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Finally, Big Buck Without the Fever

Jesse BetteridgeBy Jesse Betteridge

-- I have been bowhunting the same area in Utah for 18 years. We have seen some great bucks over the years, and I have even had a few chances to take some big bucks. Actually, 20 or 30 chances are more than a few, but that's been my luck for the past 18 years.

I get an archery tag every year, and have been hunting with the same group of guys for the same length of time. Just so you know a little about me, I'm the hunter in the group that always seems to get so excited that I can't shoot straight, so I miss deer and elk all the time. The stories always sway from my buddies' success stories to how many deer I've missed. One season my buck fever was so bad that all eight of my arrows were dead on at trees and rocks, not the bucks.

This was about to change.

It was Aug. 26, 2006, and we had just arrived at the bottom of the mountain that we had hiked up looking to get into some more elk when we spotted a deer on the hillside. It was feeding along the north side of the slope on a terrace. The buck was looking right at us, and he was tall and wide. Its antlers were well past its ears. At that moment, I wished I had my camera. What a beautiful sight of a majestic buck. I considered myself lucky just to see this great buck.

Then, my hunting instincts kicked in and I pulled out my rangefinder. The buck was 152 yards uphill, way out of archery range. We watched him intensely feed for about 5 minutes and bed down. Jake and I then quietly snuck out the bottom to meet up with the rest of the group at the truck and let them know what we had spotted.

We then went back to camp, which was only a quarter-mile away, and changed into new clean shirts because we were all sweaty after the morning hike. Amazingly enough I was still quite calm even after seeing this monster buck. Normally I get buck fever and shake like a leaf.

At camp we decided on a plan and, with a lot of luck, one of us would get a shot.

Moments later, as I approached a pine tree, a fawn busted out from under the tree, and I thought I'd just blown it. I let the fawn bounce off and waited a few minutes to see what else might come out of the trees. Nothing showed so I resumed the creep position. I finally reached the top of the terrace and stood in front of two aspens growing together. I took a deep breath and felt as if I had arrived at the perfect spot.

I ranged a bush on the top of the next terrace at 15 yards. I then proceeded to range some aspens to my left. The first one was 43 yards then the next one was 23 yards. With all the practice and 3-D shoots that I had been on this summer, I knew that I could make both of those shots with confidence and had already done so hundreds of times in practice sessions.

I continued to scan to my right searching for the buck, and then it happened. I saw antlers and knew it was the buck we had spotted earlier. The buck was on the terrace right below me moving from east to west at about 25 yards away. In no time at all, the buck was looking at me a mere 15 yards away. I was looking at buck through my peep sight as the pins glowed.

Focusing my top pin on its heart, I touched off my Mathews LX bow. The gold tip arrow armed with the 100-grain broadhead flew true. The buck spun to the north and went onto the terrace heading east. The buck made it 50 yards and fell over. I let out a "Yahoo!" and the whole mountain knew that I was excited.

I then proceeded to some kind of dance, which included raised arms, stomping and kicking, as I was spinning and jumping in the air, up and down. I have no idea where that came from but I couldn't do it again. Well, maybe if I ever get the chance to shoot a big bull elk.

Finally, the guy that has more stories of missing deer at close range and hitting more rocks and trees (that's me) than all other seven guys in our hunting camp combined had the stars align to harvest a free-ranging mule deer on public land with the help of some great hunting buddies.

For me, this is a true trophy and will be a legend in my family and on the wall.

Jesse Betteridge
Spanish Fork, Utah

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