The Birthday Buck
by Sam Larson
I found out that I had been drawn for deer in July and started my preparation immediately. It was a unit in southern Arizona that is known for good Coues deer hunting. I had hunted it a couple of times before but I still wasn’t real familiar with the area.
I spent most of the summer and fall scouting and had found some good bucks. Everything was looking good for opening day on November 28th (my birthday).
About a month before opening day I was sent down to work and live on the U.S./ Mexico international boarder fence project. We were working seven days a week sun up to sun down. The odds of getting time off to go on my hunt were looking slim to none. We were told that we would have the 27th off, Thanksgiving Day, and that was all. Needless to say my plans were heading south fast. When I called my brother, Matt Larson, to tell him what had happened, he told me that he had to be on call that weekend anyways and couldn’t leave Sho Low.
Matt works as a lineman for the power company in Show Low, Arizona. He told me he could get someone from work to cover his on call time but since I wasn’t going, and he needed the money, he would just take it.
Now I was really bumming! The whole week before the hunt I was miserable at work. All week my buddy Jason Gutman was harping on me to just ask the boss for the time off, but since we were under such a push to get the job done, I was reluctant. I was glad when I finally took Jason’s advice and asked my boss for the weekend off. My boss told me he was wondering when I was going to let him know about my hunt because for the past five years the only days I had taken off were to go hunting.
Things were starting to look up a little bit but now Matt couldn’t get off of his on call schedule. He told me that a guy he works with had that same hunt so he put me in touch with Eddy Keenan.
Eddy had recently moved to Arizona and had never hunted Coues deer. He was going to meet me on November 27th at my dad’s house after he was done doing Thanksgiving at his sister’s in Phoenix.
As I was eating Thanksgiving dinner with my family, I was telling my brother Luke Larson how tough I thought this hunt was going to be seeing how I was going to be doing all the glassing and didn’t know the area as well as I would have liked. Immediately he jumped at the idea of getting out his binos to do some glassing for me. It was almost like a weight was lifted off my shoulders, because we all know that for every set of eyes you have on the side of a hill it seems like the chances of getting a buck doubles.
I was supposed to meet Luke at 4:30 a.m. but of course he was late as usual. When he showed up around five he had his partner Howie Stough and there friend Matt Landerche with them. It was almost like a dream come true for me seeing as how Luke and Howie were both successful on their Coues deer hunt only a month earlier and Matt knew the area I was hunting very well. Now this was starting to turn into a real whitetail hunt.
On the drive out to my unit we went over some different areas to hunt, but Matt had had the hunt before mine and said the unit was pretty congested and the bucks were moving to more remote areas away from the pressure. He said he knew a good spot where he didn’t think many people would be hunting. I was all for it. We ended up driving through my Brother Matt’s father in law’s camp to get back into where we wanted to start glassing. We started glassing before sun up and the first thing I picked up was Matt’s father in law and his son going up the side of the hill. Not thirty seconds after they crested the top of the hill Luke whispers “There’s two bucks.”
They had jumped the bucks and never saw them. We could tell they were nice
Deer but they were about a thousand yards away and side hilling at a rapid pace. Howie told me and Eddy to get to this little knob at the base of the mountain as quick as we could. He said the bucks had started heading down the mountain and if we hurried we could cut them off or maybe catch them moving through the flats for a shot. By the time we hit the top of the knob the adrenaline had worn off and I was dead tired. There was two draws that came down the mountain and split the base of the knob we were on. We were certain the two bucks had gone down the draw to the south of where we were now, but we could not seem to pick them up again. Howie said he was going to check the draw to the north of us just to make sure they didn’t try to slip out that way. As soon as he crested the other side of the knob he yells “There over here.” The first buck slipped away down the draw into the flats but Howie had gotten there just in time to turn the bigger of the two back up the mountain. I sat down and took a good rest on my shooting sticks, and by now the buck didn’t have anywhere to go but up so I knew he would present me with at least one shot. I waited for him to come out in a clearing about 200 yards away from me when I took the first shot. It had missed. I racked another bullet in the chamber and sat there as my dream buck was slowly getting farther away from me while keeping himself concealed behind junipers. When the buck stepped out for the second time at 300 yards I knew I had to make this one count. I let it rip and I couldn’t see what had happened because of the recoil of the 7mm but from Luke, Howie, and Matt’s reactions I knew he was down.
After what seemed to be a thousand high fives and “fist pumps” I got to see my birthday buck for the first time. He was everything I had spent my whole life hunting for. I sent a picture to my brother Matt back in Sho Low and not two minutes later he called me and said he got someone to cover his on call for the rest of the weekend and he was on his way down to Tucson. That evening, after Matt got into town we went out for the night hunt and I spotted up two mountain lions. I got a shot at them but need less to say I missed, but just seeing those two lions caped off an already perfect day.
Looking back it is amazing to see how my hunt went from non existent to a huge success, and how a few good friends pitched in and gave me the best birthday gift I have ever received.