In late July, 29-year-old Austin Land spotted something that stopped him in his tracks. While scanning an area in the pre-hunting season, Land noticed a velvet mule deer buck with an impressive rack that intrigued the hunter, even then.
And, Austin knew the magnificent animal’s spread and spectacular rack would only improve with time, growing to something even more impressive by the time the August 21 bowhunting season came around.
The longtime hunter made the decision to begin tracking the buck, which he had dubbed Gear Head, over the next few weeks. Monitoring his movements in preparation for the hunt.
No Sight Of Gear Head As Hunting Season Begins
“During the final week leading up to season opener I spent every morning and every evening glassing where we had seen Gear Head during summer,” Austin told Outdoor life in a recent interview.
However, noted the expert hunter, the last few times he tried to spot the deer prior to the beginning of the hunting season, Gear Head was nowhere to be found. Soon, Austin began to lose hope that the deer he had waited for was long gone.
“The last five times I glassed for him, I never saw the deer and started to lose hope,” noted Austin.
However, Austin hadn’t yet given up hope completely. If there’s one thing hunters know well, it’s that the sport requires quite a bit of patience.
On the first day of bowhunting season, Austin and his brother, Colton, spent the day scoping the area for Gear Head.
By evening, however, the hunters were ready to pack it in as a storm began to brew in the distance. And, that’s when they caught sight of the impressive buck.
“We put a quick game plan together looped around the deer,” said Austin. The hunters knew that it was important to ease in, stalking the buck slowly in their approach.
It took the pair about thirty-five minutes to get within fifty yards of Gear Head and another buck who was snacking on some sage, noted the hunting expert.
Waiting For the Perfect Opportunity
“We decided to sit and wait for him to move our way,” Austin continued. “Figuring he was going to come down to a stand of trees as soon as the storm hit.”
Eventually, the brothers decided to move in a little closer to Gear Head, as he was feeding on the sage. However, just as Austin was preparing to shoot, the storm rolled in, and an unexpected bolt of lightning startled the deer.
Gear Head ran off in a panic, straight towards the brothers. However, the buck caught sight of the duo and quickly turned to run towards a group of trees into which he disappeared.
The next day, Austin and Colton searched for the elusive buck, to no avail. Until, just as evening was drawing in, the hunters caught sight of the two bucks that Gear Head often hung out with. The brothers followed the bucks and decided to set up on hill overlooking the area the next morning.
However, the next day didn’t offer the hunters any more opportunities. When the spotted Gear Head, he was among the heavy brush. Each time the hunters tried to circle around, finding a shot, the buck would move his location, seizing any opportunity Land may have had to land the shot.
It would be another day for the hunters as they continued to track the buck.
Finally, after many fruitless attempts, Austin found himself facing Gear Head, just forty yeards aways with plenty of open shooting lanes available through the deer’s cover.
Man and Deer Finally Face Off
“The moment I’d practiced and waited for all summer was finally here,” the hunter recalled.
“I moved another five yards forward to put the buck in an opening, I ranged him at 35 yards,” Austin continued. But, just as he braced to make his shot, Austin stepped on a small limb, startling his game.
“Gear Head turned, looking right at me,” Austin remembered. “I froze, praying.”
His patience and dedication to the sport paid off. After man and deer faced each other in a thirty-second state-down, Gear Head finally calmed. That’s when Austin made his move.
“I drew my bow, put my sight pin on his chest, and released the arrow,” he said.
Austin saw his arrow glide towards his game, landing perfectly where he had set the sight.
The hunters knew a buck the size of Gear Head would likely take some time before he fell, so the brothers decided to wait it out. However, Austin decided to continue to keep an eye on the area towards which Gear Head had run as they waited. And, it wasn’t long before Austin caught sight of his kill.
“Suddenly spotted a tan body with a hole in the side, laying and not breathing,” Austin recalled.
For Austin, this hunt was one that will go down in the books.
“Mule deer are my passion and to be able to take such a beautiful buck is an absolute dream come true,” the hunter said. “I could do this every day of my life…God bless mule deer.”