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Nick Berreth’s Shot And Buck Of A Lifetime

Written by Nick Berreth

It all started in late June when the Washington state draw results come in. I had heard results were out, and like a child on Christmas morning I eagerly punched my login and password into the computer, hoping this would be the year.

As I went down the long list of my applications, there were a lot of “Not selected,” except one that caught my eye. “Selected,” 10 points used! Yes, this was it! Ten years putting in for this particular unit and still I couldn’t believe it!

BOWHUNTER NICK BERRETH OF SELAH, WASHINGTON, AND HIS SPECIAL PERMIT MULE DEER BUCK, WHICH HE REPORTS GREEN-SCORED 204 INCHES. (NICK BERRETH)

I instantly went to Google Maps and started looking at terrain for water, trails, cover, possible food sources, etc. I also started pestering all the people I knew who had spent time in the unit because I had never set foot there.

One friend suggested I call a guy he knows who frequently photographs the area. Calling a guy I’d never met and knowing he was a hunter I didn’t know if I could trust the info he would give me, but after talking to him I knew that this would not be the case. He was extremely helpful. He soon sent me photos of some of the bucks he had seen out there and map dots on where to start looking.

THAT LATE JUNE WEEKEND, I COULDN’T WAIT to get my boots on the ground in the areas Cortney had given me coordinates to. On Friday I went out and in the first 100 yards from the truck I saw a good buck with lots of trash! I couldn’t believe it, but unfortunately I couldn’t get a picture of him because I was not prepared to see a deer so soon. Hiking over a large sand dune I caught movement and instantly knew it was a buck, the second deer I had come across!

Both were freaks of nature, and by September, one I would later name Freight Train had put on several inches and was a definite target buck. In the meanwhile, I put out several cameras in the area I kept seeing him in and by mid-July I was set on shooting him.

(CORTNEY NALLY PHOTOGRAPHY, VIA NICK BERRETH)

However, two weeks went by without seeing him, so I started searching a wider area. One day I’d hiked all morning and into the afternoon. It was 3 o’clock and well over 100 degrees and I was looking for shade and running out of water, so I sat on the hot sand, ate my last snack bar and sipped what little water I had left and started glassing a water line in the distance. I spotted a buck and thought it had to be Freight Train.

I snuck in closer to try to get a better look and possibly some pictures to record his growth, but couldn’t find him. Desperate to spot him, I hoped to catch a glimpse of a horn in the thick willow cover I knew he would be bedded in. After checking several areas I slowly made my way over a small dune when suddenly a huge rain cloud came over and dumped huge raindrops, which felt amazing in the 100-degree heat. After enjoying the two or three minutes of rain I took a few steps more and crash! Two big bucks jumped out from right below me.

(NICK BERRETH)

That’s not Freight Train, I thought. It was another giant. This can’t be real, I thought! This buck was a true swamp donkey and instantly made me change my focus to him.

In the coming weeks I would spot this super swamper several times. I’d been sharing my pics with Cortney and he wanted to get some pics of him, so we went out looking for the buck I had named Mickey. We ended up jumping him and the three-point I had first seen him with, and Cortney was able to get a couple great pics of him with what sounded like a fully automatic camera. I could hear pics being taken faster than I had ever heard.

(NICK BERRETH)

WITH JUST THREE MORE WEEKS UNTIL opening day, I decided to give Mickey some space. But just one week out I couldn’t stay away, so back to the swamp I went, back to where I had seen him.

I snuck in, peeked over a small dune and spotted the three-point Mickey had been with weeks before. As I got my camera out to snap a couple pics, a spike that was also with the three-point stood up and acted as if he had heard something. I looked around and right below me was a giant rack. It was Mickey.

As soon as I tried to get pictures of him, the spike started to run right at me! I instantly turned to get out of there as quickly as I could, but it was no use. As I was scrambling I looked over my shoulder and saw nothing but antlers coming at me. The only thing I could do was hide in the biggest sagebrush I could and it became a waiting game.

For almost an hour the bucks knew something wasn’t right, so they investigated all around me. Pinned down, I just had to wait it out, and eventually they wandered off. But with the season only a week away I was worried; had I just spooked this buck for the last time? Would he be back? All I could do was wait through what seemed like the longest week of my life.

