Randy and Joe’s Hunting Trip

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This is a shot of RG's 2003 mule deer where [and as] he fell after being pierced by a 132 Gr. BIB from a distance of 268 Yd; the deer was not moved. However, note that the harvest/carcass tag was signed, cut and attached! About 1/2 hour prior to finding and shooting this OLD boy, I had the pleasure of being struck by an inaccurate RATTLE SNAKE – the 18-20 incher hit the top portion of my 10" tall huntin' boot (he was likely too short as opposed to being "inaccurate!)! That made 'slipping about in the sage a little more interesting . . .

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The kids have informed me that this photo PROVES that I have become a full fledged "DUFFER" (actually, this is GOOD news, as I was thinking the early stages of CODGERDOM had settled into the ol' bones!). Prior to the trip, I determined to lower my standard to, "any mature buck"; I wanted to bag another mule deer with the .300WSM/132 BIB combination – being a little too fussy has resulted in filling only four of my previous nine tags . . . but the FUN is mostly in the huntin' – not the shootin'. This buck was bedded in the very bottom of the last feeder draw off the main "Northwest Pasture" draw. Following the snake encounter, and having jumped only does/fawns in the higher headers (a LOT of moseying about to cover ALL of the headers on EVERY feeder draw!), I got just a little careless; having spent the morning taking only a few steps and then carefully glassing every shady place, the lower reaches of the last draw seemed an 'unlikely' haunt for the local bucks – following a quick perusal of the shady north facing slope, I decided to move about 25-30 Yd. further north in order to get a "better viewing angle" . . . upon stopping, the first thing visible in the ol' tunnel vision was a THROAT PATCH – dead in the bottom, in a patch of deep sage – I was nailed!

However, the distance was great enough that an old buck (usually) would not panic; he'd simply keep those eyes fixed on whatever he saw and 'disappear' down the draw if further threatened . . . From my perspective, it was decision time: the 8×32 Lica binocular provided enough resolution to reveal that this buck clearly sported "at least" a 22" inside spread and very nice mass at the antler bases . .and maybe pretty decent length – but how many POINTS? And how many OTHER bucks were lying hidden by the deep sage (at this time of year, 'bachelor' groups of three to nine are the NORM; groups 4-7 being common on past hunts)? A spotting scope would have been nice – I decided that if I could get the backpack off, put down the Lica binocular, install ear plugs (that braked WSM IS loud!) take three steps back to the south (to have a clear 'window' through which to shoot and get a distance verification via the Lica range finder, I'd be happy with this buck, taking whatever 'points' came with he spread and mass . . . and if a BIGGER buck jumped up at the shot? Been there done THAT – it just guarantees at least one more hunt! ;)

I had guessed 250 Yd. – the Lica said 268; not a bad estimate for a change! The shot angle was very nearly head on and I held off a little [too much] for the 20MPH cross wind, however, the bullet interfered with the function of one lung and ranged back far enough to penetrate a portion of the liver, then came to rest just under the hide between the last two ribs on the bucks right side. Amazingly, this deer jumped up and bounded up the south-facing slope about 25 Yd. before realizing that he was venison . . . AND so did his too 4×4 pals! To my relief, the two companions were smaller of frame and tine length – they stood around waiting for some leadership; lacking that, and getting slightly upset at the approach of a full fledged DUFFER, they bounded toward the neighbors to the north – a mere 1/2 mile to the fence. This took place on our fifth day of hunting, at 1:00 PM, with a record temperature of 93 degrees reported on the local news that evening; the entire nine days we hunted were punctuated by daytime highs ranging from 80-93 Deg. – 20-25 Deg. above 'normal' October temperatures.

An inspection, by Wyo G&F biologist at the game check station confirmed what I had suspected – another OLD and "over the hill" deer – another true gummer, the worn lower molars providing an estimated age of 81/2-91/2 years old! Last years buck was either older, or had poorer teeth – his estimated age was 81/2 to 101/2 years. Both of my last two bucks sported the most wear I've ever observed on deer molars. I've adopted the term "management buck" (a term pilfered from the Texas feeder-deer videos) to describe these ol' boys – nice and satisfying bucks which are trophies because of the circumstances as opposed to what they 'score'. However, I still 'score' 'em as a means of comparison to what I am fortunate enough to already have hangin' on the wall – this ol' fellow measured exactly 22" wide at the widest point along the inside of the main beams (Jack O'Conner's, "ear tips, on a mule deer are about 22" apart is pretty good advice), had 5.5" and 5.25" circumferences [between the burr and brow tines], 14.5" and 15" G2 points and 23.25" and 23" main beams – a B&C gross of 143+ – not bad for a 3×3, which is closer to a 3×2! :)

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Here we fast forward to our eighth day of hunting. This deer and his crony, were located, by yours truly, when Joe and I decided more territory could be 'glassed' if we split up: the plan included me making a "walk about", which was to include covering the heads of the three highest draws, in the same NW Pasture mentioned earlier, while Joe hunted his way down a minor draw, to the confluence off these headers; where he would sit tight – just in case I jumped something higher up (these deer nearly ALWAYS go straight to the bottom and stay there, seemingly swallowed whole). Included in our tactics: should neither I, nor any deer trundle along by 11:00 AM, we were to meet back at the truck by noon, for lunch . . .This (my not showing up at the main intersection) would also signal Joe that I had found a buck which he may consider worthy of accepting a precious bullet – for Joe, after 71/2 days of futile "walk abouts", this is just about any 4×4 ! ;) Up to that point, we had seen only 8 antlered deer – very poor for "THE RANCH".

