Out of Retirement with a Beast Blacktail
By Cameron Hanes
“It’s nice to be on this side of the camera for a change,” said fellow blacktail fanatic Chad Montgomery after arrowing a 152-inch Oregon, Boone & Crockett freakin’ beast of a blacktail on video.
“Oh really, personally, I think it sucks,” growled Cam Hanes as he filmed Chad, glowing with success and babbling incessantly like a high school girl, while holding the heavy, beautifully symmetrical and dark antlers of his first bow kill in 7 years.
Yeah, I did say that, on film even. Truth be told, I might have even had an expletive thrown in there for good measure but of course I was joking…busting chops is SOP (standard operation procedure) among longtime bowhunting buddies so far as I am concerned. If the truth was known, I couldn’t have been happier. As much as anyone, Chad deserved to again have that special feeling of achievement after coming to the end of a heavy bloodtrail.
You see, Chad hung up his old bow after arrowing a big whitetail up in Saskatchewan as, coincidentally enough, I ran camera back in 2003. For the past 7 years since, Chad has been exclusively filming me in a quest to produce and take to market the rarest of commodity…a blacktail bowhunting video. And, I am happy to announce his dedication is close to paying off….finally, with the help of friend and editor, Shay Mann, we are tantalizing close to having Bowhunting Trophy Blacktail – The Video wrapped up. I could have already had it done as prior to Chad’s recent kill I have 12 blacktail kills on film to include in our unique release. As the financier of the project and owner of the footage I made a command decision…there would be no blacktail video put out that didn’t feature my main blacktail hunting partner, Mr. Chad Montgomery.
That brings us back to Saturday morning, Nov. 20th. Finally, the special time of year known by Oregon bowhunter’s as “The Late Season” was here. Well before sunrise, Chad and I sprayed down with Scent Killer then began our silent journey, ghosting through the inky blackness to our stands. We quietly fumbled in the dark tying off our gear; bow, backpacks and camera to the pull ropes, then ascended our “chosen” trees to the strategically placed Lone Wolf tree stands. After reaching our platforms some 25 feet in the air, our tools of the trade were pulled skyward and we settled in for day break.
This is an awesome time of the morning for me. I love being in the tree in the dark, all my gear hanging on cut branches or hooks. Normally, my bow is in my lap but for this hunt it was my Canon high def video camera. I don’t make a sound, as I sit and listen to the woods around me. Pops and cracks, leaves rustling….are those deer? Huge, thick necked, rutted up bucks? Time will tell. Sometimes I see shadows of deer moving and a couple of times I’ve watched the trail camera flash as a deer moves past it. Slowly, black turns to November grey as the woods come to life.
Chad was sitting in the same tree just below me. He’s killed many good blacktail bucks in his life, but as I mentioned, not in years. Then almost a year ago to the day something happened. It wasn't quite a religious experience, but for a blacktail hunter, it was about as close as it gets. Last year after I killed my buck we kept the cameras going just to see what else was out there. Well, what was out there the Sunday after Thanksgiving (I killed my 2009 buck on a Friday the day after T-day) was a giant blacktail. One of the largest we’d ever seen, posing in front of the camera for twenty minutes at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon on the same trail I killed my buck on just two days earlier. This is what got Chad’s hunting fire burning again. He thought, “What if I had a tag? I could have killed that buck.” At the same time I was thinking, "Why in the heck did I kill the buck I killed? I should have waited." Yeah, I had a touch a buyer's remose after seeing the photos at the monster under my stand. At that time Chad decided in 2010 he’d dust off the old bow. He was jumping back in the game. He said he’d still film me first (he did…I killed an early season 4-point in August this year), and then I’d film him.
I couldn't have my ol’ hunting buddy shooting a 10 year old PSE so I gave him one of my bows from last season, a sweet shooting Hoyt Maxxis 31 laced up with my signature red, white and blue Winner’s Choice strings, outfitted him with killer gear (one of my SDP sights from Spot-Hogg), bad ace Under Armour hunting garb, LaCrosse boots, etc….he was dialed in gear-wise to the nines and of course he did his part regarding a dedicated practice regiment. He was shooting lights out…those Easton’s were hitting straight and hard. Showtime!