(NICK BERRETH)

FINALLY IT WAS OPENING DAY! I was quick to go right to the spot I had seen Mickey the week before and was met with a pleasant surprise. Across the swamp in some willows I saw a giant frame buck for just a split second. It had to be him, I thought.

I sat there all day in the 102-degree heat, waiting for the buck to reveal himself again, but he never did, leaving me disappointed. I went out the next day and didn’t see a buck, so I was even more disappointed. I thought I had pressured them too much. The next day, angry with myself, I made the 3-mile hike to the swamp Mickey had called home, and to my surprise he was there. I was so happy!

Immediately I formed a plan. As he disappeared into a thick willow patch that had sagebrush behind it, I began to make a large loop around the swamp, keeping the wind in my favor, and sneaking within 100 yards of where I had last saw him. I waited to see if the wind had changed, as the closer I got, it seemed less and less consistent. Sure of the wind I slipped off my pack and slipped on my Sneak Tec slippers and closed the distance.

Now I was right where he’d gone into the willows. I started looking around, wondering, do I just sit here all day again? Surely he would come right back out where he went in. But with my food and water supply dwindling and discouraged by the first day’s unproductive sit, I decided to be more aggressive. I looked around and saw a plastic water bottle partially buried under some sand. I thought I could put some sand in the bottle and throw it in hopes of spooking the buck out into the open, so that’s what I did.

(NICK BERRETH)

Afterwards, I heard footsteps behind the wall of willows and knew it was a deer. It started blowing at me. At that point, we couldn’t see each other, so I decided to sneak around the other side and check it out. As I got around I found the culprit: a lone doe, confused and running back and forth, not knowing where she should go.

As I snuck past her (or so I thought) she came from behind me, ran at and then right past me! At that point I let my guard down, thinking my buck had slipped away yet again. There’s no way he’s still in here, I thought, with all that noise the doe had just made.

As I slowly made my way down to the backside of the willows where he had gone in I stepped on a small stick – crack! As I looked over my right shoulder, a huge velvet-covered rack rose up 50 yards from me. I dropped below cover, drew my bow, and just as I came back up, shaking intensely, the buck showed me nothing but mass and throat patch and in an instant took off. That was the closest I had ever been to a giant buck and I thought I’d blown it.

THE NEXT WEEK I TALKED A BUDDY I work with and have known for over 30 years into giving me another set of eyes. The following week we made the 3-mile hike in and got to our glassing point. As the sun came up, we started seeing several bucks in the swamp, and then we spotted Mickey!

The plan was to separate, so I went over to where I had seen him the week before opening day. I watched as five nice bucks went off into the willows and bedded, but not Mickey; he bedded right in the middle of his food source.

I called Jason and said, “I’ve never seen him do that!” There was no cover around him, so how would I ever put a stalk on him? As we were discussing a plan of attack, something happened and the five bucks came running from 600 yards. I asked Jason if he saw them and he said he did, “Yup! They’re coming right at me!”

I told him to hold on, and as I set the phone down, Mickey stood up. He was about 400 yards away and the other bucks were closing on me fast. As I took my arrow from my quiver, the deer started running right past me. They stopped and I ranged a nice four-point, probably 170-inch buck, at 23 yards.

I looked over my shoulder and saw Mickey coming the same way these deer had, so I intentionally scared off the buck within range. Crazy, but my eye was on Mickey.

As I waited for my 23-yard shot at Mickey, he decided to go a different route. Frantically I called Jason, and he said “He’s just over the hill from you!”

The buck was right between us, so I hurried over the hill and spotted a deer feeding my way. It was a spike and was 35 yards away. Then Mickey came over the hill feeding right towards me. As I watched him make his way closer, his huge velvet-covered horns kept drawing my eye. As he lifted and lowered his head my heart rate skyrocketed. I couldn’t even keep my breath, as I was having a meltdown.

I tried ranging him several times, and as I did that I finally got a range on a bush near him. But as I did so, the spike saw me move. Like all curious spikes seem to do, he came right over to investigate. I froze; he winded me and ran right to Mickey, who jumped right behind the bush I had ranged at 55 yards.

It was now a stand-off like before. The wise buck only showed me his neck and head. And like that, they ran off straight to my buddy. Jason took a couple pictures for me and that was the last we saw of Mickey that day.

