Seven Deer Year
[su_heading size=”35″ align=”center”]Seven Deer Year [/su_heading]
Story and photographs by Scott Haugen
[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”3″]I[/su_dropcap]t began as a vision that, on paper, looked good. Some of the deer tags I held going into the season were highly prized; others were picked up over the counter. Once hunting season opened, I knew this was my best chance to secure a North American deer slam in a single season, something I heard had never been done.
When plans were finalized to hunt a Columbian whitetail, a rare Northwest deer species, in my home state of Oregon, I knew it would likely be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This was my first hunt of the season, and I wanted a good buck. Three days into the hunt, a short stalk found me in a perfect place waiting for a nice buck to move my way. Finally, as the deer slithered through tall grass, a shot opportunity opened up. When the 4×4 buckled, a lifetime dream came true.
Later in October, I was in the northwest corner of South Dakota bowhunting mule deer. On Halloween morning, the mercury registered 9 degrees. As soon as the sun started to shine on the clay-like mud, a lone buck worked its way up against a cut bank and bedded. Two hours later I was within 17 yards of him. The shot hit the mark and the 29-inch, four-point went only a short distance.
A few days later I was back in my home state, hunting Columbian blacktails on a special draw tag. Unfortunately, I only had a couple days and on day two, I had my four-year-old son, Kazden, by my side. More than anything he wanted to skin a deer with his new knife. I’ve been fortunate to take a number of record-book blacktails, so I told Kazden that the first legal buck we saw, we’d take. It was only a spike, but Kazden got to be a part of the whole hunt and even skinned the entire deer by himself, which made it the most gratifying hunt of the season.
Prior to Thanksgiving I was on the road to Idaho in search of western whitetails. Working the rugged ridges in the Clearwater region, I saw a good buck atop a shale slide. Given the buck’s position there was no way of inching closer. At 340 yards, the bullet found its mark dropping the 5×5 buck.
Early in December I was on Kodiak Island, chasing Sitka blacktails. While setting up to rattle everything felt good. The synthetic bag blasted high-pitched sounds into the heavy air and a buck responded. When it first emerged from the thick brush I knew it was big, but when it turned sideways I saw it was a great buck.
A perfect 4×4 with eye guards, his heavy and dark rack commanded my attention as he moved through the gently falling snow. When he turned broadside I stopped him with a mouth grunt and the .300 Winchester Magnum roared. The record-class buck was a true Sitka blacktail of a lifetime.
January found me in Mexico, hunting Sonora for prized Coues whitetail deer. The conditions were tough as a record-setting, two-week cold spell put bucks in the brush. The rut was also delayed and over the course of a few days, I only saw one. Just as I got set to shoot, the buck bolted. My guide, Jeremy Toman, and I pushed on and found the buck standing next to a doe. Soon the shot was on its way, hitting the mark. Approaching the downed deer, he turned out to be even bigger than I thought.
A couple days later a hunt for desert mule deer in Sonora was underway. A pair of battling muleys caught our eyes. We could see one was pushing 30 inches wide, but he had some broken tines. The buck he fought, however, was high and heavy, and as he cleared, I let him have it.
At season’s onset, attaining a single-season deer slam seemed a stretch. But by taking it one hunt at a time, I was fortunate to experience a dream season.
Simply having the opportunity to spend time in some of North America’s greatest deer habitat is all I really asked for; everything else was just a bonus. ASJ
Editor’s note: For signed copies of Scott Haugen’s book, Trophy Blacktails: The Science Of The Hunt, you can visit his website at scotthaugen.com.