Oregon bowhunter will always savor the 2007 season
By Jim Gaskins
Chris Dunlap poses with his second-chance muley, which surpasses the previous state archery (velvet) record by more than 4 inches. Photo Courtesy of Chris Dunlap
After nearly five decades, Oregon has a new king of the hill.
The previous state-record, non-typical mule deer (in velvet) was arrowed back in 1960, the year Charlton Heston collected an Oscar for his performance in "Ben-Hur." That buck tallied 2212⁄8 inches, enough to rule the roost until last September, when an Oregon elk hunter took a break from chasing bulls to reminisce about a deer he'd missed a couple of weeks earlier.
The 2007 bow season was Chris Dunlap's best of seven. In between an abysmally unlucky start and shooting his first-ever bull, he got a rare and totally unexpected second shot at an awesome muley buck.
It wasn't a simple reversal of fortune. Chris shed a lot of sweat and tears before spilling any blood.
For starters, in preparation for the '07 season, Chris lost weight following a stringent exercise routine, which included running five miles, five days a week.
When the archery season finally opened, Chris and partners Nate Richardson, also of Oregon, and Dave Isenberger from Georgia spent several days in the steep, rough and dry terrain. Although they saw numerous muley bucks, the difficulties associated with archery hunting stuck to them like the dust to perspiration.
Four days after arrowing this velvet-clad monster, Lady Luck continued to smile upon Chris as he tagged a bull elk.
Photo Courtesy of Chris Dunlap
Every stalk ended in failure.
One evening, Chris came upon a very nice 4x4 that probably carried 145 inches of antler. As the buck fed along peacefully, Chris began his stalk. When he got close, the buck jerked up its head and fixed its gaze in Chris' direction. Placing his 40-yard pin on the animal's vitals, Chris cautiously released the string and sent an arrow into the heart of a manzanita bush.
The buck bounded away, unharmed.
Afterward, a rangefinder revealed the buck had been farther than Chris had estimated.
The hunters woke with renewed determination on Monday, Aug. 27. Beginning the day at a deep canyon he refers to as his "honey hole," Chris quickly spotted something that looked out of place. When he looked again through binoculars, antlers filled the hole.
Not bothering to count points, he immediately nocked an arrow and prepared to shoot. His bad luck was cemented in place. As Chris raised his bow, he accidentally touched his release and felt the shock of the string blasting the arrow haphazardly into open airspace. The arrow landed 20 yards in front of the monstrous mule deer.
Chris and his friends watched helplessly as the buck of their dreams rocketed across the hillside, taking three additional deer with it. As the big deer bounced out of sight, Chris used his binoculars to view the incredible rack with long kicker points protruding from the left and right sides. As that was the final day of their first outing, a dejected group broke camp and headed home.
Four days later, Chris and friends were back on the mountain and resolute as ever to fill their tags. But it was not to be. The weekend came and went, with no deer being taken.
On Saturday, Sept. 8, Chris and his pals were at it again. Only this time, they were loaded for elk.
While telling Dave about the big one that got away, Chris decided to show him the area where the buck had been feeding. At that point, the muley was nothing more than a good story.
As soon as they arrived, the men spotted some does and decided to give the canyon a closer inspection. In minutes, Chris saw a deer that appeared to be twice the size of those standing near it. Looking through the slightly enhanced lens of his rangefinder, he couldn't believe he'd stumbled onto the same big buck.
After creeping as close to the buck as he dared, Chris raised his bow while the animal walked slowly ahead, quartering away from him. Desperate to succeed, Chris repeated to himself: "Do ... not ... punch ... your ... trigger."
When he did, on purpose, he was smiling before the arrow struck.
"The shot just felt good," he said.
As the buck spun and began to run, Chris heard Dave yell, "Perfect shot!"
The arrow was protruding from the buck's ribs, and its dash to freedom lasted only 30 yards.
Amazed by the colossal deer, Chris couldn't wait to have the rack scored. Longtime big game measurer Glen Abbot traveled to Chris' home and did the honors. The buck grossed 230 1/8 inches, netting an official 225 3/8 - easily a new non-typical record in velvet. It beat the previous record set in 1960 by more than 4 inches.
As if taking a state-record muley was not enough to keep the bowhunter smiling, he arrowed a bull elk four days later.
Before Chris bought his first bow, a close friend gave him a poignant warning: "Bowhunting is an emotional roller coaster."
Chris knows. He says nothing else can take him from low to high and back again, all in 15 brief seconds.
-- Reprinted from the November 2008 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.