LOST AND FOUND

May 11, 2011 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

By: Tivon Miller

Was I crazy? The anxiety was killing me! What was I doing passing on a 200” deer even on this hunt? However, 3 weeks before while out scouting with my good friend Jason Sandusky, we found the buck I was looking for.
This particular buck had been the topic of conversation between me and most of my close friends since I found out of my good fortune of drawing the tag I had put in for, for so long. Over the 4th of July weekend, my wife, kids and I were staying with our friends the Mooseman’s. Brian was re-telling a story told the previous October, about a buck that his stepdad had missed in my unit last year. As he was giving me every last detail about the bucks’ antler configuration, it dawned on me that he was talking about the same monster that my brother, was lucky enough to find a shed off of later that winter. After a quick look at the pictures Brian had snapped of the buck it was confirmed it was the same buck. So now all I had to do was go find that deer. We all know how easy that is!


After three or four scouting trips with my 10 year old son Gavin, and buddies Jason and Brent, we had found some great bucks. A few from 180-190”, but not what I wanted yet. Hunting stories filled the air in Brent’s pickup all the way down on Friday. We made our way in the heat of the day to the spot where Brent had shot his buck a couple of years prior. As we turned up the rocky road, it was a spot I was very familiar with. Brent showed me where he got his 200 incher and we continued to another location that we wanted to check. Just before dark we found an upper 180’s buck that topped off a great day. The next morning started off early, as we covered a lot of new country, trying to learn a new part of the unit. At noon we stopped to have lunch in the middle of a two-track road. I unloaded my pack off of the cooler in the back seat and made our sandwiches. An hour later, and 30 dirt road miles away, as I reached back to my pack to get some chap stick on my wind burnt lips. I said, “Oh crap!” “You’ve got to be kidding me!” My backpack with all of my gear, including my Swarovski spotting scope and anything else you need to hunt with was gone. I was freaking out!
Just minutes before neither of us could stop talking about the hunt and all of the possible hot spots, but now hardly a word was spoken. Brent flew down the dirt roads to get me back to my gear, and I wondered if my pack might still be there. As we pulled up to the spot where we had ate lunch just an hour before, the pack was gone! We searched the area off either side of the road, in hopes someone had come along, saw it and hid it just in case the owner came back. But the intense reality set in that someone else had my gear.
The next few days were a wreck. Picturing someone else fondling all my stuff and looking through the digital camera photos of our family memories was almost too much to bear. My wife and I decided to spend all day Monday hanging posters all over the unit, that just a few days before meant so much to me for the fact I held such a great tag. Now it felt like this whole experience was a disaster.
Two weeks later after returning home from an evening archery elk hunt, my sister in law called and said a man called saying he had my pack! A short minute later I was on the phone with a man, I had never met or heard of, making plans to meet up so I could recover my gear. Thanks Dale! I honestly never thought I would see all my stuff again. You are an honest and refreshing individual.
On the dark drive down, with Sandusky, three weeks after the recovery of my pack, I once again found myself thinking of the buck that consumed my thoughts. As we began glassing I knew it was possible the buck could be living in this area. Within a few minutes Jason said, “I got some bucks, get your scope!” In an excited panic, as I dialed my Swarovski in on the bachelor group, I immediately confirmed what I was hoping. It was my buck, and he was awesome! He had taken full advantage of the mild winter, and exceptional water year. He had lost the four in character point off of the back of his right G2, but make up for it with a ton of mass, better looking frame, and even a split eye-guard. Jason and I decided he would score between 200 and 210 as an 8×6! We snuck out of the area knowing the obsession of keeping tabs on him and his five buddies for the next few weeks, would now kick in. I honestly didn’t even want to leave.


