Ok...this is the smallest mule I have ever taken...but it is my BIGGEST trophy ever! I solo hunt and have for years. When I have had the good fortune of getting a nice buck, I have been able to call in my husband to help. I LOVE to solo hunt because it is where I learn, it is where I may fail...but it is always on my own shoulders.
THIS buck. I hiked about an hour into my spot in the dark, by myself and got situated. I found a great area that had promise. I was excited to see what could unfold. It was a new area for me.
I re-evaluated, moved, re-situated, second-guessed, and decided to stay put.
This buck eventually moved in. I knew he was on the smaller side but continued to watch. My husband and I saw 8 bucks in the last 2 days- a couple smaller, but most were larger but my husband had me pass on them. Reason- it is early in the season and we could wait it out.
This buck came in at 500 yards. No stress. I watched him. A lot. I had time to get situated. Time to think through it. Time to range him. Time to set and readjust my MOAs.
Time to decide if this buck was a buck that would make me proud. In my head, the answer was yes.
He could fill my freezer after the airlines ruined all of the meat from my Wisconsin whitetail hunt. He was beautiful. He was not stressed at all. I told myself I had a few days left of the season, and once again, I asked myself if this buck would make me proud.
I watched and waited. I wasn't nervous. I wasn't pushed. I wasn't antsy. I wasn't settling. I just waited quietly.
I put him in my sights and decided to wait to see what would happen. I got him clear on a 450 yard shot and decided to take the shot. I was calm. It was good. I was silently glad my husband wasn't with me because this felt right...and he would have perhaps asked me to wait. (I do indeed have his permission to write that!) I took the shot and folded him in his tracks. Then I knew...this was my buck.
But that is far from where the story ends. I had no lifelines to call as I was in the backcountry and a deep ravine. I had no worries and decided it was all on me to finish it up. I got to him, and he was my beautiful buck. No meat was wasted with the shot. I got to work and quartered him up myself. I pulled the loins and did an amazing job on the backstraps if I do say so myself. I pulled his head and even got his beautiful back skin. By. Myself. This was my task and I got him out of there.
I sobbed when I called my husband. I have hunted for years and consider myself a good hunter. But- some things push you to the next level. Places you weren't sure you could go. I always KNEW I could take care of a backcountry hunt 100% myself, but never had to. This buck means more to me than anything I have ever done.
The hunting industry can be cruel to each other. If someone posts a pic of a buck, 10 hunters will admonish the decision. If someone kills an animal with a rifle...10 hunters will tell you it should have been done with a bow. If you post a pic of your first archery bull, 10 traditional hunters will tell you it should have been taken with a longbow. Fishermen are the same. If you catch a giant brown, it isn't as cool since you didn't do it on a fly rod. But here's the thing...no one can tell you what YOUR trophy is.
To me...this is a pinnacle in my hunting career...and I have hunted in many states and around the world. To answer the question, I am indeed very proud of this buck. I thank the universe for this gift, these memories, and this personal experience. I am so grateful for a freezer full of delicious meat. I will proudly display my smallest mule deer...my BIGGEST trophy ever! I. Did. This.