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Peaking past the rock I had snuck towards for the last couple hours I knew it was a matter of time before an opportunity presented itself. Knowing the buck was truly of the maturity I go into primitive country for and a rare find, my nerves were frazzled with anticipation. Held up in a shallow pocket hiding from the intense wind he was being harassed by a little buck constantly pestering his wishes for seclusion with the prize doe. Little did he know that young buck was the lesser of nearby problems. Another ripple in his plans was patiently waiting at the edge of shooting range amongst the boulders down wind. With an arrow knocked and range finder being gripped with cold white knuckles I watched this impressive show of nature at its finest. The Coues whitetail rut in the desert sky island mountains where the best deer on earth fight to pass on their genes and survive a rough world covered with adverse habitat and predators. That's my place in this equation, a predator. Doing everything I can within law and ethics to tilt success in my direction. All I needed was a break in the wind or for the deer to close the gap between us. Rain was coming down sideways directly into my freezing face. An especially violent burst of wind ripped the hat off my head and launched it straight up into the air while the buck was facing me. The movement caught his eyes that were now drilling holes in me with suspicion. Suddenly action was necessary and I was drawn trying to settle my pin on the target as my accuracy was being tugged at by a fierce wind. I squeezed off the shot and immediately knew it was over. I had mixed emotions watching as an arrow I'd worked so hard to deliver zinged past the trophy leaving what I'd been dreaming of unscathed. At the last instant a gust of side wind altered my form just enough to send the arrow a few inches from driving my broadhead into the kill zone. On one hand I felt utterly hopeless and letdown that I could drop the ball in such a critical moment. Although, on the other hand this defeat was countered by relief of knowing it was a clean miss. There's nothing worse than wasting an animal with a bad hit that may kill it but not quickly enough to recover it for the dinner table or the wall of memories and accomplishments. This episode would replay in my head many times and haunt me for the rest of he season or longer. It's a far and difficult walk in the dark back to the truck after such a thing. It's funny somehow, with an extra 80 pounds or so the walk is no big deal, if it goes differently in that moment of truth. Archery spot and stalk hunting coues deer on public land wouldn't be what it is without much disappointment to elevate the rare success. This was only January 1st and I knew it couldn't be that easy. At least one close call was out of the way in order to get to my buck! Unable to relocate that deer I moved on to other plans I had for the one month long season. Giving myself a chance to walk, and see, over new ridge lines is part of this addiction so I did my best to put that missed opportunity behind me to pursue another. A week later with several spots checked off the list my hunting partner Creed and I decided to execute a three day backpack hunt we've been discussing for quite some time. Creed had already tagged out, harvesting an impressive mule deer but was generous enough to lend me a hand as a spotter for this trip. Many miles, two and half days and about 180 coues deer later we were running out of coues country near the flats at our pickup location. We saw only one buck we thought was over four years old and wouldn't you know it was one of the only deer that saw us before we saw him. All I had to show for another weekend was a wrecked bow. Walking to our next designated camp spot on the last night I lost my footing, like so many times before, but this time my reflex to protect my bow wasn't fast enough causing it to crash into rocks. The next day surprisingly it was still functional and accurate, I thought. Then something I never expected occurred, I decided to stalk a mule deer. Creed had spotted a nice one over a mile away out in the flats. Once I had crawled within 45 yards I drew back and grunted to stand him up. I took careful aim and felt great, with basically no wind or obstacles to worry about. He stood broadside as I watched my arrow sail past him. As it turned out my bow and site were more damaged than I thought and it was shooting all over the place. This discovery ended our trip a half day early. A big thanks to Creed's wife for taking the time to come pick us up and give us a ride back to our vehicles. That next week she harvested her first deer with a bow! A really cool coues buck at close range, spot and stalk, with Creed at her side, so awesome! As soon as I got home I started getting things tightened and tuned back up on my bow. After several shots, I reached full draw and it exploded as a limb went flying and the string smacked my arm. I couldn't believe my eyes, looking at what was left in my hands. Even more, I could imagine January slipping away before it was repaired. I had apparently damaged the string when I fell, is my best guess, and it finally snapped. I started the process with Bull Basin Archery Shop in Tucson and they did everything they could for a prompt solution, as always. In the meantime I pulled out my old bow I had kept as my backup and wiped