over 100 deer. Mainly does and fawns, but we see several young bucks and a few mature bucks. We decide there's at least one of them that we'd certainly give a close look if we run across it on opening day.
4 a.m. - The alarm is making a really annoying noise. It feels like I barely slept. Good thing it's opening day, or I'd have sent the alarm on a one-way trip across the room. I jump up and don my brand-new Scent-Lok camo hunting gear along with my hunter orange cap. I can tell it's a cold one, so I throw on a couple extra layers. Hmmm ... I thought my dad was going to come down and make sure I was awake. I haven't seen him yet. Oh well, who cares, it's opening day; I'll head upstairs.
Not a soul is up and moving, he must have missed his alarm or something. I check the time on the cable box as I peek around. It's only 4 A.M.?! Duh! I forgot to change the clock on my alarm. I'm so fired up about opening day there's no way I'm going back to sleep. I'll suffer.
5 a.m. - I finally hear my dad's alarm go off. Jeez, seems like it is taking him forever to get ready. We grab our gear, load up the truck and head out. YES! Here we go!
6:15 a.m. - After grabbing some coffee and a doughnut and driving throughout the hills of Wyoming for a while, we've finally found our lookout spot where we'll watch for deer coming off the fields to bed down. Hopefully they'll all file by right after sunrise, and we'll be able to pick and choose the best of the bunch. As Dad shuts the lights off on the truck, I realize I can't see a thing. I can barely make out the sagebrush a few feet in front of the truck. How am I supposed to spot that monster buck?
I start day-dreaming a little bit about night vision goggles, and as progressively more light starts to transform the landscape, each new patch of sagebrush looks like a potential big buck. The anticipation is killing me. We start to spot the does streaming off the alfalfa; they seem to be everywhere, but strangely, no bucks.
7:40 a.m. - The sun's been up for about half an hour. We're pretty confident the big bucks bedded down before dawn and have settled in. We decide to head out and walk a promising draw that starts just behind the truck. Dad formulates a plan and suggests that I walk a loop that will send me up to the head of this draw and potentially get me a shot on any deer bedding down in that area, or push them past him. Just as we set out, I see a buck! It's just for a fleeting moment, as it was bedded down about 100 yards from where we're standing.
We definitely weren't expecting the buck, and it quickly bails over the ridge. After a brief discussion, we split up and I continue on my walk. As I loop around to the left of where we saw the first nice buck, I cross over the ridge and pass though a few trees. I see movement about 175 yards ahead! It's that same buck we saw to begin with. I reach for my binoculars instead of my rifle. I'm impressed as I see a very nice, tall rack on a mature 4x4 typical mule deer. It's a shooter! I reach for my rifle, but the deer is long gone. My dad reports seeing the buck moving about as fast as it can go, hightailing it out of our area, probably long-gone over the border into Montana.
8 a.m. - With the first buck long gone, I take a few more steps, when about 20 feet ahead of me, I see the tips of some antlers from a deer lying in a bedding spot! I can't believe I'm this close! The deer is directly in front of me, looking at a spot in the distance about 20 degrees left of straight ahead. I can only see the top couple inches of the rack, and I just can't decide what to do. I don't have a shot, and I'm way too close for binoculars. I decide this must be an immature buck. Maybe I should reach for my camera and take a picture. My dad would never believe I walked up on a buck like this.
I decide I need a better look at its rack before I make a decision. I should have brought my rifle to bear, oh well, hindsight is 20/20. I take one step toward the buck, and I can tell it senses my presence. The buck jumps up and presents the rest of its impressive rack. Wow! I freeze as I watch this beauty bounce away over the ridge. The buck continues over the ridge and through the bottom of the next draw right toward my dad. Sure enough, he spots the buck walking his way. Dad steadies himself for the shot. As a hundred thoughts go through his head, he takes the safety off his rifle and the deer presents a walking broadside. BOOM! I can hear the report of his Ruger .270 Win.
The shot has impacted directly in the chest, the deer hunches, but trudges on. Dad lets loose a second shot, which misses as the deer crests a small ridge and appears to head up the hill. As we converge to discuss what transpired, we decide to give the buck time to expire. After walking a few more draws and eating a short meal, we head back to where the deer was last spotted. A short search later, we find it. He succumbed less than 50 yards from where he was originally shot; a clean chest shot. Nice deer!
Chris Peddicord, Elk River, Minnesota
Editor's note: Click Here to read "Chronicles of a Deer Hunt: Part II."
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