Whitetail Adventure: Bowhunting "The Big Six"

The author pursues a wary, old 3x3 whitetail buck with a massive body.

Whitetail Adventure: Bowhunting "The Big Six"

In many ways, The Big Six reminded me a lot of myself. He was a loner, an older sway-backed whitetail buck that moved slowly and cautiously, on aching knees with a sore back. Growing up on the coast of California, I considered a big forked-horn “Pacific buck” muley a real trophy, and this whitetail’s oversized 3x3 rack took me back in time. He never traveled more than a half-mile from his bedding area, which was located in a brushy oak-studded creek bottom next door to a large alfalfa field. I wanted him.

In was late September 2021, and I was hunting with Ralph Dampman’s Trophy Ridge Outfitters (www.trophyridgeoutfitters.com,) out of Carlile, Wyoming, near the historic Devil’s Tower National Monument in the state’s northeast corner. I’ve hunted with Ralph off and on for decades and never been disappointed. The area is loaded with game, accommodations are comfy, the food plentiful, the guides excellent, and the chances for a successful hunt extremely high. 

My guide was Larry Compton, a retired career law enforcement officer and lifelong hunting fanatic. He was superb. When we decided to target The Big Six, the hunt became a game of cat and mouse. I’d been hunting different spots for a couple days, seeing lots of deer but no shooters, while Larry spent his time scouting. He saw The Big Six several times, often standing right near the main ranch road. Once I saw him, though, we shifted gears, and made a plan.

First was a morning blind set up in a little travel corridor inside the oaks. No dice. After that sit, as we were driving out about 0900, guess what?  There he was, standing under a pair of large oaks along the brushy creek bottom, all alone, not 20 yards off a dirt county road. Really? So that evening I hunkered down in a hay bale blind set up in a tiny finger of cut alfalfa a couple hundred yards from that spot. The Big Six didn’t show. When Larry picked me up after dark, he said the buck was right under the same twin oaks where we’d seen him that morning.

We decided the best plan was to forgo a morning blind hunt, and do some mobile scouting. We would park Larry’s truck an hour before first light right where it had been when he had seen the buck, and patiently see what developed. If it all worked out, we’d locate the buck and, if we could, make a stalk. If not, we’d try and put the puzzle together and plan an ambush.

Two hours after first light we hadn’t seen much, so we went for a cruise. And guess what? There was The Big Six, all alone, under the twin oaks. So we slowly drove by, parked up high 600 yards away where we could glass. About 10:00 a.m. or so, the buck ambled across the road, around a fence that bordered the ranch alfalfa field and past a pile of dozens of huge alfalfa bales, before disappearing in the head-high grass. There was no doubt we’d found his bedroom.


Risk vs. Reward

What to do? Maybe I could build a brush blind along the route he’d taken to bed, and hope to waylay him that evening. The problem? We didn’t know exactly how close he’d bedded to the two-story-tall hay bale pile, making that super risky. So I came up with an idea. Why not set a blind within range of those twin oaks that Larry had seen him at all week? We’d get set up by noon, let it rest that evening, and be there well before first light the next morning.

Larry had a pop-up blind in the truck, so we brushed it in across the creek channel up against a cut bank exactly 42 yards from the twin oaks. We’d be in deep morning shadows, and the prevailing wind would be good. That afternoon back at the lodge I set up a ground blind chair and shot a bunch of arrows at a 3-D buck target to get ready. I was in the blind an hour before first light the next morning.

At 0615 it was still quite dark when a some does started feeding under the twin oaks trees. None showed any interest in our blind. Thinking we still had lots of time, I saw a deer through some thick trees near the road. My goodness, it’s The Big Six, and he’s coming! He walked slowly, and stopped for minutes, sensing. But instead of turning left to the twin oaks, he turned right and nibbled leaves in a thick patch of young trees for 15 minutes. Even though he was less than 50 yards, there was no shot through the branches. Then, after a few agonizing minutes, he headed for the twin oaks.

He was 40 yards, as we’d anticipated. The 100-grain SEVR Max Cut crashed through his right scapula, and as he ran off, the shaft was kicked back out. I radioed Larry, and when he arrived we found the shaft, broken off right at the ferrule, but the blood showed deep penetration. We waited an hour before taking up the trail. Thankfully the buck didn’t make it 150 yards.

The Big Six was a true trophy buck, weighing more than 250 pounds on the hoof, with lots of age and in prime condition. It was a hunt I will never, ever forget.


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