The DIY Hunter

Two X-Bolt Rifles.

My X-Bolt Gray Laminate Long Range in 28 Nosler and Kaden's Hell's Canyon Speed X-Bolt in 300 WSM.


Kaden glassing for mule deer.

Kaden glassing for mule deer.


Mule deer on the skyline.

I watched these deer while I was working on my cheater buck.


Kaden hiking.

Kaden hiked a bunch this day as we explored looking for deer and elk in other draws.

This summer it became necessary for me to make some course corrections in my life's priorities to keep my job, family, physical health and emotional health... With this change in my life I was now starting to collect some vacation days that I could use on myself, doing the things I love most and the things that emotionally recharge my batteries. So unlike last year where I hunted the least of my adult life, I actually had a few vacation days to use on hunting this fall. Yeah!

With Kaden being a youth hunter he can hunt all the seasons with his general deer tag. With that we packed in four miles during the rifle elk hunt at the same time of the early rifle deer. Both of us had elk tags we could fill and Kaden could also use his deer tag.

Kaden really impressed me on this trip. We covered a lot of ground and saw a lot of deer, a lot of deer but only two bucks. I believe the total was somewhere around 190 deer but only two bucks and neither buck was in a location we could get them had we wanted. We did hear some cow elk in the middle of the night but only found elk droppings in the daylight.

The opening weekend of the general rifle deer we decided to pass on going knowing that the place would be crawling with people. The following Tuesday Kaden and I set out again headed back in to where we hunted the week before. We took an alternate route on the way in that proved to just be a harder hike however we learned from it. That evening we setup our tent and then setup to watch a couple of draws just to the north of our tent. We started picking up deer coming out to feed all over the place. It wasn't too long and two bucks emerged from the maple trees and were sparring in some sagebrush at about 400 yards away. One buck was a two year old two point and the other a 3x4 buck. This was perfect. We watched them as we dialed Kaden's Leupold 30mm 4.5-14 VX-3i for a 350 yard shot as the bucks had worked their way a little closer and were now at 363 yards.  The 3x4 turned broadside and Kaden was on him and fired without hesitation. The shot was perfectly placed heart shot from his X-Bolt Hell's Canyon Speed rifle in 300 WSM shooting 200 Gr. ELD-X handloads. The buck ran 20 yards and tipped over. Way to shoot Kaden and nice buck!

I love this rifle. It shoots 1/2" 100 yard groups and it's total carry weight is only 8 1/2 pounds. See more here:

Kaden with the 300 WSM case that killed his buck.

Kaden with the 300 WSM case that killed his buck.


Kaden with his 3x4 mule deer.

Kaden with his 3x4 mule deer.


Kaden with his 3x4 mule deer.

Kaden with his 3x4 mule deer.


We boned out the deer and brought it back to camp. If all went well I would find a buck in the morning and we could pack them out together. Well we didn't find a buck for me the next morning. We did enjoy roasting fresh tenderloin on our stove in the tent that evening.

The next morning we loaded up camp and Kaden's deer and headed back to the trailhead.

I refueled Wednesday evening and was headed back in Thursday to try and fill my tag. I was really wanting to help Landen get a buck as well but he was sick and also behind in school from missing school from being sick... so I was going in solo this time.

I headed back to the same location Kaden shot his buck. I had a good feeling about this location and have been monitoring the deer patterns of the area for a few years now. This location seemed to be the best for my style of hunting. I like to hike hard to get into an area that has a good vantage point to glass for critters. I'm not into brush hunting. I like to just sit and watch and watch. 

That evening I was out watching the draws. I had deer coming out everywhere. I saw three small bucks and for just a split second, about 600 yards from me, I caught a glimpse of what looked like a mature buck as it moved through some maple trees. I hoped that he would emerge again that evening but he didn't.

X-Bolt Gray Laminate Long Range in 28 Nosler and High and Heavy Outdoors Shooting Sticks.

My X-Bolt Gray Laminate Long Range in 28 Nosler setup on High and Heavy Outdoors Shooting Sticks. Learn how I get Prone Position Steadiness From a Sitting Position with this setup.

