Boothill backcountry bucks
Posted November 13 2017 - 09:18 PM
We walked back to camp in the dark, scratching our heads. This place had everything a big buck could ask for but for some reason we could not turn up any big bucks. We knew we only had one day left to get it done and decided that the next day we would hunt back towards the trucks a little bit and cover some decent country that we had passed up on our way in. After a good night's rest, we woke up, ate breakfast, and packed up camp. It was a 35 minute hike back to where we wanted to be at sunup and shortly after we got settled in and began to glass, we heard voices from an adjacent Ridge. The voices got closer and nick eventually spotted the group of 9 guys all dressed in matching camo and carrying large backpacks. Like ants on a mission, they marched single file down the trail into the small draw just down and out of sight of our perch. Minutes later we found a buck in the bowl to our east, and as luck would have it, he was withing shooting range. If we had found this buck the morning before I believe that nick would have let him walk, but unfortunately for him, it was the last day of what seemed like a very short 5 day hunt. Nick quickly got in behind the Cva and began trying to find the deer in his scope. The sun had just barely crept into the sky, which made finding a deer in a scope dang near impossible. After struggling with glare for a few minutes nick was finally able to find the deer in his scope. The shot echoed through the canyon and draws underneath us. I can only imagine what was going through the smugglers heads. The bullet sailed left and just skimmed the deers brisket. Nick poured some new powder and stuffed a new sabot down the barrel. The deer had moved uphill and stopped again at 280, close to Nick's maximum effective range. Nick's inline generally rarely produces very much smoke but for some reason on this shot smoke filled our view and neither of us had any clue where he hit. The shot echoed through the canyon beneath us once again and when the smoke finally cleared, and we noticed the deer was no longer in sight, we joked about how the group of smugglers were probably scattered and running by now. There was no blood where the deer was standing but we did find the tip of his bullet. It appeared to have a bit of fat on it, so we knew that it was a hit, but rib shots don't usually leave fat behind so that left us a little worried. We followed the deers tracks straight down hill for about 100 yards before we found blood. Another 150 yards of tracking and very little blood later, we lost his tracks. We made the tough decision to climb back to the top of Ridge and hike over to the Ridge to the north in an attempt to glass out in front of where the deers tracks were headed. We changed angles many times. It was close to 3:00 pm before nick finally said, "I see a deer.... it's him, and he's hurt bad." He was standing for only a second and bedded again immediately. I couldn't believe we turned him back up again. The wind was whipping...again...so moving in close was fairly easy. We picked our way through an oak bottom full of food wrappers, jackets, and old food cans. We setup 155 yards from Nick's last day buck. Maybe it was the idea of knowing that the deer was wounded and we had only an hour and a half before the hunt ended, but the 20 minute wait for him to stand up seemed to take FOREVER! Finally he stood, and nick took aim. Everything was perfect. The wind had died, nick had a solid rest, the video camera was rolling, and BOOM, he missed a foot to the left. It was apparent that his scope had been bumped somehow. All three of his shots that day had hit left. "Aim at his hip nick." His next shot hit home and just like that our 2017 New Mexico Muzzleloader coues hunt was a complete success. The last few days had really taken their toll on me and the hike back to the truck with all of our gear and the deer really wore me down. As we trudged through the darkness of the boothill sky island, fingers crossed that we wouldn't have any moonlit encounters with smugglers, it hit me how fortunate I was to have tagged out on opening day. REWIND TO DAY 1. We decided to backpack into some really good looking country and scout for a day and a half prior to opening day and then hunt opening day and possibly longer before heading to the area that nick shot his buck on the last day. We had found a few 90 inch bucks, a bunch of one and two year old bucks, and a pile of does before opening day. We had covered alot of the area and had yet to turn up any real shooters, but we had yet to look into some of the better looking stuff before midday. We were in position to look into the tallest, best looking stuff in the area before sunup on opening morning. The sun had yet to rise and we began to pick the country apart. Doe... Doe... Nice buck. He was a long ways off in the highest bowl. He stayed in sight just long enough for me to get the spotting scope setup on him. DID I REALLY JUST SEE WHAT I THINK I SAW? "That deer has a double main beam." "And tine length!" He did the whole Grey Ghost thing on us almost immediately. He walked into a low spot before the sun ever had a chance of shining on him and never came out. We watched for almost an hour before deciding to make any moves. We had a horrible angle on his hillside so nick stayed put while I hiked down and back up onto a better vantage point. Once I got into position nick made his way across the deep canyon to where I was. I was feeling fairly confident that the buck was still on that hillside somewhere. We hadn't taken our eyes off of it since we saw him before sunup and the low spot that he had dropped into was actually not very low at all. He had to have bedded immediately after we lost sight of him. After picking the hillside apart for a few more hours, my heart jumped when I saw his head sticking out of a bush. He stretched, walked to another tree and layer right back down. This time we could see him and my confidence was sky high. We were about 900 yards away and had to get to under 300. The mountain he was on