provided by John E. Phillips
Mossy Oak Pro Cody Robbins lives in an area that’s home to some of the best mule deer and elk hunting in North America. Most specifically, he believes, “Here in Delisle, Saskatchewan, we have bigger mule deer than you’ll find anywhere else.” Cody and his wife, Kelsy, host the TV show, “Live2Hunt.” He explains why he’s able to hunt some of the biggest mule deer in the mule deer’s home range. To learn more about Cody, visit his Facebook Page.
I camped out on that large buck morning and night for 41 of the 47 days before the beginning of archery season. I understood what a rare opportunity I might have to hunt this buck. I knew this mule-deer buck was a buck of a lifetime. I never had seen an immense buck like this, and I wanted to watch him as much and as long as I could before I tried to take him. I even had trail-camera pictures of this buck the year before I took him, although he was only 202 inches in 2010.
On opening day of archery season, September 1, 2011, I made a big mistake. There wasn’t any wind blowing, and I got too close to the monstrous mule-deer buck, while trying to sneak up on him. The wind swirled when I was about 20 yards from him, and he saw me move. Suddenly, he spooked. I spent the rest of the day trying to find him, but I didn’t. My cameraman, Shane Hunter, and I also spent the next two days attempting to locate him. He didn’t show up until September 3, 2011. He was about 1-1/2 miles from where I’d spooked him on the first day I hunted him in sagebrush.
When the buck was at 18 yards, I was so excited that all my muscles froze up. I was waiting on the buck to put his head down in the vegetation, so I could stand up and get a broadside shot. Once he finally put his head down in the grass, he was broadside and looking away from me. However, I was shaking so bad that I couldn’t even draw my APA bow. Shane pushed my leg from behind me and whispered, “What are you doing? He’s broadside. Shoot him.”
At that point, I was still shaking so bad I couldn’t get the jaws of my mechanical release open. But eventually, I got the release clicked on to my bow string, my bow pulled back to full draw, and I stood up. I remember bringing my sight housing up his leg, setting my 20-yard pin behind his shoulder and feeling like I was holding 1,000 pounds. Eventually I got my sight pin on his white belly hairs and then moved to his brown side. This grand buck took half a step and turned directly away from me with his butt in my face. I squeezed the trigger on my mechanical release. The arrow disappeared in the buck. He went 80 yards and tipped over, after I made the shot that I had always dreamed of making.
For most hunters, including me, this was a no-shot shot. But in that half a second, I remembered what an old bowhunter told me many years ago. When he would sneak up on bedded bucks, he attempted to sneak up directly behind the buck and get within 15 yards of him. I always had a problem while hunting a buck when he stood-up, while I released the arrow, and the mule deer ducked the string (dropped down before he jumped, causing the arrow to pass over his back). Probably most white-tailed deer hunters didn’t think mule deer would jump the string like whitetails would. But I had learned for certain that they would. Since I’d been video hunting mule deer and had the ability to go back to camp to review my shot, I actually could see a mule deer drop down when I shot and watch the arrow pass over his back.
The solution that the older hunter who talked to me had come up with was to shoot the deer, while he was stretching. When this happened, the mule deer usually looked straight out in front of himself. Since his big ears covered his eyes, the mule deer couldn’t see the hunter. The hunter then aimed right between the mule deer’s legs at the white part of his belly below his butt. When he released the arrow, it would travel straight through the buck’s ribcage and right into his heart and esophagus.
That memory flashed through my mind when I saw that enormous buck stand up and look straight away from me. So, that’s exactly where I aimed when I released the arrow. During the shot, for the lack of a better term, I used the testicles as the bullseye. The only thing between my broadhead and the mule deer’s heart, lung and esophagus was soft tissue. You must be really close to the buck to take that shot. That wasn’t a shot that I had planned to take, but when I saw the shot, I felt confident I could make it. When in that moment, you’d see that white hair between the buck’s legs is quite a big target.
Another thing that I learned from this veteran bowhunter was that even if your shot was 6 inches off to the left or the right, the ribcage would funnel your arrow right through the back of the buck’s stomach, so that it would hit all of the vital organs and continue all the way through the esophagus. This shot is one I never try to teach a young bowhunter to take, and it’s not a shot that I deliberately take myself. However, when the biggest buck of my life was standing in front of me, I had to let the arrow fly. In that moment, I knew I could make the shot, and that’s what archery is all about – knowing you’re capable of making a shot. The wisdom of the old bowhunter proved to be as true on that day I was hunting my monstrous mule deer, as it was when I first learned to take the shot.