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April 2021
Story by Wyatt Townsend
State: Nevada
Species: Deer - Mule

My brother and I had been putting in for out-of-state hunts for the past two years, with Nevada being a state high on our list for tags. We put in as a group for mule deer along with a good friend of ours.

While applying, I asked, “What’s the Silver State Tag?” as it was an additional draw.

My friend, Jason, responded with, “Put in for it. You’ll never draw it, but if you do, it will be awesome!” So I did.

May 20th rolled around, and at approximately 5:30 a.m., I checked the draw results for Nevada. To my surprise, I was successful. Texting my brother as fast as I could, I let him know we all drew mule deer tags as a group. He texted back, confused, saying he didn’t draw one. I proceeded to send him a photo of the results.

“Are you serious? That’s the Silver State Tag!”

The excitement began to grow. Knowing we wouldn’t have time to drive over and scout before August, we figured our best bet would be to get a guide. We called Huntin’ Fool, and they gave us a few great guides to call, leading us to Jake with Pine Peak Outfitters. After talking with him for a little while, we knew he was the right choice. We met up with Jake on July 31st and headed out to set up camp. We each picked a juniper tree to throw our bedrolls under, calling that home for the next two weeks. With a few hours left of daylight, we hiked up to a central point knob and glassed until dark. We saw a lot of great bucks but not the one we were particularly hoping for called “The Goat.” He was a wide-framed deer with some inlines and kickers. He was an all-around cool old deer that any hunter would be blessed to harvest.

On August 1st, opening morning, we all woke up early and split up the team to try to cover as much ground as possible. Jake was able to get a handful of guides to help. Jake and I centered ourselves around everyone so we could make a move fast if the buck was spotted by anyone. The Goat hadn’t been seen for a few weeks now, so no one knew if he had left the area. We all made it to our glassing knobs and waited for the sun to come up. It didn’t take long for the deer to start coming out. Jake glassed a wide frame buck in the bottom, but before we could get a good look, he vanished into some big scrub oak. An hour went by as we picked apart the hill and relocated the mystery buck. “We got The Goat.”

My brother, my friend, Jason, and the rest of the guides all got optics on The Goat. Once in their glass, we made our move up to a better vantage point where Jason and guide Brian were sitting. Watching him for a little while, he finally bedded down right on the tree line with a couple more stud bucks. We proceeded off the knob and down toward the buck. The wind was to our backs, so we knew we couldn’t get very close without giving ourselves away. We located The Goat at 500 yards. Not being able to lay down, I rested on a tree. He was still bedded and quartered away. We decided we were going to take the shot. I was steady and slowly squeezed the trigger. Once I shot, all I heard was, “Miss.” He jumped out of his bed but didn’t run. He went right to walking but was out of my view. It took him about 20 minutes to walk 200 yards. Every 30 yards, he would stop and arch his back. However, his strides were of a healthy, unwounded deer. We watched film of the shot over and over again, coming to a conclusion of the bullet passing not even an inch over his back. We spent the rest of the day glassing the tree line and left the mountain once it was pitch black. I went to bed early, disappointed in my shot placement, but that’s hunting.

We woke up early and surrounded the spot where we had last seen The Goat. Glassing with no luck, we got up to move to another knob. Once there, we began glassing again. It couldn’t have been more than 30 minutes when the wind switched slightly and my brother heard a loud crashing sound below us. It was The Goat again. His antlers were so wide that he had trouble getting through the dead junipers, which had caused all the noise. We only saw him for a split second before he topped over the ridge. Little did we know, that was the last encounter we would have with The Goat. We hunted hard the next 12 days, battling triple digit heat waves all day, every day. With a few low 200" scoring deer still around, we entertained the idea of going after one that carried exceptional mass all throughout his antlers. Looking back now, I’m sure glad we didn’t.

With cattle to ship back home, we ended up leaving Nevada empty-handed, but we had one of the best hunting trips we had ever been on. We planned to return during the rut or be on call if another big buck presented himself. A month later, a picture of The Goat surfaced. A muzzleloader hunter beat the odds and harvested a buck-of-a-lifetime. Huge congrats to the hunter and the guides involved! We found out later that the deer had a bullet hole through his backstrap, barely missing his spine. Still, like I said before, that’s hunting.

The pressure was on now to find another buck of that caliber in one of the driest years Nevada had seen in a long time. Jake never gave up looking and had some great guys on his side looking as well. My brother and I had a few other hunts planned in November. On our way home from the last one, we passed through Nevada, getting home on the coast of California at about 3:30 a.m. Jake called that morning at 7:00, telling us we needed to get to Nevada as soon as possible. We called our friend, Jason, to see if he wanted to join us again, and he didn’t hesitate. We did a load of laundry and hit the road again.

We arrived in Nevada around midnight. The plan was to meet up with Jake and guide Kyle, the one who had found this new buck, and head up the mountain. I jumped in Kyle’s truck while Ike and Jason got in with Jake. We covered a lot of country, glassing into deep draws. After a while, we found the does that buck had been with the night before. However, he was nowhere to be found. We started picking apart the mountain and still came up with nothing. Kyle and I went all the way to the other side of the mountain, thinking he may have ventured over there looking for stray does. We left the other guys with the original set of does in case he showed back up. We came across a few good bucks, and then all of a sudden, we saw an absolute giant of a deer at the bottom of a draw among 20 does. We got to the bottom and worked our way to where he was. By the time we got there, he had climbed the other mountain and was closing the distance to the top. We knew that if we were going to kill him, it had to be right then. I laid down, facing uphill with a 20% incline. Kyle ranged him at 371 yards. Seconds before he topped over the ridge, I squeezed the trigger and smoked him behind the shoulder. Worried about him tumbling to the bottom, I put one more into him. He hit the dirt. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on such an ancient warrior buck.

The hike to him was steep shale rock. Every three steps up, we slid two back down. It doesn’t happen often, but this buck grew with every step I took. I shook Kyle’s hand in disbelief of what we had just accomplished. Soon, the rest of the guys made their way up the steep incline. We rough scored him at 215" and figured he was probably 10+ years old. It was most likely his last year on the mountain. What an amazing journey it was and totally worth the wait.