I’ve been blessed to travel all over North America chasing animals with stick and string. It’s my passion. It’s my obsession. I love and cherish every adventure. However, some adventures, as many of you know, stand out more than others for one reason or another. This past Memorial Day weekend I had one of those standout adventures, one that will forever sit at the forefront of my bowhunting memory bank.
I was set to hunt free-ranging axis deer with Savage Outdoors television host Mike Stroff. In addition to his television duties, Mike owns and operates SOE Hunts and Wac ’Em Broadheads. The plan was pretty simple: head to the Canyon Ranch to chase free-ranging axis and try to harvest one with Wac ’Em’s new 3-Blade Expandable. Best of all, though, my beautiful wife of 12 years and our 10-year-old son were joining me on the adventure. They were both going to be toting rifles and hunting the ranch as well. My wife, Amy, was going to be chasing trophy axis, and my son Hunter had his sights set on hogs.
I was perched 14 feet up in a live oak watching some young axis bucks slurp water from a nearby tank when my phone vibrated. This is what I read: “Oh my gosh, Oh my gosh. Hunter and I had at least 20 bucks come into the water. It was amazing. I shot a big buck. A really big buck. I think big at least. I shot out of the back of the blind. He looked so huge. He kicked and jumped and ran, and I don’t see any blood. I’m going to stay in the blind and wait. Do you think he is dead? The shot felt good. Hunter said he saw the bullet impact his side. But then about 15 minutes after I shot another big axis buck came to the water and Hunter told me that it looked like my buck. Maybe I missed. This is crazy! We are both really excited. Tell them to come pick us up if you can.”
After getting picked up from my stand later that night, I joined the search party. No luck. I hate looking for animals in the dark. There was no blood, and we searched for over two hours. Amy was disgusted, and we both spent a sleepless night talking about what went wrong.
The following morning, while sitting in my stand, I got word from Mike that they’d found my wife’s buck and that he was a true giant. The relief I felt was incredible. The SOE crew played a little “hunt camp” trick on my wife. They told her another hunter in camp (my wife’s good friend) had killed a giant axis. They took my wife and her friend down to the cooler and showed my wife what they told her was her friend’s buck. They videoed the whole thing – her hugging her friend and everything. Then they videoed her friend telling her it was actually her buck. Her reaction was priceless. What an amazing trip!
I know very little about axis, but one antler was 34 inches and the other was 33 inches, and it was one of the most beautiful creatures I’ve ever seen. The shot was perfect, and, no, I’m not exaggerating. She took out the top of the heart and both lungs but got a little confused on which way the buck had run. The search party found the buck at first light the following morning less than 100 yards from the blind. My wife was thrilled and sharing that moment with her back at the lodge later that morning was wonderful.
That afternoon I returned to an isolated waterhole – a waterhole I’d watched three shooter bucks come into earlier in the day – but was unable to shot due to overhanging limbs. It was 2 p.m. when I settled back into my Millennium ladder stand. I’d removed the shot-hindering limbs and was prepared to make the long, hot, seven-hour sit.
It was 4 p.m. when I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. His vibrant white spots, black stripe running down the back and tall antlers made my heart jump into my throat. He was heading to water in the same spot his three companions had earlier in the day. This time I had a clear shooting lane and my Prime Rize powered my Victory Elite 350 arrow tipped with a Wac ’Em 3-Blade Expandable, hitting the quartering-away buck perfectly. He didn’t make it 40 yards before expiring. It was the icing on the cake. The guys at SOE had worked hard to find my wife’s buck, and I knew in a few short hours I would be back at the lodge celebrating with her and my son. It was a feeling of pure joy, and it only made walking up on that magnificent animal all the sweeter.
Our last day on the ranch was the pinnacle of this amazing trip. Our wonderful guide, Todd, took my son and me on a spot-and-stalk mission for an axis doe. Rain was hanging in the air and I wanted to increase the odds of getting the job done with my son looking on, so I opted to take the .243. Honestly, I was looking forward to it. I cut my big-game teeth rifle hunting, but I rarely get the opportunity to hunt with a long-distance weapon anymore.
We’d blown a few stalks (axis are super alert creatures with amazing eyesight and an even better sense of smell) and had walked well over a mile when I spotted a monster buck tailing a lone doe through the mesquite. My Nikon rangefinder read 136 yards, and I wasted zero time getting on my sticks and pulling the trigger. The doe didn’t go more than 80 yards before piling up. Hunter was thrilled, and the high-fiving and hugging went on for quite a while.
Later that afternoon, Hunter and I joined my wife and Todd for another spot-and-stalk doe hunt, and it wasn’t long before we spotted a herd. Amy made a dropped-her-in-her-tracks shot at 130 yards. Yep, two Bausermans had harvested in the same day. Could we make it a third? Hunter had yet to pull the trigger on a hog and time was running out. Check back tomorrow for the conclusion of this great hunt.