I can’t tell you how many times I replayed the previous weekend in my mind on the drive home and throughout the following week. Visualizing my arrow flying over the back of the big muley buck as he stood from his bed, the antelope bolting and watching my arrow hit exactly where I wanted just a split second too late were scenes that were stuck on repeat in my mind over the next 5 days. All week, I worked as hard as I could in school, at work, and at the archery range, so that when Thursday rolled around, I could take off one day early for fall break in hopes of redeeming myself over the long weekend.
Thursday evening finally arrived, and after a very long 4 days, I had my bags packed and found myself once again making the drive home, this time for 5 full days and nothing on the agenda but hunting. After telling my dad that I would be returning home one day early for fall break, he decided to take off work as well to walk hills with me. After arriving in Ainsworth late Thursday evening, I took time to prepare my gear for the next morning; it was going to be a long day.
The next morning, we were greeted by howling winds, and an overcast sky with cooler temps. Nearly exact opposite of the previous weekend when the wind was almost too calm for stalking and temperatures were almost in the 80’s. After a long drive and a talk about the previous weekend, we found ourselves back near the same area we had been the week before. We grabbed our gear and began hiking towards a high hill in the distance for glassing, this is where we would begin the day.
Reaching the top of a high hill, my dad and I sat with our backs towards each other, scanning the hills with our binos. We could see for miles, and I knew we were bound to spot something. Not more than a couple of minutes later, my dads voice broke the silence, “bingo” he said. I turned around to see him glassing a spot on the horizon. “Goats,” he said pointing to a spot way off in the distance. I pulled up my binos to see a herd of antelope feeding on a side hill over a mile away. “Lets go,” my dad said as we both got to our feet. We made our way quickly to the east so as to not lose track of the herd. The howling wind covered our noise as we attempted to cut the distance between the antelope and us. We reached a spot in a saddle where we had a view of the herd that was now bedded in what looked like a relatively flat area a few hundred yards away. A nice buck was bedded in the middle of 11 does and fawns. Considering the landscape they were bedded in, and 11 other pairs of eyes, the odds of getting in on him in that position seemed relatively low even with the gusty wind. We sat in the spot for a while, ultimately deciding to make a move as they showed no sign of going anywhere soon. We got up and started to move toward the herd, staying low cutting across a wide valley, keeping the few small rolling hills between us and the herd as cover as we attempted to cut the distance.
Once we got close to where we thought the herd was bedded, we crept slowly along, peeking over the small hills that separated us from the herd. The second hill we crept over, we could see them. The buck was bedded in the middle of the does, and the cover between us and the side hill that they were bedded on was very minimal. Our odds were not looking great for getting within shooting distance. A small flat dotted with three yucca plants were all we had to work with. We were already this close; we had to try something. We moved around the hill, layed flat, and started belly crawling the last 150 yards to get within shooting range. Upon reaching the third yucca plant, it was obvious that we were as close as we were going to get. We were out of cover, and the herd was bedded well within shooting range. Still flat on our stomachs, I asked my dad for a range. “53.5” he said. I took a few seconds to plan the shot before hooking my release on my loop. Still in a prone position behind the yucca, with my bow parallel to the ground, I began to draw as I worked up to my knees. With my bow at full draw, I moved up slowly from behind the yucca into a kneeling shooting position. I settled my pin on the bedded buck as I heard my dad whisper “take your time.” I moved my pin back 8 inches to compensate for the strong cross wind. I touched the release and lost sight of the arrow almost immediately. The hollow thump that followed assured me that the arrow had found its mark.
The does took off in a flash, scattering from their bedded positions, while the buck ran to the top of the hill and stood there, clearly looking hurt. A blood spot low in the arm-pit assured me that the shot was going to be fatal. We watched as the buck walked slowly up a draw and bedded down. We quickly backed away and circled around to get an eye on him. Once we reached the draw, we saw him bedded in a spot where we would be able to put another arrow in him to quickly finish the job. Using the hill as cover, we made a circle around the buck’s position and came up over the hill at the end of the draw. Just 43 yards away, the buck was bedded facing away. This arrow was near perfect and within seconds it was over.
We approached the old buck and admired him for a few seconds before slapping a high five and then took time to take pictures and let it all soak in. The third leg of the super tag was completed, and to be honest with you, if there was one part of this super tag that I thought may go unfilled; it would be this tag. I thought back to the mishaps from the week before and knew that I wouldn’t have had this experience had I been successful on either of those opportunities. Bowhunting can be the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and the last 5 days had been a perfect example of that. Experiencing the lows made me appreciate this moment so much more. With the third leg complete, we loaded the buck and headed for town flying high. The hard part was done, now two more turkeys and my super tag would be completed with my bow all in the first year!