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2019 Late Whitetail Deer Hunt

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2019 Late Whitetail Deer Hunt

I got the AZGFD card today asking me if I got a deer this year.  Well, I was able to say “yes” this year and I had to count up the days hunted in order to fill out the survey – 14 days!  That’s a lot of time spent on this hunt and much of the weather was windy and cold.  But it paid off.

Having hunted this area for nearly 30 years on and off, we did not spend a lot of time scouting.  After all, it was the late whitetail hunt.  Should be a breeze! Yah, right.  It was very breezy but that is a different issue!

I do have to admit the first day was pretty amazing with seeing over 9 bucks on one hill and a lot of chasing activity.  Second day was less interesting with the weather getting worse as the day wore on.  I came home Sunday morning for Church and then back down.  The wind was terrible so I ditched the afternoon hunt. The wind ushered in some cold temps and glassing from “John’s Hill” was miserable – as it would be for most of the rest of the hunt.

Throughout the next 2 weeks, we got in several unsuccessful stalks which I cynically tallied up to “passing on that one” – the deer would just disappear during the stalk or just run like crazy in front of us.  Rutting activity seemed to decrease as time passed with only spikes chasing the does, which was quite disappointing.  I sat out one other horrendously windy day, the next Sunday morning, Christmas Eve Day, and the morning of Christmas, but was otherwise at it before sunup till after sundown.  It got old.

My buddy finally scored on a mishap -- shot a spike that came out from behind a juniper instead of the big one following it, just before the snows came in.  I blew off that first snowy/windy day but was back at it the next day where it snowed on and off most of the day, ending up quitting after lunch and then went home Saturday evening for a shower, replenished supplies, and attended evening Church.  That left only 3 days to hunt but the weather was supposed to be better – that is, less windy.  My hunting partner, Ed, had gone to California to see his grandkid.  His neighbor, Brian, continued to support by glassing for me -- he is really good.  The winds were not all that low and Sunday was a bust.  Brian had to work Monday morning so I called a friend of my son who was visiting family for Christmas.  It appeases my wife and good common sense for me not to be out there all by my lonesome.

He came down early Tuesday morning and we hit the hill early.  Wind was bad and coupled with the cold temps, glassing was not fun.  But it did work out as Ryan found and lost the little buck right at sunup.  I had stalked him several days previous, chasing does in the exact same area.  We did find him again down in the bottom chasing a doe about an hour later, so I stripped down a layer and headed out after him.  The experience of the previous stalk paid off greatly as I knew where to go intercept/find him.  He was the only buck in the area that was beyond a spike that seemed to be actively pursuing does those last few days. I recall kneeling to pray along the road down to the fence, recalling Pastor Robert’s sermon on perseverance – I hate perseverance!  I had at least 5 strikes by my count, already.

The wind was less frustrating down in the bottom and I even peeled off another layer of clothes as I hurried down to the fence line west and downwind of where all the chasing was going on.  Much nicer conditions prevailed:  constant but mild wind out of the east.  I slowed greatly crossing the last little ridge before the big wash that was where the deer would probably be.  I moved from bush to bush and stopped to glass.  There were large open areas higher up and lots of cover in the bottom.  Several horses and cows were in the area, also.

Not seeing anything, I decided to cross the wash and get up to a high point that I found on the that previous stalk.  Just as I rounded a bush, I encountered a doe coming out of the bottom and we proceeded to have a standoff where I did not move for at least 15 minutes. She finally turned and walked into the brush.  However, she only took 3 or 4 steps to where I could not see her and must have turned and looked my way, as she blew and busted out of there when I moved forward.  Well, that could not be a good thing!

Visibility was pretty bad so I moved on to the ridge just out of the main wash where I could see the bottom of the wash and the several draws that snaked off to the east.  I tried several spots and ended up sitting in the shade of this small juniper for a loonnngggg wait.  Ryan meanwhile was freezing his rear off up on John’s Hill and had put on my heavy coat and then ended up finally in the truck.  Time passed slowly!  I started the “stalk” before 9am and it was well after lunch with nothing moving including the horses and the cows which had laid down.

