Kaibab Dreams & Beams by Jennifer Carter
The 2012 hunting season started off as a great year for me. I had drawn an archery elk tag, harvested a great bull, and still had a North Kaibab deer hunt to go on. I felt like the luckiest person alive, even though in my head I was saying, “It’s about darn time.”
My early years of hunting deer were tough. The first tag I ever hunted was in Arizona’s Unit 10, back when the hunt was 2 plus weeks long. My boyfriend/husband, PT, had me out before school, then after school, and sun up to sun down on the weekends, hunting an imaginary cactus buck. We went the whole hunt without seeing any horn; I was done. I didn’t want to hunt deer anymore.
After a while, PT, told me I should start putting in for the North Kaibab because I was guaranteed to see bucks all day long.
Now, 15 years later, I finally drew a tag. I was so excited and ready to go. My husband/guide just kept fueling my excitement by sending me pictures and videos of bucks titled “Shoot or don’t shoot.” It was already clear that the hardest part of the hunt, for me, was going to be NOT pulling the trigger on an average buck.
PT left the week before the hunt to start scouting. I was not able to get the time off of work to head up early, so PT called me every day to let me know the bad news; “The rut hasn’t really started, temperatures are getting up to high 60’s during the day, the little bucks are with the does and no big ones yet…”. Even with all of the bad news, I was still really excited for my hunt to start.
The Tuesday before the hunt, PT called to tell me he had found my deer. He didn’t get a great look at it but it had a huge sweeping main beam, but he wasn’t with any does so he was going to be hard to hunt.
Thanksgiving morning came around, and I was on the road to the North Rim. When PT’s dad and I reached the North Rim, PT called to give us a report. He hadn’t seen the buck since Tuesday, but he was optimistic that he was still in the area.
We immediately went out and scouted the rest of the day, but the big buck was nowhere to be seen. I still wasn’t too concerned since I had 10 whole days of hunting still to come. The last of our hunting party, Bryant McGee, showed up that night, and our plan for the next day was set.
We all woke early the next morning and headed out to glass. Before long, we stopped in the middle of a field to glass a couple islands in the distance. PT had one, and I glassed the other.
After a couple of minutes of glassing, PT said, “There he is, get out!” PT, Bryant, and I got out of the truck and hustled as fast as we could across the field. We closed the distance quickly, and when we pulled up the binos, we quickly noticed they had crossed from one island to the next. It was hard to believe we didn’t see them cross.
PT had me lay down, and we waited for the buck to step out into the opening. I finally spotted him in my scope at 700+ yards, and all I could see was his right side. Having no shot at that angle, and not being all that confident at that range, we decided to go back to the truck and go around the island where we thought they were feeding to.
We drove up to a pretty good vantage point and just glassed. About an hour into glassing, Bryant spotted a buck moving through the valley. It wasn’t the buck we were looking for, but was a decent 28’ 4 point and he was headed straight for our herd of deer.
We continued to glass and come up with a plan for what we were going to do next. PT decided we should head back to camp. He figured the deer would bed down in the island, and we would come back in a couple of hours and surround the island.
As we were driving back to camp, I was relaxed, just enjoying the ride, when all of a sudden PT’s dad, Tom, yelled, “DEER!” PT stopped the truck and looked over at me and said, “it’s him, get out of the truck.”
This is where having blind trust in your guide comes in to play. I sat down and got set up. I couldn’t find him anywhere in my scope and panic was starting to set in. Once PT finally got me narrowed in on the buck, and with just taking a quick glance to confirm that it indeed was a buck, I fired off one shot threw some juniper limbs at 150 yards.
Immediate disappointment came over me, as no one was screaming and yelling with excitement. I didn’t even get a, “Nice shot Jen.”
What seemed like forever passed, when Tom said, “You hit him. I don’t know where you hit him, but you hit him.”
We walked over to where the deer was standing when I shot, all the while everyone asking me, “Did your shot feel good? Did you see him jump like you hit him?”
Doubt, doubt, and more doubt was all I was feeling. When we finally got to where the buck was standing, we found blood, not very much blood, but there was blood. My excitement went through the roof.
These emotions were quickly shattered because those were the only specs of blood we found, and there were so many deer tracks everywhere, we didn’t know which way to go.
To make matters worse, I overheard PT and Bryant saying, “Look at the track, I think she shot a doe.”
All I wanted to do was crawl in a hole. I immediately took off walking in the direction that the buck ran. After about 5 minutes of walking, I went between 2 trees, and there was a buck lying down on his side.
You would think at this point that I would be jumping for joy. Instead, I immediately turned around and yelled in frustration, “It’s not him!”
His whole left side was buried in the dirt, and he just looked like an average 3 point. Bryant came up behind and said, “No way, that has to be him.” I walked over and picked up his head and couldn’t believe it, there it was, that long 29 inch sweeping main beam!
I really don’t think that I made much sense for the next 10 minutes, because my thoughts and excitement were all over the place. I couldn’t have asked for a better hunt and better people to hunt with. 2012 will go down in history as one of my best years ever.
A special thanks to Brant McGee for traveling from the strip, home, and back up for my hunt. And to Ryan and Alicia Hatch for their hospitality and friendliness.