Deer season 2010 will go down as one of the most memorable in my life. The hunting was difficult but the time spent with my Son in Law and my Grandson will never fade.
It all started back when we all applied for our hunts. This year I took the advice of a good friend to apply for 19A, and since I am not one of those guys who have “that” unit I apply for each year, my son in law and I decided to give it a try. The first part of the most memorable hunt I have ever been on was in full motion and Tom (son in law), Caleb (grandson), and I were super excited for our day to come.
As we all know, sometimes plans do not come to fruition and our hunt was postponed until Monday three days after the hunt started. I wasn’t too concerned and knew, as soon as Tom got back from an important meeting out of state, we would be hitting the big glass and chewing up miles of beautiful Arizona backcountry looking for any deer with an antler on his head.
Monday morning started early as we met at a near by gas station; Tom pulling a Ranger and me pulling my travel trailer we would call home for the next week. We arrived at our camp spot and unloaded the Ranger from the trailer and got things ready to travel. I jumped in the trailer and heated up some water, brought some hot chocolate for Caleb (and as it turned out Tom and me too), and away we went. I couldn’t help but giggle a little knowing my 4 year old Grandson, his Dad, who had never killed a buck before, and I will be embarking on a true adventure and not just another hunt.
Caleb was a bit cold—alright he was “freezing, Papa” as he stated and I brought along a big old duck hunting jacket just for this reason. I bundled him up and all you could see was these big brown eye’s peering out in a pile of saw grass camo—once again I smiled and then giggled out loud—he smiled too but only his eye’s could be seen sparkling from in there. To see the excitement in Caleb’s eye’s was enough for me to understand why we continue to hunt and why it is so important for all of us to do our part to bring the young one’s along—the younger they can get involved, the better it will be for all of us.
Monday started and ended with Tom and I behind big binoculars with nothing but a coyote to brag about. It was a wonderful day in the world of hunting and I loved every minute of it.
Tuesday came in cold and windy and we went through the same drill as Monday morning getting hot oatmeal this time and bundling Caleb up for the cold ride to where we would glass. Now I am not sure how many of you have tried to glass with a 4 year old but I can tell you that it is an experience not to be forgotten. Caleb would break out into his Karate drills and you could hear his “heaya” and other Karate sounding blurbs that only his trained Asian ears could understand (note: he had just watched Karate Kid so he is now Karate Kid) any way Tom and I kept telling him that we had to talk in our hunting voices and he would be a little more quite but not for long. We actually smiled a lot and kept looking for deer who I am sure had heard us from the time Caleb Karate chopped his first Juniper tree!
We stopped for a while and ate some oatmeal and warmed up a bit—dang, it was cold this year and it was refreshing to actually need jackets while deer hunting in October. We decided to load up and head back to camp to eat some breakfast and the boys were brave enough to eat what I cooked. We all seemed to be relaxed with full bellies, and off we went for the afternoon hunt.
Once again we setup to glass and the wind was howling! Caleb was better this time but it didn’t make a difference as the deer were no where to be see. We did glass up antelope all the way on top of a huge rock bluff, which was an experience I had not had as I have always seen them lower than that. As the sun was setting, the plan to try an area that a good friend had suggested was already in the works.
That night Tom and I went over our maps and decided to try one area closer to camp and if nothing came from that we would move about 50 miles from where we were camped and give that a try. We actually saw our first deer that morning a beautiful whitetail doe And her two fawns—one from last year and one from this year all three looked in fantastic shape. When we hit the 12 noon mark, we decided to move on to our planned afternoon hunt so we loaded up the Ranger and off we went stopping at McDonald’s for lunch which of course included a happy meal with Halloween toy in it for Caleb.
We traveled through three small cities and into the land of deep canyons and thick Juniper tree’s. We unloaded the Ranger and were on our way to the spot my friend told us to check and it looked very good!
We settled in behind our binoculars and ,with our focus on the hill he said might hold a few good bucks, we glassed, and glassed, and glassed some more until finally deciding we should see what else the land had to offer.
You know how fate works heavily into your hunting success—which road to take, which direction to look and all of that, right? Well as we drove toward a split in the road, I told Tom that the left route intrigued me and then asked him which way he wanted to go. With a shrug of a shoulder and an “I don’t care” I said “make a decision!” and he said lets go left—ah, good call! We headed to another area to glass, but sometimes you just take what the Big Game gods give you, and that is just what we did. Just as we rounded a small turn, a good looking buck decided to show himself! I told Tom that that was a buck and we need to move on him. I waited for Tom to make the shot, which barely went over the top of his back. The buck ran faster than any mulie I have ever seen and Tom and I both missed as he ran right to left in front of us. By the time he hit the hill to our left I heard Tom yell “HEY” and the buck did what a lot of mulie bucks do and stopped. When Tom knocked him down, you should have heard him yelling like an Indian Warrior after winning a battle. But that isn’t the most memorable part of this day. No, it was Caleb who was buckled in his seat belt in the Ranger yelling “Papa I’m stuck” he was freaking out because he couldn’t get his seatbelt unbuckled so I trotted back to the Ranger and unbuckled him. He jumped out of the Ranger and started running as fast as his little legs would carry him ,all the while yelling “my Daddy shot a deer.” I was driving the Ranger right next to him and asked him, “Do you want a ride?” He just said, “No my Daddy shot a deer,” and so we traveled together to see the deer his Daddy shot!
