In the heat of the moment, sometimes you need to rely on precision gear and veteran instincts to capitalize on a rare opportunity.
By NAHC Trophy Life Member Herb Brusman
I’ve trapped, guided and outfitted for more than 5 decades in many of the Western states and Alaska. I’ve experienced a lifetime of adventures, but at 78 years old, I’ve slowed down a little bit!
Owning and managing a game call company enabled me to meet many guides and outfitters at outdoor shows. After many years of catering to the needs of others, I decided to treat myself to a guided mule deer hunt. As a Life Member of the NRA, I decided to book with NRA Outdoors, because part of the hunt money helps to fund NRA programs and protect our Second Amendment rights.
After a 500-mile drive to Peterson, Utah, I arrived at the R&K Hunting Company on October 28. It’s a well-run outfitter, owned by Justin Richins. The R&K operation is situated in beautiful country, surrounded by mountains and sparsely populated. Because they had overbooked clients, I hunted with one of their partners, Trophy Ridge Outfitters, on a ranch in East Canyon near Morgan, Utah. I had a great guide, Ray Parry (having been in the business, I was a good judge).
I was recovering from a knee operation, limping about with a walking stick, and not doing a great job of traversing the rough terrain. We saw several bucks (no shooters), three moose and 25 elk during the first day of our hunt.
Assessing the problem, Ray suggested we hunt the next day on another part of the ranch that wasn’t as physically challenging.
The next day, about an hour before dark, we spotted a herd of deer across the canyon. It was the pre-rut (late October); sure enough, there were three or four younger bucks trying to woo the ladies.
Tools For A Tall Task
We figured there should be at least one good buck in the area. Finally, we spotted a lone deer on the edge of the sagebrush. After focusing on the deer with a Swarovski 15X56mm binocular, we thought he would be a trophy. To confirm, we stepped up our glassing magnification to 20X with a Swarovski spotting scope. He was indeed a trophy muley buck. We ranged him at 609 yards with our Leica rangefinder, but even then we knew there were some “guesstimates” to be made.
We couldn’t get any closer because of time, distance and my disability, so we decided to make the best of it and try from our vantage point. My bad knee prevented me from shooting while sitting down. What to do with daylight fading fast? We took a hard gun case and placed it across the bed of the Polaris Ranger 4×4 ATV. I took one of the daypacks and positioned it on the makeshift platform as a rest. Shooting from a standing position would definitely be a challenge, but it looked like my best option.
I borrowed the guide’s Christensen Arms .300 Rem. Ultra Mag. and chambered a 200-grain Nosler Accupoint. The rifle was topped with a Huskemaw 5-20X50mm long-range scope, and I felt confident I could make the shot. (I borrowed the rifle because my 7mm Rem. Mag. was only sighted-in at 400 yards; with only one chance, this was my only choice.) The scope had been previously calibrated for that particular bullet, rifling twist, velocity and ballistic coefficient. Utilizing the range factor, the scope could be set to particular distances and then it was up to the shooter—me—to put the bullet where it counts.
The buck wasn’t showing any interest in the does, so we had no idea where he might end up the following day. I decided to trust in my shooting setup and take the plunge!
I zeroed-in on the buck. He had now risen and was slightly quartered away from me. I had a light, 10 mph wind (also quartering). The die was cast … now or never! I held on, took a deep breath, said a quick prayer, and gently squeezed the trigger.
The rifle was equipped with a muzzle brake, but still, the distance and recoil made it difficult to stay on target and see the bullet strike. The shot sounded good with a solid slap. I knew I had scored when Ray yelled with excitement. I centered the riflescope back on the buck and saw he was down. I was one lucky—and happy—hunter!
We got on the ATV and made for the far canyon. We had to put the headlights on to find the buck. Upon examination, we found that I had shot him through the lungs. We had another guide accompany us to locate the deer. It was all the three of us could do to load him; he was probably around 250 pounds.
When we got back to camp, we rough scored him at 185 3/8 B&C with a 31-inch inside spread. This tremendous muley was my best deer to date, and definitely my longest shot! At my age, I’ll probably never beat this hunt. And as my pappy used to say: “Be happy with what you got.”
About The Author:
After 5 years in the Navy, and following graduation from Montana State University, the author pursued a successful career with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as a biologist working with whitetails and black bears. After 3 years there, he transitioned to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a research biologist targeting new control methods for coyotes. After that, he worked as a trapper supervisor in six Western states for more than 20 years for Animal Damage Control (now Wildlife Services) to manage coyote, bear, bobcat and mountain lion depredation through trapping and shooting.
Upon retirement, he guided and outfitted hunts full time in several Western states, including Alaska. Eventually, he started his own game call manufacturing company; in particular, he developed and perfected coyote and wolf cow horn howlers (learn more at HerbsHowlers.com).
At 78 years old, the author is still actively calling coyotes, hunting and seeking new adventures.