Editor’s Note: Kelly Hicks of Bountiful, Utah, is a hunter of opportunity. Each season he buys mule deer tags and elk tags. Then when he has the opportunity to take either a nice mule deer buck or a nice bull elk, he’ll be able to harvest these animals, because he finds both species in the same places. Hicks has been a Mossy Oak Pro for the past 3 years.
I got bit by the hunting bug when I was a youngster. I liked hiking in the mountains, looking for game and harvesting animals. Notice, that harvesting animals was the last one on my list, because I learned in few short years that the hunt was actually the most-important part of going into the mountains for me during hunting season- not taking animals. Since I hunted so much and learned how, where and when to hunt, I had numbers of friends, family members and friends of friends who asked me to guide for them – but not for pay. I just liked to hunt. So, over the years I’ve taken hundreds of hunters to elk and mule deer, and I’ve learned that if I can get a hunter within a bow or gun range of an animal, then I’ve had a successful hunt, whether that hunter harvests the animal, spooks the animal or misses the animal.
One of most-memorable mule deer hunts was with my son Cameron. From the time he could understand, I always told him, “When you’re 12-years old, I’m going to take you mule deer hunting with me.” I was really looking forward to Cameron’s first mule deer hunt from the time he was born. However, once he was 12-years old, he always had so many other interests, going hunting with Dad was not a major priority. But I was patient and kept telling him, “As soon as you get to be 13-years old, I’m taking you to get your first buck.” Utah general deer-hunting season opened in October, and I knew that Cameron’s interest span wasn’t long enough for me to teach him how to shoot a bow.
The night before the hunt, I told Cameron, “Okay, you know we’re going deer hunting in the morning.” Cameron looked at me and said, “Dad, Mason’s coming over to our house for a sleepover tonight.” I answered, “That’s okay. By the time we get back from the deer hunt, Mason won’t be waking up yet.” So, I got Cameron some fluorescent orange flags and everything he needed to hunt the next morning. I got a call that night from friend of mine who asked, “Would you mind if my son and I came along with you and Cameron on the deer hunt?” I answered, “No that will be great. Be at my house at 5:30 am in the morning.”
Once we arrived at the place I’d picked, we sat down and waited for the daylight. We could see several different deer, and I spotted a really-nice buck that would score about 195. For the next 20 minutes, I tried to tell my son and my friend and his son, where to look, so they could spot the big buck. But none of the others with me could see it. Finally, Cameron leaned over and whispered, “Dad, I can see him.” I was sitting in front of Cameron, and there wasn’t anywhere for him to prop his rifle. I told Cameron, “Put the forearm of your rifle on my shoulder, and my shoulder will be your shooting rest. When you see the deer in your scope, place the crosshairs right on the buck’s shoulder. Tell me when you’re ready to shoot, so I can put my fingers in my ears.” Cameron was shooting a Browning X-bolt .225-06. I had spent time sighting the rifle in, and I knew that at 300 yards the crosshairs were dead on.
“Okay, Dad, I’ve finally got the crosshairs steady and am getting ready to shoot,” Cameron said. “Wait just a minute, Cameron,” I told him. “Let me look one more time, and make sure that you’re seeing the deer I’m seeing.” At that moment, a second buck stood up in front of the first buck. I said, “Don’t shoot the buck you’re aiming at, because there is a bigger buck right behind him. Shoot the bigger buck.” I knew that the second buck was a buck of lifetime. “I’m ready to shoot now,” Cameron whispered. I put my fingers in my ears, Cameron fired, I heard that solid thunk, the buck hunched-up and started backing up, and then he fell over. I told Cameron, “You’ve just taken the biggest buck you’ll ever probably take.”
The second deer didn’t budge at the report of the rifle. My friend and his son saw the second buck, and his son shot all the bullets out of the rifle. But the deer kept standing there, so the Dad took the rifle, reloaded and missed the buck twice more before the buck ran off. After the shooting was over, I asked my friend and his son to stay at the place where we were shooting, Cameron and I went to find and retrieve his buck. Once I saw the buck, I told Cameron, “Son, you don’t know what you’ve just done. This is the biggest buck I’ve ever seen and a bigger buck than any others I’ve ever taken.” The buck had 30 inches between his two main beams and scored 197 Boone and Crockett points.