Because we all like good hunting stories, I thought that I would let all of you read my buddy's account of our hunt this past week in New Mexico. He wrote this in another online forum, Because it was his tag, I'll let you read it in his words:
"My buddy and I headed out on Friday and decided to focus our efforts south of Highway 64 to see if we could avoid the crowds and focus on trying to find a big buck for the first couple days of the hunt. We scouted Friday and didn't see any deer, but we did mark some good looking canyons to check out over the next couple of days. We hunted south of the highway all day on Saturday and Sunday as well as Monday morning without seeing a deer. Hearing that, it probably sounds like the hunt was a bust but we saw a lot of really fresh sign and had a run in with what we believe was a big buck on Sunday. We hiked into an out of the way pocket and climbed up onto a bench above the canyon to glass. We immediately came across some very fresh, very large tracks and the stalk was on. As we walked we came across several piles of still warm droppings and a fresh scrape; that scrape meant it was a buck and we knew we were close so we continued on with our heads on a swivel. After following the tracks for more than a half hour the buck began to circle back on us and we realized that he probably had winded us and was circling around for his escape. Sure enough the tracks went from a walk to a bound and we found his tracks running off right through our boot prints from just minutes before. We got high on a ridge and spent the remainder of the day trying to find him with no luck and we hiked out in the dark. I guess the big ones get big for a reason.
Feeling bummed at the lack of deer sightings and our failed stalk, and also starting to feel the pressure since it had been 9 years since the last time I shot a deer (a whitetail in Iowa), we decided to move north of the highway and check out the east side of the lake. I really wanted to fill this tag and we had heard that this was a good area to see a lot of deer even if they weren't as large as some other areas. We started glassing along La Jara Canyon and almost immediately spotted a forky and several does along with another deer with a large body that we couldn't identify. We decided to drive over to the other side of the canyon and see if we could get a look at that other deer and maybe fill the tag on the forky if it came to that. I'd never shot a mule deer and I really wanted to get something in the freezer. When we arrived at the spot we started walking in and immediately encountered another hunter walking up from where we spotted those deer. He had just shot at the forky and missed and didn't even see the larger deer bedded higher up the hill so we'll never know what it was. Well, that's public land, I guess, and I really wanted something bigger than a forky anyway so no big deal. We only had an hour of light left so we decided to hike away from the road to a small ridge that just looked "bucky" and didn't have any roads on it. We walked in and immediately heard a snort and jumped a deer that bolted onto a nearby piece of private land so we didn't pursue. We were interested in looking into a small bowl from the ridge top and continued our hike. As we crested the hill we saw two ATVs and two other trucks on a road in the distance and we thought they might blow up the area, but they couldn't see into the bowl from the road and they moved on. When we got to the top we looked over the edge and spotted three mature does. We continued glassing and I spotted several more does and a 4x4 buck! I got pretty excited and we decided that this was a worthy shooter for someone on such a long dry spell. I moved into position and ranged him at 200 yards. I squeezed off the shot and hit him a little back of where I wanted and he ran off bleeding heavily. We moved down the hill and I got a finishing shot from 30 yards and he was down for good. I had finally succeeded at a major goal for me: a public land, DIY muley buck. He's no giant, but I couldn't be happier right now."
I'm sure most of us can remember our first buck. And to have someone to share that memory with makes it even more special. I guess what gets me is the last line. To help someone accomplish a hunting dream just gives you a whole different feeling. What it comes down to is, its not how big the buck is in the end, but really how big the smiles are and the memories made.