Mr. Mass – aka the Velvet Trickster!
By Josh Epperson
Well, most of you know I have been watching this buck for the last three years. I have lots of photos of him from trail cameras.
Saturday morning I decided to look for the buck in a spot that I thought quite unlikely for him to be in. I spotted a lone doe and watched her feed and mill around for about 45 minutes while half-ass glassing the slope of the canyon thinking he just couldn’t be in a place like this. I was thinking about going for a hike and just still hunting through the trees when I glassed higher on the ridge and spotted two nice bucks together, about 800 yards away. Soon as I realized what and who I was looking at I completely turned to an absolute ball of adreneline filled jello! I completely fell apart and could hardly stand confidently on the rock outcropping I was on. It was one of the worst cases of buck-fever I can remember. I barely even got rattled shooting my first bull elk this past Sept but these dang coues bucks just tear me up. I gathered up all my stuff back in my pack and made my over to a small ridgeline and crept close to 400 yards in the wide open undetected. They stood still for the past 20 minutes as I stalked them but soon as I was getting set up to shoot they decided to head into some thick brush. I was still trying to regain my composure from my serious case of buck-fever and quickly got the buck in the crosshairs. I didn’t feel very steady but felt as if this was my only chance and I squeezed the trigger. TOTAL MISS!!!!!!!!!! Both bucks were now on high alert but had no clue what was going on but figured they better get a move on and turned and went for the ridge top. I tried getting him back in the scope and when I did I sqeezed the trigger again and nothing! The rifle had the safety on luckily cause I don’t think many people have observed someone excited as me jerking the trigger as hard as I did. I couldn’t have hit a school bus at 50 yards I jerked the trigger so hard. I laughed to myself and was glad the gun didn’t go off as I watched the bucks disappear over the ridge top. Thoroughly disgusted with my self I sat there thinking what the heck am I gonna do now. I decided to hike well over a mile back to my quad and have some lunch, take a nap and wait for a couple friends of mine to show up and help glass with me. I was pretty confident the bucks weren’t that spooked and that they’d reappear in the evening.
Around 3:30 my friend Chris “Chappart” Gravatt and I hiked out on a point to do some glassing. My other friend Dave “Shifty” Brown showed up after Chris and I bailed off on a point and glassed for me from another point. A couple does with fawns showed up and and Chris spotted a small 2pt buck (this was the buck you all might remember that was giving another small 3pt the mid-air bitch-slap at my salt lick this summer). We sat for a while and I ended up spotting a whitetail shed, about 500 yards down the slope, hung up in an oak tree. I told Chris that it was the right antler off of Mr. Mass from 2 years back. He knew better than to call B.S. on me though as I’ve got at least 30 pictures of that buck from that season making scrapes and hitting my salt lick throughout the summer. Anywho, Chris finally says to me, “Dude I think I’ve got your buck. Yup, it’s definitely him!” I finally picked him out of the brush about a half mile away and said “LETS GO!” We scurried to the edge of the ridge and I bailed off on the same small ridge down on them and got there just as it was getting pretty dang dark. I got within 285 yards of the bucks but just couldn’t pick them out of the danged trees and brush that was all around. Dave kept telling me the buck is standing in the open but from his angle it was and from mine I couldn’t see jack squatt! Darkness came and I hiked back out of there confident we could find them again in the morning.
Sunday morning found Chris and myself right where we were when we left them. I spotted both bucks with 2 smaller bucks right off the bat and it was game on! We were already at 460 yards but needed to get closer. We got to a small rockpile another 30 yards closer but it was still to far for my shooting abilities. As we watched them they fed to the bottom of the canyon and went behind a couple of big trees and we never saw them come out. We sat there for about a half hour when I happened to back off the 15’s and look to my right. There was a really pretty cinnamon colored black bear about 50 yards away just standing on a small pile of rocks looking down the way we were. Wasn’t a big bear but pretty nonetheless. It just walked off into the brush never knowing we were even there. Back to the deer…… We waited and waited and nothing! I snuck farther down into the canyon and closed the distance another 100 yards to 330 yards. After I got set up Chris came down to me so that we wouldn’t miss a second of watching those trees. We sat there for another long while and I decided to sneak down farther. I like my shots as close as I can get them, especially when it comes to a buck like this one. I snuck farther down the ridge, where the 15’s were a tad much actually, to 195 yards of the two trees. Here I found myself completely out in the open on the bare slope baking in the sun. Time was around 11:00 AM and I was prepared for the long sit. After about 15 minutes I took off my long-sleeved camo shirt and tried to shade myself under it as best as I could while still being able to watch those two stupid trees below me. A few minutes later I thought I heard a rock flip across the draw to my left. I looked over and saw a buck standing there! I looked through my 10’s and quickly realized that this was the big guy I’d longed to see in my scope!!! Somehow he’d made it out of the trees, over a 100 yards up the bottom of the draw and lucky for me he kicked a rock over or I might have never seen him. I pulled up my old trusty 30.06 and this time hit him square in the back as he was trying to get up the ridge. He rolled over and stood back up and I put one more through this shoulders at 115 yards! It was definitely an excitement that I hadn’t felt in a long time and I couldn’t wait to get over there to him. I waited for Chris to come down to me so I could make a loop down and try to push out the big buck, that Mr. Mass was hanging out with, in hopes that Chris could take him as well. But it wasn’t meant to be as we didn’t see anything.
After a long photo shoot we hiked over and found the shed that I’d glassed up the evening before and just as I thought, it was the exact antler that I thought it was. It’s been a fun and exciting few years getting all the pictures of many different bucks but I’m glad it all worked out that I finally got him. Thanks to ol “Chappart” for all of his help in glassing and carrying all my optics and tripod out for me as I packed out my buck and all the boned out meat and rifle back to the quads. I hope you all have enjoyed the past pictures I’ve posted of this great deer as much as I have had in sharing them all with you. Here’s a few more pics for you all to enjoy. Thanks for reading and all your support.
I almost forgot one of the coolest moments of the whole ordeal! What’s wrong with me!?!?! On the way home my Dad was texting me telling me how much Isaac was excited to see my buck so when I got to Dad’s house to pick up my boy, Isaac was so excited to see my buck. It was so cute!!! He just kept grabbing onto the antlers and saying, “Daddy’s buck!”. Oh man it was awesome. I can’t wait till he gets a little older so he can hike the hills with me. Can’t they make the hunting age about 5? I can’t wait to see him hammer his first coues!!