Right out of the gate we had action. A few does and a spike, trying to act like a big buck, came by about a half hour after shooting light. I shot video as he lip-curled and chased does. He knew how a rutting buck was supposed to act and was giving it his all. They moved through and things quieted down again. I’d been standing the whole time so far, ready for action when it came. Another 45 minutes passed when there was a crash or branches breaking, something was happening up the hill? Chad swiveled his head around and looked up to see if I heard it? We both focused our attention in the direction of the sound, …I spun the camera’s control knob to the on position and got ready to record if something went down. I felt a surge of excitement anticipating the unknown.
A doe darted from our right to our left above us and behind her, a beast. He looked two feet tall and I wondered, "What the freakin' heck buck is this?" Chad again looked up, wide-eyed. He didn’t have to say a word, the look said it all….this was what we’d been waiting for our entire blacktail hunting lives which is closing in on 30 years now.
I found the buck in the camera and smiled. “Buck of a bloody lifetime for ol’ Chad,” I thought as I followed his sputtering chase of the hot doe. I knew Chad would get it done. He always had in the past and has a wall full of mounted big buck heads to prove it.
The buck chased the doe right past our Reconyx camera and hesitated for just a second about 15 yards away from our location. That was all it took….Chad quickly came to full draw and touched one off. The arrow slammed the big, Boone & Crockett 5x4 with thumb thick eye-guards right behind the shoulder. First blush, it looked like an absolutely perfect shot. The buck ran right underneath us and down the trail. I expected him to pile up but he veered to his left and started to circle back toward the spooked doe which was standing in front of our tree stands about 20 yards out. Amazingly, he got right back on her tail.
What?!!? I could see the blood trail on the leaves below us from my tree stand. Why was this buck not dead? I was still filming as he busted through some brush right out in front of us, herding that doe, a big gapping hole clearly visible behind his shoulder. He walked out into the clear crossing the main trail below us and I grunted to try and stop him. When he hesitated, Chad hammered him again inches from the first hole. That buck was so filled of adrenaline and raging testosterone he simply fought off a fatal chest wound and kept up with the chase. However, two fatal hits were too much for the old monarch. He crashed down the hill and laid that heavy rack down for the final time. Whew, a wave a relief washed over us.
“What the heck happened there? How was that buck not dead? It’s like he took that first hit and said, ‘Is that all you got?’”, I whispered to Chad. He too was stunned and happy, simply trying to absorb it all. I added, “And, were the heck did he come from? Was that monster dropped in our laps from heaven? Thank you God.”
Chad and I have been running cameras here for years and at one time or another have seen pretty much every buck in this country. Or so we thought. We’d never caught this guy on the trusty ol’ Reconyx. In fact we had pretty much decided that if given a chance Chad would probably shoot a real old, big bodied, 3x2 we had coming by the cameras regularly. This deer was a trophy and the best option we had…until the beast showed up running that doe down the hill. Isn’t that what makes hunting the blacktail rut so exciting? When those old bucks are rutting and roaming you gotta be ready for anything.
It happened so fast and was so intense we wondered if it was real? Did we really just kill the biggest blacktail either of us had ever laid eyes on...on film? A buck that will come in well past the 135-inch Boone & Crockett All-Time record book threshold? Amazing, rutting action, high definition film? Yes, it was real and it gets even better. The buck is even bigger than we originally thought. We were guessing him at 140 Pope & Young….we were over 10-inches off. And, filming-wise Chad was wearing a high definition head cam called a Go Pro, so we captured another unique camera angle of all that crazy action.
Chad, way to go my friend…welcome back. You've made a grand re-entrance into the game.
All you blacktail freaks, keep checking back here for information on my soon to be released video, “Bowhunting Trophy Blacktail – The Video”.
Keep hunting hard, Cam
Cameron R. Hanes