by Travis Bix, Sr.
This hunt started like all of the others in the past 25 years. I was thrilled to have a tag, the anticipation, the planning, and seeing my office in the rear view mirror. The size of the animal has always been secondary because I am one of the fortunate ones that have an awesome family and I enjoy my time with all of them. The anticipation and planning had really nothing to do with finding a great deer but rather spending four days at camp with these people and what we will be eating. I do hunt hard and have always wanted a nice deer but I never let it be my only focus of my time out there if it didn’t work out. As most dads, I have more fun taking my son and daughter out on their hunts and watching them get better and better over the years. I remember not so long ago telling my son to stop throwing rocks and making so much noise and now he is a better hunter then I’ll ever be. Man…it goes so fast.
This time however, it worked out. Friday morning we split up in different directions to hopefully have success and/or go over our notes after the morning hunt. Early that morning, my brother Dan, owner of Rockin Double B Outfitters and Bix’s Butcher Shop in Flagstaff spotted a nice buck and said very smoothly “I’m going up there to kill that buck”. Forty five minutes later, he did just that. He was done and he couldn’t have been happier because he used his new gun and it’s been a while since we had drawn deer tags. My nephew Justin (who is Dan’s ace guide with Rockin Double B) and his 1st and 2nd grade girls climbed up the mountain and helped Dan bring his deer to the truck. Having Dan finished early was a great thing for many of us. I decided to head off in a different direction up this nasty, rocky, cactus and cat clawed steep mountain to find me a deer. I’d walk and glass but to be honest the glassing was just a way for me to rest but it looked good to the group below. I eventually made it to the top and really started glassing but no deer spotted. The boys below radioed telling me that Justin and my son, Travis Jr.(with one arm in a sling from separating his shoulder in wrestling practice two nights previous) were on their way up to help. Because that mountain was rough, I figured they would be awhile and I would have time to sit glass and catch my breath for a while. Wrong – they were there in minutes. Oh well, I was once young and in shape too. We did not find any bucks that morning or that afternoon so Friday was over.
Saturday, Justin took us all up to another spot where he had success in the past. My other brother Troy and I set off together and we most likely pushed some deer out while we were laughing about one thing or another but really we didn’t care because we treasure these times together. Eventually, I did spot a buck below me and I motioned to Troy that there was a buck in front of us. He watched me and tried follow my line of sight to see the deer but he was looking up and the deer was below. A Better brother would have helped him more to find the deer but…..As it turned out, karma got me and I missed the deer but we both got off a few shots, high fived and laughed all the way back.
Justin had a couple of friends in camp as well. One guy showed up with his first deer ever and he was pretty excited about it. Here’s where Dan finishing early starts to come into play. Big Dan the butcher man got to work and had the deer skinned and hanging before a beer could be finished. Saturday night we had more family coming into camp and the party was on. As I added the shrimp and scallops to the pan, I looked out and saw so many great people and thought how lucky I am. This is really the reason I love to hunt.
Sunday morning came very quickly. I really was satisfied with the trip as it was and thought that I may just go on back to bed then slowly pack up and make breakfast. So glad I didn’t. Dan, Justin and Trav Jr. were up early ready to help me one more time. We headed back to same place as Friday morning where Dan got his buck and I was a little concerned because we didn’t see much else but Justin knew of two large bucks in the area and in January my son just missed a big one with his bow and after the deer Justin guided my son on a couple of years ago, (insert link to Trav’s deer story here) I was happy to go with his instincts. We got out of the trucks and waited for some light while we set up to glass. Just sitting and glassing didn’t sound so bad. However, Justin said to me “let’s go up”. My first thought was “oh nay nay, I’m tired and that mountain hurt me last time.” They were all looking at me so what could I say? Off we went.
We had another great guy with us named Rick. Rick is the stepfather of Justin’s girlfriend. Rick went one way and Justin and I went another. We spent a few hours walking and glassing with only a couple doe at first then he spotted more does and then even more does but we could not find any bucks. We decided to split up and use our phones if we see anything as we slowly made our way back. I was already contemplating bacon or sausage when my phone rang. It was Justin telling me to drop my pack, grab my shooting sticks and run over to where he was because he was looking at a “toad”. Well, I had a couple of issues with his request. One, I’m not leaving my backpack because I’ll never find it and Run up and around the hill where he was? Again, nay nay. At best, I will limit the number rest stops while I walk but running was pretty much out of the question. Soon, he called back and said take it easy because the buck just bedded. I acted like I was breathing hard so not to disappoint him and made my way to where I thought he was. After some tense phone calls with limited service, we finally met up and Rick was on his way as well.
Justin said that there was a large buck and a small buck. I was to shoot the large one and Rick the small one. In my head, I questioned Justin’s judgment with the whole future father in law thing but kept it to myself. At first, I could not find the deer. He was well under a tree and a long, long way away so I needed to see it through Justin’s binos. Once I saw this deer, my casual attitude on deer hunting changed in an instant. I really wanted this deer. I would have been happy with a smaller deer but I really wanted this deer once I saw his rack shine in the sun. Dan let me barrow his shooting sticks and I tried to get set up and get calm but I struggled with that. This deer was far and I questioned Justin about the shooting from this distance and he pretty much said just do it and quit acting like a nervous little girl. So, I shot and I missed. The deer ran toward us then back and stopped. My gun was jammed and I could not open the bolt. Awesome I thought. I told Rick to shoot it because I didn’t want it to get away and as he was finding it in his scope, my bolt finally came open and I ran another 7mm in. After a shot or two from Rick, the deer was still not hit and I shot again and Justin said “you got him”. I was shaking and so adrenalin filled that I just went numb for a while. The deer went down but his head was up and I did not want it to suffer so I kept shooting until Justin yelled “night night – big buck down”. It’s unbelievable how cool and calm you think you are or can be until moments like these. I couldn’t wait to go see it. As we got close to the deer, Justin of course was already 50 yards in front and grabbed the horns with more yelling and excitement. I couldn’t believe it because I’m not the brother who gets the big animal; Troy, Dan and my Son get the big ones. I guess it was finally my turn and these guys were all sincerely excited for me. I did say a little prayer of thanks and sure wished Stan was there.
I’m not saying this was the best part but I sure liked it….Justin gutted the deer and with mule tape, made a backpack out the deer carcass and carried up and over some nasty country which including a nasty fall all the way to the truck. I did get one little blood spot on my hand but I felt I shouldn’t complain. Earlier in the day, Justin’s other friends, a husband and wife team, who are nicest people you could meet, both shot nice deer as well and Big Dan was at it again with three more deer. I’m looking forward to the chorizo and other sausages from Bix’s Butcher Shop!
This was one of the best hunting trips I’ve been on. Not so much due to the deer that I was lucky to get but being with all of the family that help me get it. Over the many years, my brothers have taught me a lot about hunting and my parents taught me to listen to people who know what they are doing. Thanks, Justin!