Four deer, in four days, in two states. It’s a quick way to describe our long, hard-hunted, rainy blacktail season in 2014. We had excitement, some doubt, a little chaos, and a lot of great memories made. In the very end, it left us with a huge sense of success, and a freezer full of meat.
Brady and I decided to hunt blacktails in both Washington and Oregon. We understand the nature of hunting mature coastal blacktails, and have a respect for the effort these animals make you invest to even have an opportunity at a mature buck. These grey ghosts are a species of deer that make their living in the thickest, wettest, nastiest habitat. The nocturnal nature of some of the mature trophies are exactly why they have reached such trophy status, and if you are lucky enough to even get a glimpse of one, you should count it as a success. You can begin each season with a goal of taking a big trophy blacktail, but if you are one who is easily disappointed, I would pick a different goal.
Blacktail hunting in Washington was hard on us this year. Days of rain and fog made being out from dawn to dusk a real challenge. We put in lots of full days seeing deer, but just nothing we wanted to pull the trigger on. The second to last day of the season we did see a very nice two-point, but he was on a mission. He barged out of the reprod and made a beeline across the clearcut. There must have been a hot doe in the area because he was covering some serious ground.
It was down to the last day of the WA season…Halloween. I woke up hoping for treats instead of tricks. With just enough light, we got to the small cut where we saw that nice two point the day before. Within the first 10 seconds of glassing, Brady heavily whispered, “There is a buck down there.” Before I could get eyes on it, he was urging me to get a rest. I asked if it was a good one and he said, “I don’t know yet, I just know it’s a buck.” I set down my gun, and pulled up my binos. My heart was thumping and I hadn’t even laid eyes on him yet. There he was; broadside at 326 yards facing right. My heart picked up the tempo when I saw three points on his right side. I laid down prone and built a solid rest. After dialing the Huskemaw to 326, I found him in the scope and tried my best to slow my heart down. The buck didn’t help me out with that as he turned and faced me to show off his awesome frame. I let out a “Whoa!” My heart started thumping so hard it was making the reticle in my scope start to wiggle with each beat. I had to back out of the scope for a second and force myself to calm down. I managed to get steady and the next thing I knew I had squeezed the trigger and sent a 168-grain Berger down range. Through my scope I saw him; head down, walking away from me out of sight over a small knoll at the edge of the cut.
I looked up at Brady. He also saw the strange reaction by the deer to the shot and asked how my shot felt. I told him it felt great and that I know I hit where I was aiming. Then, as Brady always does after I shoot, he started scanning the cut to see if anything else got stirred up. I was still shaking from my shot as I looked back at Brady, and to my surprise he was getting on his gun. I was confused at first. Then he said, “There is another buck coming this way.” I looked up just in time to see the other buck drop down into a low spot out of sight. I asked Brady if he was going to shoot that deer. “Yep.” I scanned the area, and just a few seconds later, there he was. At this point he was heading straight towards us. It was all happening so fast and before I knew it, Brady’s gun went off and I could see the light-colored belly of Brady’s buck on the ground.
I was stunned over what just happened. Within a minute and a half, we were tagged out and doubled up with Washington Halloween bucks! The excitement level was through the roof! We couldn’t help but celebrate but we knew we still had to track my deer from where it disappeared out of sight. With a small let up in the rain at that moment, we quickly
gathered our stuff to go find blood before the next rain-storm made it impossible.
We got to exactly where my buck was standing when I shot, and there was NO blood. Not a drop! I began to panic as we combed the area looking for any sign. We looked around for what seemed like forever…nothing. The only thing we could do is try to get on some fresh tracks and follow them where he exited the cut. We found just one good track heading in the direction he disappeared. The problem was that it was into a wall of solid reprod. We tried to find a trail where he may have went in at, but it was just a wall of trees
Brady managed to squeeze his way into the thick trees. He came back out a few minutes later and said he found one fresh track. There was no way to be sure that it was my buck, but we had nothing else to go on. Brady led me back to the one track he found and we started to follow the trail it was on into the deep, dark mess of trees. There was still not a drop of blood anywhere and we were now 100 yards from where he was shot. Or maybe not shot, because at that point, I began to seriously doubt myself. It was impossible to know if we were following my buck, but every once in a while we would find a fresh track that kept us moving down the trail. 300 yards into the trail and we still didn’t see a drop of blood, I began to feel awful. I was sure I missed and felt horrible that Brady only shot his deer because he thought I made a good shot on mine. We went another 100 yards and the trail starting branching in all directions with no sign of what way to go. I replayed the shot over and over in my mind and couldn’t believe I missed. I felt sick to my stomach and thought I could get actually get sick. I looked up at Brady about to tell him how sorry I was that I missed that deer, and he had a smile on his face. The feeling of nausea went away and a feeling of sudden dizziness washed over me as he said, “He’s over there!” My legs turned to jello as I peeked past Brady and saw him. My hands shots straight in the air, my head tilted to the sky, and I let out a huge “YES” of relief. “Oh my god, oh my god, we FOUND him!” My head was dizzy and I couldn’t stop raising my hands to the sky and saying “we actually found him!”
