Deer season 2008 finally arrived after weeks of anticipation. I would be hunting with my 13 year old son hoping to put him on to his first buck. The previous year he killed a whitetail doe, his first deer, but this year he would wait for a nice buck. He carried my old Ruger M77 in .270 on this trip, a rifle that I have used over many years on deer, caribou, elk, and bison hunts. The area we hunted was in northeast Washington near the town of Tonasket. There are both whitetail and mule deer in the area although the whitetail is more commonly seen. There is a 3 point minimum for mule deer in the area, but whitetail is any buck with no antler restrictions.
We left our home in the Seattle area for the 5 hour drive over to eastern Washington on a cool, rainy morning. I brought our Coleman tent trailer along and this would be our home for the hunt. We booked a 4 day unguided hunt on the Oberg Brothers Ranch which would enable us to hunt a large section of private land without a lot of hunting pressure. After checking in with the ranch owners, we were assigned a section of their ranch to hunt that we would have all to ourselves and then shown where to set up our camp. This was on top of a semi- wooded plateau with a tremendous view of the mountains to the west.
The first 2 days of the hunt were pretty much uneventful. We did a lot of hiking, still hunting, and really enjoyed the time spent together in the outdoors. This is truly what hunting is all about. We saw a beautiful brown-color phased ruffed grouse that I would have loved to killed and had mounted, but I didn't want to fire the shotgun and spook any deer that might be in the area. We stumbled onto a bear den that was dug out of the side of a hill that looked to have been used last winter. We saw a few does and fawns as well, but no bucks. However, we knew they were in the area from the tracks we had seen and I told Tyler to just be patient as I was sure our paths with a nice buck would cross soon.
On the 3rd afternoon of the hunt we set up on a field where the deer had been coming down to feed in the evenings. We got situated at 4:00 p.m. and began the 2 1/2 hour wait until dark. Legal shooting hours ended at 6:40 this week and about 6:15 the deer started coming out. We were sitting with our backs to a couple of trees and a doe and fawn literally walked within 10 paces of us. I think the doe saw us but couldn't quite make out what we were with our camouflage and outlines broken up by the trees. At any rate, they didn't smell us and they quickly passed by and started grazing in the field below us. We then saw 3 more does and then another couple of does and fawns and finally spotted a buck. Trouble was he was about 600 yards away with light fading fast at the other end of the field we were sitting on. We got up and closed the distance to about 175 yards as quickly as we could.
By now the light was really bad and I was beginning to wonder if some mule deer hadn't slipped into the field as well. But a few deer raised their tails while playing reveling whiteness, I then knew we were back in the hunt. We were just about ready to call it a day because of the darkness. When suddenly, I was clearly able to identify a nice whitetail buck. He was standing alone and presented a clear shot. Tyler rasied his rifle aimed and then shot right at the end of legal shooting hours. It appeared to both of us that he had missed that buck. I neither saw nor heard the bullets' impact. After he shot the field just exploded with deer running in every direction, which didn't help keep track of our deer in the low light conditions. Over an hour, we searched in the darkness. However, our search was fruitless because we didn't find any sign that the deer had been hit. I figured we would come back in the morning and make sure either way.
The next morning we were up at 5:00 A.M.. We could hear a pack of coyotes barking,yipping and fighting in the direction of where Tyler shot at his deer. I was still convinced he missed and didn't find the coyotes' noise unusual because they were so thick in the area. They had howled off and on all night long all around us every night we were there. In fact, we went to town in Tonasket Saturday afternoon and bought a predator call to try and bag a couple of them. Anyways, we got up to the field before first light the next morning and set up to call coyotes.
I really didn't think there would be any deer in the area in the morning because they all got scared away the night before. I started calling and man was that a hoot. I set up about 40 yards away from Tyler and after only 3 or 4 minutes one came in from behind him circled around and before he could shoot it was up and over a ridge. I started calling a few minutes later and another one came in and was running right at Tyler and at about 40 yards did an about face and ran off woofing at him the whole way. He stopped at 90 yards and Tyler plugged him. I have never done any predator calling before, but found it interesting that these coyotes did not come directly to me. They both went more towards Tyler. Everything I have read says they have such remarkable hearing that they can pinpoint the caller really well. Oh well...maybe just a quirk where we were yesterday, weather conditions, wind, etc.
After skinning the coyote, we hiked up to where they were calling earlier in the morning. It wasn't hard to find Tyler’s deer because there were ravens and magpies flying around it by now. Those coyotes didn't even leave us enough meat to make jerky. They literally stripped every edible piece of meat down to the bone. As we walked up to this animal, I was both shocked and disappointed. The disappointment was in not finding the animal from the previous night but came from the fact that in the clear daylight we would have found the buck a 150 yards from the spot where he was shot. Shocked because of what a tremendous buck my son had shot. Perfectly symmetrical 12 point whitetail. I told Tyler that he may hunt the rest of his life and never get such a nice whitetail again. I caped him out when we got back to camp and although it appears in the pictures that the coyotes left his head and neck alone there was not enough of the neck left for a full shoulder mount. My taxidermist suggested using a different cape for the mount, but my son opted for a European mount of the skull instead. This now hangs proudly on his bedroom wall. When we get the coyote rug back from the taxidermist he will always have a story to tell about the big whitetail buck that he shot and one of the coyotes that ate it! On a final note, after getting home and having the deer measured, the buck had a green score of 135 Boone and Crockett points.
Mark and Tina Timmerman pride themselves on raising all natural beef with no hormones or chemicals added to the meat. The cattle are grass fed and range free over the ranch. After enjoying their beef over the last few months, I can attest that they raise a delicious product.
Please contact them for some great hunting opportunities that includes free beef. They can be contacted at Oberg Brothers ranch.