The next morning I slipped out of the tent to the frosty ground and immediately started seeing deer all around me. After a half hour I debated relocating to look off a different direction of the point I was located on. Just as I was about to move I looked back and there was a mature buck headed up the draw below me and almost to disappear in the maple trees that were in that draw. I didn't have time to range so I guessed and dialed for a 300 yard shot and the 28 Nosler spoke. I heard the whop of the 180 Gr VLD hitting it's mark and when I got the deer back in my scope all four feet were straight up in the air with him on his back. The shot ended up being a 229 yard shot and I was dialed a minute of angle high giving me an impact that was little higher than I aimed, hitting high in the shoulder but it crushed him.

The buck is only 20 inches wide on the frame and he had broke off one of his long 4ths while in the velvet but I couldn't be happier. This was my first buck with a cheater and my first critter with my newest 28 Nosler X-Bolt. A Gray Laminate Long Range with a 1 in 8 twist rate. I love this rifle. It's not the lightest weight but it's a long range gunning machine.

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Next up Dallen's Limited Entry CWMU deer hunt.

My favorite hunting treat, Swedish Fish.

My favorite hunting treat, Swedish Fish.


Cooking fresh tenderlion in the tent.

Back to camp enjoying some fresh tenderlion from the comforts of our tent.


Three point buck.

I watched this buck the one evening. I believe this is a buck that was later taken by my friend's son in that same area.


Kaden glassing for deer.

Hanging out with my hunting bud Kaden watching deer all over the place just no bucks at the moment.


Deer camp.

This is our deer camp for 2019.


Kaden's X-Bolt Hell's Canyon Speed in 300 WSM.

Kaden's X-Bolt Hell's Canyon Speed in 300 WSM.


1x2 buck.

We'll pass on this buck. :).


Ruffed Grouse.

This was a very freindly Ruffed Grouse that Kaden and I enjoyed watching one day.


Lizard

A little bitty lizard we watched on the trail.


My cheater buck upsidedown.

My cheater buck upsidedown.


Dinner Time.

Dinner time.


My 2019 Cheater Buck.

My 2019 Cheater Buck taken with my Gray Laminate Long Range X-Bolt in 28 Nosler.

Landen four pont buck.

Landen's first four point buck.


Landen admiring his first four point buck.

Landen admiring his first four point buck.


Kaden with his first deer.

So proud of Kaden getting his first deer.


Landen watching for deer.

Landen setup ready for a buck to show up on his side of the canyon to watch.


My three boys and myself all drew general rifle deer tags this year. Dallen having his own job and scheduled to work on the opener decided to take the week off and hunt on his own when fewer people were on the mountain. KB was going to be hunting for the first time for deer and Landen was a veteran with two deer under his belt.

The night before the opener had Kaden, Landen and myself headed up the mountain. We got a little late start so most of the hike was in the dark as we climbed the mountain. Around 11 pm we made it to one of the locations I had chosen to camp at. The location was where I shot my buck last year and provided a great vantage point to watch for deer. The idea of this location was that we could just roll out of bed and be right in the middle of the action in a great location to glass and watch for deer.

We where in around three miles and had plenty of food, powerade and other comforts like a heater to warm up the tent in the morning. The heater has really come in handy at getting the boys out of bed on our hunts and I actually have come to really enjoy it as well. I just wake up unzip the tent to get some fresh air and fire up the propane heater for a few minutes before we climb out of our sleeping bags. It makes morning so much more comfortable.

The next morning had us up and out on the point spotting deer. It didn't take long for KB to spot a spike 300 yards away. After watching it for a few minutes he decided he would pass on it for his first ever buck and wait for a two point or better. I was sure we would find one. Another half hour or so passed and we found a two point for Kaden. Landen was itching to shoot it but I told him he had to pass for KB. The buck was feeding at 380 yards away. KB and Landen were setup on shooting sticks as I helped them dial for the shot. After a few moments Kaden was ready and sent a 200 Gr ELD-X from my 300 WSM Hell's Canyon X-Bolt rifle on its way for a solid whop and an instant drop of the buck. And just like that Kaden had his first ever big game animal. Nice shooting Kaden!

We grabbed some packs with some supplies and set out to take care of Kaden's first buck.

As Kaden made it to the buck he was surprised to find an extra point on both sides for a 3x3 buck. Very cool and nice buck KB. 

