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.
My plan was to head for the giant buck's locale the next few days but when you're job entails leading 25 employees, there's always some drama. Sure enough, I was delayed several days putting out fires back at work.
It had been 10 days since I found the giant Idaho buck. Due the terrain he lived in, I knew killing him with a bow meant still-hunting through the timber hoping for a shot. I probably have a better chance of orbiting the earth in my own homemade rocket.
It was early August when I returned my Nevada tag (backstory here). That still gave me the best month to scout an Idaho buck up. I find by early August that the big bucks have settled into their summer core areas where I can expect to find them until heavy snow, hunting pressure, or the rut moves them (in desert areas, bucks can also move if the water sources change.)
The mule deer season really starts for me a year or more ahead of opening day. To find good places to hunt big mule deer, you have to do plenty of research and even scout areas during the previous winter, if possible.
My favorite media to communicate through on Rokslide is this blog. While I love writing articles for our homepage, and our forums are downright fun and informative, it's the blog that is my own little space. It's here that I can best share with anyone who's truly interested in becoming a better mule deer hunter, particularly for outsized top-of-the-heap bucks.
In Part I, Building an Extended Range Muzzleloader, I covered both choosing a muzzleloader and the best caliber for hunting big mule deer. In Part II, it's time to choose the best sight and bullet.
I've been a fan of the smokin' single shot since my daddy left me in a tree over a bear bait as a young teenager. He wasn't gone twenty minutes when a small bear (looked huge to me) poked his front end out from behind a Lodgepole Pine 80 yards up the hill. I buried the big front blade of that Hawken .54 behind his front leg and lit the cap. The next thing I saw was a somersaulting bear land flat on his back. The 455 grain T/C Maxiball had hit him square in the heart. While I know it was a lucky shot, my dad was as proud as a papa could be, and I was hooked on muzzleloading for life.
Before rangefinders came along in the late '90s, most mule deer hunters were banking their long range shots on the power of the gun to produce a flat trajectory. For years, the 7mm Remington Magnum was near the top of the flat-trajectory heap. With a 150-160 grain bullet posting a ballistic coefficient over .500 and a sight-in of 3.25" high at 100 yards, you could expect that bullet to drop about 24-26" at 500 yards. That meant an on-body hold for big mule deer to about 450 yards. That math worked for decades but is also why so few big deer were killed beyond 450 yards; when you're forced to aim at air, it's just easier to miss.
You can read the entire article here Hash Marks or Turrets? A Mule Deer Hunter's Perspective
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Read all about the weapon systems I prefer in my book: Hunting Big Mule Deer: How to Take the Best Buck of Your Life
For those of you who might be thinking of getting into the high-powered tripod binoculars game, this review is for you.
It took me nearly two years to complete, accumulating around 50 days over six hunts and countless scouting trips. I'm relieved to finally hit the publish button on this one.
See how Vortex's two high-powered tripod binoculars- the venerable Kaibab HD 15x56 and the the lower-priced Vulture HD 15x56- stack up against each other. I've had this question asked many times over the last year, and I hope this review answers it for you.
To read the review, click the title here Vortex's Kaibab HD 15x56 vs. Vortex Vulture HD 15x56
Don't miss any of my upcoming reviews and other tips on improving your mule deer game by "Subscribing to blog," upper right under Fitness/Other links
Read all about the gear and techniques I use in my new book, Hunting Big Mule Deer, How to Take the Best Buck of Your Life
Merry CHRISTmas everyone.
As promised, it's time to announce the winner of the The Vortex Diamondback HP 3-12 x 42 with BDC Reticle
(If you missed this mornings' post, you need to view it first here Hunting the Rut & Migration: Day 9 or this one might not make much sense)
To me, the most suspenseful moments in hunting are those between the shot and confirming a lethal hit. Because big mule deer often live in broken brushy terrain, this task is harder than it might seem to the uninitiated. After a shot, I always remember the old proverb "Fools rush in."
Thanks for following this hunt to completion. I truly hope you learned something that will help you Take the Best Buck of Your Life
I'll draw for The Vortex Diamondback 3-12 x 42 with BDC Reticle (shown below) on 12/22 according to the rules posted here. Make sure you check your email as you'll only have 24 hours to respond to be entered in the final drawing.
Read all about the research, gear, and techniques I use in my new book, Hunting Big Mule Deer, How to Take the Best Buck of Your Life
I camped as close to the area I wanted to hunt as possible, but I was still about 90 minutes from where most of the deer had showed up in the last few days. That meant 90 minutes of riding a horse in subzero temps. Riding a walking horse is a pretty sedentary activity. About every 20 minutes, I'd have to dismount and walk to warm up. Once in the deer country, I'd tie the horse and hike, so staying warm wasn't as tough; that is until I sat down to glass! What I'm getting at is that while hunting in these conditions can be great, you're always in survival mode.
