(Editor’s Note: This is a story about an incredible hunt in 2006)
I have a good friend by the name of Pax Prentiss. Prentiss is from Malibu, Calif., — not exactly the hunting capitol of the west. But Prentiss is different from his beach-loving neighbors; he is a bona-fide, die-hard, monster mule deer addict!
He caught this illness on the famed Kaibab Plateau in Arizona, well known for its world-class deer. I was on that hunt with Prentiss and the hunting was tough. After a week of being neck deep in other hunters, as well as snow, Pax made a stellar shot in fading light to collect a 7×8 non-typical that grossed in the mid 190’s! That did it, he was forever infected with the disease and it was only going to get worse.
In 2006, Pax once again obtained a coveted Arizona Mule Deer tag. This time he would be hunting the legendary “Arizona Strip.” The Strip is an enormous high desert area in the northwest corner of the state that arguably holds the largest mule deer bucks in the world today.
Wanting to make the very most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Pax acquired the help of myself and good friend Bryon Goswick. Friend Blake Chapman would also provide valuable help when he was available.
Scouting Begins In June
Scouting for this hunt commenced on June 15. We camped across the entire region, scouring the landscape for a huge deer. Many big bucks were encountered, filmed, and scrutinized. We kept moving and looking, and as the summer wore on, the antlers continued to pack on the growth. By late July, most bucks’ antlers were approaching their max, yet we were still searching for the giant that we knew was there … somewhere.
On July 23, following a lightning storm, Goswick and I found the treasure we had been waiting for. I was watching a 170-class buck feeding when I noticed unreal antlers bedded in the sage. As the monster took his feet, we about passed out when the full expanse of his headgear took shape. Over 40 inches wide was a safe estimation! Combined with several extra points and mass like an elk, we knew our search was over. Like all exceptional deer we find, we gave him a nickname, and this one would be known as Wolfman. We shot some rough, long-distance video footage of Wolfman in the same location the next morning, and then like big bucks so often do … he vanished.
As the following days melded into weeks, we turned the surrounding country upside down. We could consistently find Wolfman’s running mates, but try as we might, we realized the king had up and moved. It made for tough morale as the possibility of relocating this deer started to fade away. We stayed at it, methodically moving farther and farther out with our search as the days ticked by. Prentiss passed up chances to kill some other phenomenal bucks, remaining hopeful that Wolfman would eventually return.
Wolfman Is Spotted
In the early morning hours of August 6, Goswick and I were glassing from the top of a huge knoll. This vantage point offered a spectacular view into a huge chuck of the buck’s country.
“I see him,” Goswick mumbled as casually as if he was looking at a coyote. Once Goswick told me where to look, I had my glass locked on the monster once again. Leaving Goswick to watch the beast, I tore off the mountain at suicidal speed. I tracked Prentiss down where he was scouting a few miles away and we hauled it back to the foothills of Goswick’s high post. Following Goswick’s precise signals, we snuck into position where the buck had entered thick timber and disappeared. All we could do was wait and hope he popped out later in the evening. We sat there all day as the sun trekked across the sky and dropped below the Western horizon. Only after darkness settled did we surrender the hunt and quietly return to camp.
The following morning spirits were high with the hope of getting this big buck on the ground. We scattered to our different vantage points, looking from every angle possible to locate Wolfman. Once again the sun traveled full course and no big buck was spotted. We knew this the feeling all too well by now. This deer was kicking our butts!
The morning of August 8 started like they all had for the previous month and a half, only this time radio silence was shattered when Goswick reported the news. He had the buck in his sight and we needed to get over there now!
Brute Goes To Dense Cover
Before Prentiss and I could get into position for a shot, the brute fed into the dense trees once again, only this time there was a low rise in the topography that allowed a limited look into the canopy of tree tops where the deer had disappeared. We were confident he was bedded in the thicket within 60 yards of our position, as all the possible escape routes were being monitored by Goswick and Chapman from their distant vantage points. The hours wore on as we waited for the buck to move. Finally, we saw giant horns floating above the brush, but Prentiss was afforded no shot. Throughout the course of the day the beast arose and bedded seven different times, moving farther from us, and into thicker cover, each time.
At a little after 5 p.m. the buck once again gained his feet. Prentiss was only going to get one chance at this buck. We needed him to move 10 yards south and into the only shooting lane Prentiss had through the trees. Our hearts sank as the buck started slowly walking north. But, for a reason only known to him, he stopped, looked around, and then turned and walked straight toward our lane. Prentiss was rock steady with his 7mm Short Mag as the giant strode into the 2-foot opening. I let out a short, distressed bawl with my mouth and the deer instantly stopped at alert, looking in our direction. Simultaneously the rifle spoke. Wolfman made a short, hard sprint and ran full bore into a large juniper bush. When he fell back out of it he was dead.
What transpired that hot August evening will never be forgotten by all who were involved. Prentiss and I were joined shortly by Goswick and Chapman. While some hunters would be whooping and hollering, we all just stood silently and admired. The respect felt toward this animal, by all of us, was immense. We were honored to have all shared in the pursuit of such a special deer.
Wolfman was a 10×11 non-typical. He had 29-inch main beams and well over 50 inches of total mass. His inside spread was a whopping 38-plus inches resulting in a total gross score of over 270 inches! After the required drying time, and a 2 percent reduction for the velvet, he was officially scored by S.C.I. and was at No. 4 in the world in the non-typical category. He may very well be the biggest buck I will ever have the privilege of pursuing, but attempting to top him will sure be interesting … .
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