Editor’s note: For more great trophy tales from 2013’s Northwest deer and elk seasons, see the February issue of Northwest Sportsman magazine!
by Paul Ambrose
This last deer season was the best I have ever had, and it all started while I was at work.
I am a professional fishing guide and on one of my spring Chinook trips last year, I met a very beautiful and amazing woman named Amber Taylor. As we were all chatting on the boat, she mentioned that she “takes all of September off each year to bowhunt.”
Being a die-hard bowhunter myself, I was very intrigued. On our first date we went out to her dad’s to shoot our bows, and it has been wonderful ever since. In fact, we are getting married on Aug. 2, 2014 at the same farm where the bucks in this story were taken.
Amber invited me out to check out a piece of private property she had been hunting for years. She said she had seen some monster bucks, but never could make it all work. A few years back she harvested a respectable 2×2, but she assured me the caliber of bucks was more more impressive then that.
I am in love with trail cams and think they are, hand’s down, the best scouting tool ever created. I suggested we set out a few of mine and start to pattern the deer. This place was much different than anything I have ever scouted before: it was a overgrown Christmas tree farm. Amber had told me that when it was smaller, she could see big bucks all day during the late season with does, and that most of them used this one corner next to a draw for cover. After scouting the entire place, I decided that area would be the best to set up a few cams and drop some apples.
We started in mid-August, and within a few days had some does and nice bucks on one of the cams. A few days later a heavy 3×3 and nice 4×4 showed up — it was time to hang one of my stands. Our plan was to hunt this area in the late season, as I had an Oregon archery tag and Amber had a Willamette tag that was good until the end of February.
After our successful elk season we routinely went back to check the cameras and add more apples. We had many does, yearlings and even a few small bucks, but the big 3×3 and the 4×4, which we named “Hank,” were occasional night-time visitors — we had not had a daylight picture in months! There was also no pattern to these deer — they would show up, be gone for a week, come back for 3 days.
But that is part of the fun of hunting mature blacktails: they pose a very tough challenge.
Season opened on November 16, and I was in stand. The first three days of season were cold and long with little deer movement. I saw a handful of does and one spike, and rattled in a cool-looking 2×1, but that was the only deer to come in all season on my rattling/grunting sequences.
The 20th was opening day of late muzzleloader tag in Washington and I’d promised a good friend I would help him out. We had a good hunt and got on some nice bucks, ending with him missing a nice buck that was on a hot doe at last light!
Of course when I checked my cam in the Oregon Christmas tree farm the next day I saw that both bucks had been there most of the morning!
I said a few choice words and thought “Dang, that was my chance.” I was a little let down to say the least: The one day I try to be a good friend turns into the first day our bucks were there in the daylight since August.
I hunted hard the next four days with the same results. I was worn out by the time the 25th rolled around, but If I know anything about hunting blacktails, it is that you have to put in the time, even missing one more day could be the difference between getting a shot and not filling a tag.
I hiked down to my stand at 5:30 on the 25th, climbed on up and enjoyed the darkness and subfreezing temperatures for the next 90 minutes. A big doe had come into the apples about 15 minutes before light and I watched her for the first hour. She fed off a ways and all was quiet for the next two hours or so.
The sun came up and I was enjoying the calm morning, but around 10:30 I heard what sounded like a deer jumping the fence behind me. I grabbed my bow off the rack, expecting to see another doe, but from the trail behind my stand, out walked the 3×3, and only 11 yards away.
He was very nervous, but I gathered myself, drew back and made the quartering-away shot. He went down less than 30 yards from the stand. I gathered my composure and climbed down, found my arrow and walked over to my buck. I was thrilled! Even with points broken off on both sides, he was still a great buck and certainly big enough for the Pope and Young book.
But that’s not the end of the story.
Five days later Amber was in stand hoping to see Hank. I was taking a buddy of mine elk hunting so she was on her own. She had deer around her all morning long, and then around 11:30 she heard noise from that same trail my buck came from.
Out stepped Hank.
Amber had an easy 10-yard shot with her .308 and the 4×4 went down in his tracks.
I got the text from her and had to pull off the side of the road and call her. Proud was not the word for what I felt. We had scouted and put in hundreds of hours of time and picked these two bucks out, and now we had them both on the ground!
We ended up having a great season, filling deer tags in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. But none of those hunts were as sweet or rewarding as our bucks from Oregon.
Hard work does pay off.