NAME: Nolan Taylor
SADDLE GEAR: Mantis Saddle, Predator Platform
This story starts in a coffee shop, over 2000 miles away from the tree I would arrow this buck from. In the slow winter months of 2021, my plans for the next season were already forming. I made a goal for myself to attain permission on private land in NW Montana. Dreams of a beautiful, early season buck on the ground, surrounded by the rockies was all I could think about. I began making trips to the local coffee shop to spend hours slamming espresso, feverishly reading ONX maps, and marking properties I expected whitetails to reside. I would then hand write letters to the landowners telling them about myself, and my desire to travel across the country to chase whitetails. After countless sessions at the coffee shop, I was left with the jitters and a stack of around 50 letters…it was time to send them out. Weeks went by and nothing…until finally the responses started rolling in. In the midst of countless “no’s”, I obtained permission on 2 different properties. After a phone “interview” with the landowners, I made the final decision on which property I would go all in on. A mix of rolling hills, ponderosa pines, birch stands and adjacent to a large tract of alfalfa fields. It was exactly what I was after.
In the spring of 2022 I made the journey from my home state of Michigan across the country to scout the property, meet the landowner and check out some national parks along the way. I spent this trip living in my truck which I have converted into a camper. After meeting with the landowner, introducing myself and expressing my deep gratitude for allowing me to hunt his land, I took off for the woods to burn some boot leather and key in on areas where I expected early season bed to feed patterns. I picked my trees, and would be back for the archery opener. Spring/summer came and went, as I found myself again, packing up, and heading westbound to spend my days living in my truck and dreaming of a rocky mountain whitetail. This time my bow was coming with. I arrived a few days early to do a speed scout and set up my home base at a nearby campground. Over the next 5 days I would spend my time hunting the morning and evening movement, and spending the mid day with the land owner helping to build his house as a thank you.
On day 5, as the early morning sun crested the mountain tops above, revealing a crisp dewy ridgetop, I noticed a group of deer making their way out of the alfalfa fields below, directly towards me. I repositioned myself in my mantis saddle to be ready for the “5 o’clock” shot the deer were approaching from. One by one they filed through, climbing the ridge towards their bedding area in a birch stand after a long night of feeding. My spring scouting had revealed this travel corridor as their best route back to their beds. The last in line was a heavy, dark antlered 11 point with a split brow. He walked almost to the base of my tree when I drew back, and ended the story with a 6 yard double lung shot. He took off and crashed within 40 yards. A wave of emotion flushed over me that I had never experienced before from hunting. Thousands of miles, endless hours and long nights in the truck had all just come to a head in a single moment at the tip of an arrow.
I quickly recovered the buck with temps in the 90s expected this day and called my dad and brother to share the news. I had done it. What was once a dream was now reality. I spent some time sitting with the buck, reflecting on this journey and how it had not only changed me as a hunter but as a man. This was my biggest buck to date and a huge confidence boost for believing in myself, setting goals, and chasing them. I’d be lying if I told you tears of joy weren’t shed that morning. The rest of the day was spent taking care of the meat, cape and readying myself for the long journey home. I don’t think I stopped smiling the whole way back!