We took some pictures and I couldn’t believe how happy they both were—“Wow,” I thought, “Was I that happy the first time I shot a deer way back when?” Then it hit me—“Hell, I am that happy now!” I sat back and just drank it all up and thought this is the most memorable hunt I have ever been on.
We loaded the buck up and started our trip back out to the truck. As we loaded the Ranger and headed back to camp 50 miles away, I was sad to think that Tom and Caleb wouldn’t be with me for the rest of the hunt, but the happiness outweighed the sadness and life was good.
I helped Tom get his buck skinned and ready to take to the processor, and then decided to head home for the night to visit with Margie, my wife while seeing if everything was good at home. I took a shower and hit the rack to get up refreshed and ready to go back after the deer.
The camp was sure quite when I got back—no Caleb and no Tom. I decided to head out as soon as I could to keep from getting bummed out. I went to a spot I thought would hold deer and stayed there the entire day with out seeing anything until 5 minutes before sundown, a doe. I headed back to camp a little down because I really thought that the deer would start to come out and calm down, but it was not to be.
Friday was warmer but the wind was still blowing hard. My plan today was similar to when I was 19 years old—break brush until you jump a buck and kill it. I headed out into a good looking canyon that I knew held water—I jumped some whitetail but never got a good look at them, but was told later by a couple of hunters that they were all does. I walked until about 2 in the afternoon and decided to take a break. I knew I had to get headed back no later than 3:30 or I would be walking out in the dark. So at the 3:30 mark I headed out. I saw a lot of elk sign, albeit old, and even found an old elk drop that had been half chewed up, but decided I was carting enough weight and left it there where I found it.
The walk back to the truck was not very productive unless you want to consider an old cowboy camp that had to been in there for decades and it was cool—the things you find when you head into places most people won’t go—right?
Friday night after I had dinner I decided to head back to the area where Tom got his buck—after all if there was one there had to be two!
I arose at 4 am on Saturday morning and started my journey to that area. The sun was starting to peek over the rim of Sedona when I noticed two deer staring at me on the side of the road I was traveling. I slowed the truck and had a look and they were both does and once again very healthy. I headed on down the road and noticed a “black cow” standing about 200 yards off the road. I thought that the “cow” looked short so I backed up and had another look and low and behold it was a very pretty and what I considered to be a large black bear just walking along the side of the hill eating stuff as he walked along. I was pretty impressed and thought that even if I don’t get my buck that this day was good.
I arrived at my glassing site just about an hour after the sun came up (I took a little too long looking at the bear, and yes, I watched him for over 30 minutes all the while thinking he would be easy to drop if the season was still going and I had a tag—which neither was the case). I set my stool up and set my 15”s up on the bowl that my buddy said held the bucks and I picked up 5 deer about a mile high on a mountain. I couldn’t make out if they had bone on their head through my spotter because the wind kept blowing the tripod around and so I decided to take a hike and see for myself. The stalk worked like a charm, and about 45 minutes after I started my hike, I was 56 yards from all of the girls and their young ones—three fawns for two does.
I walked the ridge out glassing on each side of the mountain trying desperately to locate a buck, but after two hours of busting my hump and burning my eye’s, I decided to head back down the mountain and glass some more.
It took a little less time to get back to my glassing chair and no sooner as I put my eye’s to the glass there stood 4 deer at the top of the mountain again and this time I saw bone. I was tuckered out, but not too tuckered to get up the mountain to get a shot at that buck. I kept playing it over in my mind—get there—set up and make the shot. I did everything as planned and got set up across from the little gully that separated us, but there was no buck, only three doe lying in their bed. I sat there for about an hour before I felt the wind change and blow up my neck. I was 160 yards away from this group, and when the lead doe got my scent, she said adios, got up, and left taking the other two doe with her. Still no buck.
Then I heard that snort of another deer and I readjusted my position. There at 158 yards stood my buck. I used my pack to set up and had it all ready to shoot when the wind blew and almost knocked my rifle off the pack. This started the buck moving, so I squeezed the trigger on the Sendero .300 Win Mag as the buck was quartering away. The bullet hit the buck and he folded.
The hunt was done and I sat there thinking about all that happened and thanked God and the Big Game gods for such an awesome hunt – the most memorable hunt of my life. I had shot this buck at 1 pm and it took me until 5 pm to get him packed out off the top of that mountain. To say my butt was dragging would be an understatement but the pain I felt was a good pain and I can sure live with that.
I will turn 52 in December. After 40 years of hunting, I still feel the fire that burns inside of me and with Caleb who in 5 more years will be hunting and my other grandson who will soon be born and hunting in 10 years, I want to stay in shape and keep my fire burning, so I can hunt side by side with Tom, Caleb and whatever my other grandson’s name will be.
Author - Terry Herndon is a native Arizonan who loves to hunt and fish. Terry owns his own hunting and fishing website The Arizona Hunter. Terry has guided hunters in Arizona and New Mexico for over 10 years now and you can contact him at The Arizona Outfitter. Terry also hosts two youth deer camps each year in Unit 23 and Unit 42.
Terry has been married to his wife Margie for 31 years and has three daughters and two grandsons.
Terry enjoys digital photography and just being in the outdoors.