the dust off of it. I've done just fine with this bow in the past and felt a little spark of excitement to give it another chance to shine! My dad and his hounds are a mountain lions worst enemy wreaking havoc on their population with unforgiving pursuit which benefits us both. Occasionally receiving a tip from the other as to the location of sign, or in this case "Cody I found your buck"! With careful reference and explanation we were confident I could get into where he saw "the kind of buck your after". Earlier in the month I had spent two days looking for this buck but couldn't seem to turn him up. Now a few weeks later I returned with a new plan to glass it all again. Coming in from a different angle and to look at a lot of new country further in too. This turned out to be one of the least eventful mornings I've ever had so I just kept moving, dissecting pocket after canyon after hillside of beautiful coues paradise. Unfortunately I came to the conclusion I either forgot how to spot deer or they all died. As I looked around while hiking I glanced over at a distant ridge that brought back a welcomed memory of my daughter finding her first shed, from the back of a trustworthy mule. It was a couple years prior while we were lion hunting with the old man. She about fell off her mule with excitement and I was ecstatic from her reaction. The same day I narrowly escaped the strike of a rattler as I was on foot and to this day she asks me if I remember when it happened , saying that I "screamed like a girl"! Words she conveniently got from her Papa, thanks a lot Dad. Then I was brought back to the present with burning muscles and sore feet wondering what was going on today with the lack of deer. Times like these always confuse me but after some encouragement through text from my brother Caleb and friend Creed, I continued my search for what had to be somewhere in front of me. Caleb also advised me not to fall and break my bow so that was helpful. I used to hike insane distances while hunting but over the years I've learned the trick is in glassing. For me anyways what has done me well is to hike quite a bit still but usually mostly before daylight to get where I wanna hunt and then glass most of the day, just changing vantage points periodically. Regardless, nothing seamed to be panning out deer and before I knew it I was near the top of those gigantic mountains. It was about noon so I decided to glass real quick one more time before eating lunch. The wind had come in hard so I put my nose straight at it and started picking apart the amazing real estate. Everything out to about 1000 yards. Within a short time my count for the day rapidly hit nearly 20 deer and I spotted a bedded buck on the furthest hill! I watched him a bit and took some video through my brothers spotter that he was nice enough to lend me. I looked around a while longer partially due to initially under judging him. Nothing else surfaced so I decided to cut the distance by moving through the first canyon between the buck and I, getting on the low ridge between us. After hustling to the new lookout, it had been about 30 minutes. I found the buck still bedded, now at 350 yards. Two deer I spooked during my approach were running right towards him. He got up and some semi serious rutting action started up with him lip curling after a doe, a spike was in the mix increasing commotion as well. I watched them long enough to decide they weren't going anywhere while coming up with a new plan. Initially coming from below him would have worked but once he started chasing the doe, all three deer ended up near the top of the ridge. Between the several options I had now the best one was of course, the most difficult and the most time consuming. I needed to circle way around the high point to my right and down along the backside of the ridge the deer were on. This would put everything needed for a successful stalk in my favor. Having the wind from that angle I wouldn't have to worry about his nose at all. His ears wound be a minimal threat and his eyes wouldn't be a problem until I was about 60 yards away. Noting a handful of landmarks I would need during my advance on the ridge line and the group of trees where he had now re bedded, I took off. This half loop was steep and rough but needed to be knocked out quick considering I wouldn't be able to see the deer for about 45 minutes. By the time I got to the high point I crept to the edge of a cliff with burning legs and lungs, for an update on his location. He was bedded a little different now but in the same thicket indicating he had probably jumped up to chase the spike away from the bedded doe. The spike was standing about 20 yards away staring at his own predicament. I eased out of sight and carefully continued my circle to a specific rock that still looked like a good place to wait for a shot. Angling across the ridge now I peaked over every 30 yards or so to make sure they weren't coming towards me. The wind was coming from my right more than I had hoped, if they started my way without me knowing all would be lost. Finally I eased up to my final land mark. My view was different now into the thicket and I thought he was gone at first. I ranged where he should be, 60 yards. I slowly focused through the branches with my binos trying to pick him out. There it was, the tip of an antler, unmoving. I looked closer and realized I could see patches of fur through the vegetation. He