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June 2023
Story by Cole Lickfeldt
State: Arizona
Species: Deer - Mule

It was late May, and I was still trying to figure out what to do for deer for myself. I already had a September archery elk tag, so I thought my grandma and I should put in for some tough-to-draw hunts. To my surprise, I woke up to my dad calling me in total excitement. “Your grandma just drew a Kaibab late tag!” I was so excited knowing she was going to sign it down to me. I could not wait for November.

September rolled around, and I shot my elk. Then it was time to get prepared for November. Some friends went up there two days before us and warned us of the very icy roads after their trailer went into a ditch. We got there on Wednesday, found a camping spot, and went and looked that evening. As soon as we got there, we were finding a bunch of does and eventually found a mid 170s buck that I wanted to take a closer look at. Instead, we decided to go somewhere else in the morning.

The next morning, we found a couple of smaller 4-points but nothing I was interested in shooting. Midday on Thursday, we found a spot on the road that would be great to glass since it was thicker in vegetation and there were deer tracks everywhere in the snow where people were driving by. That night, we went to a new spot and found some nice bucks but still nothing I was looking for.

The next morning, we decided to go back to where we were the night before because there were so many does but still no sign of the right buck. Midday, we decided to go look at the spot we found yesterday. When we got there, there was a truck with all the doors open with three people glassing and one who was in the truck. The guy was looking on the hill and then looked back at us and came to our truck to tell us, “There is a 2-point on the hill we are trying to get our CHAMP hunter on.” Right away, we got out to help shoot that buck. They carried Hayden, the CHAMP hunter, down to their setup to shoot her first deer. I set up the BTX, and to my surprise, we found a 3x4 on that same hill. We were even more excited now. We offered for her to use my gun because it was a bit of a far shot. When we got my gun out, I found the buck that I ended up killing. We got Hayden set up, but my gun dead-fired four times. We later found out it was the ammo. Finally, one that was in the clip went off. She missed. The buck went into the trees, and we waited, but he never came out.

It was now 1 p.m., and we said, “If you guys stay here tonight, you will kill that buck.” They agreed, and we went back to camp to switch rifles. As we headed back out, we passed them. We asked if they had killed the buck. They said no and that they were going to try some easier, flat country.

We then asked, “Do you mind if you are not going to hunt that big deer if we go in there?”

They said, “No, just let us know if you kill him.”

We said, “When we are done, we will help you guys kill a buck if you haven’t yet.”

We headed out to find that buck, and when we got there, we immediately picked up all the deer that the big buck was with, but there was no sign of him. Later that evening when there were only about 30 minutes left of light, I picked up the body of a deer with his head in a bush. Judging by the body, I figured it was him. I told my dad where he was and got on the gun. My dad, confirming it was him, ranged him at 450 yards. The shot felt good, but it was slightly back. I got back on the deer and dropped him. I could not believe it! All my preparation and hard work had paid off. I truly shot the buck-of-a-lifetime on the tag-of-a-lifetime.

We couldn’t find the buck for the first 30 minutes because we didn’t have somebody to walk us in on him. I was shocked when we found him. He was a true non-typical Kaibab buck. Our friend, Ben, who was supposed to get there Thursday night but was delayed due to vehicle problems had made it to guide us out.

The next day, we went out and found Hayden a beautiful 4-point as her first deer. We couldn’t be happier! The hunt was more than I could have imagined. When we got back home, my buck had 25" of trash on a 4-point frame. There were 8 points on his right side and 6 on his left. Later, Huntin’ Fool came out with the 2022 draw odds. With 1 point, my grandma had a 0.5% chance of drawing.

This was an amazing hunt where we got to help people kill deer. I was fortunate to draw the tag-of-a-lifetime and got to spend it with friends and family. Not only was the hunting part fun, but going to Jacob Lake Lodge to get cookies and hang out in the Kaibab was a blast. Congratulations to Hayden on her first deer, and thank you to everyone who helped me! Thanks to Ben, Matt, and especially my dad who always is there for all my hunting dreams.