This was the attractive 4×4 Columbian blacktail I arrowed per week after coming back from Kodiak. Bonus!

Most individuals spend mid-December huddled in entrance of the hearth, planning for the vacations. I’m normally a kind of individuals. That’s what made this previous winter unusual for me, as a result of as an alternative of being bundled up at house, I used to be sweating in a floor blind with the desert solar beating in via the small window of the blind. The rationale: desert mule deer.

Placing it flippantly, this previous yr was a problem. If anybody knew what 2020 was going to be like, we’d have handled it like a Netflix present and hit the fast-forward button on our remotes till the following season. As a result of pandemic — and the fallout that resulted from it — the looking yr was flipped upside-down for tens of 1000’s of bowhunters. Journey restrictions and financial turmoil made long-held plans out of date.

It was via sheer luck that I didn’t have my bowhunting plans upended by the virus. I had already determined 2020 was going to be a yr for getting again to my bowhunting roots, and that meant chasing deer.

I’ve been a deer hunter since childhood. After touring throughout North America for the previous 25 years after the 5 deer species, I noticed that despite the fact that I had been in a position to arrow a “Deer Slam” a number of instances, I had by no means performed so in a single yr. I had by no means even tried it.

As a child, I examine a bowhunter making an attempt to realize a deer slam in a single yr, and that concept has intrigued me ever since. However I by no means thought it was one thing you would plan out. If it ever occurred, it might be one thing that happened in precisely that means — it might simply occur.

As I acquired older, I knew guys who had hunted all 5 deer species in a single yr, and even a pair who had been profitable — my dad being certainly one of them. Even for these guys, there have been so many issues that needed to fall into place simply to tag certainly one of every species, that I nonetheless thought of it inconceivable.

Coues Deer

Pre-pandemic, I had a visit to Mexico deliberate with a gaggle of buddies to hunt Coues deer. I’ve hunted the tiny desert deer many instances through the years, however all the time in Arizona. For a lot of causes, I had by no means ventured south of the border to hunt them. In January, I made my first journey, and I knew as quickly as I arrived within the huge deserts of Sonora, Mexico, it might not be my final.

I killed my greatest Coues buck thus far on my first journey south of the border.

Though circumstances weren’t ideally suited for looking over water due to rainstorms that hit the world a number of days earlier than my hunt, the climate was warming up and water sources had been seeing extra deer exercise with every passing day. After three days, temperatures rose again into the 80s, and I had three totally different bucks water at noon. I handed up the primary two eight-points, which took a variety of willpower. Nevertheless it paid off, as a result of at midday, a mature buck got here in for his final drink.

My well-placed arrow put the most important Coues buck I’d ever shot down for good lower than 50 yards from the water.

The primary journey of 2020 was within the books, and it had labored out completely. I used to be trying ahead to what the remainder of the yr must supply. If I solely knew…

Columbian Blacktail

Everybody is aware of what spring and early summer season had been like final yr. Uncertainty, panic, paranoia, worry, and lots of different feelings managed every day life. By the point archery season began right here in California, I used to be greater than prepared for a possibility to get away from the craziness. After Mexico, I had already deliberate on focusing a variety of my time and power on blacktails, however after a number of months of madness, I actually devoted my consideration to looking close to house.

After a number of makes an attempt to kill a Columbian blacktail whereas nonetheless in velvet, I needed to “settle” for this tall, hard-horned buck in August.

Close to is a relative time period, as a result of I made the eight-hour spherical journey many instances final summer season making an attempt to find and arrow a mature blacktail. Unable to take action whereas bucks had been nonetheless in velvet, I continued making weekend journeys till I used to be capable of finding a tall-tined buck bedded in a nasty spot for him, however a great place for me. One arrow at shut vary and I used to be dragging out a dandy Columbian blacktail buck. It was the top of August, and I had managed to tag two very good bucks of various species.


For years, I had wished to kill a whitetail buck in velvet. Being a Western bowhunter, I lean closely on the recommendation of many Midwestern pals to assist me earlier than any whitetail hunt. My want for a velvet whitetail meant much more reliance on mentioned pals than regular — and one shut buddy particularly.

I’ve mentioned many instances if it weren’t for good buddies, many of the good and dangerous issues in my life would by no means have occurred. This was one of many good issues. I used to be invited to hunt opening week in North Dakota in hopes of arrowing a mature buck that my buddy had patterned. Regardless of many issues working towards me — later season dates, sporadic buck sightings, poor wind route, restricted time, and so forth. — issues one way or the other aligned in my favor on the second night of my North Dakota hunt.

Killing this velvet whitetail in North Dakota was a dream come true.

I used to be in my blind early that afternoon, as it might be my solely probability to hunt this space as a result of wind route. Proper earlier than sunset, I watched two small bucks trot throughout the small opening in entrance of me. It regarded as if that they had spooked, so I checked the wind once more, fearful that they had come from the incorrect route and busted me. Figuring out this was my solely probability on this location, I used to be fairly bummed to assume that the following hour can be a waste and was already contemplating choices to elongate my go to.

All of the sudden, all of these destructive ideas shortly vanished once I noticed antlers come out of the sector edge. Earlier than I knew it, the mature buck to which these antlers belonged was standing 20 yards away from me, licking a department. I ended inhaling worry that I might spook him. If he continued on his present path, he would cross 12 yards in entrance of me. However like so many mature bucks typically do, he sensed one thing was off and jumped via the treeline in an try and skirt my setup.

