Miles and I briefly discussed our options. With the prevailing wind squarely in our faces and reasonable cover between us and our quarry, it was an easy decision to make a play on this buck. We left the nonessentials on the rock, bringing only one pair of binoculars and my tried and true rolling block rifle. Although extremely accurate, I still like to gain a position of at least one hundred fifty yards or less from any potential target. A four hundred grain ball carries a lot of knockdown power, but, cruising at only fourteen hundred feet per second out of the barrel, it tends to fall off the table past two hundred yards.
The first seventy-five yards of the stalk were the most difficult. Cover was sparse and progress was painstakingly slow. After moving cautiously though, we were able to enter a small draw that afforded complete cover. Here we were able to make up a large amount of ground quickly until, finally, all that stood between us and a clear shot was one small finger ridge. We sidehilled quietly to our left, making sure to check the wind frequently. I hoped to come out slightly uphill and within range of the entire herd. The last twenty-five yards of the stalk was accomplished on our hands and knees, which is always tricky when carrying a valuable, antique weapon. Finally, the moment of truth had arrived. We eased our heads up over the rise, careful to keep a few sprigs of dried grass in front of us to break up our outline. There have been many failed stalks in my life, but this wasn’t to be one of them. Although I couldn’t see all of his does, the buck hadn’t moved an inch. I eased the weathered, steel warrior into position and peered down the sights, making sure nothing was obstructing my shooting lane. Once satisfied, I eased the hammer back into ready position and depressed the set trigger so only a breath would be necessary to fire. Now standing, the buck’s sixth sense had told him something was awry. He could neither hear us nor smell us, but still he stared intently in our direction. Unfortunately, it was too little too late on his part. When my front sight blade found the crease behind his front shoulder I cut loose with everything the century and half old rifle could muster.
It was over in seconds. A cloud of smoke erupted from the barrel and the accompanying thunder clap sent every doe instantly to her feet. The buck’s initial lunge, meant for escape, ended in a methodical tumble down the mountain. His final resting place, a stoic ponderosa pine that may have been just as old as the rifle that had taken him down. Not every day do we find ourselves so fortunate, so we eased our way over to our fallen foe with no particular haste. We wanted to make the moment last. As we admired a job well done I couldn’t help but reflect. Time may pass and the names may change, but these mountains will always be here and the cycle of life for the mule deer will continue long after we’re gone. I had found what I had come for.