One thing we will always remember from working on boning out Kaden's buck was the deer Keds that somehow crawled off the deer and into Kaden's thick hair. He ended up with dozens of them on his scalp. How in the world he go so many on him we'll never know. In case you are wondering, deer keds look a lot like ticks and are often confused for them but deer keds are actually a wingless fly. Google them to learn more.

A couple hours later we had the deer all boned out, were back to camp and had the meat bags in the shade to cool.

That morning and the rest of the day we watched a lot of deer but nothing larger than a small two point. With Landen having taken a couple bucks his first two years he was wanting to try and find a four point if possible.

With us having worked so hard to get up the mountain the night before I didn't feel like hunting till dark then breaking camp to rush out in the dark on Saturday night. I do like to be home on Sundays but felt we should spend Saturday hunting till dark and then take our time in the morning and enjoy our time packing out.

Sunday morning rolled around and we all slept in, had fun in the tent, ate for protein bars for breakfast and started getting ready to pack out.

By mid morning we had our gear loaded up and started heading back up and out of the canyon we were camped in. We left our tent up, some sleeping bags, powerade and other gear because Dallen was going to pack back in later this day or the next to hunt.

We hadn’t gone more than a couple hundred yards up the ridge before I spotted a group of deer across the canyon. Low and behold a nice little buck was with them. We weren’t planning on hunting on Sunday but this opportunity was to good to pass up. The ram was caught in the thicket so to speak. We dropped our gear and crept on out behind some sage brush to close the distance a little then Landen setup on some shooting sticks.

The buck wasn’t in a perfect broadside position but in the open right in a small gap in the oak brush. I decided to give Landen the green light for the 260 yard shot. And that shot went right past him to the side. The buck bound up the hill a little then stopped for a perfect broadside shot and Landen made a perfect lung shot on him for a 100 yard speed dash to a pile up.

As we closed in on the downed buck Landen was pleasantly surprised to have a nice little four point buck, his third buck and first four point. Way to go Landen!

A couple hour's work on this buck and we were now loaded up with two bucks and about half of our camp gear for the trip back to the trailhead. 

Dallen's 2018 buck with his X-bolt 300 WSM rifle.

Dallen's 2018 buck with his X-bolt 300 WSM rifle.


Dallen taking a selfie with his X-Bolt 300 WSM.

Dallen taking a selfie with his X-Bolt 300 WSM.

Monday morning found KB Landen and myself back to work and school while Dallen was headed up the mountain ready to spend the week.

This year has been particularly hard on me time wise. I had gone threw the majority of my vacation time with responsibilities to work and only had one day I could use to hunt deer. With this said I was dying to go back up the mountain and hunt with Dallen but I just didn't have any vacation to do it with really so my plan was to take Friday off and go up in the dark on Thursday to hunt Friday and Saturday

It didn't take Dallen long to find a good buck one evening and Dallen put at least three bullets into the buck before it went down and disappeared. By the time he made it across the canyon it was dark and the buck was still alive and got bumped. Dallen was sick about it but learned he maybe should have waited till morning to do look for it with it being dark and not knowing if it was dead. Anyhow, a sleepless night, a lot of hours of glassing/hiking, a little help from a friend of ours (thank you Alan) and another bullet and Dallen had his buck. A nice looking buck that was basically a big 3 point with eye guards. 

I was dying at work wishing I could have gone up the mountain to help Dallen but in the end I think it was awesome that Dallen did his first pack in solo hunt. He boned out the deer by himself and he hauled it back off the mountain all by himself. Needless to say I was a very proud dad. :)

Thursday came and I took off up the mountain after work by myself to see if I could also fill my tag. Friday morning came and deer were everywhere but not a single buck larger than a first year two point. I watched many of them and literally around 100 does just no mature bucks.

Saturday morning came around and the mountain was starting to crawl with hunters hiking up the mountain. I did see one mature buck but wasn't able to close the deal with all the hunters on the mountain.

I hunted the rest of the day until dark but couldn't find another mature buck.

I had a great time hunting with my two young boys and was so very proud of all of my boys in how they have matured as hunters.