I used to be at full draw when he poked his head out from behind a big oak. I let my arrow fly, and watched it slice via the again ribs of his quartering-away chest. Sixty yards away, I discovered the attractive velvet 10-pointer useless. A dream come true.

Sitka Blacktail

Sitka blacktails are my favourite deer to hunt, as a result of they all the time present me with a grand journey and nice camaraderie with good pals.

Most Novembers for the previous decade, I’ve made the journey to Kodiak with a detailed group of pals. The factor that was totally different in 2020 was the dangerous luck with climate. On Kodiak, climate instructions all of your actions and limits, or will increase your possibilities of success.

This Sitka blacktail buck, taken on Kodiak Island, left me with just one extra deer species in my quest for a Deer Slam in a single yr.

Foul climate is usually part of looking on Kodiak. Throughout our week, I didn’t unstrap my bow from my pack till two hours earlier than darkish on the final day, when a pleasant buck appeared from the alders 300 yards away and mistakenly thought I could be one other deer.

The buck and I met within the center and stunned each other to the purpose that I made an errant first shot. Fortunately, he was surprised sufficient for me to make a fast follow-up shot, which put him down for good, and I used to be in a position to place a locking tag round my fourth species of North American deer for the yr. With the struggles we had that week, it was a fortunate flip of destiny within the final couple hours to have a mature Sitka blacktail to convey house.

To make November even higher, I used to be in a position to arrow a lovely 4×4 Columbian blacktail per week after coming back from Kodiak. Bonus!

Mule Deer

When December rolled round, I knew that I had 4 totally different species of deer antlers in my home — all of them simply qualifying for Pope and Younger. I additionally had a a number of pals reminding me that I used to be just one buck wanting one thing much more particular.

Though the considered making an attempt for all 5 species had entered my thoughts over the previous yr, I continued to inform myself I might not power something. Solely an ideal alternative would get my consideration.

That modified when a bunch of issues occurred . A superb buddy despatched me a message a couple of last-minute hunt for desert mule deer, work slowed for a pair weeks main as much as Christmas, and my spouse advised me if I used to be ever going to take an opportunity on one thing like this, now can be the time. Throwing my regular prudence apart, I did one thing I by no means do on the subject of bowhunting and made an impulse determination. I booked a flight, packed my bow case, and texted my buddy, “I’ll be there tomorrow!”

I used to be amazed on the antler mass my desert mule deer buck possessed, and much more so by the conclusion that I’d taken all 5 deer species in a single yr.

Luck abruptly modified when my bow made the flight, however I didn’t! Feeling silly for making an attempt one thing on a whim and figuring this was my punishment, I thought of returning house. I used to be solely going to have three days to hunt earlier than this screw-up. Now it might barely be greater than a day’s hunt. Having made it midway, I made a decision to proceed to gamble. I wanted to go get my stuff anyway, so the following morning I boarded one other aircraft and made it to my vacation spot — solely 24 hours late. I picked up my bow, after which we rushed from the airport to camp. I modified and shortly shot my bow earlier than racing off to spend the final three hours of the day in a floor blind.

This brings us again to me sweating in a floor blind in mid-December. I sat there in heat, dry circumstances with zero wind circulation, ready for a mule deer to return by. By the point the solar had set, I had seen solely thirsty horses and cattle. I used to be mentally making ready for one stable day of looking earlier than returning house, once I heard one thing strolling. It was so calm and the bottom so arduous, that I may hear the buck earlier than seeing him. Swiftly, a big mule deer was 20 yards in entrance of me.

I knew this buck was a shooter, however he was dealing with useless away from me. There was not a lot capturing time left, and I used to be afraid he wouldn’t give me a shot alternative, or worse, he would spook once I drew as a result of it was so quiet.

When he turned broadside, I eased my bow to full draw. Afraid to peek via the open window, I inched over to the place I may get a transparent shot and the buck was staring immediately at me. He knew one thing was incorrect, however I solely wanted two extra seconds, and he didn’t react quick sufficient. After a clear pass-through, the big-bodied muley made it 50 yards to the place we discovered him useless within the sand. I had by no means seen a buck with a lot mass. It was a humbling expertise.

Having been lucky to journey a lot of North America in pursuit of some unusual critters, 2020 was the proper alternative to get again to my humble beginnings in bowhunting. It jogged my memory how a lot I completely get pleasure from looking the deer of this continent, and the way numerous the challenges they provide are. It additionally introduced me again to the particular bonds which can be made with fellow bowhunters that can not be duplicated in most facets of every day life.

Earlier, I discussed how so most of the good and dangerous issues which have occurred in my life had been due to shut pals. For all of the horrible issues that 2020 introduced our means, it was a blessing to have these individuals in my life to lean on, and to have bowhunting because the avenue for nice issues to occur.

The writer lives in California together with his spouse, Anne, and their two canine, and travels as a lot as doable together with his bow.

Writer’s Notice: On these hunts I used a Hoyt Defiant 34, Gold Tip Professional Hunter 300 arrows, G5 Montec CS broadheads, KUIU clothes, and Swarovski binoculars and Marsupial harness.

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