Badlands Bounty

by Bret “T-Bone” Amundson

You may remember a blog I wrote a few days ago about packing away a good chunk of luck on your next hunting trip.   I’d been saving my stash for yesterday apparently.

Bret with his dim-witted whitetail

After watching my good luck run out at Lac Qui Parle, I spent one day at home in front of the washing machine before packing back up and heading west to see my friends Dave and Kathy Solga in Medora, ND.    I made sure I snuck an extra serving of luck out of my garage before I pulled out.   I’d need it as much as the three arrows I’d be bringing along.

As I mentioned in my last blog, the trip started out rough as I practiced shoot and release on some big, fat roosters.   Yesterday, however, I rubbed my rabbit’s foot, pocketed a four-leaf clover and googled a whole mess of other lucky superstitions.

A beautiful 5×5 whitetail buck in the morning, a limit of roosters at lunch and a striking drake green wing teal in the afternoon meant that I was probably tapped out on luck.

That’s a good day.

It was one of those days.

I’d like to sit back, shake my head and say, “it was nothing.  Piece of cake”.   But that’s not quite how it went.  There was a giant heaping of luck involved, along with 3 arrows flung.

4:30:  My 65 pound alarm clock  named Mika, decides it’s time to get up and eat breakfast.   I’ve got a good hour before my scheduled alarm goes off and two hours before I need to leave for the stand.

6:35: I park my truck, grab my gear and walk to the stand.  That’s when I realize the strap on my release broke.  The next 5 minutes includes banging around the back of my truck, searching for the duct tape.   Some frantic wrapping ensues that not only secures the release but also rips most of the hair off the back of my hand.

7:40: I’ve seen one doe in the forty minutes I’ve been off the ground.   Then from the east,  3 brown patches with sticks make their way towards my stand.  A younger buck, with 3 points on one side and just one lonely tine on the other, wanders through first.  The middle buck is a bruiser.  I can’t make out the points, but he’s a big-bodied deer with a heavier rack.  The 3rd deer would eventually be the deer I’d shoot.  A nice 5×5 that may have been held back a grade or two.

7:55: The small buck leads the trio towards the Little Missouri river 80 yards north of where I’m at.  “That’s it.  They’re gonna cross out of range.”    After some cautious prodding at the still forming ice, the buck opts for a new crossing point.   Nose first he swings around and walks right by my stand.  The bruiser is thrashing about on some small trees like they owe him money.  The third deer is pointing in my direction now; maybe my luck is about to change.

I shift in the stand to ready myself for the draw but my boots make a squeak faint enough to get past the human ear, but human ears were not my concern.  All eyes were now on me.  Stillness is hard to come by when you’re heart is racing like Tony Stewart.   For a solid 3 or 4 minutes the stare down was on.  Felt like 3 or 4 hours before a slight tail flick signaled the all clear and the game was on.

I didn’t bring my range finder as I’d been becoming more confident in my naked eye ranging ability.  When a 10-point buck is wandering towards you, buck fever can take over and all brain functionality goes the way of the T Rex.    He stepped behind a tree at what I thought was 40 yards, I drew my bow and let him step out.   I stopped him in his tracks with a light “meh” and there he was, in all his majestic broadsideness.

I put my 3 pin behind is shoulder and let her fly!

Fly it did.  Way over it’s back.   Despite my epic fail, luck would be my secret weapon as he remained in place and just looked at me like I was trying to explain the tax code.   I nocked another 100-grain deer missile, drew back and used my 2 pin.  This one made contact but I must have given a bit of torque, as the shot was a little high and back.

This sucks.   I knew it wasn’t a great shot.

He STILL didn’t bust off into cover, he meandered another 10 yards and again I stopped him with a “meh”.   This time I put one through the lungs.   Confused, dumb or both, he didn’t take off like his hind quarters were on fire, just walked another 20 yards and laid down.   I pumped my fist and climbed down a half hour later feeling pretty lucky.

After getting some help hanging him up from Dave and Luke Hoerig, Luke and I decided it would be a good idea to chase some pheasants.  He was right.   There aren’t a lot of pheasants in the Badlands, but you might find a few.  Watching Mika scale 100 foot bluffs like she’s a mountain goat is something I’ll never forget.  She also made the coolest ringneck retrieve I’ve seen.  The bird dropped over a a steep cut that dropped sharply nearly 20 feet with very little to offer traction on the way up or down.  Mika never hesitated or lost her footing.   Man, she makes me look like I know what I’m doing.

Just chillin’.

I even made it out with the decoys for a quick afternoon duck hunt.  A nice drake green wing was the proverbial cherry on top.

I’d be licking my chops too.

It’d be too cliché to say it was my “lucky day”, so I’ll go with: “Even the sun shines on a blind squirrel’s blarney stone when it’s looking for nuts with its horseshoe.”

by Bret “T-Bone” Amundson – Like to comment? You can do it on Facebook here. 

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