Holding Out for the Right One
By Mike Prohoroff

My 2000 hunting season was coming to an end, and I hadn't found the buck I was looking for. It had been the most incredible season of my life and although I hadn't taken anything yet, I felt the time spent in the woods had been a success. I had explored a lot of new area, and had seen some amazing things. I witnessed bucks sparing and a large buck undisturbed going about his daily routine. I saw a bobcat hunting mice and a fisher playing in a little creek. I watched three bald eagles stand proudly in front of me and eat a large jackrabbit one of them had killed. I also saw more than 30 legal bucks, and chose not to take any of them. In this area of Southern Oregon, to see that many bucks would make for an extraordinary season itself. To have the willpower to pass on them was to me, something special. I had no idea that the wise and ethical choices I made earlier in the season would afford me the chance at the buck of a lifetime!

I had started a job that allowed me to hunt in the mornings before work. I took full advantage of this perk, and was in the woods 4-5 days week. I also had the support of, in my biased opinion, one of the most amazing women in the world. Though Sallie doesn't hunt herself, she knows how much joy it brings me. She understands that from the end of September through the first week of November most of my free time will be spent hunting. I love her for that.

When the season started I had set in my mind the caliber of buck I was looking for. I had never taken a four point, and that was my #1 goal. Early in the season I spotted a large, heavily antlered buck. He was a tall, very symmetrical four point. I watched him feed on a hilltop eating acorns with a smaller three point. He was 550-600 yards out, and as much as I wanted to take a poke at him, I held off. I cut the distance in half and stocked to within 300 yards, but to my disappointment, I found that he had given me the slip.

........
Mike's incredible Columbian Blacktail gross scored 161, and netted 154 7/8 B&C.
He has an outside spread of 24 3/8", and over 32 " of total mass

Towards the end of the season, I had lost my wallet on an all day hunt. The next day I went back in and while retracing my steps I kicked up three nice bucks. One of which was a shooter. Wouldn't you know it; I had left my rifle back in the jeep. I hadn't seen anything the day before, and was just trying to beat brush for my wallet. Little did I know that leaving my 7mm behind was one of the best decisions I made that year.

I found my wallet on Sunday and I was leaving on a business trip to Las Vegas on the following Tuesday. Monday would be my last day of hunting for the 2000 season. As I got ready that morning I knew I had a decent chance of seeing a nice buck in the area. I had been in there three times earlier in the season and had seen bucks each time. I also knew that there was almost no other hunting pressure. I dressed warm and set out before dawn.

The wind was a little gusty and in my face. I knew that when I crested the ridge, a large bowl would open up below me. There were a couple of rocks just off the backside of the rim that offered a nice view of the valley below. I hunkered down and waited for daylight. As twilight faded into morning I spotted two large forked horns feeding uphill with several does just below me. As tempted as I was, with it being the last day and all, to take one of the forks, I knew I wanted a four point. They kept me pinned down for about half an hour, before they fed out of sight.

Once the coast was clear, I continued across the top of the bowl and dropped into an Oak strewn drainage. I took my time, slowly hunting through the buck brush and scrub oak. About two hours into the hunt I noticed a small flash of white down and to my left. There were deer moving through the bottom of the ravine, and heading up the other side. They weren't spooked, so I figured I had some time. I walked slowly back uphill about 30 yards, to a place where the oaks opened up and I could see the opposite side of the coulee. I sat down and started glassing. Before long a doe walked into view. Two more followed closely behind with a small fork.

As I watched, an enormous 4x4 walked into view. I had prepared for this moment all year long. It seemed like ten minutes had gone by before he offered me the shot I was looking for. He was quartering away, and had turned back to look in my direction. I don't know if he sensed that something was wrong, but his ears laid down and he tensed up. It was now or never. I took a deep breath, exhaled slowly, and squeezed the trigger.

.................

I heard the tell tail "whop", and knew I had made a clean shot. I couldn't see him down, but was confident that he hadn't gone far. I waited about fifteen minutes and headed over to where I had last seen him. As I approached, I could see a heavy blood trail leading downhill. I followed it for about 20 yards and found the buck lying at the base of a tree. When I saw him, I knew he was a buck of a lifetime. After taking care of the messy work, and getting him packed out, I brought him by work to show some of the guys. I called my dad and told him all about it. I was still so excited that it was hard for me to speak normally.

After the mandatory drying period, he gross scored 161, and netted 154 7/8. He had an outside spread of 24 3/8", and over 32 " of total mass. He is far and away the most magnificent Columbian Blacktail I have ever seen. Holding out for a mature buck that offered me a high percentage shot had paid off. "Rusty", as the ladies in my office refer to him, gave me that shot. I will not soon forget the incredible 2000 hunting season, or the people that helped to make it so memorable.

My special thanks go out to Sallie for putting up with me. There is nothing like having someone you love to share your stories with. Thank you Steve and Sue for the use of your garage, and all the help you gave me that year. I also want to thank Larry Doe with Natures Art Taxidermy, in Merlin Oregon, for doing a wonderful job on the head mount.

Blacktail Articles Index