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One Percent

By Kendal Cain
NV, Mule Deer

Every year since I was 10 years old, it started out the same, “Unsuccessful” draw results, which didn’t really surprise me because I was a non-resident putting in for top units for Nevada mule deer hunts. I had been dreaming up a new custom-built rifle. My wife, on the other hand, was tired of hearing about it all the time, so in agreement, she said, “When you draw a special hunt, you can get whatever you want,” knowing I was years out from any chance. However, all my luck turned around.

It was a hot week in May, and my wife, Cayley, had just given birth to our first child, a beautiful little girl named Jacklynn. At this point, I had my mind on my family and forgot about draw results until Friday morning when my dad called and revealed to me that he had no success in the drawing. He told me to only call him back if I had drawn a tag. I asked my wife if she would pull up her email and check to see if I got lucky this year. As she looked at her phone, she had a little smirk and tossed it to me. I couldn’t believe mule deer said “Successful!” I think she was more shocked than I was knowing the deal she had made. I had less than a 1% chance of drawing this tag.

With much excitement, the planning began. One of my first phone calls was to Robert Hanneman at Huntin’ Fool to try to get as much info on my unit as I could. I was put in contact with other members who had drawn this tag in the past. Everyone I spoke to had harvested within three days and had 170"+ bucks. I couldn’t believe that I was going to get my chance at a big Nevada mulie with my new custom rifle and Huskemaw scope.

By the time August came around, I could hardly wait. A couple buddies, my dad, and I made the 16-hour drive to go see my unit for the first time. With my maps in my hand marked from all the research, we started to search and drive every road, learning the lay of the land and finding remarkable glassing spots. We didn’t see much more than antelope and elk, but we knew that this area was a migratory route for big bucks come winter.

Finally, it was December. We had two trucks heading to Montello, a lot of gear, my good friends, Trent, Jeff, and Tom, and my dad, Frank. I said my goodbyes to my wife and daughter at 11:00 p.m. as we headed out, knowing it may be after Christmas before I got to see them again. A day later, with snowstorms the whole drive, we arrived. We unloaded the trucks and got the one hotel room ready for five guys to stay in for three weeks. Other hunters were appearing back at the motel, giving me the report that not much was turning up in the unit.

On day one of my hunt, we woke up to three degrees and clear skies. We decided to go up a canyon in the middle of my unit. We saw some scattered deer with a few small bucks chasing does. Two hours into the day, the fog set in so bad that we couldn’t see more than 100 feet. We decided to head to lower ground. We started to see more deer and some 140" to 150" bucks but nothing worth trying to make a stalk on.

We woke up to a blizzard and 40 mph winds on day two. We decided to get out our side-by-sides to see if we could make it up high one more time before the snow and fog really set in. We glassed for a bit and saw one smaller buck, six bull elk, and a couple does, but nothing to get excited about. It wasn’t long into the day when the fog set in again and we had to move. We decided to drive to a certain spot my dad really wanted to check out in the unit. As we were driving in the side-by-side, Jeff spotted a doe, so we stopped to glass. Pretty soon, my dad turned up a nice buck 900 yards away. The wind was shaking our spotting scopes so hard I couldn’t get a clear look at the buck. We made a game plan to sneak around a big rock, blocking the wind and getting us a little bit closer to get a better look. We snuck into position. To our surprise, the deer were gone. We had made a fantastic stalk. The wind was in our favor, and we had plenty of cover. We just couldn’t figure out why they had left. We followed the tracks to the top of the ridge, and that’s when we saw the big 4-point, a 3-point, and 10 does. We lay atop the ridge, looking at the 170" 4-point buck. I was undecided on what to do. My dad looked at me and said, “I know we can find better.” I trusted my dad.

We backed out 20 feet, trying not to spook the deer, and stopped to glass at further ridges. We spotted a nice 4-point that I wanted a closer look at. As we made our stalk, we crested the next ridge with more deer than I’d ever seen. They were everywhere, and we were stuck. The 4-point was at 650 yards. We all judged the buck to be a 180" 4-point. I told the guys that that was the buck I was here for. We decided to back out a little bit, sneak around this knob, and get above the buck.

As we made it around, my dad was in front of me. I grabbed his shoulder and said to get down as there were two bucks 120 yards below us. It seemed like no matter where we went there were deer. When I saw the 3-point below us, I was in shock. I had never seen a buck that big in my life. He had mass like pop cans and was 30" wide and probably 24" tall, just a brute. It was so hard not to pull the trigger. We decided to back out even higher on the ridge so we could judge all the bucks and I could make a decision. When we were moving locations, Trent and I were watching down the canyon and Tom and my dad were watching up the canyon, careful not to miss any bucks.

Soon after, my dad said, “Kendal, get over here and kill this buck.”

I knew it had to be a toad for my dad to say that. When I got positioned, I couldn’t tell exactly what the buck was; I just knew he had a big main frame and a lot of mass. The buck was on the run with four does. Trent named off 395 yards, and I turned my Huskemaw to 400 yards. The buck was about to exit the drainage, and my dad said it was now or never. With a quartering away shot, I let my 6.5x284 bark. With just a slight hump on the buck, we were unsure if I had hit him.

With a long, pure, silent walk to where the buck had been, no one said a word. My nerves were apparent. When we reached the spot, there was no hair and no blood, just tracks. We followed the tracks about 25 feet and saw a speck of blood. Soon, it looked like a spray paint can had gone off. After another 50 feet and only the second day into my hunt, the cheers, congratulations, and emotions started to unfold. I called my wife and told her my dream buck was down. He was 26" wide with deep forks, eyeguards, and a kicker point off each side. My buck had 5 1/2" bases, and his mass carried out all the way. He scored around 180".

I couldn’t have done this hunt without the love and patience of my beautiful wife and my daughter, the help of my friends, Tom, Trent, and Jeff, and my dad who got me into the love of hunting, and Huntin’ Fool who gave me great information. I’m so happy to have started on the points system for multiple states, with some great hunting still to come in my future. I’m also happy to pass on the tradition with my wife and daughter.

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