I finally got my hands on him and he was gorgeous; a wide framed three point with eye guards.
I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be getting my picture taken with this buck.
There is no way we should have found him. He gave us nothing to track and we were just blindly following a trail that could have led us nowhere.
Even then, there was no blood; none on his body, his nose, his mouth, or even in his bed. We finally found where the bullet had entered. A perfect shot, but not a single drop of blood. After some pictures, we started working on the deer. With one small incision we found out what happened. The Berger bullet entered, and then completely blew up the inside of this deer and he bleed out from the inside.
After taking care of my deer, we went back for Brady’s. His two-point was waiting for us exactly where we saw it go down. With Brady’s buck taken care of we were able to get some photos of our bucks in the field together. A picture that represents a memory I’ll have forever.
With two deer hanging in the shop and still two Oregon tags to fill, we delayed a travel day to process the WA deer before we left. We spent Saturday cutting meat and packing, allowing us to leave at a decent time Sunday morning. We had spent the last week of our WA hunt in the pouring rain; the same forecast we had to look forward to in Oregon. The long drive to Oregon was actually a great part of the trip. We got to re-live and still celebrate what went down only two days ago. We were still on cloud nine about our double Halloween bucks, and were stoked to see what Oregon had to offer this year. Crossing the border, we looked at each other in disgust…the weatherman was right.
We were hunting an area that we had to learn as we went. With lots of daylight left when we arrived, we decided to head straight for the woods and come up with a solid game plan for our first morning. We scouted a lot of ground, and found a spot that we wanted to look into at first light. The sun was fading so we decided to back out and go get a bite to eat and get set up for the first morning hunt. While making our way out, in the bottom of a draw was the unmistakable white face of a buck. It was raining so hard, it was hard to really judge the deer but we could tell he had a good frame. Buck fever took over and I started to set up on the deer. I figured, through the scope if he looked like something I didn’t quite want to shoot the first night, I’d let him pass. One look and I knew this was a deer I needed to shoot. I would be crazy to not shoot this deer. It’s the type of deer I told myself I was looking for in Oregon; anything bigger would be a bonus. As I examined the deer, I realized this was going to be a tricky shot. He was bedded down, facing away, and quartering to the left. I had to find just the right spot to hold. Once steady on the sweet spot, I began to squeeze. The sound of the gun broke up the sound of the pounding rain. The deer jumped up, took a few stumbling final steps, and he was down. I couldn’t help but just shake my head as we walked up to it. This was my second awesome three-point coastal blacktail in three days! Packing that deer out in the pitch black, I thought, it doesn’t get much better than this, and then remembered it does; Brady still has an OR tag to fill.
We stuck to the original game plan and the next morning we were standing at the edge of the thick timber looking at the base of a cut, waiting for first light. We had so much excitement still running through our veins. Even with rain still pouring down, we had smiles on our faces and eyebrows raised as the daylight began to reveal the landscape. The first vantage point yielded a small two-point and a bedded doe. We moved on along our planned hunt. A little later we saw a couple does feed near a timber edge. Brady moved into all sorts of positions to get a different angle on them to see if there was a buck bedded somewhere nearby. After viewing every angle and not coming up with anything, we continued on. Further along, Brady turned back to the feeding does and said three words that ALWAYS gets my heart pounding, “There’s a buck!” I have never had this reaction before, but my honest first thought as I pulled up my binos to get a look was, “I hope he is small.” I know that sounds crazy, but I didn’t want it to be a shooter; I didn’t want our hunt to be over. I wanted more days in this pouring rain searching for a great buck. But with one glimpse, I knew the search was already over. Brady looked at me and asked, “I have to shoot that, right?” I knew in my heart the answer was no-doubt yes, but my selfishness for prolonging the hunt almost got the best of me J. Brady had the same thought as I did. He knew as soon as he pulled the trigger, our hunt would be over. We quickly snapped out of it and realized how studly of a buck this was and knew he was going to be worth ending our whirlwind of a blacktail season on. With me behind the spotting scope and Brady with a rock-solid rest, we waited for him to present a shot. It was a 320 yard shot through pouring rain, with a steady left to right wind. Seeing the deer turn I knew the shot was coming. I heard the bang and watched the buck drop without making a single movement. Brady turned to me with that smile I look forward to every hunting season.
We immediately began talking about how we couldn’t not shoot that buck. We laughed about how I almost try to talk him out of shooting it so that we could keep hunting. I told him I saw a huge eye guard on one side that sealed the deal for me J. Walking up to the fourth deer we were able to harvest in four days across two states was an awesome feeling. It didn’t hurt that this last deer was an absolute stud. Boning out that deer on the hillside gave us time to laugh and joke about, and just take in the entire season we spent together, not just those last four days. Still in the pouring rain, with heavy packs, we made our last trip out of the woods. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Due to the horrible weather we weren’t able to film much, but here is a short montage of the clips and pictures we were able to get through out the season. Check it out: