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Share Your Adventure

Brownells Customers
one year ago

At Brownells, we're "Serious About Firearms" - and also about hunting. Like our customers, many of our team members are hunters. And what's a hunting adventure without a story to tell afterwards? Share Your Adventure is a virtual hunting lodge where you can swap hunting stories with us and other Brownells customers. The best stories are about the experience - spending time with family and friends, enjoying the outdoors, an old piece of gear you carry to bring you luck. Sometimes they're funny, or a once-in-a-lifetime event.

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Send your hunting adventure story and a photo or two to If we include it in the series, we'll send you a $25 Brownells gift card as thanks. Share your story today!

To enter please email us with the following information:

  • A description of your adventure and what made it a memorable experience. Please try to stay under 150 words or so.
  • Attach pictures of that go along with your story.
  • Provide a valid email address for future contact.
  • If selected you will receive a $25 Brownells gift card & be featured in our Share Your Adventure series.

Submitting photos or content gives Brownells Inc. acting permission, unrestricted permission and copyright to publish photographic portraits, pictures or digital information pertaining to them in single, multiple or moving images. I hereby wave any right that I might have to inspect or approve the finished product or copy that may be used in connection with this image or information.


January 14, 2022

Jeremiah's dad got an excellent 10-pointer (left), but Jeremiah's buck had an uncommonly graceful, nicely spread 10-point rack (right).

The Biggest Reward Was Not the 10-Point Buck

As Told By: Jeremiah R.

I was born and raised, and still live, in Tennessee, where hunting and fishing are just a way of life. My dad introduced me to the outdoors at the young age of 5. We have great memories of hunting together over the years, but nothing like the deer season we had in 2020, when we both got 10-point bucks.

Dad has taken some great bucks over the years. I, on the other hand... I was that "if it’s brown it’s down" hunter. Everyone gave me a hard time because of the little bucks I killed. They told me, "You're not going to get a big one if you keep killin' them little ones." My standard response was, "Can’t eat them horns boys." I love deer meat! Being a trophy hunter just wasn’t me - until 2020.

We started deer season by hanging stands and putting out cameras. The first picture we got was of a nice, wide 10 point and another good 10 that was quite a bit narrower. We hunted a few times during bow season but got nothing. Muzzleloader season came around, and I put the crosshairs on a 4 point, but for some reason I didn’t shoot. Dad sent me a text that evening asking if I saw anything. I said I let a 4 point walk. He was speechless, even more so when I told him I wanted to hold out for that wide 10 point.

On opening day of gun season, we were hunting together about 200 yards apart. At the break of daylight, I heard a shot from his direction. I automatically texted, "Geez Dad, I just sat down, lol! Did you get him?" He said yes. "How big?" He said he wasn’t sure, but it looked like a good buck. About two hours later, he finally went to check it out and texted, "It’s a nice 10." I couldn’t have been more excited if I had killed it myself. As I went over to see the buck, I quickly realized it was the "narrow" 10, not the wide 10.

Three days later, I was hunting the same stand where dad got Narrow 10. I wasn't sure if Wide 10 was even still alive, with all the hunting pressure in the area, but I took my chances. Dad was staying home that morning, so I was hunting solo. A few hours passed, and I saw NOTHING. I was getting discouraged, when all of a sudden here comes that 4 point I had passed on during muzzleloader season. He was chasing a doe. Again, I put the crosshairs on him but, again, didn't shoot. Dad checked in to see how my morning was going, and I texted back telling him about the 4 point coming through and testing my patience.

I was fixing to call it a morning and was just about to climb down from the stand when something told me to wait a few more minutes. Not long later, I heard something coming though the thicket behind me. It was a doe. Then as soon as she came out into the clear, I spotted a buck. I couldn’t tell how big he was until he finally came out of the thicket. It was Wide 10!

Before I knew it, he was directly under my stand. I let my .30-06 sound, and before I knew it, there was the biggest buck I had ever taken in my life lying a few feet away from my stand. I immediately called Dad. Before I could say anything, he said, "You got that wide 10, huh?" "How did you know?" He said, "Son, you're shaking so much I can hear the stand rattling from here!" I laughed, "Yes sir, I sure did!" He told me to hold tight.

Dad drove 35 minutes just to be with me and share my big moment. As we were looking at that big buck, Dad put his arm around me and said, "Congratulations, son." I'm a 42-year-old man, but I still shed a few tears." Doesn't matter how old you are, your dad's approval still means the world to you. This was my best hunt ever. The trophy on the wall and the freezer full of venison were just a bonus.

January 7, 2022

Richard's wife with her bull elk

My Wife's Hard-Won Bull Elk

As Told By: Richard G.

When it comes to hunting, 2015 was a banner year for me. It was the year I took my long-sought-after first bear and, while on a hog hunt in Texas, a free-roaming axis deer. But at the top of my list is the bull elk my wife landed with a perfect heart shot. It was not an easy kill; she really had to work for that elk. It was on one of the Colorado Parks & Wildlife Department's "Ranching for Wildlife" hunts, late in the season, and it was COLD. We're talking -22° F. on the morning she got her elk, and we had been hunting in similar conditions all week. Elk were migrating across - but not stopping on - the ranch in groups of 20 or more, but we just couldn't connect with a bull. Time and time again, we would spot a group and set up to ambush them, only to have them slip by just out of range. The wide-open sage of the ranch meant there was no terrain forcing the elk to follow a given path.

Watching my wife tough it out on a windy, open hillside, I was so proud of her. With the bitter cold weather conditions, she could have called it quits before the final day of her hunt. But she didn't. That morning she sat a stand for an hour in the open, then we got in the truck and worked our way up a very sketchy ridge-top road to find a higher vantage point. As we arrived at the top, we knew her hunt was coming to a close, and we would be headed home in a few hours. Looking back to where she had just been on that stand, what did I see? Elk crossing through and leaving the ranch where we were allowed to hunt. A LOT of elk. Not 15 or 20 but well over 100! An absolute river of elk, right where we had been!

I told her that big a group will have stragglers. "I can get you down there for the tail end of the herd, but you won't like the drive down this ridge.... And there won't be any time when we get there. You'll just have to jump out, spot a bull, and GET A SHOT OFF before he crosses the fence." She looked through the binoculars one more time and said, "You drive, I won't watch." That might have been the wildest three-minute drive of my life!

As I expected, the herd's main body had cleared the fence, and the tail end was crowded onto the county road jumping the fence into the next ranch over. But there were also the expected stragglers. First, a few cows and a spike came up out of the arroyo and crossed the fence just 100 yards from my wife. Then two more cows. Half a minute passed. She looked to me, and I signaled for her to wait, though in my heart I feared we had once again missed our opportunity.

Then a string of elk came out of the arroyo led by two cows, followed by the ugliest bull I have ever seen, with a contorted, goofy rack, another cow, and then.... a 3x4 bull. In a calm voice I knew she would hear in the quiet of the cold morning I said, "Do you see the bull?" The elk didn't react but kept walking as my wife gave a nod, then concentrated on her scope. I wondered which of the two bulls she was going for, but that was her call.

Both bulls walked on, and she moved her Ruger .30-06 slightly. Mr. 3x4 stopped when the cow ahead of him jumped the fence off the property. Just as the cow landed on the county road, the shot went off! The 3x4 staggered, then in two adrenaline-filled leaps he cleared the fence and the county road. On his next great leap he cleared the second fence - and died in mid-air. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. He was fully outstretched over the fence and then, still in the air, he was dead, landing in a heap 3 yards onto the next ranch and what would have been freedom.

The sage was higher where the bull landed, but I was able to see his antlers sticking up, though from her position, my wife could not. There followed a near-comical 20 minutes with me calling the ranch and the Division of Wildlife to get permission to cross the fence and retrieve her elk as she was jumping up and down in the road trying to get a glimpse of HER elk, while asking, "Are you sure? Are you sure?" I told her she had clearly landed a heart shot, and I had never been more sure of anything. I also have never been prouder of somebody!

December 24, 2021

Ernesto ended up with a LOT of exciting memories.... and 85 lbs. of meat in his freezer.

250 lbs. of Angry Hog & a LOT of Adrenaline

As Told By: Ernesto B.

I spent that Friday fighting traffic, missing phone calls, playing e-mail tag, wrangling paperwork, and troubleshooting computer problems. Ugh! I couldn't wait to get away from the city and technology and get up to Okeechobee to hunt hogs. The plan that guide Dwayne Powell of Kissimmee River Hunt & Fish and I had agreed on was to hunt feral hogs on the ground, a “spot and stalk” hunt like I did as a kid with my late grandfather. When my work was done, I fought through the mess of Miami traffic and made my way to Okeechobee with childhood memories mingling in my head with hopes for the hunt of a lifetime.

When I finally arrived at River Bluff Resort that evening, Karen, the owner, met me with a kind smile and welcomed me with awesome hospitality. I gave Dwayne a call after settling in, and he came right over. Since I first spoke with him on the phone to book the hunt, I knew he was a friendly person. When I met him face to face, I realized he was like no other guide I had ever met. He treated me more like a member of his family than a client. Dwayne immediately took me to his private range behind his house to make sure my WWII-vintage Mosin-Nagant rifle was zeroed. He showed me the other cutting-edge rifles and optics available on his hunts, including the Colt 6920 AR-15 that he'd be carrying to back me up. He also explained what I could expect on our hunt the next day.

He had been out scouting the area that morning. He used cameras and feeders to keep tabs on what was going on with the game on the ranchland around him, so he knew the animals we could expect to encounter. I had never met a guide so well prepared. Other Okeechobee guides I had worked with wouldn't do spot-and-stalk hunts because of the time required; they wanted to get their next client in as quickly as possible. Dwayne, on the other hand, seemed even more excited than I was for spot-and-stalk!

After all that, how could I sleep? All my hunting dreams and memories began to come to life! Different possible scenarios just kept rolling through my head almost until I set out for Dwayne’s at 4:00 the next morning. He and his family had prepared a hearty homemade breakfast that would keep us going all morning. We finished loading equipment into Dwayne's Gator (nothing runs like Deere!) and headed into the ranchland just before 5 AM. As we got deeper into the marshlands and hummocks, Dwayne knew the area so well he could navigate it easily in the pre-dawn pitch blackness. Finally, we got close to the first area we planned to hunt, got off the Gator, and moved slowly through the muck toward the stands and feeders.

As we hit the first hummock (a little knoll or hillock - also sometimes called a "hammock"), Dwayne spotted fresh rooting signs of several hogs. As we headed in slowly, two loud grunts erupted from somewhere inside the darkness of the palm leaves, warning us not to take another step. My hand went instinctively to the 1911 on my hip. Dwayne helped calm me down and explained that we had three options: (1) Go in and risk spooking the hogs out of the area until the evening. (2) Go in and risk getting tusked by them in the dark. (3) Or back off and wait patiently for the hogs to move out or for other hogs to move in as they headed toward the feeder.

Dwayne chose to back off and wait patiently, so we could glass the area as daylight broke around us. This was so close to the memories of those hunts with my grandfather, I just felt something special was going to happen. As the sun rose, the marshlands and hummocks around us came alive with whitetails, ducks, geese, and other waterfowl. I glassed the path to and from the feeder, but I was so excited I kept thinking every shadow, every stump, and every buck or doe I saw was a hog. Just as we were getting ready to head back in there, Dwayne grabbed me and pointed behind us. About 600 yards away, were two trophy-size hogs rooting out in the open. It was on!

Never have I seen a man move so quickly while remaining dead silent, even through wet and muddy marshland. We crossed two barbed wire fence lines between us and the hogs, with Dwayne working our way between different hummocks to hide our approach. Before I knew it, we there was only one last hummock between us and them. Dwayne sneaked to the edge, and we put eyes on them..... Both hogs were so busy rooting in the dirt that they had no idea we were there. I was about to go prone, call a hog, put a scope on him, and take him. But Dwayne said, "Now we’re gonna get closer." Well, I didn't disagree because he was the pro, but I couldn't believe it. Just how did he plan to pull this one off? Between the two hogs, they had four eyes and four ears to spot us. And eight tusks if they saw us and didn’t like us. We still had what I later found out was about 250 yards of open grass and marshland between us and them. I measured all of these distances later because I had complete tunnel vision and it all seemed a lot closer in the moment. One mistake, and those hogs could have spooked and run away OR charged us.

Dwayne crouched low in the grass and headed toward the hogs. I followed as quickly and quietly as I could. As we closed the distance, my heart started beating so hard I thought those trophy-size hogs might hear it. We stopped just under 200 yards away. CLICK! I turned off the safety on the Mosin-Nagant and froze as one of the hogs stopped rooting and looked up for a few long seconds. I called one of the hogs standing broad-side and scoped him, but the lens had fogged up from the intense humidity. As the fog faded, the hog I had scoped was still broadside. Whew!

I had to fight back the buck fever, calm my breathing, center the crosshairs of the scope, and squeeeeeze the trigger. BOOM! Nothing. I missed! But the hogs didn’t move. Slow down, breathe, don’t rush, cycle the bolt. BOOM! Another miss. I WAS rushing. Seriously, slow down! Now the hogs started moving. The one I shot at was running away from us to the left. The heck with slowing down! I cycled the bolt, scoped that hog kicking up dust, and BOOM! The third shot looked like it clipped the hog’s back, but that pig did not slow it down. As I cycled the bolt once more, that big animal was moving so fast I did not have time to scope him and take another shot without taking a safety risk and sweeping the muzzle past Dwayne.

That’s when I realized I had been hearing Dwayne’s voice faintly calling my name "Ernest! Ernest! ERNEST!!!" The other hog, easily a 250 lb. boar, had just broken into a full-speed charge, directly at us. I froze. Even though he was barreling down on us, everything seemed to happen in slow motion. As soon as Dwayne realized I was done, he stepped in and saved my butt. At what we later measured as 179 yards, he smoked that monster with one shot from the Colt. The boar tumbled at full breakneck charging speed, face in the dirt. The bullet entered above his eye on the side of his head and dropped him right on the spot. I think it took about an hour for the adrenaline to clear my system and my heart rate to finally slow down!

While I was disappointed at getting buck fever and missing that first hog, I could not have asked for a better hunt. In a matter of hours, I had relived those past spot-and-stalk hunts with my grandfather, had a hearty home-cooked breakfast with full Southern Hospitality, spent a morning watching the wild plants and animals of the Kissimmee River wake-up and start their day, had the most exciting stalk of my life, and made a life-long friend who was the best guide I have ever worked with. I also got about 85 lbs. of meat from that hog who charged us. There is just something satisfying about eating a mean animal that spent its last seconds on earth intent on killing or injuring you. Dwayne dressed it up quickly, provided plenty of refreshments, and even made special arrangements for processing the meat with a local butcher.

This was not your "sleeping in a tree stand" or "swamp-buggy drive-by" hunt. This was the genuine spot-and-stalk experience for those who want to get down, dirty, hot, and humid in the Central Florida marshlands!

December 17, 2021

Joe and his prize.

Lucky Friday the 13th

As Told By: Joe H.

I had lined up a day off from work on Friday, November 13, 2015, to go deer hunting, but I was questioning my decision now. My wife, two-year-old, and twin six-month-old boys were all sick. My wife told me to go ahead and hunt (bless her!). I still felt guilty about leaving them, and the 30 mph winds that day weren't exactly inviting. But I went anyway. With so much wind, I decided to still hunt on my favorite ridge. About an hour into my hunt, I had two does parallel my position and run to the direction I was heading, so I decided to sit for a bit. It didn't take long before my biggest buck to date appeared. Trophies that size don't come along very often in a hunter's life, so I didn't waste any time. I made a 30-yard snap shot with my Thompson/Center Omega muzzleloader launching a .50-caliber 250-grain T/C Shockwave. When it hit, that monster ran about 40 yards and then piled over. I knew he was big, but I didn't realize how much of a trophy he was until I claimed my prize. Any talk about Friday the 13th being unlucky makes me grin every time I hear it now! (And yes, my wife and kids all recovered fine.... maybe they just wanted to get me out of the house?).

November 12, 2021

You work hard for a Dall trophy like this!

Alaska Dall Sheep Hunt With Unexpected Visitors

As Told By: Dot T.

It started as a "simple" Dall sheep hunt in rough terrain in the Wrangell Mountains in eastern Alaska. What we hadn't expected was a visit from a mother bear and her three cubs. This hunt took place in the early 1990s, though I cannot recall exactly which year now. We hunted the area multiple times, flying in with Ellis Air to remote spots. Lynn Ellis was an amazing pilot, who really knew the Wrangells like the back of his hand. He had many "secret" places where he could land on the side of a mountain - but he didn't clear a big airstrip because he didn't want other pilots to start using in his spots! It was pretty hair-raising landing a Piper Cub between the rocks and bumps and such, but I would have flown anywhere with this guy.

Lynn would drop us off, and we would hunt for 10 days, always having a great time in this incredibly remote, wild, beautiful place. We crossed glaciers and covered many miles to get a chance at a nice ram. These photos give no indication of how much work and effort went into getting a beautiful Dall trophy.

On this hunt, after setting up our main camp, we decided to go east and look for some sheep I had spotted in a ravine as we flew in. Picture deep ravines cut out by the glaciers over the centuries, with terraces or steps in the sides of the mountain. Definitely not easy terrain to operate in.

My father was about 70 yards below me when I saw him duck down and sneak to the edge to look at something. I realized he must not be looking at sheep because he would be getting ready to make a shot if there were some legal rams. Instead, he motioned to me to come down there, then pointed over the hill. I saw a grizzly bear sow stand up - and then I saw her three cubs as she came charging up the hill. All I could think was that I had only ONE shot for each if this got ugly.

I grabbed three more rounds and put them between the fingers of my support hand as I knelt down. I yelled to my father that if she comes on over the hill and keeps coming to let her have it because she would be only about 10 yards away from him. She came right to the edge, and that is when I stood up and started hollering a loud as I could. She turned around and took off with her cubs. I almost needed to change my shorts after that one!

After we calmed down, Dad and I had a little pow-wow as we looked up the canyon. There was a nice band of rams hanging out in the opposite direction of old Boo Boo and her three cubbies. We liked the idea of moving off in the opposite direction from her, so we went after these guys. My father got a nice 40"-plus ram.

Despite the extra jolt of adrenaline - or maybe because of it - this was our most memorable hunt!

October 29, 2021

Robert with half of his "two-fer" bucket list bag, a Rocky Mountain Elk.

Bucket List "Two-Fer"

As Told By: Robert H.

Not often in life does an opportunity present itself to knock two items off your bucket list at the same time, but exactly that happened to me in April 2011, when I went on a combined Red Stag and Rocky Mountain Elk hunt in New Zealand.

I was working a six-month project in Australia at the time and, during a lull in activity, was able to slip across to the South Island of New Zealand for the hunt. It wasn't entirely a spur-of-the-moment thing. In the year leading up to the Australia project, I had bookmarked several outfitters in NZ, juusst in case I got some free time. I signed on with Cardrona Safaris, a 40-minute drive north of Queenstown.

Neither red stag nor Rocky Mountain elk are native to New Zealand, but once introduced, both thrived in the unique environment. With no winter kill, no predators, and a friendly habitat, these animals live long and grow massive racks. Cardrona Safaris is both a working ranch, a "station" in Down Under lingo, and a hunting preserve. Wives were welcome at no extra cost for lodging and meals, so my wife accompanied me.

We were met at the Queenstown airport and treated like royalty. After getting settled in, the outfitter took both of us out into the station's hinterland - some 7,000 to 10,000 acres - to do some spotting. It was then that I realized this could truly be my "bucket list" Hunt of a Lifetime! Our timing coincided with the rut, called the "roar" in New Zealand, and because of this, we were able to spot both a few stags and elk. It was clear that I would get a shot at least one of the species, and it would be up to me NOT TO MISS! Hunters pay according to the Safari Club International scoring system, and I had contracted for two Silver Class animals. Well, after seeing an incredible stag that was well above Silver Class, I turned to the finance minister, aka my wife, and proposed upgrading to Entry Level Gold, which she fortunately agreed to.

This hunt was not simply going a few hundred yards out behind the lodge and hunting over a salt lick. It was true spot-and-stalk in some very rugged country with elevations going up over 7,000 feet. The gun laws in Australia are draconian, so I didn't even try to bring a rifle with me to my gig in Australia. Fortunately, the outfitter had numerous rifles to choose from, and I went with a Remington 700 in 7mm Rem Mag with a Leupold scope, which happen to be the same rifle and scope I hunt with in Colorado.

The first morning we found ourselves on a very cold ridge top (seasons are reversed Down Under, so April is autumn) looking across a narrow valley to an adjacent ridge. We were after stags today, and after seeing several, we crafted a plan. We stalked this group of stags and hinds (females) for several hours, and eventually got up on an Entry Level Gold stag. He was chasing hinds (foolish boy) and was not aware of us. I made one double-lung shot on him quartering away at 110 yards. He staggered maybe five steps and went down. Wow! We spent the evening relaxing in the lodge and thinking about elk for the next day.

But the next day the weather was abominable - it snowed all day with heavy winds. Animals were all hunkered down, and we decided to do likewise. The following day, the weather cleared, and we returned to the general area where we had seen a large bull elk on that first afternoon spotting trip. We found him in the same area, and one of the assistant guides circled down to try to get him moving. It worked. He came up the ridge toward us and stopped at a range of 55 yards. He was huge, and it took FOUR shots to drop him. He was a 7x6 with an internal beam spread of 48".

We decided to have European skull mounts done for both animals, to make it easier to ship them back to the U.S. The meat could not be shipped back to our temporary home in Australia, so some of it was fed to hunters at the camp in following weeks, and the rest was sold or donated to local restaurants.

I love to stand in the foyer of our house and gaze at the racks of these two great animals. The memories immediately flood back of what was truly the hunt of a lifetime!

October 22, 2021

Four young hunters got their first elk at the D&D Ranch.

Rite of Passage for a New Generation

As Told By: Tim R.

There is pure joy in watching a young hunter become successful on their first hunt. I love to hunt, and I love to make the memories with good friends and family. So this year, I helped some of my friends take their kids on their first-ever elk hunt. It turned out to be much more than just a great outdoor experience.

Hosted by my friends the Dorris brothers at their D & D Ranch near Mayhill, New Mexico, this hunt involved four youngsters from South Carolina and their fathers. It took me back a few years to the time my son shot his first elk on this very same ranch, with special friends who gathered there to share that moment. I wanted to make the experience just as memorable for this year's quartet of young hunters.

My buddy Joe brought his 15-year-old son David, who had a freak accident in 2020, falling from a second-story balcony at their home. David suffered major head trauma, and it is an absolute miracle that he survived. As soon as we met, David and I bonded because I too had survived a near-death experience. After his accident, David now understands that every day is a bonus. Life is fragile and we must make each day count, even when we are having a bad day.

As the photos show, all four youngsters executed a perfect shot and harvested a nice bull. But I think David’s was the most special. His father welled up with tears, knowing this day almost did not happen. It was his turn to let his friends share wisdom and insight with his son and to bond during this special moment together. Thanks to the Dorris brothers for the memories we made at their very special ranch!

October 15, 2021

Something you don't see in every wedding album.

She Refused To Settle

As Told By: Her Husband

In 2019, my future wife and I booked an elk hunt in Utah for the beginning of October. Our wedding was set for the end of May. As the big day inched closer, I was running out of ideas for the perfect wedding gift for her. Then suddenly it hit me. Why don't I build her a custom rifle she can use on our delayed-honeymoon hunt? I decided to build her a .300 Win Mag on a Winchester Model 70 action I already had. I threaded, chambered, and fluted the barrel from a blank, and built the muzzle brake myself. I even tried out Cerakote® for the first time. I'm an auto body technician by day, so I figured if I can paint a car, surely I can paint a firearm. Turns out I can! I got the rifle done just in time for our Big Day. And boy was it a hit! She loved it.

Fast forward to the week before our hunt. We packed up the truck and headed off on a two-week road trip. We hit the Badlands, the Black Hills, and Yellowstone, passing through the Grand Tetons before making our way to Utah. On the first two days of the hunt, we saw some elk, but nothing that tickled my wife's fancy. By the third day, I was getting a little nervous. That morning, we passed up a bull that I thought anyone would be happy with, but it was a 5x6 and she would settle for nothing less than a symmetrical 6x6. The woman knows what she wants - I'll give her that! Earlier, we had seen some bulls that were more like what she was looking for, but we couldn't get close enough. I couldn't really blame her for holding out.

Late on the third day, we spotted two bulls, both of which were definitely keepers, but they were probably 1,000 yards away. We decided to try and get closer. We crossed to the next canyon and quite literally crawled our way closer. As we finally got into position, our guide laid down his pack for my wife to use as a rest. He had time to set up his spotting scope and ranged the animal: 310 yards.

My wife turned the CDS turret on her Leupold VX-5HD to 300 yards. There was some sage brush blocking her shot, so I crawled ahead, ripped it out, and got back into position. The bull hadn't moved. She got on target and squeezed the trigger. He staggered a bit and toppled over. She had heart punched him. I can't even begin to describe the feeling afterwards. What a proud moment to watch my wife take down a 310-class bull with a rifle I built!

October 1, 2021

Shots from Bill's First Bighorn Hunt

Persistence, Patience & Planning Get His First Bighorn

As Told By: Bill D.

I had been dreaming of hunting sheep for years before I finally drew a Nevada desert bighorn ewe tag in 2019. Time to head west! After analyzing Department of Wildlife data on 2018 kill locations, I identified a particular canyon that had the most bighorn kills. I drove 80 miles to the access point, and then backpacked into the canyon. Only 10-15 minutes into my hike, I spotted the horns and face of my first sheep. It was a mature ram bedded right up against the base of a rock bluff, at the mouth of a cave. He watched me a long time. I ranged him at 171 yards.... but I had a ewe tag, so I moved on. As I passed him, I saw lots of sheep scat and places where the animals had bedded down.

Shortly after, I spotted two sheep along a "dike" or seam of darker, vertical rock. One appeared to be a ewe; I was less certain about the other. I closed the distance and popped up over a low ridge, gaining a little elevation, but the ewe was gone. And I started thinking the other one was just a young ram. The horn shape was different. Ewe horns are sickle-shaped and generally go back over the head, while ram horns splay out some. Horn bases on a ewe are about eye width; on a ram they’re much wider. I wanted to be sure it was a ram before I passed it to look for ewes farther up the canyon. We got into a staring match, but when the sheep finally lost interest and turned to go back to feeding, I could see.... yep, a male.

I hiked farther up the canyon, and just a hundred or so yards in, I glassed five more sheep up a side canyon - a group that definitely included at least two ewes, a lamb, and another young ram. I dropped off the first ridge, hugging its edge on the canyon floor while I moved to a second ridge closer to the group of sheep. I scrambled up the 150 or so feet to a rock outcropping where I could use my pack as a shooting rest, and there was the group with the two ewes, feeding on a mountain face across the canyon from me.

I braced for a shot but missed the lead ewe. They all looked around. Another shot. Missed again, and they scrambled higher up the mountain face, with one of the ewes climbing up onto a big boulder. I calmed my breathing and changed position a bit to make absolutely sure I had a dead-solid rest. I took the shot. She immediately tumbled end over end off the boulder, falling maybe 30 feet straight down, then rolling another 50 to 70 feet down the mountain, coming to rest near the mouth of a cave about 350 feet up from the valley floor. Success at last!

The other sheep topped out, then stared back down toward her for several minutes as the sun set. I said a prayer of thanks and took several pictures from where I shot before picking my way down off my shooting ridge. I left my rifle, binoculars, spotting scope, and other gear on the canyon floor, with my tripod extended to full height and reflectors on it to make it easy to spot in the dark. That way I didn't have to haul them up the mountain when I went to recover my ewe.

I switchbacked up the mountain to her, and I butchered her by the cave mouth on the mountain side, finishing as the moon rose over the ridge. I was able to cool the quarters by laying them across granite outcrops near the cave. Then I loaded up my pack with the head and meat, and packed everything down off the mountain and then out of the canyon to my rig by moonlight and Surefire flashlight.

As I got back to the vehicle, I saw Orion had risen in the southern sky. This was the first night I’d seen Orion that Fall, something I always cherish every hunting season. What a perfect day in the wilderness!

September 24, 2021

Shots From Jeffery's Dall Sheep Hunt

Waited 50 Years To Get His Dall

As Told By: Jeffery R.

When I was in first grade, I had to write a story about what I wanted to do with my life. I wrote that I wanted to live in Alaska and hunt Dall Sheep. I achieved half of that goal: I never got to live in Alaska, but at age 55, I finally got to go there to hunt Dall Sheep! Let me be clear: I am not rich. My wife and I actually took out a second mortgage on the house to make my dream come true.

The hunt was north of the Arctic Circle, in the Brooks Range. These mountains are among the remotest, least populated places in North America. We had to hike about five miles from where our plane dropped us off. When we set up our tents, my guide set his about 50 yards from mine. I asked him why so far apart? He said that in case of a bear attack, there was a better chance of one of us surviving! That was the start of my first night in the Arctic Circle.

I was prepared physically, but not mentally, for always being wet. We had snow, rain, sleet, and fog every day. We saw multiple sheep but nothing legal until Day 5. We spotted him across a valley and watched him for several hours, trying to figure out if he was legal. By 5:00 pm, we concluded he was and decided to make a try for him. It was ON!

After crossing the valley and climbing up the back side of the mountain, the closest we could get to him was 535 yards. My guide asked me if I was comfortable with that shot. I had done a lot of practice out to 600 yards, so I said yes. Now, calmly shooting off shooting sticks or a pack at paper targets is a LOT different from making that same shot on a dream hunt. I settled down on the steep slope and carefully took my shot. Bingo! Ram down!!! My life-long dream came true!

We didn't get done butchering and off the mountain until the sun was coming back up. There's no way to describe the feeling of accomplishment! My wife is a hunter also, but we couldn't afford two tags so she couldn't come along. I made a huge heart out of rocks with our initials in it by the lake where hunters land. Anyone coming to that camp will see it from the air. I know she really wanted to share this adventure with me, so I booked another hunt for 2024 for BOTH of us. We will both be 60 and retired when we go. We might have to live in a cardboard box because of the cost of the hunt. But we will be doing what we love to do together.

September 17, 2021

Diane's 17-year wait pays off

A 17-Year Wait Pays Off

As Told By: Diane D.

In 2016 I finally got a bull elk tag for the Wenaha Unit in Eastern Oregon. For days my husband, my friend, and I scouted for a nice bull, until we came across this one with a harem of about 30 cows. I couldn't believe it when the opportunity presented itself to harvest this big fellow! It took me 17 years to get that tag, and here was a dream come true. Now, the rest of the story: when I had the head mounted, the taxidermist showed me something amazing. Under the skin between the bull's eyes was the 2" point of another bull's antlers left over from a fight. I now have a picture of two bulls fighting, with that piece of antler attached to it, hanging directly above my trophy.

Kirk's Gator

See Ya Later, Alligator!

As Told By: Kirk P.

My friend and I went on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Florida to hunt big gators. The 16-hour drive was full of "wouldn't it be cool if...." talk and "I hope we don't find any snakes" and speculation on just how big these gators actually are. Once we made it to our destination and met our guides, we loaded up in trucks and started glossing lagoons for the big boys. Within 30 minutes we had spotted one and decided to take a shot. I let my buddy have first dibs, since he was the one who set up the hunt. He took a couple of shots, one high, one low. So he turned around to me and handed me the rifle, a Sako in .300 Win Mag. I looked through the scope, got the crosshairs on that gator, and squeezed the trigger. After a big splash, the guides said it was a good hit, and we retrieved the gator. My buddy and I each killed a few big boys that week, with the smallest being "only" 9 ft. long and the largest being 12.5 ft. It was an incredible journey, with experiences to share for a lifetime!

Michael and some nice rams.

It Pays To Have Friends

As Told By: Michael M.

Last year, my buddy and I went sheep hunting during Veterans Day week. We both are old retired squids - Navy veterans - and we were hunting on land that has a boundary with the U.S. Army's Pohakuloa Training Area on the big island of Hawaii. The sheep can move freely back and forth between the public land and the hunter-free "safe zone" on the base. We were working toward the boundary when I spotted a small herd moving into the hunting area from the military side. There were about six nice rams, mouflon/feral hybrids, with a berm between us and them, so we got close and waited until it was safe to shoot. At about 20 yards, we shot three of them (there's no limit). I got a really nice one with my Marlin 336 in .30 30 that I've owned since '72. My buddy shot the other two with his AR-15 in .300 Blackout. These big rams were heavy for two old farts, but lucky for us, my buddy knows the military police and we both know the game warden, who generously gave us a ride back to our truck. Whew!

September 10, 2021

Truly meant to be.

Truly Meant To Be

As Told By: Chase B.

My story with this deer started years ago with a late-January trail cam snapshot of a 2½-year-old buck with lots of potential. We found his sheds every year from then on until he was 5 years old - all without a single direct sighting or another photo of him. I proposed to my wife with his 4-year-old sheds by placing her ring on his antler and hiding it where she would find it while we were shed hunting. The next summer, I laid eyes on this buck in person for the first time ever in his 6 years of life. It was the morning of the day my wife and I got married, and he was in a hay field only 200 yards from where we said our vows. A month and a half later, on the second day of Virginia's archery season, I was able to arrow him 150 yards from where we said "I do." Some things are just truly meant to be!

Emi, "The 35" and the deer.

Faithfully Serving a New Generation

As Told By: Steven O.

For decades, an old Marlin 336 in .35 Remington has played an important role in our family's hunting rite of passage. The rifle started its life in the hands of older cousins and has been passed around through the family. For many of us, its touch is as familiar as the smell of pine and the wind here in Georgia.

Long before I got "The 35," it passed to my cousin Steve, who grabbed a handful of ammo and darted out the door with it for his first solo hunt. My great uncle still talks about that afternoon more than 50 years ago and the huge smile on Steve's face when he came back into the house. I never met my cousin Steve, even though we share many things. We have the same first name, the same birth month and day, and the same affection for this lever gun. Steve was tragically murdered in the early 1970s, and the Marlin was oiled and placed lovingly with his other guns in a closet. It patiently awaited the time when it would again head into the woods in the hands of a family member from the next generation.

I got the trusty Marlin when I turned 13. I hunted the local thickets and hills with it while I was growing up and took my first whitetail deer with it. Even after acquiring other rifles, I always went back to the Marlin. This past hunting season, it answered the call again when my 15-year-old daughter Emi Jane took it out into the woods. Five minutes into legal hunting time, I heard its familiar bark in the distance. I knew that once again The Old Marlin had faithfully initiated another generation into the thrill of taking that first deer.

August 27, 2021

An AR chambered in 7mm-08 weighing only 8.2 lbs. - light enough for a 10-year old to handle.

Persistence & Patience Pay Off

As Told By: Eric M.

Last fall was the first year my 10-year-old son Elliott was able to put in for a youth big game tag in Arizona. He didn't get one in the initial application window, but in the secondary tag pool, he drew a youth cow elk hunt. We were both excited!

He'd completed his hunter's safety course earlier in the year, and in August and September we made several trips to scout out places to hunt. But at 4'10" and 65 lbs. Elliott was still on the small side to handle one of my bolt action rifles. I decided to build him a rifle for the hunt. He was already familiar with the AR-15 platform after rabbit hunting the previous year with a Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22. The route I chose was a lightweight "AR-308" chambered in 7mm-08 Remington, which has enough caliber power to take an elk. An order from Brownells yielded many of the parts I needed.

The main components are from 2A Armament: a Xanthos upper/lower receiver set, matching Xanthos handguard, bolt / carrier group, carbine buffer tube, and titanium takedown pins. The 18" match-grade Wilson Combat Recon stainless steel barrel is fitted with a Seekins Precision adjustable gas block and a light titanium radial brake. A JP Enterprises buffer spring sits behind the Odin Works adjustable buffer. Controlling it all is a LaRue Tactical two-stage trigger and a Battle Arms lightweight ambi safety. I "arranged the furniture" with a Mission First Tactical Minimalist stock, Magpul MOE K2+ pistol grip, and a 10-round Magpul PMAG. I already had a Nikon Monarch 5 3-15x50mm scope just waiting for a rifle, and it's anchored by an Aero Precision lightweight one-piece mount.

The finished rifle WITH optic installed came in at only 8.2 lbs. empty. It shot incredibly well, with light enough recoil for Elliott to manage, and the MFT stock adjusts perfectly to his smaller frame.

With the rifle dialed in, we were off to his hunt in early October. Opening morning, I had him within 40 yards of four cows and a bull. But as he got seated and adjusted on the bipod, he snapped a branch, and the elk took off before he was able to get in position for a shot. He wasn't discouraged and was sure he'd get another opportunity.

Later that evening, we spotted another small herd at 60 yards, but they were moving away from us. Realizing he didn't have a clean, ethical shot to take, my son backed off - I was proud of him! Again, he was optimistic he'd get another chance.

The following evening, we stopped to watch a group of mule deer, when off to the right we spotted three cow elk at 35 yards. I couldn't get him situated before the wind swirled and spooking the deer with our scent, causing the elk to take off running too. Once again, he was optimistic about getting another chance. But I was all too aware that sub-100-yard shot opportunities with elk usually come once in a hunt - if you're lucky - and we had already missed out on three.

We saw no elk for the next day and a half before spotting a herd at about 100 yards walking along a canyon draw toward a ridge line. We had the wind in our favor as I got my son in position on shooting sticks, ranged the elk at 120 yards, and told him to wait for a good broadside shot.

BANG!! He hit the lead cow, and she dropped. She got back up and went another 40 or so yards before disappearing over the hillside just before the ridge. We were confident in his shot placement but waited a bit because we didn't want to spook her into running down in the canyon draw. The 150-grain Hornady Precision Hunter ELD-X did the job. One shot at 120 yards, and my son had his first elk at 10½ years of age!

With the sunlight dwindling and a lot of work to do, we didn't have much time for photo ops. But my boy was grinning ear to ear - and so was I!

August 18, 2021

Ed's "Triple Header"

His Best Year Ever

As Told By: Ed C.

The year 2015 was the year of my amazing "triple header" of hunting adventures: a leopard hunt in Zimbabwe, moose hunting in Saskatchewan, and then a friend called me and asked if I could sub for his son on a Wyoming horseback elk hunt he'd booked. How could I say "no"? Here's how the best year of my hunting life played out.

Come July, my wife and I were off to Zimbabwe. We were hunting with my long-time PH Johnnie Johnson and would be working out of a camp near Victoria Falls. The safari started out agonizingly slow. Bait animals were scarce, and it took days to collect enough meat for several leopard baits. The cats were slow coming into the baits, and we spent endless hours looking at untouched baits. Then one day we found fresh tracks near the hindquarter of a kudu we'd recently hung up, and the bait clearly had been hit. We built a blind not 60 yards away and settled into it at about 4:00 PM. Just before dark, we heard the unmistakable sound of bones being crunched. The leopard sat in the juncture of two branches, providing no shot - until he got up and headed down the branch. A Hornady 220-grain soft-nose from my .30-06 Winchester Model 70 took him in the shoulder, and he dropped like a sack of rocks. The rest of the safari was less exciting but yielded a nice warthog, impala, and a blue wildebeest.

Just six weeks after we got home, we were heading up to Canada for our next adventure. The moose hunt was near Reindeer Lake in northern Saskatchewan. Our first camp was a short plane ride from the main camp, on the shores of a large peninsula. The area looked so good I could imagine a moose wading right into the weedy shallows near our tent! But after two days of calling, we saw no moose and moved on to another location via a long boat ride that was made even longer by downpours that filled the open boat.

The next morning was clear and crisp, and we moved south in the boat to a sandy bank just below a steep, rocky hill. George, our guide, said we could glass a large area from the top of the hill and could stalk a moose if we found one. On the way up, he advised me to chamber a round and keep the safety on, "just in case." It was good advice. We were only about 400 yards from the boat when he grabbed my shoulder and pointed to a bull moose not 100 yards away. I steadied my .325 WSM Model 70 against a small tree and put a bullet through the moose's shoulder. It dropped, but as we were congratulating each other, it started getting up. One more shot anchored the bull. It took us four hours to quarter the animal, remove the antlers and cape, and get the pieces to the boat. Then another two hours back to the lodge. The rest of the trip consisted of excellent pike and lake trout fishing, great shore lunches, and outstanding camp cuisine.

