Over-the-Counter 180+!

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JW Seets put his local knowledge to work with his OTC Archery Deer Tag.

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JW had seen this 30 inch buck multiple times in this area.

“God gave me You”  by JW Seets

This story actually starts in 2006.  I got married in May that year.  Then, three months later in August, I had my first encounter with a big buck.  I was out scouting one morning, and I glassed him up.  I had a new camera attachment for my spotting scope, so I snuck in to about 300 yards to take some pictures.  It was archery season, but the buck was in a bad place for a stalk.  I just watched and took pictures for a couple hours until the buck went over the ridge to bed.

The next morning, I spotted him about ¾ of a mile from where I had first seen him.  I thought the buck was in the 160 range, which is a good buck for the area.  Once again, he was in a tough place for a stalk, so I watched.  The country I was hunting was very open and hard to bowhunt, but I had a rifle tag that opened in October, and I knew I’d be back.  As I drove home that afternoon, I had no idea of the significance this buck would have in my life over the next four years.

I went on some elk hunts during the month of September and finally returned to look for my buck in mid October, a couple of weeks before my rifle hunt opened.  I spent a couple of days looking for him but couldn’t turn him up.  So I checked out another area and found another buck that was in the 170 range.  I had to go home and work a few days before returning for my rifle hunt.  When I returned, I wasn’t sure which buck I wanted to hunt, so I went to get a look at the original one I had found in August.  While glassing for him, I spotted a lion.  I had a lion tag, but I had left my rifle in the truck.  So I ran a half mile back to the truck, got the rifle and ran back up the hill.  Of course, the lion was gone, or so I thought…  I went back to glassing for deer, and about an hour later, the lion stepped back out.  I snuck back to the exact rock pile where I had taken pictures of the buck and was able to kill the lion at 297 yards while she was eating on a fawn she had killed.  I am allergic to cats, so packing her out that night got a little western.  I was sneezing, my eyes were watering, I couldn’t see, and I was trying to walk down a steep, nasty canyon.  I ended up falling more than once with the lion and my rifle on my back.

My deer hunt opened in two days, so I headed home, put the lion in the freezer.  When I got back up to start my deer hunt, I decided there had been too much activity in the area, so I went looking for the second buck I had found.  After five days of not finding him, I decided to go look at a buck I had been seeing in the headlights every morning on my way in.  On day seven of a ten day hunt, I decided to kill him.  He was a nice 4×4, but I never saw the buck I was looking for again.

A year later my life had changed as my wife and I were separated.  I was trying unsuccessfully to work things out with her when the late archery season rolled around.  I decided to go spend some time in the woods to clear my head and look for the buck I had photographed.  Sure enough, I found him rutting does not far from where I had seen him the year before.  I made a sneak this time, only to find that they had bedded while I was making my stalk.  I got busted at forty yards and never saw him again that year.  Those few days looking for him did prove to be good medicine, though.  I cleared my head, my wife ended up moving back in later that summer, and we were on the right track.

OTC Arizona Rut Hunt

OTC Arizona Rut Hunt

Another year had flown by and it was now mid December.  My wife and I were still struggling but working on things. My twelve year old stepson had killed his first buck two months earlier during the rifle season.  It was a nice 5×5…a great buck for a first deer.  I decided to leave for a five day trip back to my spot for some archery deer hunting.  My stepson told me to not come home with a buck unless it was bigger than his, which was awesome to see he was excited about hunting.

Fast forward to the second day of my five day trip.   My friend, Mike, drove up that morning and met up with me.  I had found my buck and he was rutting does.  We watched and photographed the buck for two hours, and the deer finally bedded down in a spot that would allow for a decent stalk.  Mike stayed back to watch in the spotting scope while I made the sneak.  Mike had a tag, too, but told me, “you have a history with this buck…you go kill him.” What a friend!

I had just made it to the only tree I had for cover when the buck got up, moved up the hill towards me, stopped and stood there watching his does.  An hour and twenty minutes passed with the buck 102 yards from me.  I had nowhere to go and was stuck under my cedar tree with the melting snow falling on me.  Finally, the buck walked over the ledge down to where the does were.  I could stood up and let my legs wake up.  I had been up for a minute trying to figure out my next move when I looked over and saw a doe heading my way.  The other five does and the buck followed about forty yards behind her.  I thought, “no way this is going to happen,” but it did.  As the first doe walked by my tree, I ranged her at fifty-four yards.  I hooked my release and waited for the buck to clear my tree, so the does wouldn’t see me draw.  When the buck came out, I came to full draw, but the buck and a doe had switched places.  The buck saw me draw and stopped!  Then the doe stopped right in front of him.  I was at full draw with the buck looking at me and a doe right in front of him.  After what seemed like an eternity, the doe moved, and I released the arrow.  I saw and heard it hit the buck a little further forward than I wanted, but I knew he was hit hard.  I went to where the buck was standing when I shot, and the blood in the snow was unreal! I waited for Mike to get up the hill, and we followed the blood trail together.  We went about 300 yards, and the blood in the snow just stopped.  I knew my buck had to be close.  We walked around a pampas grass bush, and there he was…piled up.  I had chased this buck for three years, had numerous pictures of him, and he finally made a mistake.  He ended up being 28” wide & had 20” of mass per side.  He gross scored 180!  It’s still my best buck to date and  I was pumped!

I went to skinning, and Mike went back to hunt some other bucks we had seen that morning.  I sent a picture of the buck to my wife and told her to tell my stepson that I got one bigger than his.  I got a text back from her that just said, “when are you coming home ?“ So I called her and said I was bringing the buck home that night.  She said, “oh, I wasn’t going to be here when you came home.” I wasn’t supposed to be home for another three days, and she had planned on leaving while I was gone again.  Talk about an emotional roller coaster.  I had just killed the best buck of my life.  Then, two hours later, I found out my wife was leaving.  I came home with the buck that night to find my house full of packed boxes.  The next morning, I went down to the garage and started caping the buck.  As I caped, I watched a U-Haul truck pull in my driveway, and they loaded everything up and left. Then, two weeks later, she sent me a text saying she was pregnant…what a month!

JW poses with his Over-the-Counter Trophy Mule Deer

JW poses with his Over-the-Counter Trophy Mule Deer

We did, finally, end up getting divorced in 2010, but I ended up with a beautiful daughter.  She is, bar none, the best thing that ever happened to me.  I think God gave me my daughter & that buck as a gift, to keep my head up through the rough times.  I can’t describe how awesome it is to watch my now two year old daughter point up on the wall and say, “daddy buck.” She has no idea, but she will some day!

Life's challenges don't stop just because you are hunting.  JW pushed through these obstacles and was really blessed.

Life’s challenges don’t stop just because you are hunting. JW pushed through these obstacles and was really blessed.

This story was originally published in the 2012 Arizona Hunting Edition of the ORG.

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