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5:30 AM, headed in there…

12:30 pm update

3:00 PM, back at the laptop.  Glad you’re all still haning in there everyone!  Here’s a recap of last 24 hours.  I backpacked in two miles yesterday afternoon with just enough food & water to stay 24 hours if needed.  

Got camp set up and was out by 4:30 headed for the draws where I’ve seen that best buck.  It’s thick juniper & pinyon-pine country and not easy to navigate visually. I knew about where I wanted to sit and as I made my way down the last brushy hogback I smelled something I don’t like to smell when stalking bucks- elk! I had the wind and could tell they were close.  Not 10 yards later I see the floppy ears of cow walking away from me at about 90 yards.  Next I could see heavy antlers swaying and the bull stood up at 58 yards.  I stayed close to the ground hoping they wouldn’t start a stampede down the ridge.  They didn’t but still made plenty of noise for 5:00 pm on a hot afternoon.  Older bucks pay attention to everything and I’d just rather not have bumped them.

I continued down the ridge and got to my ambush point at 5:30.  


By 7:40 (last legal shooting light) I was still there.  Only three does had moved around me.  Keep in mind I usually see at least several bucks in this area moving to feed at dark and daylight, so it seemed they had sensed my presence either by the elk or just me walking through their core area.  I stumbled my way back to camp as I really didn’t want to turn on my headlamp.

I was back up at 4:45 am.  Ate dates, a granola bar, and drank as much water as I could handle.  I was back in position by 6:10, so still pretty dark.  I sat in the same place as last night.  I was quietly pulling my First Lite Puffy out of my pack when all the sudden one of those sneezes you can’t stop hit me like a truck.  I tried to cover my face but it was still a loud “Shhwooof” – not what you want to broadcast in dead calm deer country.  

It slowly got light and about 15 mintues later, I spotted three deer 300 yards below me working my way.  It took a few minutes but I finally made out antlers.  One deer had a bigger body than the other two so I figured it was him.  They were very alert and looking my way.  I’m sure they’d heard me sneeze earlier and were being extra cautious.  It was too dark to see through my target peep, so I unscrewed it so I could just shoot through my Ghost Ring, which is still plenty accurate. It looked like I was going to get about a 100-yard or less shot by the track they were on.  I steadied the Knight 45 over my knee and tried to stay comfortable and quiet.

It took another 10 minutes and they made it to 200 yards.  The bigger-bodied buck didn’t seem big enough, so I peered through my 8x and could see now that it wasn’t him.  It was a decent 4-point (lead buck in the first seconds of the video) and the other two bucks were smaller 4-points.  Darn!!! Perfect set up and wrong buck.  I let them get within about 140 yards then shot that short video you saw above.  

It’s about 2.5 miles in to where those bucks are so I wasn’t about to shoot one I didn’t want to pack out.  If I were a bettin’ man, I’d say the bigger buck I was hoping for knew something was up and either moved (they don’t have to move far to hide in this country) or it’s just the fact that once you’re in their core area, they have all the advantages and are hard to see.  It would take me a full day to get a buck out of there, so I’m moving on to my last choice buck which I could get out in a morning.  He’s the buck I spotted on the evening of day four when I left the video camera at camp.  He’s a nice 4-point and I might be tempted if he gives me a good shot.  I’m really hoping a better buck than he has holed up there.  I’m hiking in there in about a half hour.

To pass the time, I made a quick video on my Hilleberg Nallo 3GT tent.  Grant and Alex at 1-Shot Gear (a top-tier Rokslide sponsor) very kindly sent me the tent to try.  It’s a hard-core tent and like all gear that impresses me, is easy to handle and set up.  Check it out and if you’re in the game for any Hilleberg Tents, be sure to give Grant at 1-Shot Gear a call.  (You’ll see I have a nice black eye in the video.  I knocked the tripod over a few nights ago and took a good shot.  You think I look bad, you should have seen the tripod!)

9:30 PM, Left camp at 4:30 and eased my way down a clay ridge scattered with juniper.  The clay has a crust on it, so you have to go slow to be quiet.  I got to my ambush point at 5:30 and sat down.  I was 50 yards closer to where he came out the other night and had a good 200 yard circle I could cover from there.  Tic toc… now it’s 7:30 and zero deer sightings.  There are plenty of places he could still be here and me not see him.  That is why mature bucks are hard to kill as  they choose places with limited visibility until you’re right on top of them which gives them the advantage of hearing or smelling you first.  I’m sure I didn’t spook anything, it’s just deer hunting.  I can say that when an ambush does come together, it is one of the most exciting moments in big deer hunting.  

I’ll head for some brushy draws in the morning where I shot at a really nice 29″ a few years back (some of you remember that hunt).  I’ve hunted it this week already and haven’t seen anytihing BUT that big track I wrote about a few days back.  If I kill one there, I can get him to the truck in half-a-day, so I can get on the road back to Idaho (have to be home no later than Monday night).  Old buck hunters have taught me to always check areas where big bucks have been, even years ago.  They are all attracted to certain places and you never know what might show up.  See you in the morning.

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Robby Denning
Robby Denning started hunting mule deer in the late 1970’s, only missing one season in 35 years. At 25, he gave up the pursuit of all other big-game to focus on taking the best bucks possible. He began hunting the West on a DIY budget hunting an average of 30 days a year for mule deer. Robby loves the hunt as much as the kill and the entire process from research to scouting to hunting. He’s killed four bucks over 200 inches in the last 15 seasons, mostly on easily-obtained tags. He owns a public-land scouting service and runs a private-land outfitting business helping other hunters in their pursuit of deer and elk. Robby has scouted and hunted literally thousands of square miles of mule deer country and brings a wealth of knowledge about these experiences with him. To him, the weapon of choice is just a means-to-an-end and will hunt with bow, rifle, or muzzleloader – whatever it takes to create an opportunity to take a great mule deer. He is also the author of "Hunting Big Mule Deer" available on Amazon. Robby believes all of creation is from God for man to manage, respect, and through which to know its Creator


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