I played with my phone and GPS and found the “Best Times” for the day were between 2:30 pm and 4:30 pm.  On cue, the cows stood up around 2:30 pm so I alerted Ryan by text about the cows and magic times.  I walked out to the edge of my ridge where he could see me and then went back to my stand.  He called me and said there was a doe 100 yards to the east, but I could not see it.  Horizontal distance and angles have always been iffy for me and my normal hunting partner even after years together, so I took the info with a grain of salt.

Anyway, I went back to my “stand” and waited.  Suddenly, those crazy horses came running down the hill and crossed by my ridge about 10 yards behind me.  I guess they were going down the wash to water.  I thought they might be coming for carrots or sugar cubes and I was out.  It scared the daylights out of me to have 3 @ 1000+ lb animals running towards me for no apparent reason.  But it certainly got the adrenaline going.

Now I was alert! Just a few moments later, the little buck came out of the big wash onto my ridge.  My rifle was on the ground so when he went behind some brush, I slowly ducked down and picked it up very carefully. I shouldered the rifle as he crossed the peak of my ridge and just started down, where I squeezed off the first shot – OFF HAND.  I generally avoid off hand but this was only 38 yards (later ranged).  He humped up and bolted down the ridge and piled up in the brush about 20 yards from the initial hit.  He was still moving so I shot again (recall that l really suck at off hand shots) just to make sure.  I texted Ryan to pack up everything and drive the truck down to the gate.

I was pumped!  I again knelt to pray and thank God for his provision.  He was a cute little 3 point.  After a couple initial photos, I pulled the deer up to the shade of a mesquite tree for some more pictures and evaluated the hit.  There was just a small entrance hole right above the sternum but a giant 4” crater on the exit.  Lots of blood loss on ground, too.  I could not find another hole so was not sure if I just missed (he was in the brush) or I hit near the 4” crater.  I gathered my fanny pack and stuff over to where the deer was and awaited arrival of reinforcements.

Ryan arrived with Brian (he just got there and did not even hear the shots), along with the son of the rancher who leases the area on his horse and his lucky dog.  Lucky because he got lots of scraps with his excellent timing.   Seeing a guy mounted on a horse coming through the wash, I thought Brian had wrangled one of those crazy horses to haul out my deer – NOT!  We got some more pictures and then moved on to skinning (going gutless).  It went pretty fast with Brian leading the charge as he had done about 4 or 5 deer just recently this way.  I always seem to have trouble with the rear hip socket and not puncturing the pee tube.

Overall, it came out pretty clean except for some mesquite beans that we found in the lower cavity. Now that I think about it, that second shot may have gone in right through the brisket and exploded the stomach but it did not exit.  All four quarters and backstraps were pretty clean.  I also retrieved the heart and tenderloins (where things weren’t so clean) from inside.  We packed up and Brian ended up carrying out almost everything except the head, thanks to Ryan’s coyness. That slacker!

Trip out was a piece of cake.  The pack-out required only a pretty casual walk of only about a half mile but it was getting cold. Thank goodness it was only another half mile drive out.  WOW, did that meat chill out quick.  I let it set out overnight on the aluminum Diamondback bed cover of my little truck. Ryan left for home and I gave him one of those luscious backstraps.  After spending the last night at Ed’s, I drove home the next day, well rested, and traded the cape for a Euro mount at a local taxidermist on  the way home.

It was quite a long hunt but quite satisfying.  Got to spend a lot of time with great friends and got a nice little deer that is way bigger than my hunting partner’s – first time ever in our 3 decades together!  😉  The tenderloins and heart tasted great.  I did flake out and take the four quarters to WGP for processing – too tired and cold and too much procrastination.

BTW: I still hate perseverance, but do know that Providence had everything to do with this harvest for which I am very humbled and quite grateful.



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