Yet another example of the classic tale of Father Knows Best
By Jared Murray as told to Jeff Murray
His story, like many father-and-son hunting stories, begins with a confession: While I want to spend more time hunting with my dad, I find myself too busy to make good on my promises. In my case, a high- school and college football career pretty much prevented us from bowhunting the rut together. And, of course, there were girlfriends and buddies and plenty of other distractions. So when I graduated from college in 2001, Pa and I were finally able to hunt together.
Being raised by an outdoors writer - someone who’s always researching new techniques and field-testing new equipment - probably spoiled me. In 2002, Pa helped me locate the aspen tree where I would harvest a huge-bodied 10-pointer (dressed out at 260 pounds). It was my first Pope and Young buck, and I was hooked for life on this fascinating game.
It took awhile for my dedication level to match my expectation level. The next year, for example, Pa shot his annual book-class whitetail with me failing to fill my tag. The following year I had plenty of chances at “next year” bucks, plus some glimpses of some decent racks. But I ended up shooting a buck that had shrunk by the time he hit the ground. When we recovered him, I vowed to never shoot a buck that might be a “maybe,” even if it meant going antlerless.
This past fall produced the experience of many lifetimes: Pa and I were able to hunt a new management area near my home in northern Minnesota. The rules of the deer-control hunt prevented us from scouting the way Pa likes to, but we still managed to set up a few stands that we could reserve for the rut.
On opening morning, we each harvested a doe, which was another requirement of the management hunt. I couldn’t wait for the rut. When the end of October rolled around, however, I began questioning Pa’s stand strategy. I hadn’t seen a single decent rack, let alone a “maybe” buck. Pa assured me that my two stands were in excellent spots (the management hunt limited hunters to no more than three stands per person). He was confident that it was only a matter of time before the rut would turn on and our stands would produce.
As it turned out, bugging Pa was a key to me killing the biggest buck I’ll probably ever see in my life. Pa ended up hanging a third stand about 100 yards south of my north stand so I could hunt downwind of some emerging rubs and scrapes. To be honest, I thought the new stand was too far down the ridge, and I said so. Pa simply said he didn’t want to risk boogering up the area with too much fine-tuning. I still remember his wiseacre question: “Do you think I would have picked that spot if I thought it was a waste of time?”
Well, after sitting in the new south stand a couple of times and only seeing does and a few spikes and forkhorns - while my buddies were arrowing some dandy bucks, I might add — I again let my dad know about my lingering doubts. He said, “Wait ‘till the does you’re seeing start to go into estrus. The moon will bring them around, and they’ll bring in the bucks.” I had to agree about one thing: This stand was a cool setup. I could hunt it with almost any wind direction.
Pa was right, in a big way. I sat the next three mornings and watched the woods explode with buck activity. The first day, for instance, I saw five bucks, including one that was nearly twice the size of my ground-shrinkage buck of the previous year. I remember checking a big scrape about 50 yards due north of my stand. When the deer got within 10 feet, it reeked — like the smell only a dominant buck can make. As I crouched to get a better whiff, I saw a gorgeous buck out of the corner of my eye. He was between me and the stand I’d just vacated. My heart sank as he bounded off because I knew he would have been mine if I’d had an ounce more of patience.
Undaunted, I passed up a buck the next morning that, ironically, Pa ended up shooting about a week later. It’s a crazy story for another day, but let me just say that I was going to stick to my vow and let fate play itself out.
Nov. 3 is a date I’ll never forget. I was settled in my stand well before dark. I decided to try rattling before shooting light, thinking that any bucks cruising the area would hang around until sunrise instead of trolling for parts unknown. Although I thought I’d heard hooves in the distance, there were no silhouettes nearby. So I waited about 15 minutes and rattled again, this time making out a mature buck right away; he was pestering a doe about 60 yards distant.
When he disappeared, I rattled a third time. Now I could easily see a very large buck over my right shoulder, standing behind some brush. He was riveted in the direction of a fresh tarsal gland I’d hung on a sapling about 3 feet off the ground. I slowly and quietly exchanged my antlers for my bow. In hindsight, if it hadn’t been for the brush and the tarsal gland, I’m pretty sure the buck would have handcuffed me.
And it’s a good thing I couldn’t see much of his rack, too. All I knew for sure is that he was ready for battle as he sent leaves and dirt flying while he tore into a fresh scrape. I focused on a narrow lane about 20 yards away, and when his head disappeared behind a tree, I drew and waited for his vitals to enter the opening. I grunted with my mouth to stop him and let my arrow go when my pin found his chest.
I could tell right away that the hit was a little higher and little farther back than I wished. I thought, Dang, how could I not center-punch a buck standing still like this?
I was shaking when I rang Pa on his cell phone at 7:20 a.m. He was about a quarter-mile away when I told him I’d just made a marginal hit on what I thought was a 150-class 10-pointer. He was mainly interested in giving me a lecture on burying the pin, and I was primarily interested in how we could recover my buck. We agreed that, although my arrow was soaked in blood and the first 20 yards produced a decent blood trail, this was probably a liver hit. We’d give it at least four hours before we’d hit the trail.
Waiting proved unnecessary. The buck’s liver was pierced, all right, but so was a major blood vessel; he didn’t make it 75 yards from where I’d shot him. Pa spied him first.
“Jared, come here,” he said as he grabbed my shoulders and told me to look directly behind him. There was my buck! We hugged and I ran straight for him. He lay next to a gurgling creek, 30 yards from where we stood. His rack stuck out like a tumbleweed on a sage flat. Until then, I had no idea how big his rack really was. Now I could not believe my eyes. All I could do was stare.
“Are you sure this is the buck you shot, boy?” Pa teased. “This isn’t a 150-buck. This is a Booner!” I remember muttering something about not focusing on the rack because I knew he was the buck I was holding out for. And how! This time around, I added about 35 inches of ground growth. We green-scored the rack at 184 1/8 inches! I was so proud, I could hardly stand it. I phoned all my buddies after calling my wife.
What makes this buck so unique are his dagger-like tines. They’re flat, sharp-edged and wide. Pa says they remind him of the Type 30 bayonet found on Japanese rifles from World War II. What a blessing to be the one to claim such a rare trophy! I credit it all to a little patience, a little quality time on my stand, a little luck, and a lot of my Pa. Experiencing hunts together like this is truly what makes bowhunting such a special adventure for us. Thanks, Pa!
Editor’s Note: Jeff Murray passed away in January of 2009. He was an avid bowhunter and an outstanding outdoor writer. More important, he was a loving and devoted husband and father. We all miss you, Jeff!
-- Reprinted from the October 2006 issue of Buckmasters Magazine