hadn't moved and was clueless at 60 yards. The wind was whipping past me and almost took my hat off! I quickly grabbed it and flipped it around backwards shaking my head, thinking "you shouldn't have to learn that one twice"! I lowered to a crawl and inched around the boulder and started forward. I made it to the next low rock and ranged again, 46 yards. I prepared an arrow and did a quick scan over my gear; release, broadhead, sights, peep site, etc. I waited a few minutes and was having deja vu. A big buck with a doe and a tormenting youngster hiding from the weather. With me on the sidelines behind a rock shaking in my boots. I realized my mouth felt like I had just munched on chalk, regretting not taking a drink before leaving my pack. I tried to figure out what might cost me this deer and recalled three weeks earlier when I rushed a shot in high winds. The rock I was behind was more like a shelf overlooking the inhabited pocket below. The rock shelf ran down hill and away from the deer to my left. I would have to move further away back out to 50 yards but I could stay undetected by sliding along behind it to get below this deafening wind. In examination of this idea I believe I lifted my head too high. I heard rustling and hooves pounding. Darting my eyes toward the noise I saw the spike only 15 feet away sprinting away from me. Oh no, flagging his tail he ran right past the bigger buck. I saw grey bodies race away in multiple directions. As deer disappeared over the crest of the hill I didn't notice a mass of antlers on any of them. I glanced all around and my eyes locked on the big buck staring in my direction, he had stood up and takin a few steps. Standing slightly quartered away, his vitals were at the ends of branches but there was a shot. I drew back in a low position out of sight. As I raised above the rock just enough to clear a shot his head jolted in recognition. I hadn't had time to move out of the wind and now it was costing me once again. My pin was wobbling in no less than a four foot pattern in and out of the grey shape in the background. I held it for I think about 15 seconds when the occasional break in the wind came just in time. I felt a relaxing moment replace rigidness throughout my body and time stood still. Pressure had started beneath my trigger finger. The bow sprang with energy sending the arrow on course. The buck became unglued with a desperate jump and was gone an instant later. I saw a flash of fletchings somewhere in the confusion and was unsure. I jumped up on the rock and held my breath in study of the bowl below me. A glimpse of movement caught my eye around 150 yards away. I noticed immediately it was the buck crashing to the ground, out of sight into tall yellow grass! My body was in pain from stress and I about fell off the rock face! Yardage updates had gone into a group text all along and now I sent "I just shot him", "saw him drop". This is sort of foolish to do during a stalk but I've learned it helps keep me calm. I called my wife to share the news who also told some excited kids. While talking to Creed and Caleb and my Dad I returned along my path to retrieve my pack a short ways. Twenty minutes went by and I decided that was long enough considering what I witnessed moments after the shot. I went to the bucks bed and right away noticed blood everywhere on the off side of where he had been standing when shot. Within ten feet on the blood trail was a deer shed sprayed with blood, that's a first and maybe last for me. I was giggling like a child with satisfaction of the evidence before me. I worked my way along, straight down hill in disbelief of the sheer drop off leaps this deer made. Fairly soon I could see a main beam sticking up a short ways off. I could hardly contain myself as I finally laid my hands on this elusive critter I can't get enough of. Examining my shot I couldn't have been more pleased, the entrance was in the rib cage and the exit was directly behind the opposite shoulder, double lung! Soaking in these moments is what it's all about. Unfortunately I was in a hurry to take decent pictures with my phone, using the timer, because it was dying fast. Time for the real work. I hung him from an oak branch and removed the meat into my pack and loaded everything else. It was just getting dark once I finished. I struggling for a minute to get my pack on and get stood up. The trip down would be on a ridge I'd never been on and now I know why. Negotiating myself with this load down through dozens of cliffs in the dark for the next few hours was quite a chore. By the time I reached my truck I thought I would collapse. Then it started raining and snowing, just in time, headed for home. I'd like to thank Caleb and Creed for all the support that goes back and forth, it's nice to share such a passion with great friends and family. Big thanks to my dad who gave me the tip to look for a different deer that led me to finding my latest trophy. Hopefully I find the deer he saw, next year, according to his description it's one worth dedicated time to locate. Also, growing up in the outdoors and working hard under his watch made my success at harvesting wildlife more possible. Above all I'd like to recognize my wife for being awesome mostly but also for her support in life. I couldn't imagine blundering through it without her and our amazing kids. Well, at least I only have to wait another 342 days for the next January 1st..!