By Brian Mecouch
-- Ever since I was a boy, I’ve enjoyed spending time outdoors. Some might call it an addiction. I’d have to agree; it is. Hunting turkeys, deer and the occasional waterfowl always has been an adventure. My dad was constantly showing or teaching me new hunting techniques, and my love for the outdoors grew.
Dad took me to many hunting clubs in southern New Jersey. At each stop along the way, I saw something special, including some very big bucks, which fueled my hunting obsession.
Our family business back then was a game bird farm. Many of the clubs we visited relied on Dad for the upland birds they shot. Dad was always helping others, whether guiding them to their first big deer or their first mallard. Our family worked hard to keep up the business.
After many years of running the bird farm, my dad got an offer he couldn’t refuse. One of his good hunting buddies offered him a full-time job as a farm manager.
Dad helped to change the farm dramatically. He did everything from fixing up historic houses to building one of the biggest game bird preserves in New Jersey. He definitely made a name for himself, and I tried my hardest to make that easier for him. We worked together to manage the property so there was plenty of CRP, cover and food sources for wildlife. I would come down to the farm and help after school whenever possible.
Then it was time for me to go to college. It was a hard choice to make since I was accepted to a school in Nebraska.
Dad said he would make trips to visit me every December and hunt with me during the muzzleloader season. Although he’d hunted all his life, he’d never taken a giant buck. I kept telling him he would get a crack at one eventually. Both of us knew those big bucks lived in Nebraska.
I worked hard at finding great ground to hunt, and had a successful archery season with two Pope & Young bucks on the ground. Dad was planning to visit for two weeks in December 2007. I knew we had a chance at something great.
The first day of hunting was definitely what I hoped for. Dad harvested a mature 5x5 whitetail I rattled in. He couldn’t believe we’d only been hunting for 45 minutes. I told him he still had another tag to fill.
After we checked in the deer in and cleaned it up, Dad decided he wanted to try for a big mule deer. The next day, we grabbed our equipment and headed west. The trip took a little longer than expected because of a major snowstorm and temperatures in the single digits -- perfect conditions for deer hunting.
We arrived at camp, dropped off a few items and headed out. Fifteen minutes later, Dad spotted some tracks leading up a hill in the fresh snow. We trekked up the road a little farther and spotted a big deer on the hill.
“Let’s stop and see how big he is,” Dad said. When he looked through the binocular, he couldn’t believe how big the buck was. I told Dad not to get too excited because we’d only been out for 20 minutes or so.
Dad asked me to hand him the spotting scope for a closer look. Peering through the glass, he was amazed at the number of points the buck wore. I had to take a look! Snow falling on the deer while he stood there looking at us made this a special moment.
Eventually the buck made his way uphill towards a bunch of trees. We decided to try to take him, but climbing the steep hill was difficult. Dad was about to quit on me, but my love of hunting made me encourage him to keep going.
We made it uphill and followed the tracks for quite awhile, but then darkness fell and we could go no further. Back at camp, we discussed a plan of attack, got good night’s sleep and started out early the next morning.
About an hour into the stalk, I spotted the buck way up on a huge bluff standing there looking at us from about a mile out. We planned it out, and I dropped Dad off on one end of the bluff. I went back to where I spotted him and watched him with a spotting scope in case Dad spooked him.
With a strong snow falling and Dad barely able to see me, he was on his own. But then he recognized the tree on the hilltop, and knew the deer was right over the hill from there.
I heard the blast of Dad’s muzzleloader and watched the buck run downhill and disappear. I hurried up the bluff to where I’d last seen the animal. Well what do you know? I started screaming to my dad, “He is down! He is down!”
It was a hunt I’ll never forget. Dad’s mule deer wore an impressive rack with an estimated 210 to 213 inches of antler.