The December whitetail hunt in Southeastern Colorado has just drawn to a close in the state’s extreme southeast corner near the Arkansas River. The 12 hunters at Cassidy Outfitters took 12 bucks this year, averaging a gaudy 161 inches. Look for my next post, a comprehensive western update on any areas of existing rut activity, which will feature photos of Colorado whitetails shot so recently they’re still hanging, waiting to be cut. Some of those December bucks out of Jack Cassidy’s operation look worn to the bone from rutting, with lots of broken tines from battling into December for the last few estrous does.
A few weeks ago, I heard a rumor about a potential Washington State record whitetail, a typical-racked buck topping 200 inches. Information on the deer was sparse, and I spent as much time tracking down leads on this buck as I did hunting whitetails this year. Patching together sparse reports became a quest. I figured the buck wouldn’t hit the record, but a deer even approaching 200 inches is something I have never seen in Washington, even in photographs.
I wasn’t surprised to learn that the buck in question wouldn’t be the record, but I was surprised by the sheer mass of the 7x11, taken in the Huckleberry Game Management Unit of Northeast Washington’s Stevens County this Mid-November by Lonnie Hart of Moses Lake, Washington. Hart, shown here with his trophy, was hunting in a spot favored by his family for years that had yielded kills, but nothing approaching this buck.
“I got really lucky,” Hart admits candidly. A self-described redneck, Hart is not the kind of guy who monitors a big network of trail cameras or who was patterning this deer. But he speaks with reverence about his family’s tradition of deer hunting and his love for every aspect of the hunt, even the butchery.
Hart was taking a stand and was watching does when the buck appeared, walking away from him before quartering away and revealing its vital zone. He dropped the buck in one well-placed shoulder shot. Clark’s All Sports in Colville pulled a tooth from the deer for Hart, revealing the buck’s age at 6.5 years.
Regrettably, Hart took only quick cell phone photos of the buck.
“I guess I should carry a camera with me, huh?” Hart asked me.
I told him that if he’s going to continue to shoot whitetails this big, he should definitely invest in one.
The rut is still lingering in some areas of the Inland Northwest, and with muzzleloaders finishing seasons in Washington and archers still in stands Washington an Idaho, I should have updated reports for a while yet.
Western Montana’s Jaime Johnson, a world-class wildlife photographer from Lincoln, has been a reliable source of in-the-field rut info for me all year. He spends most days quietly watching Montana’s wildlife, including lots of whitetails. Johnson reports that the rut has almost completely ended, but that he has seen some activity in the last few days.