Either/Or - Whitetail/Muley

After stopping to visit the nearby historical sites and reflecting upon the American Indian Wars described by the modern-day placards, it was wild to imagine just how primitive the way of life was not all that long ago. And to think that the epic Battle of the Little Bighorn, where Colonel George A. Custer was defeated by the Plains Indians, took place within several miles from where I now hunted was absolutely mind boggling!

As I sneaked along the river in the quiet still of the morning, I realized that I was experiencing similar sights and sounds of those who once roamed and lived in this exact area over a century ago. I thought back to the howl of the coyotes that I heard during the night while sleeping under the stars, that same sky above me that the native people certainly gazed at in wonderment. As I continued along the riverbank all was silent except for the occasional honking of Canada geese both near and far. Sometimes the crow of a rooster pheasant, which would not have been present back in the 1870’s, broke the morning silence but other than that all was still.

As I paused in search of a white-tailed deer, the silence was almost eerie as I imagined being out here all alone 150 years ago. Even back then whitetails inhabited the area and surely walked this same shoreline so my quest continued in hopes of harvesting a whitetail of my own.

 Canada geese on river  couple of rooster pheasants

         Echoes of honking geese often broke the morning silence               Two roosters doing their best to hide

While my tag was valid for either white-tailed deer or mule deer, both of which occupied this area, I was after a whitetail. My hope was to bag an antlered buck with the classic antler configuration where single points protrude from the main beam as it extends more forward than that of a mule deer. As I crept along I was surprised by a deer as it sprang from the tall grass. The little buck only ran about 150 yards and then stopped. It was a whitetail but small enough that it didn’t sport the classic antler configuration that I was looking for.

 a couple of white-tailed doe deer  whitetail deer hunting

            At least I found some whitetails                             Putting on some miles on up in the forest

Several more days passed without an opportunity at a whitetail buck. I had seen several mule deer bucks including a few nice 4 points, but I was committed to shooting a white-tailed deer or to go home empty handed.

 4 point mule deer buck  big 4 point buck deer

             Not a buck I'd normally pass on                         Maybe I'll go back for mule deer next year

Fast forward to day six of my hunt – as I again slept under the stars in the bed of my truck I was jolted awake by snow pellets stinging my face. In the dark I scrambled to gather up my sleeping bag before it became soaked and quickly threw it into the cab of my truck. There I sat in the dark for about an hour until it became light. Periodically I turned on the windshield wipers to evaluate the weather that had now turned into a light mist of rain. Heavy cloud cover made it seem darker outside than normal, but I decided it was time to brave the elements to go in search of a buck.

 10 point whitetail deer  6 point whitetail

              If only this buck was on public property                                Another buck on private, ugh

Standing outside of my vehicle, I glassed the entire area since there was plenty of open ground around me, but I saw nothing. After shuffling along for only 30 yards or so, I again glassed my surroundings since the gloomy conditions caused me to believe that I could have missed a possible deer's hiding place. This time I spotted something in the distance, a shadowy figure standing about ½ mile away. Intently I focused as best I could and realized that there was in fact a solo deer feeding right out in the open! Without any cover between me and the deer I wondered what to do next. Finally I decided that I would circle out and around believing that at worst case I might push the deer towards the bluffs further to the east. The risk of spooking the deer seemed high but I wasn't too concerned since I figured it was a doe anyways.

 whitetail hunting along the river  pheasant hunting the river

    Finding public land along the river was challenging                         Was able to bag a limit of 3

Slowly I proceeded another 10 yards and glassed up the deer again. The deer was head-down feeding and appeared to be facing the opposite direction, so I changed tactics and began walking straight towards the deer in order to get a better look. I had gone maybe 40 or 50 yards when I again sized up the deer. This time I was quite certain that it was a whitetail as I watched it slowly move perpendicular to my position. Unfortunately I had left my spotting scope behind so I wasn’t able to zoom in for closer inspection. As I watched the deer, it turned and began feeding in my direction. So for the next several minutes I stood motionless and observed. The deer had now come closer by at least 100 yards when it abruptly raised its head and stared straight at me. I continued to remain frozen in place when shockingly the deer began to trot towards me.

When the deer hit the 300 to 400 yard mark, I clearly saw the glint of antlers and couldn’t believe my eyes – a shooter buck was within rifle range! I didn’t dare move but knew that I absolutely needed the buck to stop before attempting a shot. However, the buck continued on his stroll. Slowly I knelt down, chambered a round and found the buck in my scope. My heart was pounding harder and harder as he got closer and closer! I started to anticipate the moment I’d shoot. Nevertheless, I began to worry that at any moment the buck would spook and flee before I could shoot. Stunned, I watched until the buck came to a stop 160 yards away! I flipped off the safety and was about to take a head-on shot when the buck turned broadside. In a split second I fired off a round and the buck instantly bolted!

I was absolutely amazed at the speed of this buck because I didn’t think it was possible for a deer to run so fast. As quickly as I chambered another round and aimed at the deer, he had already covered 100 yards! But just before I pulled the trigger on a running shot the buck abruptly slowed and began to wobble, he went down!

 9 point whitetail buck  nine pointer white-tailed buck

                Such a great first white-tailed buck!                         Nine pointer if we are doing an eastern count

Shell-shocked I stood looking around as if to see who else may have witnessed the unimaginable incident. Never in my life have I had the good fortune to encounter a buck that came running towards me after having been aware of my presence, especially from 800 yards away! All I can figure is that in the low light conditions the buck mistakenly thought I was a potential doe to breed and came to check out the situation since late November is the height of mating season.


Deer steak recipe/instructions on how I cook up the meat:

  • Cut meat into strips (to desired thickness)
  • Put about 1/2 cup flour on a plate
  • Add salt, pepper and whatever other spices to your liking
  • Dust meat, then put in frying pan with a little oil...at LOW heat where meat is barley sizzling in order to keep tender
  • Cook on one side until it starts to change color on top...then flip it over and it will be done in about 2 minutes
  • Important - LOW HEAT...don't overcook or it will become dry