2021 Nebraska Pine Ridge Unit - Mule Deer Hunt

Grit2

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Feb 17, 2021
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134
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St. Louis, MO
Took my first stab at mule deer hunting, no dice.

We arrived in Crawford on the 29th of August and scouted that evening, the 30th, and the 31st. We hunted the 1st through the 5th.

We saw way more deer than I expected. Lots of does and fawns (10+ per day) and essentially no bucks (4 total in 7 days, with the biggest being a forky). After talking to a local biologist, it seems that the heat was keeping the bucks bedded all day and only moving at night.

I expected more sage brush like Wyoming but the places we hunted were mostly grass and pines with some deciduous trees in the bottoms. Felt like we threw the entire book of tactics at the hunt. We glassed and glassed and glassed from high points, we tucked into valleys and running water watching over meadows, we tried to wind bump areas, and nothing anywhere close to a shooter. There was some hunting pressure there but i'd consider it to be very manageable. It was surprising how many folks we talked to basically turned it into a hiking trip putting 12+ miles in every day. Doesn't seem like you get much hunting time in if you did that much moving.

The highlight of the trip ended up being the Elk bulls we saw which included a 7x7, 3 6x6s, and 3 smaller ones but none were spikes. Given the tag and those sightings, I would have loved to kill one of the bigger bulls.

I am pleased with the trip as a first mule deer hunting experience but it's a bit disappointing to not see a shooter much less get an opportunity to blow a stalk. I'd go back to the area but not so early in the season. I think I'll wait until after the weather breaks the next time I go.
 

Page Master

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Jul 23, 2020
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361
Took my first stab at mule deer hunting, no dice.

We arrived in Crawford on the 29th of August and scouted that evening, the 30th, and the 31st. We hunted the 1st through the 5th.

We saw way more deer than I expected. Lots of does and fawns (10+ per day) and essentially no bucks (4 total in 7 days, with the biggest being a forky). After talking to a local biologist, it seems that the heat was keeping the bucks bedded all day and only moving at night.

I expected more sage brush like Wyoming but the places we hunted were mostly grass and pines with some deciduous trees in the bottoms. Felt like we threw the entire book of tactics at the hunt. We glassed and glassed and glassed from high points, we tucked into valleys and running water watching over meadows, we tried to wind bump areas, and nothing anywhere close to a shooter. There was some hunting pressure there but i'd consider it to be very manageable. It was surprising how many folks we talked to basically turned it into a hiking trip putting 12+ miles in every day. Doesn't seem like you get much hunting time in if you did that much moving.

The highlight of the trip ended up being the Elk bulls we saw which included a 7x7, 3 6x6s, and 3 smaller ones but none were spikes. Given the tag and those sightings, I would have loved to kill one of the bigger bulls.

I am pleased with the trip as a first mule deer hunting experience but it's a bit disappointing to not see a shooter much less get an opportunity to blow a stalk. I'd go back to the area but not so early in the season. I think I'll wait until after the weather breaks the next time I go.

That area has been hammered the last few years. Same with pronghorn. 4 years ago I didn't see a single deer hunter and the last 2 years it's been combat bowhunting. I have 4 friends out there this year and only 1 has tagged on a buck. 1 saw a few nicer bucks, but they were gone from pressure pretty fast.
 

Page Master

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Jul 23, 2020
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361
That's unfortunate. I wasn't shooting unless I'd be proud to have it on my wall.

For goats you'd probably never shoot anything then. 65''+ is very few and far between. Mule deer can be done but again, few and far between unless you can get some private access. Residents get 2 rifle tags for any deer, which, mixed with that terrain, makes it hard for anything to grow.
 

William Sublette

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Aug 6, 2017
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325
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On the Road my Friend
Took my first stab at mule deer hunting, no dice.

We arrived in Crawford on the 29th of August and scouted that evening, the 30th, and the 31st. We hunted the 1st through the 5th.

We saw way more deer than I expected. Lots of does and fawns (10+ per day) and essentially no bucks (4 total in 7 days, with the biggest being a forky). After talking to a local biologist, it seems that the heat was keeping the bucks bedded all day and only moving at night.

I expected more sage brush like Wyoming but the places we hunted were mostly grass and pines with some deciduous trees in the bottoms. Felt like we threw the entire book of tactics at the hunt. We glassed and glassed and glassed from high points, we tucked into valleys and running water watching over meadows, we tried to wind bump areas, and nothing anywhere close to a shooter. There was some hunting pressure there but i'd consider it to be very manageable. It was surprising how many folks we talked to basically turned it into a hiking trip putting 12+ miles in every day. Doesn't seem like you get much hunting time in if you did that much moving.

The highlight of the trip ended up being the Elk bulls we saw which included a 7x7, 3 6x6s, and 3 smaller ones but none were spikes. Given the tag and those sightings, I would have loved to kill one of the bigger bulls.

I am pleased with the trip as a first mule deer hunting experience but it's a bit disappointing to not see a shooter much less get an opportunity to blow a stalk. I'd go back to the area but not so early in the season. I think I'll wait until after the weather breaks the next time I go.

It looks like your experience turned out to be what everyone on the forums with NE experience warns about.



So what made you pull the trigger, and go there in the first place?




How did you pick NE?
 
OP
Grit2

Grit2

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St. Louis, MO
It looks like your experience turned out to be what everyone on the forums with NE experience warns about.



So what made you pull the trigger, and go there in the first place?