THE NEXT DAY WE WENT OUT AND GLASSED the area. As Jason spotted Mickey, I spotted another buck that we hadn’t seen in the swamp – a huge-framed buck! As I took the spotting scope and got it on him I realized it was Freight Train. I hadn’t seen him in over a month and he’d grown over 6 inches on most all of his tines.

As we watched Mickey bed in an impossible willow patch, Jason suggested I go after Freight Train, so I did. As I was looking for him, I ran into another hunter. I was surprised because I hadn’t seen anyone out here in the three months I’d been scouting or hunting. What’s more, he was within 100 yards of Freight Train and had to have seen him.

As I thought of ways to divert the guy from my honey hole, Jason texted me to say Mickey was on the move. So I gave up on Freight Train and told the guy well I was going back the same way I’d come in, and he said he’d go another way. OK, I thought, he won’t see anything over there.

I called Jason to get directions where to go and slip in on Mickey, but as I was heading that direction I saw the guy again and he was trying to cut me off. He had to have seen Mickey, as he was heading right for him! So I gave him a few recognizable hand gestures and so did Jason, and he actually turned around. With our focus on him and with me trying to close the distance, crash! the willows exploded. Mickey had been 15 yards deep in the trees and had seen me.

I cussed my spotter but soon realized he couldn’t have known where I was and the deer was, so I would have to wait another week.

(NICK BERRETH)

THE THIRD WEEK I WAS SOLO AND discouraged. I’d seen Mickey three of four hunting days but with little success. The last day I had to hunt that week was a Monday and I was going to head back to reality and work on Tuesday. But something was different that day: It was raining for the first time in months, since the first time I’d seen Mickey, in fact. And the wind was strong; it was steady and not like before, when it would go one way in the morning then change as the day got warmer.

Watching Mickey that morning he did something different: He bedded much earlier than normal, well over an hour before usual.

And he was by himself!

As I waited for other deer to bed, two really nice bucks walked right in front of me at 70 yards. Although tempting I had my mind set on one buck. As they all bedded I hurried across the swamp. Several does remained in it, but as I held up my Heads Up Decoy, they just looked at me and continued feeding, so I was able to get close to where I had last seen Mickey.

I then waited all day, trying to talk myself into staying. After hours of debating I realized time was flying. It was 3 o’clock, so I found a nice spot to sit. My wife called and talked me into staying. I was already committed, so I waited. An hour and a half went by with many thoughts going through my mind. I was very close to him; I could smell him. I thought about sneaking into the willows, hoping for a shot or throwing sticks in to spook him out, but that hadn’t worked in the past.

It was around 5 o’clock when I stood up to stretch and that’s when I saw him. Mickey was feeding 100 yards from me. The wind was still constant and blowing in my face at 20 mph. I took my binoculars and pack off, and grabbed my range finder and bow. He was in a small depression and between us there was a small hill, maybe just a foot taller than the rest of the ground, so I belly crawled to that.

The buck was now 60 yards broadside feeding towards me. My heart rate was going good, but mainly from the stalk. Otherwise, I was pretty calm compared to my prior encounters.

As I debated whether to let him get closer or not, he lifted his head and pinned his ears in the other direction. I worried that that spike or some other deer was coming. So at that moment I decided I wasn’t going to let my nerves catch up. I took all the arrows off my quiver, nocked my favorite, drew my bow, and put my pin on his back rib, as I knew the wind was going to blow my arrow at least a foot.

With the 60-yard pin on him, I let it go. I watched my arrow get half way and start jumping right. Just as I planned it, I connected: I saw my arrow pass through him.

He took three jumps, stopped and looked back at me, then fell over dead.

I was in disbelief! I had just made the best shot of my life, on the best buck of my life!

(NICK BERRETH)

OSP Looking For Tips On Poached Starkey Buck

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON STATE POLICE FISH AND WILDLIFE DIVISION

The Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division is asking for the public’s help in locating the subjects who shot and left to waste a mature mule deer buck in the Starkey Wildlife Management Unit in Union County.

(OSP)

On Saturday October 28th, 2017 an elk hunter notified Oregon State Police that he had located the carcass of deer. Senior Trooper Kris Davis responded to the scene to investigate. It is believed the deer was killed on the evening or night of Thursday October 27th or the morning of Friday October 28th. During this time the 1st season Rocky Mountain elk season was open. Only the antlers and skull cap were removed from the deer, all of the meat was left and was wasted. The deer was killed off the 21 road, 500 and 410 spurs. This location is near Dark Canyon, west of the Spring Creek area off I-84 outside of LaGrande.

