Chasing The Devil Buck
By Luke Carrick
WA, Mule Deer
Washington is a state that has great trophy potential in many different species: California and Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep, Rocky Mountain elk, Mountain goats, Shiras moose and a few giant Whitetails are killed in the northeastern part of the state every year. What Washington is not known for is it's big Mule deer. You never read many magazine articles about big Mule deer being killed in Washington unless you have 10-15 points and are able to draw a premium late season tag. Well this is not the case, the big Mule deer are here you just have to put in a lot time and effort in preseason scouting.
In 2009 I had been scouting a general season unit that had a lot of different types of terrain from rugged backcountry to national forest and even some private farmlands. This made for a lot of different types of country for those big bucks to hide. It was July 26th and after 4 days of scouting and putting on a lot of miles, many hours of glassing, putting up with the 85 to 90 degree heat during the days and the full moon at night, I was only able to locate a few nice bull elk, one that would score around 370". I also saw 6 bears in all different colors and one big cougar, but was not able to locate many deer. On the way back out to the truck around 9:30 in the morning I spotted a monster buck drinking water at a small spring with another smaller buck and was able to take a few pictures and admire this amazing creature for a couple of minutes before they made their way into the thick timber. I could not believe I had spotted the buck of my dreams out on a open hillside in the mid-morning when the temperature was already 86 degrees. This is when my obsession began. After five more scouting trips, many hours of driving to the unit, miles of backpacking, hours of glassing and being able to take many more photos of this magnificent buck, I was able to learn the patterns and the area the buck lived in. Archery season opened September 1st so I packed in 3 days before the season opened in hopes of being able to relocate the buck before opening morning.
The moon was full and the days were hot. After 8 days trying to locate the buck, I was never able too. I even had some great friends and awesome hunting partners that were able to join me for 4 days of the hunt to try to help locate the buck. By this time I was out of food and water, so I made my way back out to the truck to resupply for another week. That evening after making the long journey back into camp the weather finally began to change, high winds blew a cold and rainy storm in overnight and that's all it took. The big buck finally showed himself that next morning, he had been in the same location the entire time but was only moving at night. The terrain was very vertical and rugged and both times I was able to locate the buck. He was only 600 yards across the canyon but to get into archery range it would take 2-3 hours. So after a total of 15 days of hunting I was only able to get in archery range twice, once at 45 yards and once at 23 yards but was never able to harvest this amazing animal.
The rifle season started 3 weeks after the archery season, so I called a good friend and asked him if he wanted the chance to kill the buck-of-a-lifetime. The weather was perfect cold, snowy and the bucks were starting to rut. I scouted the week before the rifle season opened and watched two bucks fighting and chasing does, it was only 10 degrees and about 10" of snow and all the springs were frozen solid so I was having to melt snow for drinking and cooking. When we arrived for the hunt the weather had warmed up just enough to melt the springs for our water supply, it was still great weather for the hunt, 30-40 degrees with rain and snow mixed. We got camp set that night and were ready and willing for the hunt the next morning, just hoping the big buck was still around. We woke up to thick fog and rain so we decided to wait it out and let the fog lift. After about one hour we were finally able to start hunting. Right away we spotted the big buck chasing three does at only 250 yards, but after three missed shots we never were able to locate the buck again. This is when I decided to name him "The Devil Buck" for all the hardships he had put me through. The 2010 hunting season was approaching fast and after 8 years of accumulating deer points I decided to switch to the rifle season for a better chance at harvesting The Devil Buck or maybe finally being able to draw a late season rut tag. So after many scouting trips, hours of glassing through the summer months and into the following hunting season, I still was never able to locate The Devil Buck. At this point I was starting to wonder if the buck may have been killed by a cougar during the winter months or maybe by another hunter or just moved into a new area.
The 2010 rifle hunt had began and the weather was great, 20-30 degrees with clear skies and a full moon. After 8 days of hunting and seeing a lot of elk, 3 bears and 9 different bucks (including a couple bucks that would score around 170"), it finally came down to the last day of the hunt and I still was never able to locate The Devil Buck. It was 8 am when I spotted a buck chasing a doe and after one look I couldn't pass him up, no it wasn't the buck I had been looking for but it was a good quality buck. He finally presented me opportunity at 585 yards and after one shot from 300 Weatherby with 180 grain Barnes bullet the buck was down. This is when I knew that the work had just began. After over a one hour hike, I finally got to put my hands on this beautiful buck. After taking many pictures, preparing the meat and the cape, I loaded up my buck with a smile on my face and was ready for a long pack out, knowing I would not be able to reach the truck before dark. That night I was able to contact a good friend of mine who was willing to meet me in the morning with his amazing mountain horse and ride in to get the meat. I was very happy with the buck I had shot. He was only 25" wide but had 43" of mass and scored 183", he will definitely look good on the wall at home. Every day I look at pictures of The Devil Buck and just wonder if he will ever show back up one day and give me another chase.
I would like to thank Chuck and Nancy Onley, Ken Allen, Darren Scoggin, Bryan Trudeau for all their time and efforts in helping me try to harvest a buck-of-a-lifetime. Also would like to thank Clell Onley for helping me go back in and retrieve the meat with his amazing horses. The Devil Buck was a 6x6 with no eye guards, on his left G3 he had a 12" inline, on the front of both main beams were forked 3" and a 3" kicker on his right G3, outside width around 28-30" we rough scored him around 200"-210" not too bad for Washington.