I’ve been an outfitter for about 15 years. We operate almost exclusively on private land in an OTC unit. Our bread ‘n’ butter is elk hunting but because we manage hunter numbers, every once in a while a big buck will show up. My paid hunters have first shot at these bucks, but I often hunt them once everyone has gone home for the season.
I’d scouted many days since July on the properties we manage but hadn’t really seen any bucks worth writing home about. As I wrote about in my book, Hunting Big Mule Deer, I often hunt alone. That’s partly by choice and partly due to the varied seasons across the West, making it difficult to schedule with friends.
However, this year my Rokslide partner Ryan Avery and his wife Tanya could make the dates so we planned a hunt together. Ryan took a good buck last year so it was his wife’s turn for 2016. They could only hunt the last four days, but I’d reserved eight days hoping to find both Tanya and I some shooter bucks.
So just a few days after arriving home from the last hunt, I was on the new unit glassing for big bucks just as some cool and wet weather was departing and high pressure was settling in. This area is low-elevation brush country and tough to stalk big bucks in. With so much cover, they’re hard to glass and even harder to get a shot at. I find by late October, the big bucks are getting interested in the does and are usually around them at first and last light, so I was looking close at all the deer. As I didn’t have any really big bucks prescouted to focus on, I traveled by horseback to make sure I was glassing as much country as possible.
When glassing, if possible, I try to make sure the sun is at my back or at least behind a line drawn straight through both my shoulders. This way, you’re working with the sun and not against it. Your effectiveness at spotting bucks vastly improves enabling you see bucks even up to five miles away.
I kept this routine up every day, glassing about five to seven hours per day. The weather was warm–too warm–and although I could sit a spell without moving, the deer were only active the first hour and last hour of light. I was finding bucks just about everywhere, but nothing too big. I found several that I knew Tanya–who’d never taken a big game animal–would be plenty happy with. She was due to arrive Friday afternoon via plane and Ryan would be driving in the same day from an elk hunt.
After three days of hard glassing, Friday morning was upon me. Tired and a little discouraged at not finding any big bucks, I saddled up and left camp well before first light. The plan was to hunt half a day then meet Ryan and Tanya that afternoon. A low-key evening with my friends was sounding pretty good about now.
However, by 9:30 AM, that plan changed…
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To learn about how I find big mule deer, check out my book, Hunting Big Mule Deer