Four weeks after returning from Canada, I was heading to Cody, Wyoming, with my friend Ralph, who had called me 10 months earlier and asked if I could take his son's place on the elk hunt. We overnighted in Cody at the Irma Hotel, which was founded by Buffalo Bill Cody. Our outfitter picked us up in the morning, and we headed to the trailhead to load the horses for the trip into camp. (No vehicles are permitted in the Shoshone Wilderness). Four hours and one sore butt later we got to camp.

The next morning, I learned that we would be hunting from another camp "up the mountain a bit." We rode three hours through very steep terrain to a smaller camp situated at 10,000 ft. To a guy who lives 15 minutes from the ocean, the air seemed awfully scarce up there! After three hard days of riding and glassing, I had nothing show for it. John, my guide, suggested riding up to a lookout spot on the opposing mountain to glass the valley and the other slope. With barely an hour of shooting light left, two trophy bulls started making their way down the slope. John ranged them at 630 yards and suggested I use his rifle, as its scope had a range-compensating turret, which would allow me to hold dead-on the target. John adjusted the scope and I rested his .338 Winchester Ruger Model 77 on a pack, held steady on the bull's shoulder, and fired. Nothing happened! John said I missed - and I said I hadn't. I fired two more shots, confident of each one, but that bull kept standing. Then it took two steps and collapsed. We found THREE bullet holes in the shoulder about 2" apart. He scored 370 SCI points, and his antlers now fill a large section of a very high wall in my foyer.

I doubt I will have another year like 2015, but I still hope for a repeat in the not-so-distant future.

Mike's daughter with her first solo elk.

The Long Road To Her First Elk

As Told By: Mike B.

By 2018, my daughter had been hunting elk with me for five seasons. In that time, we had not harvested a single elk, and she was starting to fear that she was the source of our bad luck. She was now 18 and would soon leave for basic training in the Marine Corps. Would our luck change this year?

She had "stolen" my rifle, a Remington 700 in .30-06 topped with a Zeiss Conquest 3x9. She loved the way it fit her, the clarity of the glass, and the bump on the shoulder when she let a round loose. When she named it "Black Beauty," I had to concede the rifle was now hers!

On the second morning of the general elk season, we waited by a clear cut for daylight in hopes of catching the local herd in the open. No luck. But we knew of two more places they might be. As we drove down from the clear cut in the truck, we decided to split up. Which spot did she want? She shrugged her shoulders, so I hit the brakes. "Get out here, and I'll pick you up at the bottom." She bailed out of the truck and took off on her first solo elk hunt. She knew how to move slowly and listen, taking stock of every tree, every twig breaking, and even the smell of the wind as it changed directions.

I drove down the road and dropped in about three ridges away. Maybe half an hour later, my radio squelch broke but I couldn't understand what she was saying. Finally, I made out, “Do elk squeak?" I replied, "Put the radio down and hunt, kid. They're close!” Moments later I heard a single shot. I waited for the radio. Nothing but silence for an eternity - but probably only 5 or 10 seconds. “I shot him but he's still standing!” Her voice was shaking and panicked. I responded, “Shoot him again. Shoot until he's not moving!"

I headed around the mountain toward her. Then over the radio, “Bull down, Dad!” My heart leapt as I continued walking toward her. When I reached her ridge, I could see her orange vest as I rounded a hill. I hugged her, and she gave me a high five. I think we were both on the verge of tears. We basked in the thrill of success AND a broken five-year streak. Then I reminded her it was time for the work that comes after the kill. She got her knife out but looked at me and said, "Dad, I think you better do it." She was visibly shaking, and her hands quivered uncontrollably. We both laughed and got to work. We skinned the animal and got it into quarters, a long process, but after multiple trips, it was all in the truck.

We have not been able to hunt together since that day because of my daughter's service in the Marines. I've missed being in the woods with her, and I know she longs for the green trees and rain of the Pacific Northwest, the smell of cedar and taste of breakfast in elk camp. Maybe this year?

August 11, 2021

Ralph's Deer Taken The Old-Fashioned Way

Got His Deer the Old-Fashioned Way

As Told By: Ralph L.

On my first hunt at Timber Trails Ranch in 2019, I took a nine-point buck with a Winchester Model 70 in.308 Winchester. That was way too easy! The next year I decided to use my .50 caliber flintlock rifle made by craftsman/artist Allan Sandy of Jennings, Florida. With 100 grains of Goex cartridge-grade black powder, a patched 182-grain .495" dia. lead ball achieves 2,000 fps muzzle velocity and 1,600 ft.-lbs. of energy from this rifle.

A joint venture by rancher Chuck Herbal and Craig Boddington, Timber Trails Ranch is located in Southeast Kansas - excellent deer country. At first light on opening day 2020, I was back there, sitting in an elevated blind. I hardly had time to get situated when a deer came into the clearing in front of me. He was about 150 yards out, and with my binoculars I could tell that he was a younger buck with tall antlers having several forks at the top. At this range, and with the low light, I decided not to attempt a shot. He moved off into the woods.

As the sun rose and the morning passed, nothing was moving, except a couple of cardinals flitting around the blind. Then around 10:30, the buck came back, this time much closer. Should I shoot or wait for "something better"? I remembered that my wife had told me strongly, "I don't want an old deer. I want nice tender venison!" The deer turned broadside, and I aimed the shot behind his front shoulder. There was a roar and a lot of white smoke, and the deer bounded off into the nearby woods. The range was about 65 yards, meaning the round ball would have dropped to around 1,000 ft.-lbs. of energy when it struck the buck. I decided to wait in the blind, as do archery hunters, figuring that the buck would not go far.

At 11:30, Chuck came to pick me up for lunch. I said, "Let's go look for a deer." We drove the 4-wheeler out into the clearing and walked into the woods where I had last seen the buck. He had not gone far before collapsing only about 25 yards from the point where he had been shot.

My wife was happy with her tender venison, and so was I to have taken a buck on opening day. Chuck and Craig were delighted because I was their first hunter to take a buck with a flintlock rifle. I hope it won't be my last.

Kenzi's First Deer

Kenzi Gets Her First Deer

As Told By: Mike B.

On a cold and windy Wyoming day, people came together to help my daughter Kenzi accomplish a dream she could not achieve alone: harvesting her first mule deer. The 3-day hunt outside Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 2019 was provided by the Holy Pursuits Foundation, and the Muley Fanatic Foundation Southeast Wyoming Chapter assisted with logistics, transportation, and other aspects of the hunt.

Kenzi has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. She has had multiple surgeries on each hip, spinal surgery, and rods placed along both sides of her spine. She also has to do stretching and movement exercises several times a day. Between weather, windy conditions (up to 50 mph), and the logistics of getting her into position for a shot, many factors made the odds of success difficult.

