The DIY Hunter

Dallen sitting on ridge looking for mule deer

We sat here and glassed for deer much of the afternoon until dusk. We watched four does from this location.

Coming off the end of the rifle elk hunt where my son Dallen had a couple of missed opportunities to get a bull we were hoping to make up for it during the deer hunt.

Dallen was using my latest handload of the 80g Tipped Triple Shock with Hodgdon Superformance powder. This load has a muzzle velocity of 200 fps faster than my previous load and is now going 3550 fps from a short 22-inch barrel A-Bolt Stainless Laminate Hunter rifle. I was looking forward to seeing what performance on game this bullet would have with the increased velocity.

Opening weekend we decided to hunt the sagebrush-covered hills of the Henefer-Echo public ground. I knew that the hunter to deer ratio was going to be well in favor of the hunters but I hoped that we could find a buck before someone else did.

We arrived at the parking lot an hour before light. Trying to find a place to park was a little tricky. There were definitely going to be a lot more hunters than deer on the property today.

The back of Dallen's hat watching for mule deer

Snapped this photo of the back of Dallen's hat while he was watching four does feeding below us. Can I please cut your hair Dallen? :)

Bald Eagle soaring over us.

A couple of Bald Eagles soared over us at one point during the day.

Rayn and his kids hunting for deer from horses.

My friend Ryan and two of his kids on horseback mule deer hunting below us.

We hiked hard in the dark for that first hour before light working our way around sagebrush draws before it got light. As it got light we decided to hike up to a ridgeline to sit and glass the area from. As we were slowing working our way through the sagebrush I looked back over our shoulder and spotted four bucks that were watching us from a saddle of a draw below. There were two, two-point bucks and two three-point bucks in the group. Dallen quickly got set up on the shooting sticks and was ready to take one of the three-point bucks however they were standing behind an old fence line. (Later that day I studied the map and gps and realized the fence was an old one and that the property line was another half mile away.) Not knowing this section of the property that well I told Dallen to wait until they crossed the fence. When the bucks decided to cross they did so running and they didn't slow down until they were 750 yards away.

We quickly started around after them. Once we got to where we saw them go into a sagebrush draw we started a zig-zag pattern to try and find them. It didn't take long for them to find us first and we caught a glimpse of them bailing over a ridge at a full-speed run. Dallen was hopeful that we might catch up to them again so I sent him hiking while I called my friend Ryan who was on a horse somewhere further up the canyon to let him know some bucks were headed that way. Just as I got him on the phone I looked back and four more larger bucks (small four points and three-point bucks) were sneaking out of the draw.

I had to yell to get Dallen's attention who was now forty yards away marching up the hill. It also took me several times yelling to get his attention... reminding me of yelling for him to get off the computer downstairs and come up for dinner. He never hears a thing for the first ten or so yells... anyway the bucks heard my yelling and that just elevated their exit speed. By the time Dallen turned around and was ready for a shot they too had run over the ridge... What were the chances that there would have been two groups of bucks in that draw???

Dallen with his 2011 mule deer buck taken with a 243 WSSM at 619 yards

Here is Dallen with his 2011 mule deer buck he dropped with a single shot at 619 yards. He was using a 243 WSSM, Browning A-Bolt Stainless Hunter Laminate with 22" barrel and a Bushnell Elite 3200 3-10x SA Scope. A wonderful little mountain rifle we really enjoy hunting with.


Dallen putting on the latex gloves to help his old man with boning out the mule deer

Dallen putting on the latex gloves to help his old man with boning out the mule deer.


Dallen with frame pack on getting ready to start packing out his portion of the mule deer

Dallen packing out the head and a little of the meat on my HideAway Expeditions frame pack while the bulk of the deer meat is in my pack.

We had two good chances to take a buck and struck out much like Dallen's elk hunt we just experienced the previous weeks before this hunt. Having such close calls and missed opportunities was really not helping Dallen's morale.

We spent the rest of the day taking a nap and glassing for deer. We were able to find five does that afternoon but no bucks. :(

During the week I took Dallen out of school to take one more chance at finding the bucks we saw on opening weekend. We hiked all over the place trying to find a deer and the property was just devoid of deer.

My good friend Ryan was hopeful to get his daughter her first buck. We made plans for the last Saturday of the hunt to take her and Dallen back into the area that my brother Weston had taken his mule deer buck during the elk hunt with a buck/bull combo tag. There had been a lot of small bucks in the area during the elk hunt so I was hoping we could get the kids in on a few bucks.

Friday even we were up in the high country glassing for deer with the kids. It didn't take us long to find some bucks. The deer were still hanging out in the area they were two weeks before. As it was getting late we made camp and made plans to go after them the next morning.

Almost an hour before you would want to hike down into the canyon two groups of hunters showed up and marched off down the trail invariably bumping the deer out of the location they like to be feeding in during the night and early morning hours. Dang it! This put a small damper on our plans. At about a half-hour before light, we started working our way to the area the bucks should be in and to no surprise we found hunters surrounding the canyon.

