Well October 28, 2015 the slump finally came to a end. Earlier in the week the rancher who owns the ranch I had been hunting a buck we began to call “Sky Scraper” on, asked me if I would like to go elk hunting with him Wednesday morning. Beings I had a cow tag in my pocket I was all for that.
The morning started with us hiking in the dark about a mile to a ridge top we could glass from. About 10 minutes before legal shooting light I spotted an elk about a mile away. He was on the neighbors but we decided to work our way there in case he would cross the fence to bed. The bull ended up bedding in the bowl I spotted him in on the neighbors. We continued to walk the land to see if we could come across some other elk. We found some sign that was about a week old at fence crossings. We continued to check water sources where we did find some elk tracks in the mud.
We were hunting during the full moon so everything was likely bedded up before sunrise. Continuing to look for sign at water sources and checking draws and timber patches that are known to hold elk from time to time, we slowly made out way back to the truck to go in for the morning hunt.
As we neared the truck the rancher told me if I’d like to continue deer hunting I could walk some mud buttes that overlook deep draws and creek drainages. I took him up on this for the wind direction was correct to hunt this way and the deer should be bedded by that time. On the last leg of this morning hunt I found 3 deer sheds, found about a dozen does with a few small, young bucks along with a couple 3 year old bucks sparring. I didn’t see not mature bucks as I came to the last ridge as I could see the water tank the rancher would pick me up at.
As I walked towards the water tank I had pretty well gave up on the morning and was looking for more deer sheds. All of a sudden I looked up and saw a tall, narrow and heavy rack sticking up between the cedar trees on the ridge just above the water tank. I pulled up my Nikons and was pleasantly surprised what I was looking at. This buck was bedded near a cedar looking right at me. Given he was bedded in was hard for me to tell his age though judging by his body length I was fairly certain he was a mature buck. I dropped into a cut and worked around it to get a better look. However I could never see him again.
By this time the rancher was waiting for me by the water tank. Eventually I worked to him and told him about the buck. We decided it was best to come over the top of the buck to try and find him. We eased over the ridge and I spotted just his antlers sticking above the grass. After a further look we both agreed this was a mature buck and I decided to try and harvest him. I crawled into 40 yards before I set up for a shot. As if on cue he stood up to stretch and I fired my shot.
After guiding clients to mature bucks over the last 4 years and not harvesting a buck for 7, words cannot describe how excited I felt. It was so nice to feel the buck fever set into my knees after the shot. As I approached him it was one of the best feelings I have had in a while hunting. He truly was much bigger than I had anticipated and the giant brow tines were a plus. I didn’t even know he had them until the recovery.
I pride myself in harvesting only mature bucks, not only for the clients I have guided the last 4 years, but also for myself. To me nothing is more satisfying than beating a mature buck on his home turf. This is likely part of the reason for the 7 year slump. I couldn’t be happier and more proud of this buck. I believe him to be at least 5 years old and I will know for sure when I get the age results back from the lab in March.
The rut is not far from kicking off so get out there and hunt. Maybe now is the time for you to end your slump. The Whitetails in Nebraska and South Dakota are not far from being in full rut. So get out there and enjoy the great outdoors and the gifts God has provided for us to enjoy.
Remember to Hunt Safe, Hunt Hard and Hunt Smart!