How did you pick NE?
I went with 3 other guys and was added to the roster after the destination was basically set. The original idea was Idaho but the 24hr drive from Eastern MO was unappealing.

The guys I went with had a contact in the area that was supposed to become a game warden and gave us some pins to start from. Turned out not to be great intel.

I believe tag access, the "intel", and limited drive time were the primary drivers. We encountered folks from Iowa and Wisconsin that had similar experiences as us and their reasons to be there were roughly the same. I'd try the area again later in the season but never again in September.

For goats you'd probably never shoot anything then. 65''+ is very few and far between. Mule deer can be done but again, few and far between unless you can get some private access. Residents get 2 rifle tags for any deer, which, mixed with that terrain, makes it hard for anything to grow.

Antelope are different to me for some reason. As long as its not a juvenile, I'm probably shooting. We didn't have NE antelope tags though. Just deer.
 
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Grit2

Grit2

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St. Louis, MO
Also of note, I don't think there is enough public ground in the area to actually out work someone. Those guys we talked to from Wisconsin and Iowa were putting in 10+ miles per day. I don't think there were effective miles but they were walking a long way to get where they wanted to be.
 

Page Master

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361
I went with 3 other guys and was added to the roster after the destination was basically set. The original idea was Idaho but the 24hr drive from Eastern MO was unappealing.

The guys I went with had a contact in the area that was supposed to become a game warden and gave us some pins to start from. Turned out not to be great intel.

I believe tag access, the "intel", and limited drive time were the primary drivers. We encountered folks from Iowa and Wisconsin that had similar experiences as us and their reasons to be there were roughly the same. I'd try the area again later in the season but never again in September.



Antelope are different to me for some reason. As long as its not a juvenile, I'm probably shooting. We didn't have NE antelope tags though. Just deer.

Did one of the WI guys have a giant red handlebar mustache? Another of my buddies talked to the Eastern MO folks. 2 brothers, white ram, driving from Georgia.
 

String&stick

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Jan 16, 2018
Messages
646
Nebraska + public land = high pressure and few shooters!

Doesnt matter what public you pick, sure there could be a big deer, just like I could win the trucks and bucks scratch tickets. . . But the odds and definitely against you!

Nebraska limited NR antelope tags this year, I'm guessing they will limit NR archery tags for deer soon also! It's for the best, not that I'm against NR coming here, but it's really an injustice to the NR buying tags for most of what you will find.

Maybe they just need a disclaimer! Nebraska is only 2% public land. . . It gets pounded from September 1 to January 15th!
 

hobbes

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Jun 6, 2012
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1,695
Sounds like tough hunting.

I've hunted turkeys in the Pine Ridge multiple times, 2008 to 2015, and can't recall ever finding a nice shed. I don't recall ever seeing that many deer.
 
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Grit2

Grit2

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This was the biggest buck we saw. Even alive wouldn't be a shooter. Either way it was a good learning experience and we saw some awesome elk. So I've marked it up as a learning experience and as noted likely won't be going back.
 

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Page Master

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This was the biggest buck we saw. Even alive wouldn't be a shooter. Either way it was a good learning experience and we saw some awesome elk. So I've marked it up as a learning experience and as noted likely won't be going back.

Up there that is definitely a shooter, unless you've been several years and know the good spots. I took this pic last year, almost to the day. I missed the tall narrow guy at 54 (misjudged with my 50 yard pin). I've been out there a half dozen times or so. I won't be back for awhile either I don't think, mainly due to another location I have on private.
 

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Grit2

Grit2

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I did find this shed in Wyoming last fall while hunting antelope. This would be more in my range of shooters.

1631282211515.png
 

LWright

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Aug 29, 2021
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We hunted public land south of I -80 around North plate. We saw 1 nice whitetail buck but just couldn’t get close enough and a lot of whitetail does. The area had tons of cedars which made it tough to glass. We left that spot and went to some public in the Sandhills. We glassed all day but didn’t turn anything up. Only having 1 day hurt but look forward going in the future!
 

Ridge Hunter 83

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Joined
Sep 15, 2021
Messages
49
Location
Colorado
Took my first stab at mule deer hunting, no dice.

We arrived in Crawford on the 29th of August and scouted that evening, the 30th, and the 31st. We hunted the 1st through the 5th.

We saw way more deer than I expected. Lots of does and fawns (10+ per day) and essentially no bucks (4 total in 7 days, with the biggest being a forky). After talking to a local biologist, it seems that the heat was keeping the bucks bedded all day and only moving at night.

I expected more sage brush like Wyoming but the places we hunted were mostly grass and pines with some deciduous trees in the bottoms. Felt like we threw the entire book of tactics at the hunt. We glassed and glassed and glassed from high points, we tucked into valleys and running water watching over meadows, we tried to wind bump areas, and nothing anywhere close to a shooter. There was some hunting pressure there but i'd consider it to be very manageable. It was surprising how many folks we talked to basically turned it into a hiking trip putting 12+ miles in every day. Doesn't seem like you get much hunting time in if you did that much moving.

The highlight of the trip ended up being the Elk bulls we saw which included a 7x7, 3 6x6s, and 3 smaller ones but none were spikes. Given the tag and those sightings, I would have loved to kill one of the bigger bulls.

I am pleased with the trip as a first mule deer hunting experience but it's a bit disappointing to not see a shooter much less get an opportunity to blow a stalk. I'd go back to the area but not so early in the season. I think I'll wait until after the weather breaks the next time I go.
Nice to see a 7x7 though.

Was he heavy? Thick?
 

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