Field and Stream - - GIANT -

FOUR YEARS AGO, IF YOU’D ASKED ME WHAT AN­I­MAL I most wanted to hunt for the first time, I would have an­swered mule deer. I can’t say why, ex­actly, other than I was just en­thralled by the an­i­mal. And it was that de­sire that trig­gered an in­vi­ta­tion to west­ern Ne­braska, cour­tesy of my bud­dies Chuck Smock and Joe Arter­burn, from Ca­bela’s. They’d been given ac­cess to hunt a cat­tle ranch near North Platte, Neb., and asked me to join them. The place was sup­posed to have lots of deer—mu­leys and white­tails— and we’d have it all to our­selves. I was in.

Also on the hunt were two of Smock and Arter­burn’s co­work­ers, Wes Rem­mer and Nathan Borowski. We ar­rived in the af­ter­noon and spent the next few hours set­ting up camp. Be­fore din­ner, we fixed drinks, and Arter­burn made a sim­ple, but fit­ting, toast: “Wel­come to Ne­braska.”

Later on, sleep came in fits. Ex­cite­ment the night be­fore a hunt you’ve been dream­ing about will do that to you.

Over the next three and a half days, though, that ex­cite­ment less­ened into just-stay-pa­tient op­ti­mism be­fore set­tling into it’s-not-gonna­hap­pen ac­cep­tance. In all, we saw one big whitetail that never gave us a shot; a dink mule deer with a doe; and one de­cent mu­ley buck that we saw twice on the first day—and I passed on, twice. We’d ar­rived with the hope of get­ting a deer for the camp, so it was a lit­tle dis­ap­point­ing to end the trip with­out one. Still, this camp was one of the best I’ve ever shared. We might have eaten our tags, but we also had our fill of fun.

Af­ter we broke down camp, I still had one more day be­fore I was due home. A friend of Arter­burn’s had of­fered to come out and hunt with me on the ranch for the rest of the day. The of­fer was thought­ful, but I de­clined. I’d re­ally en­joyed hunt­ing along­side Arter­burn, and if I was go­ing to shoot a deer here, I wanted it to hap­pen with him. Be­sides, the deer wouldn’t have been my deer; it would’ve be­longed to the camp. And now our camp was over, as was my chance at a Ne­braska buck.

Or so I thought at the time.

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