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Big Daddy

By Chris Pascua

"DADDY", my cousin Paul discovered this western Oregon Blacktail in late October 2011.

  As a great 4x4 he hunted him 21 days straight in the late season, only seeing him one time just seconds before last light and “Daddy” busted me drawing back to take a shot.

The 2012 and 2013 seasons came and went with nobody hunting him and only a few night time pics of him rutting does and one morning pic a mile down the mountain. At this point, I was completely happy knowing a true Blacktail giant still ran the hills and was passing on his genetics. Moving 95% of the time under the light of the moon and living in fields of briars, poison oak, and dense underbrush made it easy for him to get old and really big.

Spring of 2014 I was wondering if the old dude was still around and I decided if I could draw the tag I would give it my best effort to bring him down.  Well, I drew luckily and started scouting and start setting up cameras.

I checked the first camera in June and there he was.  His notched ear made him unmistakable.  I continued getting pics all summer and into September when he went 100% nocturnal.

From mid-October through late December I hunted him 36 times.  160+ hours I spent thinking that the next second he would walk out, but he never did. I still had not seen this deer with my own eyes in the light in three and half years.

Skip ahead to 2015.  Fortune was with me and I drew the tag again. So just like the year before, all the cameras and scouting started again, this time with a bad taste in my mouth. I wanted this deer. All spring and summer he seemed to get bigger and bigger. 

Many times voices in my head kept saying "he is to wise, he is un-killable, you are wasting your time" but I knew he would make one mistake, just one and when he did I had to be there. Late October arrived and I went to the blind for the first trip.  A few does came in and a little spike.  I was able to get the blind situated, comfortable and ready for 2 more months of sitting and reflecting about this large Blacktail.

I made three trips that week and only saw a few does and fawns, which is still great for observing. Every second seemed like hours in the blind as my nerves got worse and worse.  My anxiety of thinking that's him walking in was making me sick.

For weeks I've been waking up at 3-4 am as he played tricks in my mind.  I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t focus, the deer is actually haunting me.

October 30th, I snuck out in early a.m. and checked the camera. DADDY had been there at 7:22 a.m. and followed a doe straight up the hill.  Well, at least I knew now he was starting to cruise does.

So after talking with Todd and Colin, I headed up the trail that afternoon for the 40th time and got settled into the blind by 3 p.m.  After three hours of sitting in the pouring rain, listening and fighting off the voices in my head, I decided it was time go. I put my camera and gear way, got my pack ready and moved my bow from between my legs. The 40 trips down the trail in the dark hunting an animal that I've never seen in over 4 years is wearing on me. I leaned forward to get up and out of the corner of my eye hard left, I caught movement.  A huge bodied deer was coming from 12 yards away from behind the blind.  It cleared some brush and I saw light reflect off his antlers. 

It is the Giant 4, its DADDY!  I reach and grab my bow, then looked up (at about 16 yards) and double check antlers. 

Oh my word, it is DADDY!  He comes to 20 yards turns broadside and looks the other way...this is it, my one chance.  Taking a deep breath, I drew, aimed, and triggered; I heard the arrow WHACK then he bolted hard right and disappeared in a second. “Did I just shoot DADDY?  Is it pouring rain?  Is it really minutes before dark? Nope, this isn't happening.” Yes, it's happening. 

I calmed myself down, sent a few texts for help and went to look for the arrow.  I found the arrow which was covered in perfect red blood.  I made my way up the trail 10 yards to find more blood being washed away by the rain, fast. I was freaking out and I didn't want to push him but I was losing blood with every drop of rain.

I backed out feeling the shot was good and hoping we could find him dead nearby. Todd and Colin showed up fast and we started tracking at the last blood I had marked, one high, one in the middle, and one low.  We started to side hill and within 15 yards, lying in the ferns, there he was.....DADDY!  More mythical and impressive than I had ever imagined; He was a true giant western Oregon valley Blacktail. We high fived each other and stared in amazement.

I leaned down touched his head and told him everything he should know.  I was choked up and had a lump in my throat. It's a very weird feeling walking up on an animal that I've admired, respected and hunted for so long.

He truly was a giant old warrior and this experience has been amazingly humbling and surreal to say the least. DADDY died in his prime and it wasn't to sickness, vehicle, or predators and for that I am grateful.

Huge thanks goes out to Todd, Colin, Kim, Scott and Nick for coming to help and sharing this adventure with me. Thank you to everyone that kept me from never giving up; especially my cousin Paul. What an amazing animal to have harvested; truly the "DADDY!" of the forest.