Next up was muzzleloader elk season and cow elk season for me and all of my boys but lacking any vacation time and stressed for time with work commitments I never made it out to hunt at all on these hunts. This year I hunted the least I ever hunted in my entire adult life but I did enjoy the couple days I had with my youngest boys. I'm making life changes for next year to make sure I spend more time with my boys and doing what I love. 

The look right after shooting your first deer.

I love this photo. It shows how excited Kaden was right after he shot his first deer and it shows Landen wishing he had shot it.


Our deer camp.

Our deer camp with a Browning four man tent.


Dallen's 2018 buck.'

Dallen's 2018 buck.


Landen with the 270 WSM case that fired a 150 Gr. SST bullet.

Landen with the 270 WSM case that fired a 150 Gr. SST bullet.


Landen having fun hunting.

I love this photo as it shows both Landen having fun hunting and my good friend Ryan hunting on horses in the background.


Dallen's X-Bolt 300 WSM.

Dallen's X-Bolt 300 WSM.


Dallen's buck with his X-Bolt 300 WSM.

Dallen's buck with his X-Bolt 300 WSM.

Elk Hunting with my boys

Dallen Elk Hunting with X-Bolt 300 WSM

Dallen with Spike Elk

Browning X-Bolt 300 WSM with Elk

This year I bought a combo elk tag hoping I would have time to get out and hunt elk again with my bow and for sure spend a few days hunting with my muzzleloader in November. 

The few times I was able to get out and check my trail cameras through the summer and into the fall I have noticed a very distinct change in the patterns of the elk in the area. The elk haven't been coming into the area nearly as much as they have in past years, not that there ever was a lot of elk but this year the cameras were showing a reduced number of elk.

There was one bright highlight to my trail camera footage and that was a nice looking six-point bull had been camped out in the area from July 23rd through August 5th. Unfortunately, he never returned but we sure hoped he would.

One bull and the only elk that was in the area during the hunting seasons was the Unicorn bull I had on camera last year. Funny thing is he was a unicorn again this year except he was a unicorn on his right side instead of his left. What a strange bull. How in the world did he get a unicorn G1 only rack again this year and on the opposite side?!?

Archery season came and went with me just not having the time to break away to get out and hunt at all. When rifle season came around it found me and my two youngest headed up the mountain for the opening weekend. We had a great time sleeping in the tent and enjoying a ride in my new to me 2008 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon I bought as a replacement for my old Montero. I had a great run with my old Montero but she finally gave up the ghost this summer.

We spent the opening Saturday watching deer but never saw any sign of any elk. We tried boys, we tried. So we checked a few cameras and back home for church we went.

Midweek Dallen took a few days off work to hunt. He hiked over into a different area than where I took the younger boys on opening day. He stayed out all day his first day out moving around in an area of thick oak brush and maples, hunting small meadows in the trees. As the day was coming to a close and he was about to get up to start hiking back out he turned around and a spike with some cows had snuck in right behind him. His occasional cow calling had worked at bringing in some elk. 

Dallen's X-Bolt 300 WSM put the spike down and he was quickly on the phone to me asking if he should also fill his cow tag and ask for me to hike in to help him. I was in the process of helping my kids at home with their evening activities when the call came in. No don't shoot a cow, we'll have plenty to deal with getting the spike out this late in the day. Dallen could have taken a cow as well but I was glad he didn't. 

By the time I dropped off Landen at a football game and made it up the mountain to meet up with Dallen it was midnight. Not a good thing for me because I didn't sleep well the night before. Anyhow, needless to say, I wasn't feeling well but we worked into the night boning out his elk. It wasn't one of the fastest deboning processes I've done but we got it boned out sometime in the middle of the night and all loaded up for the muddy pack out up the side of a canyon and about a mile back to my Jeep.

Nice work solo hunting Dallen. This was his first elk harvest being out hunting by himself. After this hunt I feel Dallen is ready to go totally solo on the boning and pack out all on his own. 

After a day I was back out with Landen and KB hoping to find some elk on the second Friday evening and Saturday. And.... once again Dad couldn't find a single elk for my youngest boys. And that finished the extent of my elk hunting this year.

Due to work demands this year I just wasn't able to get out and hunt with a muzzleloader for myself and the two Saturdays I was able to get out with my boys resulted in not finding any elk. I still loved spending time with Landen and KB but wished we could have seen some elk. Next year maybe.