CHADRON, Neb. n It's a land steeped in legend and lore.
Long the homeland of Indians of the High Plains, the fur trade discovered its riches in
the 1830s and the U.S. Army built a fort here during the years of war with the Sioux and
Northern Cheyenne. In the 1880s the homesteaders moved in and brought cattle to graze on
the lush tableland sprinkled with spring-fed streams.
Much has changed since that time.
Yet as you stand at the top of Beaver Wall, an escarpment over 100
feet tall from which early settlers said, 'you can see forever,' the sprawling plains cut
with pine-lined canyons appear much as they did at that time. Deer, elk and pronghorns
still make their home here as do wild turkeys and sharptail grouse.
It was the deer which brought Gary Howey, Hartington, Neb., and me to this splendid
region. And we would seek the animals with black powder rifles.
Our guide was John Geiman, owner of G-Man Outdoor Adventure of Rapid City, S.D., who had
clued us in on the hunting here during a great turkey hunt last spring in the scenic Black
We would hunt with and on land owned by Dale Chesek. Dale traces his roots back to
settlement of this country. His grandfather homesteaded here in the 1880s. His father
worked the ranch and Dale spent nearly the first ten years of his life living in a log
cabin built in the 1860s along a sparkling creek.
Today, he and his wife Jeanette live in a home built by his father in the early 1960s when
an aftershock from the great Alaska earthquake shook loose the plaster in the cabin.
Like most of the ranchers in the area, hunting is part of his heritage and when we met him
at o' dark thirty the first morning of the hunt, he carried a replica of Remington's
famous rolling block rifle in 50 caliber which he picked up from the bargain bin a couple
of years ago at Cabela's in Sidney, Neb. I'm not aware of any originals designed for front
loading, but the rolling block is a perfect spot for a 209 primer.
I climbed into his 4-wheel drive pickup and we began to scout for deer just as the sun
began to peek over the Beaver Wall to the east. The sun turned the hill tops into shades
of gold and the shadows in the valleys were blackened by stands of ponderosa pine lining
We saw lots of deer, both mulies and whitetails, and there were some excellent bucks among
Gary and John followed in Gary's truck and we stopped often, glassing the hillsides
looking for bedded bucks. We had put the sneak on a couple of deer and walked some of the
deep canyons but hadn't scored. By 2 o'clock, however, we had put together a plan for the
We had seen about 30 deer in pre-dawn darkness that morning feeding in a winter wheat
field. When we scouted the area, deer tracks littered the ground and we figured the
whitetails were spending the daylight hours in the canyons along the Beaver Wall to the
east and then moving out to feed in the late afternoon.
Gary and John set up in a clump of buffalo berry along the fenceline, using tumbleweeds to
make a ground blind in front of the shrubs. I walked farther down the line and found
another clump of bushes and constructed another tumbleweed blind there.
Then we began the wait.
I glassed a lot of deer in a pasture nearly a half mile away. They moved out of the
canyons and onto the plateaus. Five of them were large whitetail bucks but none of the
deer showed any inclination to come our way.
I sat there on the ground, staring at the empty wheat field and waited. It was about an
hour before sundown when I spotted the buck. He was behind me on a rise and surveying the
He was a big bodied deer and carried a small eight point rack. He jumped the fence and
stood before me about 40 yards away. I touched off the .50 caliber and the white smoke
obscured everything. When it cleared I watched the deer run a ways and then drop.
My tag was filled.
Two days later, Dale filled his tag, dropping a small two by two mulie from a hundred
yards with the rolling block.
We hunted from dawn to dark for four days, but never got close enough to another buck for
Gary. He had two deer within range, one a buck at 15 feet away on the wrong side of the
fence and another about 50 yards but again on property which we did not have permission to
The second morning, I glassed a trophy mulie. The big buck was a four by four and stood in
a shaft of morning light pouring across the plateau and into the canyon. His rack was wide
and high and stood out clearly against the dark green of ponderosa pine. There were six
does with him and he watched us for a while and then slowly trotted into the timber.
There were other good mulie bucks we spotted but none could match that monarch. Several
excellent whitetail bucks were glassed as well. But, it's big, open country and getting
within black powder range is not easy.
The last evening, Gary and John sat along the fenceline where I bagged my buck while Dale
and I sat in his pickup about a quarter mile away watching. Whitetail does began leaving
the draws and walking into the pastures in front of us.
It was almost at the end of shooting time when a big whitetail buck walked up and surveyed
the pickup from a distance of about 110 yards. He was a huge eight point with tines I'm
guessing up to 10 inches long. He watched us for a while and then turned, trotting away
into the safety of another draw. That buck, highlighted against the stark whiteness of the
Beaver Wall washed in the setting sun will live in my mind for a long time.
But, it will be the big mulie that haunts me forever.