By Sitka Ambassador Joe Cima
This bow season started out just like every other: hot and dry. I hunted the first week on some private ground in the high country, and
ended up missing on a nice mule deer. With that miss, I needed a change of
scenery, so I headed for eastern Oregon.
I usually set aside the first week for filling my
deer tag, and after that it's time to chase elk. My first two days turned up
tons of does and a few small bucks with no shot opportunities.
On Sunday, September 3rd, I headed for higher
ground in search of a big muley. I glassed for a few hours, laying eyes on over
fifty does and fawns, but not a single buck. As the sun started its descent, I
decided to head out so I’d still have shooting light just in case an unlikely buck appeared.
I was frustrated and kicking myself for missing
that nice muley four days earlier. I thought I might have blown my opportunity,
and being that it was the Sunday of the first week of the season, I was pretty
sure I wouldn't be punching my deer tag unless I happened upon a buck while
But just then, ahead of me, I saw a couple of whitetails
headed down toward the river bottom. I eased my binos up and saw that three
bucks led the group, followed by a pair of does and a pair of fawns. Seven deer.
Now being from the west, I am a die-hard muley,
elk and pronghorn hunter, but I have always wanted to shoot a whitetail. In the
last ten years, the whitetail have been moving into eastern Oregon in large
numbers, growing prevalent in the river bottoms and lowland pines. For the
most part, their genetics aren't tops.
Still, about five years ago, I developed an itch
to stick an Oregon flag tail. Anyone who has hunted whiteys knows they are wary, and their nose is second to none. In Oregon they are no
different. I had pretty much given up on taking one, since in five years I only had one opportunity, and it was presented only after my tag had been punched.
But with the sighting of these deer, my hands
started shaking and my mind was spinning. I had to make a plan to ambush these whitetail,
and quick. The light was fading.
The bucks led the group over a hill, and just as
the last fawn cleared, I grabbed my bow and took off on a sprint. I knew they
would either head straight out to the river or, if I was lucky, move down the fence
line. If they walked the fence, I might get my chance.
I ran down past where the whitetail had crossed,
around 300 yards, and slowed to a crouched walk. I came to the crest of the
hill and tried to stay below their line of sight. Finally, I reached the spot
where I thought I might be able to get a look at them. I eased an arrow onto my
string and clipped on my release.
Just then, I saw the first buck walking right down
the fence line, half-hidden in some brush. I ducked down out of sight and moved
forward another 30 yards, where I would have a clean shot – were it presented. I
peeked over the tall grass and saw the two bucks in the clear. I tapped my
rangefinder on the back one. Broadside, 62 yards.
I crouched down, eased my Elite Pure to full
draw, and stood up. As soon as I stood, the bucks stopped. I took my time and
settled my 60-yard pin low as I figured the buck would jump the string, and I
needed to cut a couple yards due to the angle. I pressured my released,
and the arrow was off. It held a perfect line, and I watched as the fletching
dropped right into the pocket. The sound of a good hit. Immediately the buck
spun a 180 and broke into a death sprint.
Hooves pounded across the river rock, and I
watched as six whitetails crossed the river. When they stopped to look back for
number seven, I knew I had my buck.
With the light fading, I eased down to where the
buck had been standing and found my GoldTip covered in blood. A massive 35-yard
blood trail led to where my 2011 buck had piled up in the cattails along the
When I shot, I had no idea what his horns looked like. My headlamp
illuminated the shadows of the reeds, along with eight pricks of bone above his head. There, along the river bottom, under a full moon, I knelt beside what is now my proudest trophy.