Last week in part one of a two part story about a deer hunt on the North Kaibab, I told you about the exploits of Peoria resident Rick Thompson.
But just to clarify some information before we go to the rest of the story, let me say that I wrote that story with just a few hours left in the hunt, with a huge storm approaching and at a place where I had limited service.
In that story I indicated that Thompson would not put a tag on a big Kaibab buck.
I was wrong.
At the 11th hour, Lady Luck smiled on this patient and persistent selective hunter and he was ultimately rewarded with a great Kaibab trophy.
Here is how it all went down.
Rick had seen a huge buck on the evening of Day 9 that my friend, Colby Adams and I had seen previously. Thompson passed on a long shot on this great trophy due to having a small target and the fact that a doe was standing next to him.
Now it was Day 10, the last day of the hunt. Thompson decided that he wanted to sit in a pop up blind I had put up near the drinker where the buck had been seen.
I sat with him until about noon, when dark, threatening skies warned us of an approaching major winter storm.
“You better go back and pack up the trailer and get ready to go,” Thompson told me.
He was right. There was virtually no one else in the area we were at, and the thought of pulling a 30-foot fifth-wheel trailer through deep snow in the rugged area we were camped in was actually kind of scary.
It was bitterly cold and Rick had been suffering from an abscessed tooth for two days with no medicine. I couldn’t believe how he was dealing with the pain and yet still wanting to hunt. I left him with a radio, a blanket, some food and water.
Reluctantly I headed the 15 miles back to camp over roads better suited for off road vehicles rather than a 1-ton Ford truck.
When I arrived at camp it was snowing hard and I heard on the radio that much more snow was predicted during the evening hours.
I thought we had at best a 50-50 chance to get out before the major storm closed in.
I loaded up the trailer as fast as I could and noted there were absolutely no other vehicle tracks on any of the roads I had been on.
Once loaded up, I headed back where I had left Thompson.
I knew that he had to be cold, even though he was in the shelter of a pop up blind.
There was less than an hour left in the season when I got back to within radio range of him.
“You okay?” I asked.
“One and done” was his reply.
I asked him to repeat his message and all he said was “One and done.”
We had talked previously about his shooting ability and he assured me that if he got the opportunity to shoot, it would be, “one and done.”
I was full of emotion at hearing this news. In all my years of assisting hunters, I had never seen a sportsman endure so much, go through all the trials and tribulations that he had, and yet stay true to the course.
If anyone deserved a great deer, it was him, and even though I had no idea what he had taken, I was happy and relieved!
When I arrived at the blind he was still inside. He looked frozen. His face was red and swollen from the effects of his abscessed tooth.
Thompson then told me the story.
Other deer had come in during the hours he had sat there, but nothing that he saw had, in his opinion, “character.”
Then, he saw them. A herd of 6 does. Following them were a couple of bucks. Thompson had never seen this herd before. It wasn’t the giant he was hoping for, but the larger of the two bucks possessed a rack of antlers that most any sportsmen would be proud of.
It did indeed have character.
Funny thing about Thompson: He actually looked at this buck for over five minutes as it chased off the smaller buck, and raked his antlers on three different juniper trees as he worked himself into a frenzy.
When he decided to take the buck he settled down for the shot. The range was 175 yards.
The mighty 300 Weatherby sent the deadly .180 grain bullet towards the buck and it was over in a heat beat.
The buck literally dropped in his tracks. One and done.
But now, with darkness closing in, there was lots of work to do.
Photos and field dressing, then the decision to take the buck to the check station at Jacob’s Lake.
There is a mandatory check-in for successful deer hunters on the Kaibab, and Jacob’s Lake was over 26 miles away on top of the plateau where it was snowing the hardest.
“If we don’t take the buck up tonight, we might not get him up there at all,” I told Thompson.
So with the truck locked into four wheel drive, off we went.
We arrived at the check station and were met by Ray Lee, a longtime Arizona Game & Fish employee who had retired from the department as the Game Branch supervisor.
Ray and his wife, Sue, are now contract employees who do seasonal work for the department. Ray is one of the smartest men I know, and he knows about Arizona’s big game animals, especially deer and sheep.
Lee aged the buck at five years and six months, though he took a front tooth to be examined in the lab to determine the actual age.
This data is needed to help the department determine the management needs of the herd.
Lee said the buck’s antler spread was 26.5 inches wide. There were six scorable points on each antler.
Lee also said Thompson’s buck would probably be the last one checked in that night, and that his buck was one of 77 that had been checked in out of the 100 permits that had been issued.
Many other of the hunters had gone home after the morning hunt on that last day. But Thompson had decided to stick it out and in the end, he was rewarded for his patience and diligence.