Pro Staff - Travis Leedom - 2014 High Country Mule Deer

As the 2014 archery mule deer season drew near I was driven purely on optimism. The fact that I hadn't seen an antlered buck did not take away my ultimate goal I had set earlier that year. I had set aside all other spices of hunting with one goal in mind, to successfully take a quality high country mule deer. The season began with multiple scouting trips that turned up not a single antlered deer and very mentally challenging experiences. As I loaded my gear to pack in for the opened I kept that one goal in mind and wasn't going to let anything stand in the way.

I had invited a friend to hunt that season with me and we found ourselves on our way, while I was driving my mind was racing with sought after dreams and dreams of accomplishment. We got camp set and had somewhat of a plan to execute the coming morning. As the night drew to an end we found ourselves With bow in hand, we put our feet on the ground in the moon light. As we hunted throughout the morning a thunderstorm rolled over and we found ourselves hunkered under a tree trying to escape the weather.

Just as my mind began to scramble, feeling defeated a bugle broke the air and with nothing to peruse we decided to go take a look. Not even having an elk tag in my pocket it beat sitting there. As we came to the top of the summit I had never been to I felt like there was a game changer in front of me. It wasn't five minutes that I had picked up my glasses."Deer! Deer! I couldn't believe it! That was just  the beginning of my excitement. Not only was this a deer but once I got focused on it, it was the deer I had seen thousands of times in my dreams. With deep forks and heavy mass he had it all, not only that he wasn't alone 5 more deer appeared in the corner of my binoculars! I couldn't believe it! We quickly threw on our packs as I watched the deer's head lay down. As I reached the rock pile above him I knew he was within 150 yards but I couldn't see him anymore. I slowly crept down the rocks hoping he was still bedded, continuing to range the tree he had been laying under I caught him slipping away in the timber. Feeling like I had been out witted I finally had something to believe in

Fast Forward to the opening weekend of rifle season. As we packed left the pickup the night before the opener I felt like nothing could stand in my way. My dad was joining us this weekend for the first time to the new area, excited to see this deer and area I had just discovered a month before. I felt like nothing could defeat me and I wasn't leaving without my deer. We reached the area that began to feel like a second home to me, I knew that I wasn't going to sleep that night with too much excitement. We found ourselves in the same area at day break carefully trying to put my glasses on him. Within 15 minutes I had found him feeding across the hillside. I didn't even hesitate I grabbed my pack grabbed my gun and started to climb to his level, through the buck brush and steep slope those dreams were racing through my head.

I got to the same rock pile as I had found myself the month before. I glassed but could only see his buddy he had ran with all of archery season, a smaller heavy horned buck with a grey blocky face who looked like he was in age regression. I still couldn't see my deer and realized there was a small hill in my line of sight that I couldn't see the other side of. Still hoping he hadn't hid I quickly grabbed my things and knew I needed to gain more elevation and still remain out of sight.

Once I got to the top of the mountain I crawled over the skyline and within seconds could see him just as I had imagined. Finding a spot on the steep slop to get comfortable enough to make the shot I settled in behind my gun and quickly ranged a tree where the deer was feeding near at 411 yards. Making a little adjustment to my scope I settled my cross hair on the deers shoulder. As it felt like time was standing still the crack of the gun broke the silence of the cool morning. I could see him jump and begin bounding down the mountain to a near by timber patch. "He's hit!" I kept telling myself. I eagerly picked up my mess and stuffed it in my pack and tried to regain my senses. With shaking knees I started to descend to the tree he was next to. As I approached it I could see blood and the tracks he dug into the hill side. Making my way to the timber he appeared. As I knelt next to this animal that had been in my dreams for so long I found myself lost for words and took the opportunity to appreciate him as I sat there holding his dark horns and petting my hand down his neck.

I could see my dad and partner making their way up the steep mountain and couldn't wait to share my overjoy with them. After a few high fives and a recap of the stories we began to break down the deer for the long hike back down to camp. With packs on our backs and smiles on our faces I couldn't help but thank him and relive the event that had just taken place. Looking back at the long 19 days spent on the mountain I can't even believe how it all played out and the lessons I learned throughout the season, and the unforgettable memories I was able to make. I came to realize that dreams don't come easy and to never give up on the chance they may come true.

Gear list:
Gun: Tikka t3 lite 7mm rem mag
Scope: Nikon buckmaster 6-18x44
Binoculars: Vortex viper hd 15x50
Spotting scope: Vortex razor 11-33x50
Pack: Badlands Sacrifice
Clothing: Core 4 element
Boots: Meindl Denali
Tent: Cabelas 2 person
Sleeping bag: Marmont +15
Sleeping pad: thermarest