Meet Mr. Hobb’s

Posted on May 13, 2015

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Among the vast, arid landscape of the Arizona Strip plateau, three hunters work in unison to take one of the greatest giants to come from the region.

By Dr. Todd Geiler

It was the opening day of the Arizona Strip archery hunt for 2013. We awoke to the sound of rain. It rained and the wind blew, and it rained some more. Plan A quickly became Plan B as our summer archery tactics shifted into late-season rifle tactics, “spot ‘em and stalk ‘em.” Other hunters pressuring the animals forced us to change our plans as well.

Preseason scouting had located two really good bucks, but they didn’t like the attention they received from other hunters and, as a result, another change of plans forcing more tough adjustments. Due to the unexpected weather and additional hunters pressuring the animals, we found ourselves glassing completely different pieces of country on opening morning.

You bet we found bucks that first day. We found one buck that had great character; he wouldn’t score well but looked awesome with a very cool palmated rack. Hunting the Arizona Strip is all about adjustments and persistence. I was hunting with my long-time friend Matt Schimberg, owner of Arizona Strip Buck’s. Somehow the stars had aligned, and I was fortunate enough to have drawn a 2013 Arizona Strip archery deer tag.

Lots of Glassing, Searching

Day two started with a long walk in the dark to a different area. Daylight found us glassing a new piece of country for more trophy bucks in Matt Schimberg’s big-buck inventory. It was a long day and, as evening closed, we saw several nice bucks but not of the caliber we were looking for.

Day three found us in the high desert looking for the two monster bucks spotted during preseason scouting. The other hunters had pulled off for greener pastures that day as we slipped into our glassing spots, quietly searching for an antler or an ear. We saw several nice bucks throughout the day but not the primary bucks haunting Matt’s mind.

Day 4 started the same as day 3; we were welcomed by rain and no deer. We were still glassing the desert country from multiple locations. The inclement weather continued and at noon we packed it into camp for a “board meeting.” We decided our hunt for the two shooter bucks was ruined the first day. The country was too open, there were too many people, and there was too much pressure for the big bucks to tolerate. It was time for another adjustment and Plan C.

That evening we were in a different location and found a buck named the “Picket Buck.” We had already glassed him on the first day. He was young but sported an impressive rack and we watched, hoping he would move into a position affording me a plausible stalk. Once again, though, we were cursed by people hiking through our hunt. The next morning was day six: the sink or swim day. The result was plan D: move and adjust.

Moving Camp

We loaded up our camp — lock, stock, and barrel. We went north until we were away from people and tire tracks. The heavy rains had erased all sign, both four legged and two legged. Thursday morning we awoke to something very different. We were all alone. Our camp had been reduced to Matt Schimberg, Jeff Rowe and I. We were all deer fanatics and borderline certifiable in our cause. For the past seven days, we had hunted, bird dogged, and sat behind our optics for hours on end. Rain or shine, hot or cold, we’d hunted throughout the day and collapsed into our beds after dinner.

Experiencing a hunt with Matt Schimberg, one learns he’s resourceful, has multiple plans, and a very deep inventory of great bucks. Those assets came into play the morning of the eighth day. We “old guys” let “young Jeff” hike up another hill in the dark. Matt and I drove around to a different glassing spot and were sitting on the hillside before first light.

As the day dawned, we were greeted with a cool morning and a sunrise God himself painted. We said a quiet prayer and hoped we would see the type of buck we were after. At 5:15, Matt spotted two deer about 2 miles away. The small one was no slouch but the front one was a big-bodied mature deer. Exciting us even more was the fact we could see the faint outline of antlers. Topping it all off, there was not another soul around. We made our move to the area where the bucks were last seen.

Matt knew the habitat well, and we began a slow methodical search for the two bucks. We looked and glassed every brush-choked pocket and canyon. After seven full hours of searching, hiking, glassing, and sweating in the 95-degree heat, our persistence paid off. At 2:00 p.m., Matt, Jeff and I ate a bite of lunch. As is often the case when hunting, Matt happened to look at the right spot as our buck got up from his bed, stretched, and grazed before he re-bedded. Schimberg came unglued.

Stalk Is On

A plan was quickly formulated. It took nearly two hours for Matt and me to stalk into the buck’s bedroom. We were in a good shooting position as we stood on the 60-plus-degree slope. What occurred next, no one could have anticipated. Watching from below, Jeff got Matt’s attention. Our buck unexpectedly got up and began feeding directly towards us. Our stress level went off the Richter Scale.

