Hunting for the elusive prairie ghost

This year started off just like any other: a lot of scouting, setting up trail cameras and glassing. I love archery hunting, but unfortunately, I was disabled a few years back in the line of duty. Thank goodness for Wyoming and my disability crossbow that allows me to continue my bowhunting passion. I have a habit of trying to be the best that I can be and to earn everything that I hunt, especially on public land. 

After a month or so of scouting and checking trail cameras, I still hadn’t located a shooter buck. About three weeks before the archery opener, I decided to move a trail camera to a heavily used water source.

Trail camera photo of the large Wyoming mule deer
After leaving it for a few days, I hiked back in to check it. What I discovered on the trail camera just about gave me a heart attack! It was one of the biggest bucks I have ever seen alive. 

I spent some time pattering this buck for a few days on trail cameras, I knew my goal was to find out where he was living. I used my prior experience hunting these "prairie ghosts" and developed a plan to begin thoroughly searching the area. 

Live photo of Owens Wyoming mule deer buck
After only a few days, I had found him and in the daylight he looked even bigger. I let him stay uninterrupted in his home as the season opener quickly approached. 

Continued below.

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On opening morning my cousin, Scott Kimberling, and I sat two miles away from this giant buck’s home and glassed using my Zeiss spotting scope. We also captured some footage on my Phone Skope. Even at over two miles away, he looked huge. We watched him and another huge buck feed on an open hillside for approximately 2 1/2 hours. 

As the sun rose over the hill, the buck retreated a mile and laid down. We carefully made a plan and decided it was now or never for us to make a stalk. We knew that a buck this size would only give you one chance at a stalk and if spooked, it would disappear! After an hour stalk where I spent most of the time crawling, I placed myself 36 yards from the other buck. 

Owen Kimberling with his crossbow Wyoming mule deer
As we waited for 45 minutes or so, I strategized what could happen and what couldn't happen. Suddenly, the larger buck exploded from behind a tree and ran out to 55 yards. I had just a split second as he turned back and looked. That was all I would need as the crossbow bolt with the 150 grain broadhead was on its way, sank into his shoulder and did its job. 

Owen Kimberling with his 2015 Wyoming mule deer taken with a crossbow
I remember jumping up and down with joy and amazement on what we had just accomplished. As we walked up he looked like an elk and I was just astonished at his size. This would be my best mule deer ever. He is a 6x6, with 7" bases and a gross score of 201 inches! This is a beast and he was well earned, especially on public land.


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