We moved off to the left and started glassing and found the deer were way down in the bottom of the canyon. Again not a surprise because of the hunters hiking in so early right through the feeding area of the deer.

Bedded teo point mule deer buck in brush

Ryan found a two-point buck bedded in the brush below us. We tried to get Darla in for a shot at this buck.


Glassing mule deer hunting

Ryan and Darla glassing for mule deer.


Packing out the boned out mule deer meat back up the mountain

Dallen and I taking a break hauling the boned out mule deer meat back up the mountain.


Dallen and I packing out the boned out mule deer meat back up the mountain

Dallen and I taking a hauling the boned out mule deer meat back up the mountain.


243 WSSM 80g Tipped Triple Shock entry hole on mule deer

Here is a photo showing the entry hole of the 243 WSSM 80g Tipped Triple Shock bullet on Dallen's 2011 mule deer taken at 619 yards. At this distance, the bullet would have been traveling around 2100 fps and still made a pass-through on this mule deer.


243 WSSM 80g Tipped Triple Shock exit hole on mule deer taken at 619 yards

Exit hole of the 243 WSSM 80g Tipped Triple Shock bullet on Dallen's 2011 mule deer taken at 619 yards. There is also a very small exit hole about four inches above the tip of the bullet that is in the photo. I didn't find this second hole until I skinned the deer to bone out the meat.

Without hiking around past the hunters that were set up in front of us we decided to try and get as close as we could working our way directly towards the deer down through some small cliffs. When we had made it to the last cliff we were still 500 to 600 yards away from various small bucks that were feeding in and out of maple trees, chaparral and other brush below. If we tried to get any closer we were going to have to scale down through rock slides and thick chaparral brush. The deer would clearly hear and see us and we would also not have any good place to set up and shoot from.

So here I was stuck in a dilemma. I wanted Ryan's daughter to get a buck. I felt pretty comfortable with Dallen taking a shot from this distance and other hunters were closing in on the group of deer below... I really felt we needed to take a shot from here. At 619 yards below us a three-point buck and a two-point were feeding next to each other. With the kids set up on shooting sticks I calculated that we wanted to hold for a 550 shot with the steep angle. That would make approximately 36 inch drop with the bullet Dallen was shooting. I instructed Dallen how high to hold and he sent an 80g Tipped Triple Shock at 3550 fps from a 243 WSSM down to greet the buck. The buck dropped like a ton of bricks. The buck appeared to be completely dead... or was he only just shocked? Then after a few seconds up comes the bucks head and he tries to get up but his spine was clearly broke. We watched him crawl into the brush and then decide to head down to try and get a closer shot at some of the other bucks for Ryan's daughter.

The deer weren't spooked that much as we started to work our way down through the thick chaparral and rock slides. On the way down the other hunters had finally moved around into shooting distance and a barrage of lead started to rain down into the canyon. On a couple of occasions we set up on the way down hoping that our young female hunter could get a buck, but alas it wasn't to be. She was a trooper hiking down in and out of a very steep canyon, a canyon I'm sure few ladies have ever ventured into.

Surprisingly when we got to the downed buck, probably a full hour later, he was still alive and required a finishing shot to the neck.

Upon inspection, Dallen's shot placement was great with a double lung shot just off the back edge of the shoulder blades. The bullet at 619 yards would have been traveling at 2100 fps and it had complete penetration out the opposite shoulder. How had the buck lived so long with clearly a lung shot? How had the spine been broken? Upon skinning the deer to bone it out the mystery of the spine being severed was revealed. The bullet upon entry had hit a rib and exploded a larger sized entry hole than the exit hole. This caused a "malfunction" in the bullet and a pedal of the bullet came off sending it angling up through the spine, leaving a very small second exit wound out the opposite side.

Sometimes bullets do weird things and I am grateful this time that the Triple Shock actually came apart or this buck may have been a lot harder to recover. I actually wish the Triple Shock bullets would lose their pedals upon impact giving much more damage with multiple bullet fragments flying around inside the chest cavity.

Similarly, because Triple Shocks from my 270 WSM have not performed well at times with direct vital zone shots I have switched to 140g Accubond bullets in my 270 WSM to be able to be more effective at taking down big game, especially at longer ranges. In the case with such a small diameter and weight of bullet that the 243 WSSM offers I choose the harder better penetrating Tipped Triple Shock. This small 80g Tipped Triple Shock bullet will not disintegrate on mule deer and elk at close range, like other .243 bullets do, and this bullet does perform fairly well at longer ranges.

In the rush to get down the mountain to hunt I left my camera at the truck. Luckily Ryan had his camera.

After a few photos with Ryan's camera (thanks Ryan!) we loaded up the packs with the boned out meat and up the mountain, we went.