Three unsuccessful scouting trips later, with my brother and buddy Adam, since locating the buck, we had yet to turn him up. On each trip we found all of his buddies, but not him. What the heck! He had disappeared. I knew he had to be here under one of these rocks, but I didn’t want to tromp all over his home and run him out. In the back of my mind I wondered if he had been harvested by a muzzleloader hunter. I figured if someone had known about him I should have at least seen them on the opener. Two days later I would return with the camper, and spend my last couple days trying to locate my buck.
Once the camper was unhooked and somewhat leveled, I headed to another part of the unit looking for a mid 190’s typical; I had only heard of. What in the heck was I thinking? On the drive to look for this new buck, all I could think about was my buck. I can’t find my buck if I’m looking for some new buck! Too late now! It would be dark before I got back. Tomorrow morning and evening would be devoted to relocating the 8 by 6.
The alarm went off and I thought…”In 24 hours the hunt of my life starts.” “It would be nice to find my buck today”. I picked the hillside apart over and over from a mile away, looking at all of the country my buck could be hiding in. Just as I was getting ready to move a half mile to the north, there he was. Thank God! A doe and fawn had passed by his bed and he couldn’t resist checking her out. Thankfully, that’s what gave him away. After just a couple minutes, he hurried his way around to the west slope to put himself back in the shade. I immediately called my brother to let him know the good news! At two o’clock he moved only 100 yards from the spot he had been all morning. He tucked himself between some sage and rim rock, and although I stayed until dark with my brother now by my side. We did not see him again.
Sandusky and I made our way up the mountain in the dark and I couldn’t help but wonder what this day held. Darkness gave way to opening morning as we glassed the country below. A handful of small bucks and does filtered up the mountain while we gradually made our way towards my buck’s hideout from the day before. Our glasses went to serious work for the next couple of hours, but we couldn’t turn him up. A while later we talked to Cliff and he had seen a group of bucks around the corner from us with one really good buck in the group. Once we got him spotted, we agreed, it was a great buck, probably right at 200”! Was I crazy? What was I doing passing a 200” deer? I have never killed a 200” deer. I knew what buck I wanted and it was only opening day. I couldn’t give up on my buck already. As I was having a close heart to heart with myself, it was interrupted by Sandusky, hissing, “Tivon get over here, I got a good buck!” With my tripod legs still fully extended I ran, jumping over rocks trying to get to where I could get a look at the buck. When the pistol grip settled, I was happy to see my buck lying underneath a pile of rocks, surrounded by thick sage brush. I quickly realized why I passed the other buck. If all the years of general season had taught me anything, it was to never give up on your goals. We spent the next few minutes videoing the buck and we quickly devised a plan on how to get within range of him.
All the way back down the mountain, I prayed the buck would stay put. We occasionally peeked over rocks ever so slowly to keep him landmarked. An hour later and 167 yards away, I could see his right antler poking out from his bed in the thick sage. I had so many different scenarios playing out in my mind. At one point, during the wait I even considered walking in the thick sage brush and jump shooting him like a jack rabbit, but I knew that was the wrong thing to do. As I was taking pictures of the antler we could see from our vantage point, all of the sudden he was up. Immediately I was on my belly, behind my rifle scope, and as he made his way out of the brush I could see his antler tips and flashes of his grey hide. I looked for a small opening he might step into. There he was! My Kimber 7mm 08 put him down just as fast as he showed up, and the hunt was over!
The short wind sprint over to my buck that I had been thinking about all summer was the best feeling of my hunting career. I couldn’t help but feel some remorse for the fallen buck. I thought of how many times he might have used this bedding area to avoid danger. I have been very fortunate to harvest some very nice general season bucks, and this was the icing on the cake! Every detail about my buck will be forever etched in my mind. The mass was awesome! As I picked his head up off the ground I noticed he had broken a couple of inches off two of his extras on the left side in the fall. Between pictures and video we would be able to get his antlers back to their original state. He had a mid 190’s frame with a unique fishhook like right main beam. The extra on the left side took me back in time to the winter range, when my brother picked up the left antler. He is a 27 inch wide 8 by 6 that ended up scoring 211 once the points were fixed by Dan Morrow at High Country Taxidermy!
Sharing that hunt with my brother and Sandusky on that afternoon, taking photos and video of the whole experience is something I will never forget. Thanks you guys! And thanks to all my other good friends who helped me on my quest. After both my pack and my buck ended up being lost and found, I feel very fortunate to have relocated both.

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