Whitetail Hunting photo

In late October, I spotted two trophy mule deer – one with a distinctive span of antlers with short tines I nicknamed the Wide Guy; the other, a 4×4 whose deep tines stretched high above his ears was Tall Boy. At the time, both were in bow range, but I didn’t happen to have a bow tag in my pocket.


November’s rifle season came and went without a shot. Both deer had disappeared, probably poached by road hunters that are a chronic problem in the area. Still, I held my trigger finger until the final bell rung on Nebraska’s nine-day season, hoping for a Hail Mary. The chase would go into muzzleloader season.

On the third day of December, I spotted Tall Boy on the neighbors, dozing away in the fading sunlight. A week later, The Wide Guy was on the wheat after shooting time had expired. Just last week, impatience caused me to blow a chance to kill either one of them. I was getting closer to my goal, and when I closed my eyes at night, I visualized the shot over and over.


About 3 p.m. the other Sunday, I decided I had time for quick evening hunt. When I pulled into my spot, a herd of does were already on the wheat field. I went straight to my favorite canyon, which was empty. Across the fence, a large, winter herd milled nervously, but I couldn’t make out any bucks.

As the sun set, I decided to see if any bucks had joined the herd on the wheat field. At first glance, it was the same does as before, but one deer had something hanging from its head. I had seen this deer from a long distance the week before, but couldn’t figure out what was going on with its snout. My first thought was maybe it had some baling wire or something wrapped around its head. I strained my eyes in the fading light. It was a buck with an antler, no two antlers, drooping forward, like something from a nuclear age circus sideshow.


I glanced at my watch, which ticked away the minutes to last shooting light. I thought about the deer I’d been hunting for two months. I thought about this buck trying to make it through winter.

White smoke filled the air, followed by the distinctive whop of the bullet striking home. In the flash of the muzzle, I saw the deer hop straight up and then he was gone. Two does staring at the ground, ears bent quizzically forward, confirmed the buck lay in the stubble.

Does it make sense I threw away two months of hunting trophy bucks on such an odd-ball deer? To me, it makes perfect sense. What would you do if you came on this buck when you knew two normal trophies were in the area? I know what I did, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision.