The first morning of my Nebraska deer hunt saw me up before my alarm sounded. It was the first time I’d hunted the Cornhusker State for deer and I was headed for a blind with Goose Creek Outfitters’ ramrod Scott Fink an hour before the sun was scheduled to light up the eastern sky. To further fuel my enthusiasm, we drove into the field I’d be hunting and the headlights of the truck lit up a tall set of antlers on a buck about 75 yards ahead of us. Not surprisingly, it jumped the fence and headed west, away from where I’d be hunting.
The first day out was exciting, with several bucks and does wandering in and out of the Sandhills and small woodlot I was watching, but I just couldn’t get that big buck I’d seen in the darkness out of my mind. When given the opportunity to sit the afternoon in an elevated stand overlooking the same snaking creek bed where I’d seen the buck head, I jumped at the chance.
The deer were moving early and a herd of mule deer fed out into a pasture on the other side of the creek. There were three bucks in the group, including one good looking 4×4 that was obviously in charge. My Nebraska deer license was good for either whitetail or mule deer and though the big boy in front of me was a shooter, I knew I had to see the whitetail again to make up my mind.
At 3 p.m. I spotted movement on the fence line at the far end of the field. The sun lit up the antlers and even before I lifted my binoculars I knew it was the whitetail I was hoping to see again. At just over 500 yards, I could make out five points on each antler. The buck was on a mission headed south and never even slowed down as he disappeared into a tree line about a mile away.
The rut was in full swing and the roving whitetail obviously liked to travel the area I was hunting. My blind overlooked a big stretch of creek bottom littered with deer trails. Does and fawns threaded their way in and out of the heavy cover and as the sun set I knew where I wanted to be the next morning. I knew the potential for long shots in the open country was great, but after sighting in my new Browning X-Bolt Hell’s Canyon Speed bolt-action rifle in .30-06, and shooting a near-perfect 100-yard cloverleaf, I was up for the task.
Back at camp, Scott showed me trail camera pictures of the whitetail I was watching and could easily make out a sticker point off his left G2. For added pressure, he showed me a photo of the muley buck from that afternoon. The two bucks were standing beside each other in the same photo. Both deer were impressive and I know the average deer hunter would have a huge dilemma if forced to decide which buck to shoot with a few seconds notice. Both were mature, about the same age, and sported good looking antlers. I felt like the luckiest hunter in Nebraska to be facing such a unique opportunity, but couldn’t get the big whitey off my mind.
Back in my elevated blind the next morning well before sunrise, the mule deer were out in the pasture with the herd buck just 262 yards away. A couple of wily old roosters were crowing like crazy in the long grass nearby and as the sky started to lighten I could see whitetail does in front of me with more trickling out of the Sandhills behind me. My radar was on full alert when the sun broke over the horizon and I spotted the whitetail buck I was waiting for running towards the creek from the south. He was hot on the heels of a doe and at just over 360 yards the pair slipped into the creek bottom in front of me.
The cover in the creek was ideal for deer, but not so good for keeping a visual on any tar