Editor’s Note: Brenda Valentine, the “First Lady of Hunting” TM – from Puryear, Tennessee, is an avid hunter who has been a Mossy Oak Pro Staff member for years. Brenda’s bowhunted for deer and in 1986, started shooting tournament archery. She’s been a fulltime professional hunter and outdoors woman since 1996.
In 2001, along with my cameraman, I was in Idaho hunting antelope. This year I also had drawn a tag to take a late-season mule deer in Montana. I took my antelope on September 11, 2001. We were staying in an old ranch house. We didn’t have a phone in the ranch house, and we didn’t have cell-phone service. So, we weren’t aware of the fact that the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had been attacked, and that a third plane had crashed, while headed toward Washington D.C. After I took my antelope, we stopped at a little creek to make pictures, and a man on a tractor came by. He stopped, pulled over and said, “Folks, have you heard that two airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center, another plane crashed into the Pentagon, and a third plane on the way to Washington D.C. crashed in a field?” I said, “Who in the world would try to blow up the World Trade Center?” After he told us some sketchy details, we jumped back into our rental car and turned on the radio. Instead of stopping at the ranch house, we went back into town. I got on a land line, called home and learned what was happening.
My cameraman and I were supposed to fly home the next day. But of course, all airports were closed, and we realized we were stuck. So, I called a friend of mine in Montana. I told him where we were, and I told him I knew we weren’t going to be able to get home for a long time. I explained that I had a late-season mule-deer tag and that we had enough gas in the rental car to get to Montana. I asked him, “Is there any way I can use my late-season tag and come out to hunt in Montana this month?” The outfitter said, “Yes. You are booked to come out here in November, but the people who were booked to hunt with me the next two weeks can’t get here because of all the airplanes crashing. Maybe they can come later, and you can take your hunt now.” He checked with the game warden to make sure that we could make that swap.
So, my cameraman and I headed to Montana for an archery hunt. I had my bow with me. When we got to Montana and got squared away, we started out on horseback looking for mule-deer bucks. We’d leave at 3:00 am from down in the valley and ride up into the mountains where we wanted to glass before daylight. Our plan was to try and see the mule deer that had fed in the valley at night and had come back up into the mountains to bed down during daylight. For the first couple of days, we saw plenty of mule deer but none within bow range. Finally, we abandoned that tactic, and we rode the woods roads and looked for mule deer anywhere we could find them on horseback.
On the way up the mountain, we spotted a small band of mule deer with a nice buck in it that were about 300 yards from where we had been riding up a trail. We stopped and hid the horses where the mule deer couldn’t see them. We asked our guide to hold the horses, while my cameraman and I tried to stalk in close enough to take the big mule-deer buck that we had seen with the herd. I took my bow and began the stalk with my cameraman close behind me. When we got within about 30 yards, I knew this was as close as we could get. I told my cameraman, “Get ready. I’m going to take the shot.” When the cameraman was ready, I rose up and let the arrow fly. The arrow flew true, and the buck only went a little way before he went down. I told the cameraman to stay with the mule deer and the camera gear, and I’d go back and get the horses.
I was riding a buckskin mare that had a lariat rope on the saddle. I put the lariat around the mule deer’s antlers, tied the other end of the rope to the saddle horn and drug the buck back to the road where we could get to him with the truck. We rode back down off the mountain, got the truck, went back up and loaded up the buck.
On this hunt, we got two TV shows. From that hunt I learned, when you go out West, you always need to have some type of backup plan if weather or some other disaster occurs that can prevent you from getting home. That way whether you have to use your disaster plan or not, you don’t lose the days that you’ve had scheduled to hunt.
To learn more about mule-deer hunting, check out John E. Phillips’ book, “Mule Deer Hunter’s Bible,” available in Kindle, print and Audible at https://amzn.to/2Kg62w5, or copy and paste this click into your browser.