was big enough that there was no way to get that close to him without being on the same hillside as him. We thought it out pretty hard and put a game plan together. There was a of pile rocks below him just out of the canyon bottom that we felt would put us close to 200 yards and give us enough height to get a shot. WE WERE WRONG! We snuck our way up the canyon bottom and up to those rocks only to realize that the contour of the mountain that he was on caused a high spot in between him and us. We had to back out and hope he hadn't heard us busting our way out of there. Once again we had to climb to a new vantage point and figure out a new plan. It took us quite awhile to climb back up out of that canyon and when we finally got high enough, my heart sank when we noticed he was no longer under that same tree. It seems like all good hunts send your emotions on a roller coaster ride, and this hunt was par for the course. I knew he had to be on that hillside somewhere but these little deer have a way of testing your patience like no other animal out there. We had picked the mountain apart for over an hour when all of a sudden I heard a deer blow. I selfishly blamed nick for being too loud haha. I feel bad about that now, but at the time, I was on edge as much I have ever been. I saw a deer trotting down hill, tail tucked(not flagged) and keeping his head down as he ran. It was our buck and he ran down right to his previous bedding spot and dove onto the ground. PERFECT I thought. Perfect didnt last long and after only a few seconds he jumped up and ran up to the top of the adjacent Ridge. The Rollercoaster was on its way back down at full speed. The deer just about skylined before he second guessed himself and ran right back down to the same tree and layed down, trying to hide. This deer was a total spastic. The lion scratches we saw in the area were surely part of the reason. We watched for awhile and soon figured out what spooked him. A forked horn and a 3x3 had crossed over from the south side of the mountain and apparently made noises that this buck wasn't too fond of. After about half an hour the buck stood up and stared uphill, searching for whatever it was that had spooked him. We spent a few more hours at 470 yards away from him waiting for him to settle down. It was pretty amazing how focused this deer was at staying alive. He finally settled down and let us formulate a plan. Once again, the Contour of his mountain made things difficult. I was going to have to get on his hillside, which had two other bucks on it. They were above him which eliminated the option of coming from above. The wind was super unsteady. There was one rockpile on the skyline that I felt would be somewhere around 120 yards away from him, and it seemed like my only option. I had no other choice but to hope it was high enough to see over the trees and give me the right angle on him. If not, I was gonna have to back out and just plan on trying to find him again the next morning. It didn't take me as long as I thought it would to drop down and climb up the backside of his mountain. On the way to the rockpile I put a primer in, and backed my scope out to 3x. I crept up to the rocks and peeked over. I could make out the top of antlers and I began to feel the fever just a bit. I ranged the top of the tree he was under. 145. I didnt have much for shooting lanes. One to be exact. I would have to be prepared because once he stood up I was going to have to shoot quickly before he took any steps. It was 3:00 pm and I figured It could happen any minute but I was prepared to sit him out until dark. I looked at nick across the canyon and figured I would try to call him on his cell phone if I could just to let him know I was in position. He didn't have any service where he was at so I looked at the buck through the binos again and I noticed the deer pin his ears back and start to rock his body weight. I jumped in the gun and found the deer in the scope as he rose from his bed. He started to take a step but it was too late. He collapsed on the spot. It happened so fast that I didn't have a chance to let the anticipation build and buck fever never had a chance to set in. I DID IT! WE DID IT! I stood up on that rock and did something I don't do often enough. I looked around at everything around me and just took it all in. This deer lived on top of the world. It was a sight to behold. I have hunted these deer my entire life, and unique deer like this are what I dream about on a daily basis. The sky islands of our region take so much from me including time away from my family, money, blood, sweat, so so much energy, and probably life from all of my joints, but they give back so much more. Although this deer was an opening day buck, he was the result of tons and tons of hard work. I am very fortunate that it all worked out and this will definitely not be my last time chasing coues deer in New Mexico. I waited for Nick to make it to me before I walked down and held my buck for the first time. We caped and deboned him and shared some fire roasted backstrap before making the long trek back to the truck. If we weren't out of water we would have probably just stayed in there one more night and came out the next morning. We made it back to the truck at midnight and slept like babies. I can't thank nick enough for all the help.... And for the dry tent. What happens in coues country is supposed to stay in coues country, sorry bro. Sorry for the long read, hope you enjoyed. Also, can somebody please rotate the pics for me. I have trouble with that every time.
Posted November 14 2017 - 06:56 AM
Great bucks. Great photos. Great times. You are an excellent writer. I felt like I was there with you guys. Thanks for posting!
Posted November 14 2017 - 08:32 AM
Awesome story and write up. Congrats!
"A man may not care for golf and still be human, but the man who does not like to see, hunt, photograph, or otherwise outwit birds or animals is hardly normal.He is supercivilized, and I for one do not how to deal with him" -Aldo Leopold
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