The DIY Hunter

Dallen at sunset while bow hunting for mule deer in 2007This year I had an archery elk tag and I was in the dedicated hunter program so I could hunt archery, muzzleloader and rifle season for a mule deer. I have always been pretty horrible at archery hunting for mule deer. I'm ok at the spotting but I'm a big guy that is pretty darn noisy trying to sneak within range. This downfall of mine may not work for deer but being able to sound like a heard of elk tromping around the mountain works pretty good for archery elk hunting. I generally focus on hunting elk with my bow and if a nice buck was to present itself that's an added bonus. Archery deer hunting when I have been in the dedicated hunter program has been more of scouting trips to learn where to find the bucks come muzzleloader season and rifle season. This year was no exception.

One of the last weeks in August I decided I wanted to try dropping into a high altitude basin I had seen elk in before. After Dallen was out of school for the day we took off for the mountain. We hiked in and spent the night under the stars inside a cluster of high altitude pines. It was a night Dallen and I will always remember. The temperature probably never dropped below 65 degrees so we were not comfortable sleeping in our sleeping bags. Now the big or should I say little problem. The mosquitoes! I has never in my life seen it like this. The mosquitoes were driving us crazy biting our faces, hands and anything that stuck out of your sleeping bags. And thus the balance between sweating to death and being eaten to death continued all through the night. Needless to say, we got very little sleep. Next time I plan on going in when the weather is that warm I'll be packing a Thermacell.

Sunrise while bowhunting for mule deer in 2007We were up before light and started working our way down the canyon. I made note of a couple of good sources to pump water from if I was to come back and spend longer amounts of time hunting here. As we rounded a little bend we bumped a couple bucks. They were within range albeit in the range towards the bottom of my sight pins. The one buck was a good 3x3 with a cheater on one side. The other buck we didn't get the best look at but I could see his left four point antler and we could also see that he was pretty darn wide. They never presented a shot but I took good note of how they worked their way around and out of the basin.

We explored around the basin the rest of the day and worked our way back to our base camp and out that night. Another great day with my oldest son.

The following week I made another trip in myself to see if I could get another shot at the wide buck. After watching the buck the previous week I decided on a plan to slip around in the dark and wait by a pinch point below some cliffs the buck had passed the week before. I had been in place for about a half-hour into daylight when the mountain erupted with gunfire high above me around the top of the basin. The shooting was also coming from multiple locations. What in the world? At the time I was very upset but later I realized it might have been a blessing in disguise as I learned more about what was in the canyon that day.

Dallen while bow hunting for mule deer in 2007As the shooting started erupting the canyons emptied themselves of the deer and I mean emptied. I had four bucks come right by me at warp speed and I watched others come out of different areas and retreat to safety in the dense forest below. The buck I had watched the week before was one of the bucks that came right past me but this time he wasn't companions with the 3x3, he had an even older, heavier, taller buck with him. As they were coming I quickly drew my bow and hoped that they would stop or pause. They did, however they stopped inside the edge of some jack pines then dashed again through the open area I was hoping to get a shot from. I now had changed my plans. I wanted the tall, heavy, long tined buck.

After this day I had now counted five to six bucks that had four points or better and many other smaller bucks in that basin.

As I hiked out of the basin that day I ran into a couple of different groups of hunters with dogs and found out what all the shooting was about, the opening of grouse season. Who in the world decided to overlap these seasons I could have strangled that day.

A couple of days later I headed up another mountain with my bow and my pack ready to spend the last four days of the archery season trying to tag an elk.  I was successful in tagging a little five point bull with my bow. See: 2007 Archery Elk Hunt — 5 Point Bull

My first 30+ inch mule deer taken with a muzzleloaderWith the archery season over I turned my attention back to the high altitude bucks I had seen. The muzzleloader season was just two weeks away and I couldn't get the images of those bucks out of my head. I spent some time on the range with the muzzleloader and was itching to get back in there with something better than my bow.

Two days before the opener we had an early snow storm. From the looks of it the higher elevation mountains had a good foot or more. I really wanted to have my son with me to go after the buck again but, with the snow, I felt it best if he sat this one out. A good friend of mine Ryan also had a muzzleloader tag and I invited him to come along. We went up the night before and found we couldn't drive all the way to the trail head. We decide to sleep in the truck and get up extra early with the additional mile now needed to hike to get into the basin.

Hauling out my 30 inch mule deerI had hopes that if we could slip around into the funnel area we could have a good chance of tagging the two larger bucks. I figured that someone would be hunting up around the ridge and the deer might funnel out like they had during the grouse season. I also setup so I had a good vantage point of the funnel and where I could see into the jack pine where the bucks had pause the previous time.

Just like clockwork the wide buck made his escape and stopped in the jack pines at 45 yards, just like he had before. This time I sent a 45 caliber pistol bullet, from my 50 caliber CVA Firebolt his way. Unfortunately, his bigger brother wasn't with him but I was tickled to death with the wide buck my son had found with me during the archery season. The buck turned out to have a near whitetail like right antler. I'll look for his big brother next year.

Dallen showing off the the 30 inch rack of the buck he spotted with meAfter boning him out I carried the deer out so Ryan could be light enough to explore and hunt some of the pockets on the way out. We had seen a good four point and some smaller bucks slip up and over the one side of the basin as we slipped our way in that morning. We hoped that he could find this buck on our route out of the basin. But that just wasn't to be.

Come to find out the hunter that pushed the buck towards us was a brother to a good friend I work with. We met up with him at the truck and found that he had been scouting the area and the buck he was after happen to be the one with my tag on it or at least that was what he wanted us to believe. Hmm... I guess he hadn't seen the larger buck...or had he? I'll keep that a secret and try for him next year.

The buck measures 31" wide but lacks any antler length to score very well. Oh well, he's over 30 inches wide! I lost a lot of points with the wife when I told her we had to have him mounted. She just didn't understand it when I told her that if a mule deer gets to be 30 inches wide it's the rule that they have to be mounted. After all I didn't want this buck waiting at the pearly gates to thump my rear because he made it to 30 inches and I didn't show him the respect to have him mounted. I thought it was a good explanation, my wife didn't, we compromised. The buck is now mounted but, he is above my desk in my work office and not in my house.