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Senior Trooper Kris Davis at the LaGrande Patrol Office, 541-805-4757. Callers can also stay anonymous by calling the Turn In Poachers (TIP) hotline at 1-800-452-7888.

‘A True Washington State Public-land Giant’–The Story Of Jake Fife And His Muley

Written by Jake Fife

It all started in late June, that time of the year when unwavering excitement comes over so many hunters across the state, myself included, as we anxiously await the draw results.

I sat there with my info typed in, waiting to press the login button in hopes of finally seeing “selected” as I was starting to see some posts trickle in. I held my breath like I do every year, expecting to see “not selected,” but after 16 years of applying and never drawing a deer tag I finally saw it: Selected!

WITH AN UNOFFICIAL GREEN SCORE OF 234 7/8 FROM A LOCAL TAXIDERMIST, JAKE FIFE’S NONTYPICAL CENTRAL WASHINGTON MULE DEER TOWERS OVER THE STANDING STATE RECORD, A 203 3/8 BUCK FROM CHELAN COUNTY TAKEN IN 2008. FINAL MEASUREMENTS CAN BE TAKEN AFTER THE DRYING PERIOD ENDS, NOV. 10. (JAKE FIFE)

I knew I had my work cut out for me, as I had very little experience in the unit. But as a school teacher, I knew if I ever drew the tag, I would have a lot of time to scout over summer in hopes of making up for that.

I made it out on my first scouting trip on July 21st and spent the better part of the next five days scouring over different areas in search for a mature buck. But over the course of the next five days it began to sink in that this wasn’t going to be an easy hunt, and I really wasn’t seeing the amount of animals I had hoped to, though it was 100-plus degrees out every day by lunchtime.

About the author: Jake Fife was born and raised in Selah, Washington, by Angie and Gary Fife, and graduated from high school there in 2009. Jake has always been an outgoing guy who loved to play baseball, hunt, fish, spend time with family and friends and be outdoors. After high school he accepted a full ride to play baseball while continuing his education to earn his Bachelor’s Degree. Jake graduated from Central Washington University in 2014 and is currently a PE teacher at Naches Valley High School, where he is also the head varsity baseball coach for the Rangers.

So after a week or so of seeing a few scattered bucks here and there I decided it was time for a new game plan – not only to keep checking other areas but essentially I wanted to start gridding the whole unit. I figured eventually I’d have to run into some big deer somewhere … right?

It wasn’t until my ninth day of scouting that I finally found an area where I began seeing consistent numbers of deer, though not “the one.” About the time I was thinking “There’s got to be big bucks in this area; where are they?!” I encountered a beautiful tall four-point that was probably a 170-inch deer. That got me extremely excited, as it was the first “shooter” I had seen. I thought, “Well, that’s a buck I would be proud to take,” but it was getting later in the morning and now I was eager to keep following these big deep draws and glassing into them in hopes of seeing some more deer before it got too hot out.

Within the next 10 minutes I had gone maybe another 500 yards and run into a bachelor group of six bucks – “Whoa, that’s a nice buck, there’s another nice buck, and another, and a couple smaller ones.”

THOUGH NOT AS WELL KNOWN FOR MONSTER MULEYS AS OTHER WESTERN STATES, WASHINGTON NONETHELESS PRODUCES A FEW. RECENT YEARS’ WHOPPERS HAVE INCLUDED THE TRIPOD BUCK AND OTHERS FROM OKANOGAN COUNTY, AND A 9X12 FROM THE SOUTHERN SCABLANDS. (JAKE FIFE)

I WAS REALLY STARTING TO FEEL GOOD about finally seeing some nice bucks. Then out of nowhere, a different deer stood up and immediately caught my attention. I thought,” Whoa! That’s a real big buck.”

It wasn’t until I pulled up my binoculars for a good steady look that my jaw instantly dropped: Oh my god … There he was! The biggest, most majestic, beautiful deer I had ever laid eyes on, in perfect velvet at 150 yards looking at me. All I could see was a massive body, massive frame, and points sticking out everywhere! I couldn’t believe my eyes.