Today dawned cold and clear- perfect conditions for some Extreme Long Range Glassing (I wrote an entire chapter on this subject in my book). Time for the big Vortex 15x56 Kaibab HD Tripod Binoculars along side my old favorite, the Swarovski CT 75 (I take a lot of ribbing on that scope but I still crown it the best spotter for the backcountry hunter.)
Don't wait too long to get entered. Good luck and thanks for following.
Read all about the research, gear, and techniques I use in my new book, Hunting Big Mule Deer, How to Take the Best Buck of Your Life
Seems like no matter the time of year, there will be good hunting days and bad hunting days. The difference often lies in the conditions. Typically the colder winter weather makes for good and even great hunting (notice the game trails in the freshly fallen snow in the lead image of this post). Problem is, hunting in subzero temperatures (0 was the low, 14 degrees was the high this day) all day long is both mentally challenging and physically tiring.
The migration is in full swing and bucks are rutting hard. If I can stay off the trigger, I might have a chance at a really good buck. Here is today's video.
Buck hunting is about logistics. You can be the best hunter on the planet, but if you don't have the gear and a plan to be where the deer are, no hunting skill can make it up. Today's video is a good example of logistics:
It's day six. I was up at 4:45 to saddle the horse and grab a quick breakfast and coffee. The weather report says a big storm is coming in less than 36 hours and could dump up to 10" of snow at the elevation I've been hunting. With a solid foot on the ground now, I know this will be enough snow to push the deer out of here. Besides that, I might not be able to get camp out to the main road as even now I'm chained up on all fours and can barely get around.
On migration hunts, you have to pay close attention to the conditions- snow depth and temperature (and in some units, the calendar)- on a daily basis. The deer are responding to those conditions and if you don't, you might end up where there are few deer, even if hundreds were in the area just days ago. That is why migration hunts can be frustrating to the unprepared.
With day 4 already here, I had hunted most of the immediate area on foot and by glassing from the truck. I'd seen some good bucks, even one crowding the 180" mark.
I think one reason many people are drawn to mule deer is because glassing for them is fun. I think in some cases we can actually spend too much time glassing but when the conditions are right, no other technique will show you more deer.
One of the techniques I write about extensively in my new book, Hunting Big Mule Deer, How to Take the Best Buck of Your Life, is Still-Hunting. A few generations ago before scopes and rifles capable of shooting beyond 100 yards became widely available, still-hunting was more popular. However, even today it's the perfect technique for hunting the timber and brush of the West where so many mature mule deer spend the dayllight hours.
While I wait all year to hunt big big bucks, I'm surprised at the emotion I sometimes experience as the hunt approaches: Dread! That's right, dread. I can't really explain it but it's a common emotion I feel (I've heard other serious hunters admit the same thing). I find it's worse if I'm going to be hunting alone.
Oh yea, baby! It's time to give these bad boys away to one lucky Rok Blog subscriber. If you're just landing here on the Rok Blog, let me catch you up. I started writing in my series, Killing Big Mule Deer, about the number one technique to kill big mule deer in the West: Glassing. As part of that series, I arranged a killer giveaway with long-time Rokslide sponsor, Vortex Optics. They generously donated a set of their new 15x56 Vortex Vulture binoculars for me to review AND giveaway to one of you (thanks Vortex).
Getting back to hunting big mule deer, I'll continue the review of my personal optics package.
If you missed my post on the number one technique to kill big mule deer, see Killing Big Mule Deer: Glassing. There, I make a case for the first optic in my set, a low-power binocular. Let's discuss my second optic here.
In the early season, before the freezing temps and snow hits, I glass more. This is for several reasons:
1) The big bucks are typically in the more open country and are easier to spot.
2) I can sit longer without moving due to the warmer temps.
Jared has been featured on the Rok Blog before, and for good reason. He has been successful on a wide variety of species with all weapon types. Jared is back and this time giving us the low down on his favorite type of hunting: Spot and Stalk. Take it away Jared.
You can find the latest product releases and connect directly with the manufacturers here on the Rok Blog. If you're a long-range hunter, you might be particularly interested in this blog post. Mark Boardman, marketing manager of American-owned, Wisconsin-based Vortex Optics, just sent me some information on another great scope they recently released. Check it out (you can also ask Mark questions in the comment section below). Be sure to subscribe to the Rok Blog at the top of the blog just under Fitness/Other at "Subscribe to Blog" to be first to hear about new gear releases.
Timber to tactical – Vortex’s new Viper HS-T riflescope is sure to dazzle with its feature rich versatility