Remembering a 1972 huntForty years ago this week we were deer hunting in the Little Missouri River Grasslands north of Marmath, N.D. Jake and I were on the hunt, and the late Roy Wentz, who worked on the railroad with Jake. And that year my friend Ken Ball and his father came out from Columbus, Ohio for his first and only western hunt. (Ken and I both served with 1st Marine Division, 1st Recon Bn., “B” Co., 1st platoon. We still keep in touch by letter and phone.)
By: Bernie Kuntz, The Jamestown Sun
Forty years ago this week we were deer hunting in the Little Missouri River Grasslands north of Marmath, N.D. Jake and I were on the hunt, and the late Roy Wentz, who worked on the railroad with Jake. And that year my friend Ken Ball and his father came out from Columbus, Ohio for his first and only western hunt. (Ken and I both served with 1st Marine Division, 1st Recon Bn., “B” Co., 1st platoon. We still keep in touch by letter and phone.)
This hunt occurred a couple years before I began writing this column, so all that follows comes from memory. We hunted Bacon Creek and Indian Creek, and I remember hearing a rifle shot and walking over a hill and seeing Roy with a fine whitetail buck that he killed with his .270. He had the head mounted and I admired it in his home many times when I visited him every time I came back to Jamestown.
What I remember best was the day Jake and I were hunting somewhere west of the county road and east of the Little Missouri River. I was walking on a greasewood flat near an exposed coal vein, and Jake was 500 yards east of me when I saw a pair of mule deer bounding toward us almost a mile distant. I quickly sat down and found the deer in my binocular. One was a modest buck — maybe 3 X 3 — but the other was the biggest mule deer buck I had ever seen.
I glanced toward Jake, and he too had seen the deer and had sat down. I waited, watching the deer bounding toward us, closer and closer, but never stopping. They moved at the typical mule deer stot — a bouncing, leaping gait. I got ready with the custom .280 Rem. that I still own today.
A year earlier and just before my discharge, I had been on the Marine Corps rifle team at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and if I may say so, I was a very good rifleman. I picked up the buck in the 4X Redfield … the deer did not stop a single time … and when I was convinced it would get no closer at about 250 yards, I swung ahead of the buck about three feet and touched off a shot. I missed, but with the buck running in three feet of golden grass, I could not see the bullet’s impact. I swung and fired again. No reaction. The buck disappeared into a deep wash between Jake and me. Jake scrambled to the edge of the wash, saw the buck standing at about 100 yards, raised his .280 Rem. Model 740, which wouldn’t group in a soup bowl at 100 yards, and killed it with one shot!
I was astonished that I had missed it, and still don’t know to this day if I shot over, under, in front of, or behind the buck.
“Look for another bullet hole in that buck,” I said as I converged on Jake and the buck.
“Get out of here!” Jake laughed. There was no other bullet hole. I had missed.
I remember field-dressing the deer, and carrying half of it on my shoulders back to the road while Jake packed my rifle. I returned and packed out the other half. My feet hurt for a week afterward.
The buck scored 169-3/8s Boone & Crockett points and has a 32-1/2” outside spread. Jake had the mounted head in his den until his death last year. The cape was looking a little ratty so I turned it in to Monte Hoggarth in Jamestown and had it remounted, using a North Dakota mule deer cape supplied by my friend Major Larry Johnson, U.S.M.C. The splendid mount returned the buck to its full glory, and it is now displayed in my trophy room.
Years later I happened to be in the Marmath country and took a hike to see if I could locate exactly where Jake had taken the big mule deer buck. I found an exposed coal vein near a greasewood flat and wanted to believe that I found the spot but I simply couldn’t be sure.
Bernie Kuntz, a Jamestown native, has been an Outdoors columnist for the Sun since 1974