We readied ourselves and almost immediately saw the tops of the big buck’s tines as he fed directly into our laps. I drew my bow but it seemed like an eternity until he cleared the last brush screen 30 yards away. At this point, he turned to his immediate right and began walking directly towards me.

As I held at full draw, he continued to walk towards me holding his head low, covering his chest and not offering a shot. I remained focused on his vitals. A bird flew on the buck’s downhill side, causing him to glance to his left. With his head turned, my top pin glued on his vitals, I touched off my release. Everything exploded at the shot, including me. I instantly realized I’d shot my “30-pin” way much too close and the arrow hit high, resulting in a non-lethal shot. I was sick as I watched the wounded buck make his way 1,100 yards into a small canyon. We decided to let him have the evening to settle down, and we backed out of the country. It was a very long and sleepless night.

The Follow-Up

The next morning we were on his trail early — tracking was slow, very methodical, and without any blood. It took just over 7 hours to sort out the trail and figure where our buck had finally bedded.

After a quick sandwich and water, we went to a known glassing point. The three of us were glassing for less than 3 minutes before Jeff sounded off he had the buck located. Matt and I left Jeff in position to glass while we hiked around to a spot where we were able to make our next move on the bedded buck. We stalked to within 80 yards over the course of 3 hours, but the buck was bedded in an impossible position. Further complicating matters, the wind became erratic and we had to back out and wait. Sunset came and went. In the dark, we headed back to camp where I spent a second night listening to my hunting partners sleep.

The morning of August 31st found us slowly driving into the country before dawn. We checked a small water source as we progressed along the trail but found no sign of the buck. We drove further and enjoyed yet another amazing sunrise. We parked and hiked into the same glassing location from the previous evening. To our dismay, the buck was not where we had left him the night before.

After a quick plan, Jeff remained in position glassing two small canyons as Matt and I quickly circled around to a small feeder canyon from the east. We dropped our packs and slowly began our stalk into the small canyon. We eased quietly into the canyon glassing along the way when a rock rolled on the opposite slope. We spotted our large-bodied buck, totally unaware of our presence, limping up and out of the canyon. We were caught with no cover around us. I began preparing for a shot as Matt confirmed this was our animal and ranged a distance of 88 yards. I quickly figured my hold-over for a lethal shot.

Final Shot

As the buck cleared the last clump of Bitterbrush, I was ready at full draw and Matt bawled like a calf. The buck stopped, quartering away, and I held on a small red rock near 6 inches over his offside shoulder. The release of the arrow was perfect, and I actually heard myself say out loud “X-ring!” while the arrow was in flight. In slow motion, I watched my arrow fly true and strike the quartering buck, angling forward through the vitals. He only went 28 yards and our odyssey was finally over.

Matt, Jeff and I walked up on this buck together like the team we had become, searching for, stalking, and ultimately harvesting this buck. We were all blown away by the unbelievable sight of the massive animal. We were near speechless. We knew the buck was big but it really hit me when Matt said, “Todd, we just killed a Strip giant!” In all honesty, the three of us had to sit down and just stare at this magnificent creature. He was awesome in every regard.

As we each examined the antlers from various angles, it was amazing the different views that we were able to bring to one another’s attention. After a few minutes went by, the three of us went nuts. Three men bonded together by an experience dreamed of by many but experienced by very, very few. The buck named “Mr. Hobb’s” is a trophy of lifetime. To take such a trophy with archery equipment is an unbelievable feat. He has a 7-point-by-8 point frame and his mass measurements are over 47 inches. Unbelievably, he has a 230-inch gross score that far exceeds all expectations I ever held or thought to dream of for this hunt.

Matt Schimberg is the consummate professional. He’s a mule deer fanatic with great hunting skill. I want to thank Matt for the hunt of a lifetime but, more importantly, I want to express my sincere appreciation for being a true friend. A word of thanks also goes out to Jeff Rowe for climbing those hills day after day and never complaining about any request we made of him. Both are team players and a pleasure to hunt with.  Danny Lee of Artist’s Touch Taxidermy has preserved the velvet, and I look forward to the completion of his excellent craftsmanship.

All of this would not have been possible without the understanding of my loving wife Leisa. She makes every morning worth waking up for. I want to thank my Dad for taking me to the woods, his patience, and for teaching me how to hunt. Mom, you’re appreciated for putting up with all of our antics over the years. Hunting is about family, and we’re a tight-knit fraternity of like-minded people whom God has graced with magnificent animals like the mule deer. I will continue to be humbled by this experience, especially each year on August 31st.

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