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February 2024
Story by Scott and Cole Crawford
State: Oregon
Species: Deer - Columbia Blacktail, Elk - Roosevelt

“I finally did it…” That is what I thought to myself when I walked up on this buck after a lifetime of hunting blacktail deer. I have lived in Oregon or Alaska all of my 53 years, and I was introduced to hunting at a very young age by my father as a means of survival. My family lived on wild game, so I don’t ever remember my father caring how big a buck’s antlers were. It was a matter of needing meat in the freezer. As I started my own family, I tried to instill the same values and practices in my three boys from a young age. I have taken all of them hunting as much as we could possibly afford. Through hard work and many years of seven-day work weeks, our situation has changed, so it has become possible to focus on hunting more mature animals, but still emphasizing the need to fill the freezer. Solely hunting blacktail deer and Roosevelt elk for as long as I can remember has given me a keen understanding of the nature of these animals in Western Oregon, resulting in some really nice bucks harvested over the years.

That is why, after over 40 years of hunting, I decided I was going to do something I had never done before when I read the new dates for general rifle deer season in Western Oregon. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife decided that deer season was going to go one week later into the rut than I could ever remember, which meant the chance of spotting a giant old buck. This was the year to put all the past years of experience to work.
Throughout the spring and then into summer, my boys and I spent many of our free days in the woods looking for monster blacktails. Our stipulation being any blacktail over 135" was getting into that monster category, but to find one in the 160" class would be considered a giant buck. Once hunting season came, I spent every extra hour I had glassing hillsides and looking for that buck-of-a-lifetime. As the days came and went, we did find more and more monster bucks, but nothing I hadn’t found and harvested before.

By the third week of the four-week season, my boys had filled their tags with really big bucks and I had turned down three bucks that I figured would score just over 140". I could not believe I had turned down multiple monster blacktail, but I just kept telling myself this was the year I had to wait until the last week of the season.
When that last week came, I was committed. I took the entire week off work and narrowed down areas where I had found the highest concentration of mature does, so all I needed was the buck-of-a-lifetime to show himself to me. There would be no buck fever, jitters, or hesitation. Once he showed himself, he was dead.

I left the house at 5:30 a.m. on a mission. With only two full days of the season left, I knew where I was heading as I had spotted a big buck the night before. He was on top of a big, open ridge, but it was too far to see just how big. My oldest and youngest sons were guiding for their Table Rock Outfitting company, so my middle boy and I were alone hunting those final two days. That morning, we started seeing deer at first light moving in and out of the openings in the oaks. It was around 9 a.m. when I glassed up a giant at just over 2,000 yards. I could tell it was a monster as its antlers spanned four inches outside of its ears, and one look told me they were very heavy. My gut told me that buck needed to die. We moved in to just over 900 yards, and I could still see the buck on the edge of a clearing. He was just standing there motionless with his head in the brush, but I could still tell just by its body size that it was a big buck.

As I closed in on my target, this is always the point in the hunt when it gets exciting. I had two options – set up at just over 900 yards and wait for him to move into a clear shot with my .338 Lapua or go down the backside of the ridge I was on to see if I could get closer. The deer had not noticed us yet, so I decided to make the move down the hill. Thirty minutes later, we slowly popped out down the ridge at around 500 yards from where we last saw the big buck. He was gone, so we got out the spotting scopes and started burning our eyeballs out glassing. After just over an hour of looking, we spotted him. He was bedded down in a brush pile and behind three burnt oak trees. His white ear gave away his location. This buck was almost invisible, so I sat there for over 30 minutes, trying to get a clear view of how big he actually was, but he would not move his head. As I was staring at this buck on 60 power, I realized this was not the same buck as the giant one we had spotted earlier. I was sure of it. This buck just looked different. I instantly got a bad feeling in my gut that the giant buck had gotten away. I felt this was a big buck, too, but it was not the same deer we had been hunting all morning. Now we sat there staring at this buck, trying to decide what to do, when he turned his head. This allowed me to see that what I had been looking at, thinking it was a burnt branch in front of his face, was actually a third main beam coming off of his right horn! He definitely had a fork on the end of his third main beam, and that was all I needed to see. I set up my rifle and waited for the deer to stand up, knowing if this deer stood up and took two steps it would be gone in the brush forever. Except as he stood up, I could tell he was nervous, but there was no way he had spotted or scented us. I was starting to worry when I heard a coyote howl, causing him to take one step forward. Boom! He dropped where he stood.

Most hunters have experienced “ground shrinkage,” and as I walked up the hill looking for my buck, I was nervous about how much I would experience. On my approach, however, it was just the opposite. This deer was a true giant, old blacktail buck. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. It was the buck-of-a- lifetime.
I couldn’t have done it without the help and support of my three boys always hunting with me and my wonderful wife, Amy, for putting up with me for all these years.

Cole’s Story:

I have been archery elk hunting in the mountains of Western Oregon since I was 12 years old and have killed a bull every year besides one. Having killed multiple nice bulls but never a true giant, in 2022, I set out with a goal of killing my biggest bull to date – a 311" 6-point Roosevelt bull. I had this bull dialed in, and on opening morning, he came right to my lap at 18 yards. I drew back and let the arrow fly. The shot looked good. After searching for blood for seven miles, little to no blood was found and the bull was gone. A month later during rifle season, my brother harvested this bull.

In 2023, I had a goal of killing a 300"+ Roosevelt with my bow. Opening morning of the season, I had one of my best friends, Justin Shaffer, with me trying to get his first Roosevelt bull. After two days of hunting, we were walking along the edge of a meadow and stopped in our tracks because we heard an odd noise. We realized this was the noise of a bull running in the water and chasing cows. We walked up to the edge of the creek and saw a bull running cows across the creek that was in the 360" class, one of the biggest I’d ever seen. We hunted this bull for four more days but came up short.

Justin had to fly home, but I hunted in the same area for 18 days straight after work and on the weekends. After eight close calls with this giant bull, one day after work, I was walking down the top of a ridge, trying to cut tracks. After seeing tracks but nothing fresh, I walked near a wallow and sat down to listen at about 3:00. After taking a nap against an old growth pine, I woke up and the wind switched, blowing straight at my back. I decided to back out so I didn’t scare the herd. I made it about one mile and cut a massive set of bull tracks on top of my boot tracks. I decided I should try to see if I could get something to respond. I let out a bugle into the canyon below me and not three seconds later, the raspy scream of an old bull rang through the canyon. I challenge bugled back, and the bull started running towards me. I could hear sticks breaking, so I dropped my pack, nocked an arrow, and ranged some trees. Before I knew it, the bull was sub 30 yards. I still couldn’t see the bull, but I could hear him breathing and raking a tree. I cow called twice, and he took three steps into the open. Looking directly at me at 12 yards, I took the shot and the arrow sunk to the fletchings. The bull ran less than 20 yards and expired.

After walking up on this bull, I was astonished by the size. This was a bull I had never seen before. I felt extremely lucky and grateful to finally have achieved my goal of arrowing a true giant Roosevelt, and he came back at an astonishing 10 years old.