But on the third and final afternoon of her hunt, she found success. When she decided she wanted to take this buck, we took 20 minutes to get her into position, and she used a vacuum air actuator to fire the rifle. (She sucks on a vacuum tube which activates an electrical mechanism that operates the trigger.) People gave their time, resources, and money to help her be successful, so she got the opportunity to #fillthefreezer and help provide for the family.

August 4, 2021

William's Deer

The old man and the deer.

As Told By: William W.

A lot of us read Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea in high school. If you didn't or it's been so long you need a refresher, the novel is about an old fisherman's pursuit and capture of his dream fish, a very large marlin, only to be unable to get it into his boat and losing it to sharks. In this story, I am the Old Man, my fish is actually a deer, and the sharks are.... well, read on.

I've spent most of my life involved in guns and shooting sports. After trying Civil War re-enacting and Cowboy Action Shooting, among others, I settled on military rifle target competition - until my buddy Ron introduced me to a whole new world: deer hunting. We hunted together for several seasons, and I eventually harvested one small deer. Last year, Ron could join me only for one week of the season, but being retired, I could go out more. So a couple weeks later, I was out solo, set up on a tree line on public land in West Tennessee.

My rifle was a "Walmart Special" Remington 700 ADL in 7mm Remington Magnum that I'd upgraded with a Bell & Carlson stock. With help from Brownells, I added bottom metal, a Triggertech trigger, an oversized bolt knob, and a nicely priced discontinued Nikon scope. With Redding dies and Remington brass, I had worked up a load that delivered sub-minute-of-angle 100-yard groups.

The day sunshined early but quickly changed to light overcast. I got out my deer call and tried several calls, all to no avail. On a lark, I tried a "doe in heavy estrus bleat" I'd downloaded to my phone. No sooner had I set down the phone, than a bush next to a tree 30 yards away rustled. I was utterly amazed to see a heavy deer with eight beautiful, long, symmetrical tines.

I focused on achieving the low-chest/heart shot that claimed my first little deer last year. A calm finger touched off the 1-lb. trigger and launched a 160-grain Nosler AccuBond at 3,000 fps. The deer went straight vertical with the bullet impact and jumped in vertical bounds alternating from front to rear feet. My hurried prayers that he not land at the bottom of the hill were totally ignored. When I got to him, my delight changed to despair when I thought about solo-gutting the monster, which probably weighed as much as I did, then dragging him 30 yards uphill through briars and a forest of small oak trees.

An hour later, the deer was gutted into a carcass and after another hour was backbreakingly dragged (despite two disc surgeries) foot-by-foot using all my strength up the hill onto the grassy area I had shot from. I used a long rope and the winch on my truck to drag the deer across the open area to the truck. Plan A was to winch-lift and tie the deer to a gate on a nearby fence, then roll him over onto the truck's tailgate. This failed. And like Hemingway's Old Man, I was faced with losing my trophy.

I noticed that the road into the area had been cut into a steep hillside. Plan B was born. I tossed the rope up the vertical cut and then walked up the long way as the cut was too steep to climb. I found the perfect tree, put the rope around it, and tossed it back down. The cut was only 5 ft. high, so I walked to the edge seeking to ease my way down. Bad move...

The next thing I remember was lying on my back in the road with an excruciatingly throbbing right arm which seemed very confused about how it moved. In that agonizing moment, I seriously considered leaving the carcass in the field, but noooooo I had to be an upstanding and ethical hunter.

I had to start my truck with my left hand as the right refused to reach the ignition. I inched the truck back and forth to get the tailgate parallel to the cut - keeping in mind that in front of it was only 3 ft. of relatively level road before a steep downgrade to a very deep gorge.

Using the rope, I pulled the deer down the hill onto the tailgate. Hideously sore arm or not, I needed two limbs to pull the darn thing into the bed. I seesawed the truck out and was finally driving out four hours after shooting the deer - an act that I sorta, kinda had come to regret. Despite the pain, I got my prize to a local meat locker.

My patient and supportive wife agreed that the stuffed-and-mounted head of my hard-won trophy could be hung in our hearth-room above the fireplace. Imagine my disappointment when, after a suspiciously long period of no contact, the meat processor to whom I'd entrusted my hard-won venison called and cavalierly told me the meat had not been processed as we'd agreed - and there wasn't a lot of it anyway. Given the size of the deer, I called him on that bunch of BS. He finally agreed to refund most of my money. After a surgery and three months of thrice-weekly physical therapy, my shoulder is about 95% recovered. I finally finished the therapy sessions in June.

If I were superstitious, I might conclude these tribulations were the revenge of the deer's spirit. But despite the twists and turns of this adventure - and its unexpected outcome - this Old Man has seen the kind hand of God in finding an unusually superb deer on well-hunted public land!

July 28, 2021

Gerardo and Hunter with their black wildebeest.

Once-in-a-Lifetime Father / Son Hunt

As Told By: Gerardo M.

My 16-year-old son Hunter and I just got back from a hunt on the Eastern Cape of South Africa. It was a bucket list item for me, but what really made it special was Hunter joining me for it. In January 2019, he and I went to the International Sportsmen's Expo in Denver, where we saw a bunch of African outfitters and booking agents. I never thought I could afford one of those hunts, but it turns out they can actually cost less than many guided hunts in the western U.S. After checking with my wife, we put down a deposit on a hunt for July 2021. Then COVID-19 hit, and we didn't know if we would be able to go. But after getting vaccinated, we figured "You Only Live Once," so we booked the flights and went for it. Getting there and back was a 36-hour ordeal involving four plane rides each way, but it was worth the trip! Over seven days, we were fortunate enough to harvest 10 beautiful animals (well, except for the warthogs) between us. The terrain looked like parts of New Mexico or Texas, but it seemed like every tree or bush had thorns. One of the highlights was seeing giraffes twice while out hunting. The best part was sharing it all with Hunter. He handled my 7mm Rem Mag like a champ, and each night around the campfire we recounted how the day's stalks and shots went. He'll soon finish high school and be off on his own life, but we'll have the photos and memories of the hunt in Africa forever. These two photos are of the first animal taken, Hunter's trophy warthog, and the Black Wildebeest he shot a few days later.

June 23, 2021

Bagging a few roosters.

The Dogs Make it Worthwhile

As Told By: Kasey F.

It's hard not to have a good day of pheasant hunting when you're following a good dog - or a pair of dogs in my case. Mine are fantastic hunting companions and a joy to watch while they do the thing they were born to do. I don't know which one of us loves being out there more! Whenever they see the hunting clothes come out of the closet, both of them immediately start shaking with anticipation. These dogs are the reason I go out. Bagging a few roosters along the way is just a nice bonus.

Cousin Matt's biggest buck... so far.

Cousin Matt's Biggest Buck... So Far.

As Told By: Chris P.

My cousin Matt was instrumental in teaching me ethics, safety, and patience. He is the one my wife can blame for all my time away spent hunting! This is his biggest buck to date and I can't think of a more deserving person of this trophy than him.