Tagging Tippy

The chase began this last winter, February 20th, when I was shed hunting on our place north of Milesville, SD. I had been walking all day, glassing mule deer holding tight while the whitetail were sporting one or no antlers at all. It’s this time of year where I find bucks that survived the winter and are starting to move a little more with the snow melting away – this was the first time I saw “Tippy”.

No, I don’t always name deer, but instances where the deer displays a distinct trait or character, his nick name was in line. I took a picture of “Tippy” on this brisk February day with another non-typical buck, both of which I had never seen before – not through glass nor trailcam. At the time, both of his main beams had tipped down and he had two stickers off his back right fork. I walked on by, back to the farm, and knew that this deer would be a shooter in 7 months.

Fast forward to October 1st, the first day I went out with my stick and string looking for the deer I was thinking of all summer – “Tippy”. I planned to mainly glass and stay on higher ground to watch the deer come out to feed in our sunflowers and corn, but plans changed immediately as I watched “Tippy” and four other mule deer bucks come out of the Cheyenne River breaks in a single file line. This time, only one of his antlers tipped down, and grew only one sticker, but I knew it was him. He was leading the pack, as they stopped only feet away from entering the corn and grazed on some patches of volunteer alfalfa from years past. I glassed from 300 yards away, wishing I would’ve been behind the lone cedar tree at the mouth of the small valley they came out of. I made a charge down and around in the breaks to cut them off when they were heading back down to bed for the day. As I nestled in against a dirt bank, I ranged the trail that I hope they would follow at 50 yards – I wanted to be closer. But when I stood up to move down, I watched “Tippy” turkey neck over the crest of the valley, and stare me down…this would be the closest I would get to him all season. He walked off, and as I got to the top where he spotted me, I ranged him and his whole group at 100+ yards. They jumped the fence, and I knew I would be out smarted all season by him.

Leading up to the start of West River rifle season, I spent every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday since that day watching this deer get out of range, come out of different spots, or merely stay on the neighbors’ land where he knew I couldn’t tread. 50+ hours in the blind, over 60 miles walking to and from the blind and stalking “Tippy”, and not letting one arrow fly. Disappointed yet hopeful, I woke up at 5:30 am on November 12th with a different mindset, leaving my bow in the case from the night before and slung my Ruger .223 on my shoulder and was out the door by 6:00 am.

My maximum range I wanted to fire my 62-grain bullet was 250 yards. I was confident with this rifle as others may question the caliber choice; “Tippy” was about to be the 8th deer taken down by this rifle. It wasn’t 20 minutes since I had laced up my boots and started for the breaks, when I saw “Tippy” with his nose to the grindstone chasing a doe at 223 yards exactly. Coincidence? I think not. I dropped the bipod, crawled on my belly to the edge where I could pull the trigger, and waited for my heart to calm down. Safety off. Scope at 12x power. Broadside. Breathe, squeeze, focus. The bullet left the barrel and a “whop” followed the echoing shot. He humped up and didn’t move a yard before I had another one jacked in, and followed up with a second shot before he could run down into the unforgiving breaks. I watched through the scope as he dropped right there. I smiled, sent up a “thank you” and thought of all the work I put in – it was time to tag “Tippy”. 

With stickers and split brows, he was a 7x7 with a 29.5” outside spread.

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