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Setting A Record.

Record books have become a really big deal. Seems there's one for everybody and every form of hunting (well, maybe not boomerangs). Many individual states have jumped on the record-book bandwagon; and of course, the big national and international hunting outfits publish impressive volumes that weigh twice as much as most bass I catch. While the scoring methods are not all alike, there are strong similarities because they're mostly alterations of the system originally established by the venerable Boone & Crockett Club.

The fact that some organizations have found cause to alter that system or designate boundaries for sub-species of a specie--whitetailed deer, for example-- thereby adding more categories doesn't bother me at all. They serve their organization's purpose, provide informative data for those interested in researching where the big ones are coming from, and include entertaining, educational editorials as well as beautiful art and photos of spectacular heads. What does bother me in this age of frenzied numerical ranking is my recent discovery of a glaring deficiency in the recording process, a category omission every record-keeping body has overlooked, to which I now take personal exception. Let me explain.

This past September found me once again in my favored mountain haunts of far northwestern Colorado, where Jay Verzuh annually encamps under the banner of his Colorado Elite Outfitters, Elk are the mainstay, though mule deer-- big ones--are still remarkably plentiful here in a state where once-bountiful herds have dwindled considerably. Deer tags--limited draw--are precious; mine, which is tucked inside a daypack pocket, is a coupon I might not be blessed with again for some time, maybe never. It's a sobering, sad thought.

I love mule deer. Their rugged, steep-sloped-sage and aspen-studded habitat fascinates me. Remote bowl-shaped basins sprinkled with spruce and pine hold bands of bachelor bucks that feed out in the creeping fingers of late-afternoon shadow. These are big guys, most still velvet-clad in early September; and their thick, fuzzy brown tines seem uncommonly huge through 10X glasses. They can be pretty easy to find and hard to sneak close to; but you can, sometimes, if you're lucky. That's the ultimate way to hunt them, though whitetail tree stand tactics are increasingly popular and more easily employed. This is a popular tactic at Jay's for both mulies and elk.

I confess to a certain confusion with this bowhunting thing that I live for. Catching a record-class critter absorbs my off-season dreaming. Who among us fantasizes of sub-minimum bucks? We imagine new world records. Yet, when actually hunting my actions are governed by the mood of the moment; putting something else in "The Book" is not the prime motivation. Besides, as my wife is wont to point out, "Where in the heck could we put it?" In these times when it appears only the biggest seems to matter, I frequently lack the discipline required, but rather hold to the tenet "If it feels good, do it!" I'm perfectly satisfied putting meat in the truck; yet, in those first few days at Jay's, resolve to my visions stood fast as I passed a good shot at a medium-sized "booker."

Then came the day of the lifetime encounter, the stalk that provoked the discovery of the glaring omission, the culmination of the dream to take the biggest, The Best!

It was early afternoon under a stark blue sky. One fluffy lone thunderhead towered high to the northwest, and a strong, honest wind sighed steady from the south. At the head of a deep basin, I sat in the shade of a century-old spruce surveying all below through my 10X42's. Range cattle shuffled through the sage, and a pair of ravens swooped and croaked overhead. At the left edge of my field of vision there was a flicker of movement. There in deep shade, 200 yards away, I saw the flipping twitch of an ear under tall four-pointed antlers. I watched for a while and marked a half-dozen trees as reference points for a sneak through waist-deep sage and squishy-green cow patties.

There are times when you know it's just going to work, when the crawling and peeking still holds the ball in your court, when you're close though you can't see it, but you know it's still there. Then you nock an arrow, slip a little bit closer hunching on sore knees and everything's perfect--until the dang range cow bigger'n a roadside billboard that you never even noticed bolts with a crash. You whisper a four-letter word, but you needn't have, 'cuz she made the deer stand up in a tangled shadow confused by the commotion; and the arrow's gone before you realize you shot it.

No tracking is required. Downhill a blur of dust, the sound of brief thrashing, then silence seals the basin. I posed it for some photos on the narrow bench where it fell and stroked the firm velvet on evenly matched antlers; it was a nice buck. I'm pleased with my stalk and the shot. I sit for a while in grateful contemplation before rolling up my sleeves for the required evisceration. Knife in hand, I knelt to the task. Guess what? The buck is a doe!

No category exists for female deer with antlers, and no hefty record books are published for creatures of bent gender. I'm stymied for a niche to claim fame. However, there's a solution to this overdue omission. I believe I'll start a record book myself and claim the he/she/mule deer world record.
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Article Details
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Author:Dougherty, Jim
Publication:Petersen's Bowhunting
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2000
Words:913
Previous Article:3-D SCENT ELIMINATION.
Next Article:Lesson In Humility.
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