Last Minute Muley
by Thomas Grill
Due to work obligations, I was allotted very little down time this past hunting season. It was already the middle of Wyoming’s deer rifle season, and I was chomping at the bit to get a chance to go hunting. With a few open days in my schedule, near the end of the season, I packed my truck and headed into the mountains. It was roughly a two-hour drive from my house to one of my favorite hunting areas. About midway into my adventure, I stopped at a parcel of public land just to throw a little lead down range and make sure the rifle was still sighted in. This hunting season was particularly special, as I was using a rifle passed down to me from one of my greatest childhood hunting mentors who passed away the previous year. The presence of the firearm made it impossible not to reminisce some of our adventures. This particular rifle was a Remington model 760 from the early 1970s, chambered in 30.06 Springfield and topped off with an old Tasco scope. The bluing on the barrel and receiver is heavily faded, and the wooden buttstock has its fair share of scratches. However, to me, what really makes this gun so unique and special is a cigarette burn mark engraved in the glaze of the wooden pump’s stock. This burn mark was created when he was on a hunt, holding the rifle with a cigarette in his hand. Unknowingly to him, it slightly melted the clear varnish of the pump’s stock. After squeezing a few shots off onto paper, I was ready to hunt and back on the road.
I pulled into my hunting spot a little after noon, and immediately started to prep my gear for the hunt. A few moments into doing so, another vehicle with a pair of hunters showed up. As they appeared to be hunting the area for the first time, I gave them a little advice on how to hunt the area and the direction I was going, so that we would not interfere each other hunts. It wasn’t long afterwards when I heard the sounds of their rifles screaming in the distance. I couldn’t help but grin with happiness for them as I worked my way toward my evening hunting spot.
For the most part, the hunting seemed slow. It was unseasonably warm for October and the heat appeared to hinder the movement of deer. I sat on a hill where I was capable of glassing miles of ground littered by sage and oak brush. A few hours into glassing, deer started to emerge in the distance, though none of them really appeared to impress me. Primarily, all I was seeing were small clusters of a does with the occasional young buck. I wanted something a little more mature, even though I didn’t have much time to be picky. With about 45-minutes left of legal hunting light remaining, I began working the two-miles back toward my truck, hoping to bump a worthy buck on the way.
Quickly covering ground, I kept seeing outlines of deer all around me in the fading light. Still, none of them were up to my standard. A glance at my watch reminded me that, with only 15-minutes left in my hunt, my shooting light was dissipating fast. Just when my hunt seemed over, I spotted another deer in a break between sage bushes. Ranging him quickly with my rangefinder, I found him broadside at exactly 250-yards. Another quick glance at my watch ensured I still had a few minutes left of legal shooting light. Quickly, I nestled the rifle onto my shooting sticks. Although light was limited, the deer glowed in that old Tasco scope. With maybe two-minutes left to spare in my days hunt, I touched off the trigger. I was rewarded when I heard the loud thwack of 180-grains of hot lead on mass echoing through the air. The buck didn’t take a single step and crumbled in his tracks. Being strapped for time, I didn’t get much of a chance to field judge him before the shot, but as I approached him, I was completely consumed with both happiness and humbleness. For me, the best part of this hunt was being able to honor one of my former hunting mentor’s memories that continue to live on through the use of his personal rifle.