The DeClay Buck
by Harold DeClay
Hunting was something I always wanted to do as a child. I remember my dad and brother Hansen would be up in the early morning hours when it was still dark out; camouflaged with rifles by the front door. I would ask if i could join (maybe 8 years old at the time). They would always tell me “next time.” Well, “next time” finally kicked off a few years later on a bull elk hunt with my dad and Hansen. Since then I was hooked on hunting. In high school, I killed my first Coues, a little fork buck; and soon my passion switched to Coues deer. Experienced Coues hunters warned me how hard it was to find a Coues buck without them finding you first and giving you the white flag.
January 7th 2010, a day I will never forget. We had been hunting for a week and this day was my last chance I’d be able to hunt. My brother and I loaded up the cooler and our gear. It was 5AM when we left home and another hour until we made our way to an area I had seen a few smaller bucks, just days prior. We parked the jeep and made the 1-mile hike into buck country.
Upon arriving to our destination, my brother and I dropped our packs, set up, and started planning on how we would glass the hillside across from us. Hansen and I agreed on splitting the hillside down the middle; he would take the right side and I would take the left. We glassed and glassed for hours with only a few does crossing our paths. At 10AM, I made the call to leave the area and make our way back to the jeep.
On our hike out we discussed where to go next. We agreed on taking a jeep trail down to the Black River and glass a big mountain from across a canyon. Knowing the rut is going on, I stopped every few minutes to glass the ridges, hoping to see the elusive “Grey Ghost.” We arrived at our destination around 11:30AM. While having our lunch, we went over how we would attack this mountain. Our plan was simple or was it? The plan we decided on is to separate. I would hike 600 yards down and up to the other side of the mountain to get to where we were pretty much in align with each other. We would then glass in front of each other, hoping to spot a buck this way. Then we would push forward together and down to the black river. With no radios this would be a risky move; if i cannot see Hansen waving me down letting me know there’s a buck near me. I am the only one with a rifle and a tag so I “gotta” pay extra close attention on keeping the binos on Hansen as we move forward making sure he is not signaling me down informing me there is a buck.
Plan set. I threw on my pack, my Nikon’s around my neck, and slung my .300 WSM on my shoulder; let’s go! I slowly worked my way across and down into the draw and back up the mountainside, while Hansen sat and glassed across and above me. I got to the spot we decided I’d work my way to, and then I gave a thumbs up, signaling my readiness. We slowly started walking forward. The terrain was tough to walk in, but trying to keep quiet and glass it made it that much more difficult. After walking 100 yards, we waved to each other to give a signal to start glassing the area for a bit. After 10–15 minutes we started walking again. After going 200 yards, I noticed a 60 foot drop off ahead of me. I signaled Hansen to let him know Ii would be working my way across toward him. He stopped and glassed the area above me, while I made my move down and up the draw. Roughly 15 minutes later, I see the jeep trail just ahead of me.
Now, I am exhausted, and all I’m thinking of is meeting back up with my brother to help him glass the mountainside for the rest of the day. I start walking down the jeep trail looking across from where I had just walked, in hopes of seeing movement. Thinking I should be within 50 yards from my brother, I stopped to look for him below me through the Nikon’s. He was nowhere to be seen, so I whistled out to him softly; waited a bit, and then let out another whistle. I heard a noise to my left; it’s Hansen walking toward me through the oaks. He sees me and starts pointing across the draw, puts both hands above his head to imitate antlers. I know he means that there is a buck across the canyon, so I move toward him swiftly and quietly.
Upon contact, he whispers that there is a big buck with two does across the draw about 50 yards above where I had just walked! Then he says, “every time you whistled he kept looking toward your direction so I had to come get you before they left the area.” I asked him where they were at now. He says to follow him, so I did. We moved 50 yards through the tree line and got to an open area. Hansen then describes to me where he had last seen them. We both sit down with a big rock behind us. We leaned against it and started glassing the area hard! Five minutes passed, and then I hear Hansen whisper, “Harold, right there’s a doe!” I took my eyes away from my binos and checked to see what direction he was looking, pulled my binos back up to see the doe feeding. The doe keeps looking back into the oak tree where she had come from. Hansen and I kept looking back and forth; asking each other if the other saw anything else. We looked and looked, knowing she sees activity behind her.
Another five minutes passed. Then, Hansen said, “Get the gun ready, there’s movement!” A doe came running out with a buck chasing her. Not set up for any shot, I pulled the bolt back, pushed it forward and chambered a round into the .300 WSM. Still propped against this rock i slid down a bit get my back off the rock and get my rifle up. The only shooting stance i had was sitting, without a rest. At this point, all I know is the buck is the last one on the right side. He made a quick stop and looked around. He is quartering away, and I put the crosshairs on his shoulder. Not knowing any better, I took a quick glance at the buck’s antlers through the scope to see he is a MONSTER; adrenaline rushes through my body! The buck started walking to the left and away, in pursuit of his doe. With excitement in his voice, Hansen tells me to “take the shot!”
I tried to keep my rifle from swaying, put the crosshairs on the buck, and then squeezed the trigger. BOOOM; at 3,100 fps, 150 grains of lead made its way toward the monster Coues buck! I saw a cloud of fur fly into the air, and a split second later heard the smack of the bullet hit. The bullet hit so hard that it knocked the buck in a 360 degree spin.
“YOU HIT HIM!” Hansen yells out.
I quickly loaded another round as he starts running away. BOOM; another round made its way across the ridge and knocks him down! Hansen and I put eyes on him through glass to make sure the dirt nap is permanent.
“HE’S DOWN,” I shouted out with excitement!
Hansen and I stood up and gave each other a couple well deserved high fives, and made our way to the giant Coues. As we hiked down, I heard Hansen talking, but all I can think of is the buck across on the other side of the mountain. As I approach the oak tree where the deer were, I saw fur on the ground. I looked around and saw blood. Quickly, I followed the blood trial. After just 20 yards, I saw dark brown antlers sticking up from the grass; no ground shrinkage here! I got to the buck, laid my rifle down and dropped my pack.
“What do you think he will score?” Hansen shouts out to me.
“130!” I exclaimed
When I picked up the bucks head gear for the first time, I was in shock! The mass from the buck was unbelievable. To honor the harvest, I bowed my head and thanked God for giving me the opportunity to take this buck, and also blessing me with an amazing brother who taught me how to hunt. With little hesitation, we field- dressed the buck and started our journey back home. On the drive out I told Hansen that I was glad he came with me, and if it weren’t for him I wouldn’t have taken that buck. I thought to myself that it all started by asking if I could go years ago, and now here I was hunting with my brother.
Hunting is a tradition that should be passed down to our younger generations, just like my dad and brother did to me. Special thanks to the staff at Western Whitetail for allowing me to share my hunting story. The buck’s final score was 150 1/8″ gross and 138″ net.