To start, I've gotta say that this past hunt was simply an awesome time spent with great guys! The only pressure we had was the little bit of pressure Craig and I put on ourselves to hold out for 100" class bucks. I held out for almost a full day and found a buck I wanted opening evening.
The buck was buried in thick catclaw at around 600 yards. I could see enough of him to know that he "could" hit the 100" mark but I also knew that I don't have the patience to pass any high 90's class buck on a Oct. leftover tag! The gun was set up on the tripod with the new "Loc Jaw and Rifle Railz" adaptor and I just shot a 4" group the day before at 600 yards with this setup, so I was confident with the shot. There wasn't a angle to worry about but the wind was variable and I could see it wasn't windy where the buck was but was windy where I sat. I pulled out my phone, called my dad who was on an elk hunt and told him I was getting ready to whack a buck! He knew I wanted to hold out and also knows how trigger happy I am so he told me, "Don't do it!" I laughed and told em' it was big enough and to just listen then I set the phone on a rock. There were 2 canyons between us and I decided the wind was going to be a factor so I held into it considerably and just as the buck stopped mostly broadside, the crosshairs were rock solid and level...BOOM! Craig says, "He's hit and running left!", I reload expecting to hear Craig say he's down but instead he says "maybe he's not hit"!!!! WHAT! Now I'm back on the buck and through trees I can see him just standing there then he starts walking around normally and seemingly fine! I'm frantically trying to get a good range on him but with the brush I know I'm getting wrong readings. Finally, the buck clears the brush and I get a good range, hold tight..BOOM, "To the right, the winds pushing it"!! I'm now realizing that the wind is blowing very inconsistently in the canyons between the buck and I and 2 more failed shots ring out leaving me disgusted and frustrated!!! The buck trotted down into and out of sight in the bottom after my last shot and I didn't even have to tell my dad what happened, I basically just said "I'll call ya later" and hung up. Craig and I both replayed the events and Craig swears the buck "humped" up at the first shot but then appeared completely normal. I agreed, the buck seemed perfectly fine as I missed my last 3 shots and I could see where the wind had blown my shots each time except for the first.
As we sat there replaying and discussing what just happened, 3 bucks that were bedded near my buck had gotten up. We watched them feed directly towards the trail my buck walked down. Immediately as their noses hit that trail they all stopped feeding and started sniffing around! Then, 1 by 1, they walked down the trail where my buck went and after a while they came back up and resumed feeding. We both knew that wasn't normal and I planned to be on that spot first thing the following morning.
Bryan aka "Butters" came up that night and he hiked over to the spot with me in the morning (this part is on the video). We arrived at the exact location of my last shot and I trailed the tracks back up and around and couldn't find any sign of a hit. As I stopped on his tracks back at the spot where my last shot drifted just off his right shoulder I told Bryan that i must've missed the first shot too. Just then a buck blows and busts out of the brush below us! I swing my rifle up, jack a round in, find em' in the scope and notice he's walking stiff legged. I glance at his rack and it appears similar, then look again at his back end and notice he looks humped up so with all this going on in a fraction of a second I find his shoulder..BOOOM! He piles up like a potato sack and my emotions just poured out! I had said prayers that night hoping I was able to finish this deal if i had indeed connected on the buck and my prayers were answered! My thoughts were confirmed as I walked up to him I had indeed hit him the night before with my first shot but the wind had caused a huge drift carrying the bullet almost 2 feet from where I held. There obviously was more wind then was evident and this new 7mm is way more finicky than my .300wm when it comes to wind, next time the 7mm is stayin' in camp if it's windy!
The lesson here is "Always follow up on your shots and make sure you didn't wound the animal"!!! I would've swore that buck wasn't hit, he acted completely normal, never licked himself, never walked funny, and I never noticed him humped up at all. It was great when those 3 bucks gave me that clue but I still would've gone over to double check and I'm very glad I did!
Craig did an outstanding job holding out and it almost paid off on the 5th day of the hunt when he barely missed a buck that no doubt would've hit the 100" mark. The shot was 407 yards but I forgot my inclinometer and we guessed wrong on the angle so the buck got a hair cut and an education! We didn't see the numbers of quality bucks like usual but we did still find 5-10 bucks a day so it was an awesome hunt. I still haven't taped out my buck yet other than some rough measurements, but he's right around 96-97" and is gonna look great on the wall!
And now for the rest of the story, check out the video!