Haha oh boy, well, that's a long story...
Prior to last night I hadn't been on the forums since 2011, but had been in heart failure from 2010 to 2016. Ended up crashing after a broken engagement and a "screw that" family vacation to Disney World in 2015. My heart literally blew out (pulmonary, aorta, mitral valve) on the plane ride back, but in such a way where I felt like maybe I was starting to come down with pneumonia (lungs were filling up with blood). Drove down to Omaha the next day and I don't remember the next six weeks. Was in ICU for 11 weeks, situated with lol Fe support equipment to sustain me until transplant, spent a week in their cardiac floor, then seven weeks relearning how to walk at Madonna Rehab hospitals between Omaha/Lincoln. Ended up getting my transplant in 2016 - a perfect match - but I've got neuropathy and arterial blockages from being on a heart/lung bypass machine for 40 days in 2015. I'm a mess physically, take a horsepail load of meds and catch about everything that comes around, but I'm alive, thankful and blessed!
Anywho...I was back bowhunting three months after transplant, so nothing was going to stop me from hunting. It had taken me three years to draw this "West River" (the Missouri divides SD) any deer tag for a county along Wyoming and Montana where I've previously antelope hunted many years past. I nearly didn't go, because I'd already been out west twice that year (archery antelope/deer, Black Hills elk) and had been unsuccessful. Well, I booked a room at Ft. Meade in Sturgis thanks to my dad's veteran status, loaded up my Jeep and hit the road!
I got out there close to noon or so the day before to scout, and had actually brought my bow along too just in case. I was honestly ready to take whatever I could considering physically I qualify for a permit to actually shoot from my vehicle. I'm too stubborn for that. I saw a forky muley buck bedded down along a reservoir and backed my vehicle around so I could get out and stalk down to him with the bow, but I came out from the road up top at the wrong spot and the buck was already standing and looking at me. I laughed and tossed him an "as you were" and left. Lol
The next morning was pretty uneventful, not a lot to see, but you could definitely hear the occasional rifle shot. I ended up going back into Belle Fourche and then headed northwest to much more familiar country from my early antelope hunting days. Glassed up a few groups of deer, and even ran into bowhunters who were still out chasing. Never could get within range of anything except for a real nice whitetail buck my rangefinder gave me the completely wrong range on. I fired twice but he just looked around. I embarrassingly called it a night there.
Sunday saw me down along the reservoir again. The dirt paths were too muddy to get into the deep back country there, so I did the same as the day before and regrouped. It drives me nuts how many people out on these open prairie and rolling buttes just drive around public land. They don't get out and dig deep. I took what's known at "the loop" west around the back side of some vast Walk-In and BLM land and found a chunk that appeared promising, also was an area I got a tip from by a fellow South Dakota muley freak on Facebook. With Steve Rinella's words, "get off your butt and get boots on the ground" ringing in my ears, this disabled guy took a hike.
Where this section of the loop was at, the land was pretty high and sliding down little ravines to a grassy valley to the east. The little folds in the land provide great bedding areas for deer and antelope, and I stopped at a good vantage point at about a half mile. It seemed every time I stop to take a drink, I see game, and this was exactly the case. Far out to the east I could see a few white butts feeding away from me. Usually out here that means antelope, but these were bigger bodies, so I grabbed up my gear and waited til they fed into one of the rolls and then I ducked down back into a ravine and hustled 800 yards to a stock dam. I got about 600 yards in and got a better picture of what I was approaching. To this day I don't know if I actually saw an antelope with them or if my eyes were playing tricks on me, but I was disgusted thinking I'd put all this work into stalking antelope over deer...and then I saw a few big grey bodies.
Game on! At this point I was ready to take whatever legal deer was there. I was completely on my own, disabled, 400 miles from home, 30 miles from civilization and 50 miles from my heart meds! I got about 50 yards from the stock dam, and that's when I saw antlers! I crouched and crawled to the brim of the dam, placed my hunting pack down in front of me and rested my Vortex 4-12x40 topped Remington 700 .308 across the top. I saw antlers, I saw width, I saw a giant body and a thick swollen neck, and then I saw the deer were starting to get skittish. He had about four does with him and they were all getting antsy and starting to look my way. I had initially ranged him at about 280 yards, but he walked back about 20 yards as the deer bunched up. I waited for the does to clear and fired a straight on shot home.
Chaos! Deer are bouncing everywhere and I'm limping around trying to get up and get a better glimpse of my deer. You don't realize how tall the prairie grass is out here until you're in it, and I was seriously afraid I may have lost this deer. Then I saw the right side of his antlers. They were sticking above the grass by a wide 22"+ margin!
Just thinking about all of this as I type, and everything I've been through in life to get to that point - great, you've got me crying. Lol Kneeling there next to that deer, having a moment between me, that deer and God within a world record sniper rifle shot of Montana's Big Sky Country, it just doesn't compare.
What I didn't realize is that my phone had completely died on the stalk, so I had no way to take in the field pics, contact anyone for help, use GPS to get back, etc. That's a surreal, almost frightening thing. I set down my pack, quartered him up and it took me two trips with a sled over the next 20 hours to pack out the whole thing. Yes, I did go back to Spearfish for supper, looking like a mass murderer covered in deer blood of course. Lol Got up early and drove the 50 miles back out to finish the job, had everything loaded by 10:27am and home to the Sioux Falls area by 8-9pm or so.
He's a great 3x3 with an added brow on his left side, bladed G2s. Was the widest buck at my taxidermist's shop this year, too! We aged him at 4.5 years, and concluded he just didn't have the genetics to be anything better than what he was. Nothing bad with a mature cull deer, and everything that I put into getting him - you might even say the transplant and physical therapy to relearn how to walk - it's just all indescribable.