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The Graduation Buck

The Buck of a Lifetime

As the last semester of my senior year was getting started in mid-January, it was time to get inventory ready and the booth loaded up for the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo. I was running my company’s (AntlerKingz) booth. My parents drove down for the day to check out the show and talk to our hunting buddies; the afternoon auction had just started, so I stopped in to talk to them and get away from the booth for a minute. The auction was well under way, but my parents said they were going to leave and head back home. Before they left, my dad told me to stay at the auction and buy myself a tag as a graduation present. The tag was for a well-known, limited-entry unit in southern Utah—the PAUNSAUGUNT! I was sitting at a table with good friend, boss, and outfitter, Doyle Moss of MossBack Guides and Outfitters. After I purchased the tag, we knew we had our work cut out for us, considering my past experience hunting the Paunsaugunt with a bow.

The rest of the school year passed and graduation came and went; summer came and went; before I knew it, August arrived and I was on the road heading south to help videotape a hunter as he harvested his once-in-a-lifetime archery mule deer, knowing that as soon as he was done, it would be my turn to chase big velvet-covered muley’s with stick and string. After hunting hard and spotting numerous bucks, on the fifth afternoon, Mark Heck was able to arrow an amazing 204-7/8” inch giant.

That night at dinner, game plans were made to go after a buck Mark had passed and had failed stalks on. The early morning hour of 4:45 a.m. came fast and we loaded up the trucks to make our drive to where the buck called home. After making a long stalk along the tree line we set up in a spot where we believed we could ambush the buck on his way from his watering hole, to bed for the day. As with Mark’s attempts, this one also went awry, and the buck slipped past us. We knew it was still early enough in the day that bucks should still be feeding, so Doyle and I hustled back to the truck to cover country.

Good friend Wyatt Bowles was watching a group of bucks; one in particular had some very unique character, lots of mass, and some cool extras. Doyle and I decided we should attempt a stalk on him. Three stalks later…one of which required taking off our boots and going across some pretty rocky, pokey terrain…I found myself full-draw on the buck at sixty yards. The buck was traveling with five other bucks and they were moving across a large opening where I knew I could make a shot. I’m not going to sugarcoat the rest of this hunting story to make it seem like anything else is to blame but myself! The buck was walking slowly through the opening; I got excited and rushed my shot, hitting the buck a little far back. We knew it would still be a lethal shot, but it would be better to try and get another arrow in him. After regrouping with Wyatt, we all set up on a vantage point to look at the face the buck disappeared over. Doyle and Wyatt were quick to pick him up, and Doyle and I were back after him.

The next two hours is when the hunt got the best of me, and when I thought I was going to be killed…either by Doyle for messing up so much, or the deer…. We stalked in twenty yards and I was able to get a shot at the buck in the thick oak. I missed and the buck bolted. Wyatt watched the buck go into a thick patch of oak; Doyle, a little upset about my miss, pushed forward to get back on the buck. After getting back on the buck at seventy yards and changing my sight to go along with my sight tape, I proceeded to move to forty yards, without resetting my sight, I drew back and...missed again…

By now, all the excitement and confidence in my shooting was gone. We located the buck again, but now I was down to two arrows, which put me in a real tight spot. I drew back on the buck at forty, settled my pin, and missed yet again. In frustration I drew back with my last arrow and missed for the fourth time!

With Doyle vigorously questioning what I was doing and why I couldn’t hit the buck, I realized I had not moved my sight back from my previous change to seventy yards. With no arrows left and the buck bedded down, we decided to go see if we could get one of my arrows back. That was bad idea number one! But bad idea number two really trumped bad idea number one! Doyle got my arrow that was above the buck, but found the broad head was broken, so he instructed me to get the one below the buck. That was bad idea number two! As I reached for the arrow, all I remember seeing was the massive, thirty-inch-wide velvet-covered antlers coming at me. I spun around, ran, and bailed over a clump of sage brush. The bow went one way, I went another, and the deer went over me and kept on going. I jumped to my feet almost in tears, only to find Doyle standing up the hill laughing at me, and Wyatt across the canyon so busy laughing at me, that his 15 powered Swarovski on the tripod fell over!
I regrouped, got those two to focus on the task again, and retrieved the arrow I had been after, which still had a good broad head. I adjusted my sight back, and after locating the buck one more time, was able to make a great shot, ending the trials and tribulations of the day. We high-fived, hugged, and then loaded the buck up to go take some pictures.
When we were done taking pictures, while the excitement was at its fullest, we decided to pull the tape out and measure the heavy freak buck. After putting a tight tape on the buck twice, we came up with an unbelievable score of 204-2/8ths inches. I couldn’t believe it! I had just harvested my dream buck—a 200-inch muley—with my bow! But score is just a number; I believe the stories and memories that I have from this hunt will outweigh the score every time I look at the mount and think of the great hunt I had with great friends!

Thanks to Team Mossback for such a great experience, helping me get my dream buck, and letting me help other hunters make their dreams a reality. I can’t wait to see what 2015 has to offer! ...hopefully my shooting will be up to par.