I instantly called my best friend and hunting partner Trevor Dallman and told him I had just found the buck I wanted to shoot. I tried to explain to him what the deer looked like but just couldn’t find the words. Giant? He was a giant.

With my hunt starting in exactly two weeks I can’t even count how many hours I spent driving out to this area in hopes of seeing the deer again and possibly start trying to figure out his pattern. Over 10 or so trips and countless dollars worth of gas money, I was able to narrow in on the buck’s home, but found he just wasn’t patternable. He was a wanderer; he rarely would get water from the same place or even be working the same trails, and often times he was with a couple other nice bucks constantly watching each other’s back. I finally concluded that my best option would probably be to spot and stalk him after he had bedded down in the morning after he was done feeding.

FIFE WATCHED HIS BUCK FOR DAYS ON END, HOPING TO PATTERN IT, BUT SAYS IT WAS SOMETHING OF A WANDERER. (JAKE FIFE)

I glassed, and glassed, and glassed, so much so that I thought some days my eyes were going to bulge out of my head, but I just couldn’t stop looking at this buck! I tried to keep tabs on him every day leading up to the first day of the hunt. I’d rush home after work to grab my gear and head out to the hills, then come home in the dark. It made for some long, tiring days, but I knew it would all be worth it if I somehow was able to get it done on this deer.

I was infatuated, obsessed. I would lay in bed at night thinking about hundreds of difference scenarios that could happen, losing countless hours of sleep thinking about this buck, and waking up the next morning for work extremely tired – but looking forward to going back out in search of him again that evening.

FAST-FORWARD TO OPENING MORNING. I was exhausted when my alarm went off because I literally don’t think I was able to get even five minutes of sleep the entire night. Restless, the scenarios had played over and over in my head, as I couldn’t stop thinking about hopefully being able to harvest this buck.

As the sun started to rise on the first day of the hunt I began to see a few deer popping up, and about 15 minutes later there he was. I watched him feed for a couple hours before he bedded down in a draw – by himself!

“This is too perfect,” I thought. For once he was alone, but then again so was I, without a spotter. I’d left the truck on my first official stalk of this deer and he was in a prime location.

As I drew closer and closer to the top of the brushy draw he was bedded in it began to sink in. I just might pull this off on the first stalk on opening day! At that point I figured I had to be within 100 yards of the deer, but he was bedded in some thick stuff and I couldn’t see him. Still, I had pinpointed the bush he was laying under, or so I thought. I ranged the patch of sage at 70 yards.

“Alright, this is good,” I told myself. I had the wind at my face and needed to cover another 20 or so yards, then stand him up at 50 yards. I took that first step and out of nowhere he stood up behind a different sage – at 30 yards!

We locked eyes, then I tilted my head down as subtly as I could and got my release on the string. I pulled back to full draw, but as soon as I got to full draw he took off – gone, not stopping and not looking back.

I sat down as quickly as possible to watch and see where he might go only to watch him disappear two ridges over. I couldn’t believe what I had just done. I had blown it; I had ranged the wrong bush and had no idea I was within 30 yards of him at that time.

“Wow,” I thought, “that might be the only chance I get.”

I looked and looked for him until nightfall to no avail. My stomach churned all day; I was sick: I couldn’t eat or even drink anything as I replayed my screw-up over and over. Driving home that night, I was having a little bit of a pity party for myself when it dawned on me: “Hey, it’s only day one. I’ve got a lot of time and now is not the time to feel sorry for myself or give up. I am determined, I will find this deer again.”

And I did.

AFTER AN INITIAL CHANCE AT THE BUCK ON THE FIRST DAY OF HIS HUNT, FIFE AND THE DEER PLAYED A GAME OF “CAT AND MOUSE” FOR MORE THAN A WEEK AS THE BOWHUNTER TRIED TO LINE UP ANOTHER CHANCE AT IT. (JAKE FIFE)

FOR THE NEXT EIGHT DAYS I PLAYED cat and mouse with this buck, often times getting within 100 to 120 yards of him, but with no play from there. I often ended up sitting in a bush for hours, roasting in the sun only to see him get up and feed over a knob and out of sight. Some days I would glass for hours before he stood up and showed himself; some days I would find him in 10 minutes. Most days he was with three other bucks and I had no play. They would bed up out in the open or be strategically bedded to where there was no way I could get in close enough.

