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April 2023
Story by Jacob Beach
State: Nevada
Species: Deer - Mule

My luck with archery has never been the greatest. I’ve drawn premium archery tags in California and Nevada on the driest years imaginable. This was not very good considering both hunts were migratory hunts in which I needed wet and stormy conditions to see a lot of deer. The one opportunity I had at a very nice buck on my California hunt I missed not once, but twice. Then came the Nevada hunt. Once again, a respectable 4x4 stepped out after days of hunting hard and not seeing a legal buck. My arrow flew about six inches over the buck’s back. I was crushed! I wondered how all of those countless hours of practice each and every day for months didn’t work out. I finally learned that sometimes that’s just the way hunting goes. I decided to give archery hunting another shot and ended up being able to get a respectable Nevada mountain lion and a nice California black bear. That started building my confidence back up.

There is a ranch that we are allowed to hunt in Nevada. My father, Norman Beach, and I go out there as much as we can during the summer months all the way through late fall. It was the summer of 2020 when my dad and I first laid eyes on him. We saw this young buck and thought it had so much potential. He was a 3x3 that laid out almost flat. Every time we would go out, we would see him, but when the bucks started rubbing the velvet, he disappeared. We did not see him the rest of the year.

The next summer, we went out to the ranch but did not see him for a couple of trips. We were not sure whether he had been killed by a lion, poached, or didn’t make it through the winter. We were a little anxious, but we kept looking. A handful of trips later, we saw him again. He had made it through the winter! My dad and I were both really excited to see him doing well, but he was very smart and we couldn’t get closer than 1,000 yards. We saw him a couple more times and then when the velvet rubbed off, he turned nocturnal.

In the spring of 2022, I found out that I was going to get a tag. I was stoked! I knew exactly what buck I was going to put my tag on, and I would not settle. There was only one problem. I would need to kill the buck with my bow. I practiced countless hours at home shooting arrow after arrow. This was my year. Soon, summer would roll around and I would be prepared.

My dad and I took our first trip out there in early summer, and the bucks had just started growing their horns. Some bucks stood out, but it was still early and hard to tell what anything would be. We came home and waited a few weeks and then returned. It was about three weeks before archery season, and there he was! The buck was where we had seen him the past two years. We could tell he still had some growing to do as his points were all very blunt on the tips. He was still so impressive, but he had started to get some attention. Antelope season in Nevada is 10 days before deer season, so there were neighbors and other hunters who had seen the “Huge Buck.” We decided I needed to be there opening morning and ready with my bow.

Soon, opening day arrived and a horrible fear became a reality. We had found the buck but on a different property that we did not have permission to hunt. Never before in the last three years had we seen that buck on this property. With nothing we could do about it, we continued to hunt. We saw a few nice deer, but nothing compared to him. We hunted hard for five days, but no other buck would do. We soon had to return home to tend to some chores.

We stayed home a few days, took care of everything at home, and headed back out to Nevada in search of the buck. When we got there and started hunting, we didn’t have any luck the first day. We headed back out that evening and laid glass on him where we were allowed to hunt. I was a nervous wreck! There was so much excitement to see him and know he was still alive, but I was so nervous about how I would get close on such a smart buck. Well, I made my first stalk. I was able to watch where he was going and made my way around. I snuck my way out to where I was sitting in the sage and had a good shooting view from where I thought he would come out. After sitting there for 45 minutes, here he came in a bachelor group of bucks. I ranged him, and he was perfectly broadside 51 yards away. I drew my bow back and sat there waiting for a clear shot. However, that shot never came, and the bucks fed off and were gone for the day.

My dad asked me, “What happened? Why didn’t you shoot? It looked perfect from where I was.” I replied that there was a small forked horn behind him and I never got a clear shot. We were both discouraged thinking that there went my one opportunity. Maybe I was not cut out for archery hunting.

The next day was Saturday, and we had it planned for our last hunting day. I had to move in and start my new school, Fresno State, that Monday. Trying to keep my head up, my dad stayed positive, but I was starting to second guess it all. We ended up seeing the buck at last light but could not get close and he ran off. That was my season, but on the way back to where we were staying, my dad said, “It’s up to you, but we can try again for a couple hours in the morning, but you need to ask Mom because of school.” Without hesitation, I told him, “Yes!” This was my last opportunity.

We woke up extra early Sunday morning. At first light, we wanted to be where we had last seen the buck. It was getting light and no luck. Then my dad whispered, “There he is!” With little time to spare, we planned a stalk. My dad told me what I should do to get close. It took us about 45 minutes to get in place, and then I saw him. It was a clear shot. My dad told me, “64 yards.” I only had a 60-yard pin, so I was going to try to aim a couple inches high from my mark and hope for the best. I drew back and let the arrow fly. As I watched the arrow in the air, I saw the buck jump the string and my arrow blew right through his guts. The buck ran away, and I felt sick to my stomach. I had to find him if it took all day. My dad said, “Let’s give him a few minutes and then we will go after him again.”

The whole time, the feeling in my stomach got worse. I went to where I last saw him run and found my arrow full of guts and stomach juices. We started tracking and went about 40 yards in the sage. Then I saw him bedded and looking really sick. The buck jumped up and took off. I just saw horns bouncing through the sage. The sickness in my stomach instantly returned. I could have shot him again right there at 20 yards.

The horns that I had just seen bouncing through the sage suddenly disappeared. I slowly crawled to where I saw the horns disappear, and I saw the buck bedded. I ranged him at 40 yards. I got up on a knee, drew my bow back, and shot again. This second arrow went in probably eight inches. The buck jumped up and ran about 20 yards and then I saw him tip over. All the years of watching this buck, all the years of bad luck bowhunting, all the months and years of training had turned around and been worth it. I was ecstatic!

When we finally got back to phone service, my dad and I had to call my mom and explain why we were going to be late to school. She was not the happiest, but she was excited I got the buck that I had been working so hard for. He ended up measuring 34 1/2" wide and was a 5x4.

I’d like to thank my dad for introducing me at such a young age to this sport I have a deep love and addiction for. I’d like to thank my mom for letting my dad and me hunt and do what we love, even though at times she gets a little frustrated with us for being late or missing things like college.