Bigfoot spots me! The hair on my neck rises and my heartbeat jumps a few levels – I freeze and hope the monster goes back to feeding. If this were THE Bigfoot I’d really wish I had my video camera, but it’s not THE Bigfoot. It is, however, a pronghorn that I named Bigfoot, which to me is almost just as good and, in this case, almost just as puzzling. I’ve only seen this buck one other time, but when I did I managed to roll some film that, upon later review, looked eerily similar to REAL Bigfoot footage. I couldn’t tell anything about the buck’s individual horn dimensions, but I did know one thing – they were all BIG. And so now I’m back in the treed confines of Arizona’s Unit 8 trying to figure out if Bigfoot is actually big enough to hunt with one of the Arizona Special Auction Permits. At a snail's pace I raise my fifteens to size up the buck’s horns, but instead of seeing massive jet-black above the bucks head I see a massive white rump! I see nothing conclusive about the buck’s horns – all I can do is watch the buck accelerate from zero to sixty as it evaporates amid pine trees thick as barcode.
I make contact with the hunting crew at noon. I tell my Dad that I saw him.
”Well, I’ve never seen him, so how big is he?” he asks.
Wayne jumps in, “Saw who?”
”Maybe ninety, maybe eighty-five.”
”We could spend days and not find him.”
”Find who?” Wayne asks.
”Want to go look at Crossover?”
”What’s a Crossover?” Wayne asks again.
”It’s when we leave this unit to find a bigger buck.”
Wayne smiles, “I like the sound of that.”
We scan the miniature yellow hills east of the Prescott Valley Fairgrounds and locate a buck we call Crossover. After a short walk in the park, er, I mean stalk, Wayne settles in for the first shot of this trip. His seven-millimeter misses HIGH; he resettles. LOW; he looks at the buck with an expression that indicates the buck must be wearing armor. HIGH; and this time the buck fades into the barren prairie.
Later, we slash the distance. Wayne lies prone and settles the rifle’s butt against his shoulder, but the buck’s seven-inch ears reach out and grab the sound of Wayne’s heart beating against the ground or maybe Crossover’s hooves felt the mild tremor that Wayne’s heartbeat sent out across the prairie’s floor – either way Crossover bolts sooner than Wayne can say, “Where’d he go?” The colossal orange and yellow and red ember in the sky silhouettes the sickle-like horns of the buck as it trots into the distance. Slowly and quietly darkness covers the land.
The next morning the sun transcends the peaks and dots the plains with glowing white rumps. It’s three miles to where Crossover stands and before my dad speaks I know the plan. Wayne and my dad situate themselves in some bushes where we calculate Crossover may cross. I stride straight for the buck and carry nothing, my only intention: to push the buck as far as he’ll go and then pray he turns and heads three miles back toward those bushes. It sounds like a long shot without completely knowing the buck and the unit, but Crossover has done it before, so we’re hoping he does it one last time. I’m three miles in and Crossover just keeps moving away. About mile six our plan kicks in and Crossover heads straight for the bushes where Wayne Webber, the septuagenarian owner of a construction company in Detroit, is set up to fill the first of his two permits.
I hurry back to our parting point and on my way hear man-made thunder crackle through the heavens. The shot was one hundred eleven yards. Crossover’s legacy ends with ninety-one and seven eighths points on the Safari Club International scoring system.
A week passes and Wayne returns to hunt his second Arizona auction tag. Our plan is to hunt a buck we call Cheery, but I have doubts about him hitting the ninety-inch mark. Cheery might not be big enough so I headed up a day early and found the buck my dad is now looking at on my digital camera. He scrolls through the photos and his jaw hits the motel room floor and his eyebrows hit the motel room ceiling. This new buck is bigger than Cheery, a lot bigger! Our plans change.
We travel south out of Seligman and spot the new buck off the Williamson Valley Road. As we enter his territory dark clouds generate moisture and then rain descends upon the grassy yellow earth while lightning and deafening rumbles follow. We don rain gear and walk head first into the needle-like drizzle in a desperate attempt to close the gap before the shower becomes too violent. We get within six hundred yards of him and his harem, but are only able to look on in amazement at his wondrous horns a few moments before the menacing booms and bucketing rainfall force us back to the vehicle. We name him Thor, Norse God of thunder.
We spot Thor at dawn off the same road the next day and hurl ourselves out of the truck like a tornado hurls houses. We sprint to the edge of a hill and see Thor and his harem trotting up the opposite side. Wayne lies down, puts the buck’s vitals in the center of the scope, and squeezes the trigger for the first and last time this second hunt.When we approach the buck my Dad’s jaw drops just like it did in the motel room – the buck is even bigger than we initially thought. The legacy of Thor ends with ninety-six and five eighths points on the Safari Club International scoring system.