I decided I wanted to play this one the right way. It would have been easy to just go put a stalk on him every time I saw him, but I knew I needed to be smart, patient and wait for the perfect moment, especially after already bumping him pretty hard that first day. I prayed to God for one more chance to find him by himself again. “I won’t screw it up it this time,” I told myself, “I can’t screw it up this time.”

September 10th, day 10 of the hunt, I got to my usual glassing spot and spotted something sticking out of the brush that just didn’t look right. As I looked closer I could see a bright, blood-orange-colored rack, freshly rubbed velvet towering out from behind the sagebrush – that’s him! He had rubbed most of his velvet off throughout the night and it was as fresh as it gets. I watched him feed, then rake his horns on and off every five minutes for the next two and a half hours. It was amazing to see him darken his horns up in that short amount of time! And I was hoping this just might also be the perfect time to get him – he was by himself!

Just as I went to leave the truck for my stalk I spotted a doe and a fawn feeding right where I needed to walk in the bottom of the draw – not good – so I waited another 10 to 15 minutes to head out. Luckily, they fed up and to my side of the draw above the buck about 20 yards.

I knew I had to slip below the does first and thought that if I could make it past them, I would be getting close to the sagebrush I had marked to shoot from. I discussed the game plan with my hunting partner Trevor: I had perfect wind coming up the mountain and I needed to stay right in the bottom of that draw. It was time!

Equipment Used:
Bow: Bowtech Carbon Knight
Arrows: 300 Spine Black Eagle Spartan
Broadheads: Radical Archery Design Ti Con 125
Sight: Spot Hogg 7-pin, Cameron Hanes Edition
Rest: Ripcord Ace Pro
Release: Scotty Mongoose XT
Binoculars: 12×50 Vortex Viper HD Binoculars
Spotting scope: Vortex Viper HD 20-60×80
Clothing: First Lite Llano Merino Crew Top and Kanab 2.0 pants in Fusion Pattern
Boots: Cabela’s Instinct Pursuitz
Pack: Horn Hunter Full Curl System
Rangefinder: Nikon ProStaff 550
Knife: Outdoor Edge Razor Pro
GPS: Garmin 62S

I made my way down the mountain, staying out of sight, and noticed I had a steady 5 to 7 mph wind coming up the draw I was working down – perfect. Once I figured I was about 150 yards from the buck I took my shoes off and continued inching my way through the bottom of the brushy draw, ignoring the cheatgrass and stickers burying themselves in my feet, and kept going. I crawled on my hands and knees just low enough to slip by the other deer – I could literally see their ears as I belly crawled below them, moving about an inch a minute.

After 10 agonizing minutes I made it past them and came into a deeper pocket of the draw, where I was able to stand and take a breath to try and calm my nerves. About that same time I glanced over and noticed the bush I had marked to shoot from; I was only 15 yards from it! The adrenaline kicked right back in and I could feel my heart pounding and beating through my ears. As I took my first step towards the sage, all of the sudden a jackrabbit exploded out of a bush right next to my foot and took off down the draw and ran right by the buck!

PERSISTENCE AND PATIENCE PUT THE BOWMAN IN POSITION FOR ANOTHER SHOT AT THE BUCK, BUT NOT BEFORE TWO OTHER DEER AND A JACKRABBIT  NEARLY UPSET HIS PLAY. (JAKE FIFE)

I stood still praying that the deer wasn’t going to blow out; luckily, he was still there but he had his head up and was alert, so I waited another minute or two for him to relax. As I snuck up to the bush just uphill out of the draw I could see his antler tips but couldn’t get a range on him because 1) there was too much brush in the way, and 2) I’ll admit, I was shaking like a leaf. I decided that wasn’t going to work, so I spotted a little sagebrush on the opposite side of the draw that looked parallel and was able to range it at 43 yards. I figured the deer was right at 40.

“Okay, here we go; this is it,” I told myself, “don’t screw this up!” I pulled back my bow while crouched behind the bush and then stood up and took a half step out from behind it. Immediately the buck whipped his head right towards me. We locked eyes but I was still pretty hidden by the bush, so we had what had to be a 10-second stare down. All I could see was his head and rack, with my 40-yard pin right between the eyes. There was no way I was taking that shot, and I was also starting to get shaky and wasn’t in the best posture or balance for a shot.

