Puzzle Pieces

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While writing my post on Jerry Miculek I decided to share my last whitetail hunting story with you even though I might be in for some criticism from those who don’t understand the extent of preparation and experience that went into it. To those of you who can appreciate and enjoy the sheer awesomeness that this experience was for me…this story is for you. Most all of my white-tailed deer hunting adventures have happened on large canyon and high mountain prairie country in the glorious state of Idaho. In this terrain you do A LOT of glassing. Sit and glass, move, sit and glass, move and so on. Because you are watching vast canyons, there are a high percentage of hunts that find you staring at nice whitetail bucks through spotting scopes over a mile away. When I was just beginning my hunting adventures, my rifle was only capable of a maximum accurate shot in my hands of about 400 yards. Over the years my hunting buddy has been honing his rifles and I have been honing my shooting skills so that in the last few years we had been making accurate successful shots at up to 600 yards on deer and 1,000 yards on targets. In steep canyon country it is a huge advantage to be able to shoot long distances because you rarely see a deer closer than 300 yards that is not running away. These long shots allow you to take your time and make a perfect shot rather than having to take a hurried shot at a running animal. I wouldn’t be realistic if I didn’t mention the fact that shooting at long ranges is also just plain fun. It feels like such an accomplishment when all the hard work of rifle building, load development, weather conditions and having the proper gear all come together in that one perfectly placed shot. When I head out to hunt I look for the closest possible deer that I can find. The closer the better but if I see a buck that is far off but within my known effective range I will consider him an option should the weather and everything else accommodate. So last hunting season when I set out that morning I was not planning to shoot a great distance. I was simply looking for a buck to fill my tag. This was my last year hunting in Idaho. I was recently married and had just found out I was pregnant two months before. My Dad, hunting buddy, husband, myself and baby all set out that morning in search of the wary Whitetail. I brought my Dad’s rifle that was sighted in for 300 yards because my rifle was in need of a new barrel and out of commission. My friend had his long range rifle chambered in 260. My husband was the only one without a tag to fill but came along for the fun of the hunt and as another set of eyes searching the far off underbrush for bedded deer. We made our way along the top of the canyon until we came to our favorite vantage point over the canyon edge. Not only could we see across the canyon but because we were on the point of a bend in the canyon we could also see down the canyon. There were multiple ridge lines layered against each other each spotted with dense underbrush and a beautiful mixture of Pine and Fir timber. We all got comfortable and began the arduous task of dissecting the hillside through binoculars and spotting scopes. There was not much moving that morning but that is never a problem for my Dad who is known to be capable of spotting a deer when only a tip of his antler or corner of his ear is peaking out from inside a bush at 500 yards away. My Dad and I have spent many long hours on these hillsides together looking for game. He told me later that day that he was really hoping he was the one who got to spot my last Idaho Whitetail. Someone must have heard his wish because after a long while glassing he suddenly alerted us to a buck coming over the farthest ridge. I saw where Dad was pointing and looked at him through my binoculars. He was so far away that I was unable to see what his antlers looked like. We set up the spotting scope to get a better look. We determined he was a small 3 point. He would have been a 4 point if he would have had eye guards as most whitetails do but this buck must have been masquerading as a Muley because his were non existent. I figured the deer was too far away to shoot so I turned away and began glassing again. My friend and husband got out their rangefinders and put the lasers on him to find out how far it really was. Both rangefinders registered…837yards. My friend got out his rifle and handed it to me. I looked at him like he was joking but he said his rifle was more than capable of that shot. Because we were absolutely sure of the distance and for some reason on that day there was not even a hint of a breeze, we decided to take the shot. Normally in the canyons you could never have a day where it was completely calm but today was apparently meant to be something special for me. So we got set up.

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I laid prone and got the rifle sitting on its own to where the crosshairs were on the deer and stayed there even if I was to let go of the rifle. I could see him on the top of the ridge feeding his way over to the other side. I lay there and calmed my breathing while everyone else got their optics on the deer to watch and see what happened next. When everyone was ready I put the crosshairs behind his shoulder and on my pause between my exhale and inhale I slowly squeezed the perfectly set trigger until the rifle exploded in my hands and sent the bullet 837 yards into my unsuspecting quarry. It was immediately evident that I had hit him and good. The guys all agreed that the shot looked like it was toward the back of the ribcage and as we looked up we realized that there was a nasty storm brewing. We knew we did not have much time before the rain would hit and wipe away the blood trail and the possibility of finding my buck. He disappeared on the other side of the ridge and my husband and I grabbed our gear and headed back out to the trail that ran along the top of the canyon. It was a long way around to where the ridge he was on ran up to the trail we were on. We made tracks, quickly working our way to the ridge line and then down it looking for the landmarks we had set in our minds when looking across the ridges from our vantage point. We were a little disoriented and ended up bumping the buck. We started following him downhill but were unable to find his blood trail in the thick bush so we decided to go back to the beginning of the trail. We had to search around for awhile but finally found the place he was standing when he was hit. The blood trail was plentiful and easy to follow. He worked his way down the canyon because he was hit too hard to go up and once he got to the bottom he had used the last of his strength. There we found him, the small three point buck that to me may be the most valuable trophy I ever shoot because of the experience, the memories and the companions that made the hunt such a special one.

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I will probably never shoot another animal at 837 yards but I am proud to say that I was able to do it once because of the capability of my friend to compile such an accurate rifle, scope and load, my dad to be able to spot the buck, my husband who helped us confirm the range and helped me track him to his final resting place, my ability to shoot long range and finally the weather to cooperate allowing us this shot of a lifetime. This would not have been possible or attempted had not the experience, preparation and conditions all lined up perfectly like the pieces of a puzzle…but oh how glad I am they did!

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