For as long as I can remember I’ve had the “bug”. That bug that caused me to shoot out of bed at 4:00 a.m. opening morning of deer season, strap on my oversized camo, and run upstairs to get dad up and going. I remember driving around with Dad or Grandpa scouting the river bottoms and canyons during rifle season, eyes peeled, sitting on my knees to see out the pickup window, anticipating the infamous “There he is!” as the pickup jerked to a stop.
Luckily I am no longer hunting in oversized camo. My Prois gear is not only quiet during a stalk, but it is comfortable and fits in a way as to not be a hindrance. So many times when hunting gear doesn’t fit you or your hunting situation, you become focused on how uncomfortable you feel or that the clothing is getting in the way, rather than your pursuit. Thankfully, Prois makes a line of women’s hunting apparel that is tailored to fit a woman’s body and her pursuit of various game.
I would like to say that I blame my hunting obsession on the boys in my life. Dad and I would always go out that second weekend of November when the bucks were chasing. And if he had his shot at a big one and I wasn’t quite old enough to tag along, Grandpa would come and pick me up and we would watch from a distance.
I have hunted since I was old enough to buy a license. I’ve always chased whitetails because they were pretty much all I could come across on our land in Central Nebraska. I had seen a few mule deer here and there but they were usually smaller, younger bucks. Not until I began dating Sam was I exposed to the “Muley Magic”.
Sam always talked about how big mule deer get and that they are “just different”. Not until about a year into the relationship did I really comprehend or even grasp the concept of how big they actually do get and what kind of obsession it was that consumed him. The more mule deer filled magazines I was shown and the hours of Muley Crazy DVDs I sat through, the more I began to maybe form my own little “Muley Bug”.
After passing and filming a few nice grower bucks in 2009 with Sam on his family’s horse ranch, The Pitzer Ranch, we decided that we were going to hit the scouting hard in 2010. Since the ranch sits in the Sandhills of North Central Nebraska near the small town of Ericson, it has some great country for mule deer. Throughout the year we watched, filmed and collected pictures of a number of different deer. We had it out for a couple of nice bucks from the year before that didn’t split on a fork or that were just a little young yet. But before Nebraska’s seasoned opened we had to head out to Eastern Colorado for a week.
In October of 2010, I tagged along on Sam’s eastern Colorado mule deer hunt with Wes Atkinson of Atkinson Expeditions. We saw a number of great shooter bucks while we were out there. Not to mention stalking a 187 inch typical to within three yards on day one! After a week solid with a couple of mule deer nuts, I had a new appreciation for the obsession that I had witnessed for months prior.
As opening weekend of rifle season approached in Nebraska, I mentioned to Sam that I thought I wanted to shoot a muley buck this year since I had never taken a one before. Now you have to understand that Sam is super protective of his mule deer. So I reminded him of a deal that we made while we were putting in fence around a food plot on a rather warm August day. He told me if I helped put in this fence that just maybe I would be able to take a buck that was drawn into the area with the plot. So on the second day of rifle season I reminded him of his deal as we glassed through a group of mule deer and I settled my glass on a dark, heavy rack across the river in the late afternoon hours.
We decided to get a closer look at the buck and stalked in to 240 yards along the river bank. After a few minutes I said to Sam “it’s time”. I had actually remained rather calm watching the buck graze for a few minutes, right up until this moment. As I flipped off the safety my heart started going. I settled my gun on the pack and squeezed off a shot. The buck spooked a few yards to the north and continued to graze. I had shot just under him! I kicked in another shell, settled in and squeezed the trigger again. This time the buck humped up, stumbled and went down. I couldn’t see very well in my scope because of the glare of the setting sun, so when Sam told me he was down I was ecstatic! We high fived and re-hashed the stalk for a few minutes and started walking out to put our hands on the rack. As we approached I began to see that he was heavier than I expected, had great fronts, and overall was just an impressive Central Nebraska muley!
After taking this deer, I really appreciate what having some self control can do for your deer herd. We know that we passed this deer last year and it awesome to see what one can grow into if you give them the time to get older.
It is a sweet moment in any woman’s life to prove to society that she can not only hang with the guys, but she can also excel. I take pride in being a woman in a largely male dominated sport, but I must give credit where credit is due. And that is to the boys in my life. They helped grow that little “bug” into my own obsession.