When Joe failed to show up back at the truck on schedule, I risked a crack on the Motorola two-way, which we normally reserve for 'dire need'; " Joe, I could use some help back at the truck." With this message, and only a few days removed from the snake encounter, Joe imagined the worst: "RG's been snake bitten . . and we're at least two hours from a hospital . . " The good news was to see him actually SWEATING when he came over the ridge about 15 minutes late! ;) We devoured lunch while working out a stalk plan: I had glassed the bucks lying among some scattered sage and yucca plants, just below a classic sandstone blow – the wind was perfect for a stalk which would result in what I predicted to be a 250 -300 yard shot Joe opted to cary the 300Rem SUM and leave the 338/06 cased. The last three pics, which Stan selected, clearly illustrate the great scenery! Oh, I had to endure a tongue lashing regarding the definition of "dire need" . . an X Master Sgt. knows how to strap it on ya! But that's just part of what makes "THE LITTLE GENERAL" ( as we dubbed him back in H.S.) so lovable ! ;)

This pic, of Joe and his most recent 4×4 was the result of a [Lica ranged] 226 yard shot. Joe used his new Remington 765 (? is this correct, Stan?), chambered for the .300 Rem. SUM cartridge, loaded with Remington's "bonded core" COR-LOCT bullet – the result was near instant termination; only a couple of wobbles of the bucks head were noticeable. Joe reports that the Rem factory ammo he used chronographed at 3200 FPS and consistently provided sub MOA grouping – and further, equaled/exceeded the grouping of his limited handload testing – time was a factor there, as he is frequently called "out of town" with little notice. At 226 yards, the .338/06 would have done well.

Editors note… I think Randy is talking the new 673 GuideRifle from Remington …new in 2003

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When first glassed, this very nice 3×3 buck ( a 31/2 year old, I'd guess) was bedded up just above and to the right of the 4×4 which Joe shot just minutes prior to snapping this pic! However, when we completed the stalk, I was surprised to see only one buck – was he the biggest of the two? Upon sighting the bucks, I'd only taken time to observe that both "looked interesting", then backed off before one of them saw me. The 3×3 in this pic apparently decided the sun was about to make life unbearable and had moved into the very bottom of the deep cut, where he could enjoy the deep shade and cooler air! Fortunately, when we peeked over the cover on a convenient rock pile, the 4×4 was still just comfortably in the shade, a few yards below the sun line! While Joe glassed for the missing buck, I ranged the 4×4 several times: 226 was the most common number, +/- a yard; the second buck was "gone". Joe quickly decided to extend his string of 4x4s to "ten for ten", held dead center on the chest (from the shot angle, the buck's body was nearly head on – very similar to my shot a few days earlier) and squeezed off a shot; as noted above, the deer scarcely twitched – then, the work began . . . ALMOST -a little excitement remained!

We dropped off into the main draw and skirted our way to the mouth of the small but DEEP feeder leading up to where the 4×4 lay – upon turning the corner, at the mouth, this 3×3 jumped up from his new bed and bounded back up to see how his pal would react to the trespassers, whereupon he became not slightly confused; this accommodated getting out the camera and snapping a few pics before this nice buck departed. He appears to have an outside spread just barely to his ear tips, but very nice length of tine – he may be a keeper next year! What scenery . . .makes me want to go huntin AGAIN!

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This deceptive photo shows the extent of the "sandstone blow" and where Joe's 4×4 lay dead just moments after the shot; we had advanced to our side of the DEEP draw and were still about 180 yards form the buck, which lay just above the small 'green' shrub (a yucca), at eye level to Joe, and below the much larger 'brown' shrub at hat-brim level and, in the pic, roughly 11/4 " from the end of his nose. Joe is standing at the edge of a 75-80 foot drop – too close for this DUFFER! ;) The 'little' draw just below the departed 4×4 is a nasty 55-60 foot deep 'hole' which is scarcely two feet wide at the bottom! From a distance, it is very easy to look across this terrain and assume that "it's just too flat" to hold anything but a few 'goats' (prong-horned antelope) – being able to see this cut requires a 1/2 mile hike . . . again, I cannot say enough regarding the scenery!

Joe and I have hunted together, more years than not, since we were seniors in high school (96/97), way back in the days B4 the Golden State became the "Peoples Republic of California" – that was in an era when, with a little permission seeking, kids could still hunt quail, jack rabbits and coyotes on some of the foot hill ranches along the west slope of the Sierra Neveda Mountains. . . . on this adventure, I was probably constantly "belly aching" about the decline in both the quality and quantity of the bucks over the last three seasons – more than once I stated I'd likely not even apply for a tag next year . . . I never expected to hear it from Joe: " It's not the deer that bring us back, it's the experience – the annual reunion – re-establishing an intangible bond between hunters and life long friends that makes these hunts" . . .perhaps there is HOPE for his rock-hard soul, heaven knows, in his line of work, ya gotta be tough. . . as for me, well, DUFFERDOM has a firm grip an' I get misty-eyed just thinking about all of the good fortune and friends who have blessed my existence – make that LIFE!

Before departing here, I want to thank Al and Nancy Nyhus for putting me up for a night on my way to Wyoming – your hospitality was relished! Further, it was very enjoyable and flattering that Stan & Susie Ware, along With Todd & Lynn Nyhus and Al & Nancy would get together for dinner, share a camp fire (In Lynn & Todd's back yard !) and a couple of "black juice" delights with the likes of your truly – THANK YOU ALL. Guess I'm either sufferin a "mid-life crisis", or, the Kids are wrong . . . and I AM entering the initial stages of CODGREDOM! But regardless of where I am in the categorical aging sequence, I am aware that blessings abound! :)


Keep'em ON the X . . 'r at least, keep 'em on the rib cage! ;) R.G

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