After what seemed like an eternity of waiting for the buck to stand my bowstring tried to jump on me! In that moment I instantly realized that things weren’t going to work as is. I picked up my left foot from behind the bush to get a firmer stance, stood up tall and planted myself rock steady at full draw, knowing he might dart out of his bed and I’d have no shot.

I stayed locked in on my 40-yard pin and he stood up and stomped his foot down. As soon as he did that I let fly with a perfect broadside/slight quartering-away shot. I watched my arrow fly true, hitting perfectly right behind his shoulder and disappearing! I smoked him! Perfect shot!

(JAKE FIFE)

I WAS PRETTY SURE IT WAS A PERFECT LETHAL SHOT, but soon realized it wasn’t all said and done as I had hoped. The deer took off like a rocket, showing no signs of being hurt whatsoever. I called Trevor and told him I’d smoked him and thought it was for sure a lethal hit, though if anything it might have been a bit low. “Better a bit low than high,” I thought.

For the next half an hour I searched all over the draw for my arrow and blood. Nothing. What … ?

I really started to get in my own head and second-guess what I knew I had seen. I couldn’t find the arrow, but then I spotted the tiniest little specks of blood towards the top of the draw. By that time I was getting worried. Trevor asked if I was sure I’d hit him because the buck had run like no other, but said he did seem to slow down and look hurt right before he lost sight of him going into sagebrush over a little knoll. In addition to second guessing because my spotter hadn’t seen the deer go down, I got a bit paranoid thinking of the worst possible things, like I had somehow missed vitals or something. I knew what I had seen, though: It looked good.

TWO MORE ANGLES ON THE FIFE BUCK. (JAKE FIFE)

(JAKE FIFE)

I told Trevor I was going to wait another 30 minutes, then at 12:30 I would have him lead me down to where he last saw the buck. After what was the longest hour of my hunting career had finally passed, it was time to go find this buck. I followed an almost nonexistent blood trail for about 250 yards. I was getting close now, tip-toeing in hopes the deer would be dead and I wouldn’t bump him into the next county. I got to 20 yards from the sagebrush pocket and knew that if he was alive he should have gotten up or I should have seen him by then. I took a few more steps and then couldn’t believe my eyes: There he was, laying under a sage, even bigger than I had ever dreamed of him being.

I looked back up the mountain to Trevor and raised my arms. I had done it! I had finally harvested the buck I had been dreaming of and spent so much time focusing on. After all the video, pictures and time behind the spotting scope glassing this deer he just kept growing on me. I was in shock; I was overjoyed; I felt so many emotions I didn’t even know what to say or think. He was a giant – an absolute Giant of a buck – and I was so thankful I had the opportunity to harvest this deer, let alone even see him and be able to hunt him.

JAKE FIFE AND HUNTING PARTNER TREVOR DALLMAN POSE WITH JAKE’S BUCK. (JAKE FIFE)

Trevor made his way down to the deer and I, and I gave him a giant hug and we just stood there in astonishment looking at the deer. We couldn’t stop smiling and laughing and retelling our perspectives of the hunt. After taking what seemed like a hundred pictures it was time to get to work, as I am very particular about making sure to take care of the meat quickly and properly. We were able to get the buck packed to the truck within the next hour and a half and it was all done.

This hunt will be forever etched into my memory as I got to share it my hunting partner. We have been fortunate enough to share a lot of success over the years and I look forward to hopefully many more in the future, but I think this one will always stick out. A true Washington state public-land giant. I am so very humbled and thankful I was even given the opportunity to hunt and harvest this deer. The hunt of a lifetime, The Buck of a Lifetime.

Notes: The buck was scored by Todd Peyser of Peyser Taxidermy the day it was harvested, September 10, 2017. It green gross-scored at 234 7/8ths. Three inches of deductions put it at 231 7/8ths green score net. It had 45½ inches of mass. It will be taken back in after the 60-day drying period on November 10th to be scored again and get the official score.

ONE LAST LOOK AT JAKE FIFE’S 2017 WASHINGTON PUBLIC-LAND GIANT. (JAKE FIFE)

Editor’s note: I’d like to personally thank Jake Fife for sharing his story and photos with us, as well as Mark Bove, Jake’s friend, for working on getting it to us. Thank you, fellas!