The most sought-after North American trophy species
Let's do this!
First, thank you for following this project to completion: A Season of Hunting Big Mule Deer. I truly hope you learned something that will help you take the best buck of your life.
I used Random.org's random number generator to draw from the qualified entries (including those of you who were blocked by the system but emailed me your entries.)
1st Place: Vortex Viper goes to Josh Weeks
2nd Place: Huntin' Fool Membership goes to Brian Bitter
3rd Place: Hunting Big Mule Deer Book goes to Gentry Distefano
You have 10 days (January 21st) to claim your prize or I'll redraw from the qualified entries.
Thanks again. I'll be posting this year on research, gear, and more information related to mule deer hunting. If you've never done so, sign up for the Rok Blog upper right at "Rok Blog Sign-Up" to receive email notification when I post.
Thanks and God bless your hunting.
For more tips & tactics, check out my book, Hunting Big Mule Deer
I had been home from the Idaho hunt a week and watching the weather closely in preparation for my upcoming Utah hunt. The high pressure ridge that had dogged me during the Idaho hunt had mostly just strengthened over the last 10 days. This meant virtually no snow in the Intermountain West. Buck hunters from Colorado to Montana had been handed their worst season in years due to the mild conditions, and it wasn't looking any better for me.
The next morning, I was in the saddle by first light and again sat until close to noon without spotting the big buck. My phone said there was important business waiting on my email, so I hiked out to the truck and fired up my laptop to put out the fires. By the time I was done, it was after 3:00 PM and time to head back to the saddle.
I sneaked in from the usual direction with the wind in my favor. The weather was even warmer and I didn't need a coat--strange for early November. I sat glassing the saddle from about 800 yards away with my big 15x SLCs over my CT Travel Tripod. Only a few does and fawns were scattered about.
It was about 4:30 PM and the shadows were getting long. Scanning the familiar hillsides, I noticed a new deer standing in the heavy brush. I trained the big 15xs on the deer and stared. It was him. I got my best look yet and could see he was even heavier than I'd thought.
He was slowly walking in chest-high brush and was very alert. Occasionally he'd drop his head and sniff the ground, indicating he was looking for does. I realized sitting in the low-sage of the open hillside, I was totally exposed. I crept down the hill about 30 yards to get in some cover. When I put the binoculars back on him, he was staring my way!
If he went back in the deep cover, I'd lose him so I dumped my big binos, slung the tripod over my left shoulder and my rifle over my right and took off for him. I had about 400 yards of brush to hide my movements and should be under 400 yards of his last known locale when I emerged--if he didn't disappear in the meantime.
A few minutes later, I crept from the cover and quietly sneaked up to a rise in front of me, barely poking my head over the sagebrush to glass. I nervously scanned the cover with my 8x42 EL Swaro's praying to God I hadn't spooked him. After several minutes, I spotted a white face barely visible in the edge the quakies below. It was him. The ELs said 265 yards.
I pressed myself to the ground, eased the tripod off my shoulder and set it up in front of me. I slowly rose to one knee and slid my rifle over the tripod, securing it with my left hand. The buck was broadside but looking my way. I put the crosshairs center shoulder and took in a breath, but something was wrong...I couldn't get steady! I melted back into the ground and tried to calm myself. I knew I was running out of time so I slid back into position and tried to settle again, but he was gone!
I slowly crept down the hill about 15 yards and poked my head back up. I could see him again, but he had me pegged now and was getting ansty. I had to shoot this buck right now or he'd likely be gone forever.
Easing back on the tripod, I found his shoulder in the tangle and took in a quick breath. The crosshairs traced an erratic circle on his shoulder and I slowly pressed the trigger...
Home Run, 2016.
Next post, we're heading to Utah for a muzzleloader rut hunt.
You can win a Vortex Scope or a Huntin' Fool membership during this series--details here
Be sure and sign-up for the Rok Blog so you don't miss a post and can comment to enter (upper right of page). If you're already a subscriber, be sure and log-in at the top right padlock symbol.
To learn about how I find big mule deer, check out my book, Hunting Big Mule Deer
I'd been glassing since first light with my SLC 15x56 binoculars backed up by my 25-50x80mm ATS spotter, both Swarovskis. This is a lot of glass to pack, but when I don't have to hike far, it's really the best combination for finding big mule deer.
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.