Does anyone have any experience with Idaho's GMU 27 Early Mule Deer? I know its not likely to produce a B&C buck, but seeing a good buck or two during a very remote backcountry deer/elk combo hunt would be enough to satisfy my hunting experience.
I've flown that unit once while scouting for elk for some guys. It has all the remoteness you could ever want, and don't rule out a great buck. It would be a task to learn it and will cost you some dough, but it does have potential. Over the years, I've seen some nice 180-190 gross deer that have come out of there including one 38" giant. What it lacks in genetics it makes up for in remoteness.
I'd start with some of the pilots who fly hunters into the airstrips. Challis, McCall, Cascade have airports that service that country and some of the surrounding units. Hire one to take you back there in the summer and show you some areas. They spend hundreds of hours over that country and the ones I've hired have been willing to share what they know once I get out the checkbook.
Seems most of the September activity is for bugling elk, but that is a great time to hunt pre-rut mule deer in bachelor groups. Many hunters want to hunt the rut back there, but those same bucks are available in September when the weather is nice and a backcountry hunt is more doable. If you can afford a guided hunt, go for it as you'd learn the country and the deer.
If I was going to hunt that country, I'd give myself 3-5 seasons before I made a decision on it's potential.
Hiring a guide to learn the lay of the land and how the deer utilize it would definitely get me started, but I'm going to have pass on that and continue going after deer on my own solo like I always have. Its been a great learning experience so far and once I bring my first Mature Backcountry Buck down, I will be proud. Getting flown in is an option that has crossed my mind, it depends on where I choose to spend 10 to 14 days. I'll go in around opening day and hunt mule deer primarily and elk secondary. It looks like I could hike in as far as 10 miles from the nearest road or airstrip. There are few places in the lower 48 as remote as this country.
There are certainly big bucks in unit 27. If you want a better chance at finding one go in november, you will see alot more deer. I guided pretty close to there there this past fall. Awesome, very rough, very remote, very gnarly country. You will certainly earn a buck in there. My buddy shot a buck that went right at 30" wide and right at 180" this last fall in there.
I've been searching through the outfitter websites and found some pictures of great bucks. Your definitely right, November is the time to go there. Success rates are outstanding late in the year with great 4-point percentages.
My only concern with going in late is winter weather concerns. I'm going to drive in there, flying is not an option for me this year. I'm not sure how much snow they get back there and how soon it comes in typically. The elevations are a bit lower than where I've hunted deer previously. Its an area I can return to for at least 5 years to get a feel for its potential. So, I will end up hunting both the early and late seasons over the years to try and get a stronger understanding of the deer habits.
I also plan on trying to learn a bit about the sheep and goats habits during my deer hunts before I start applying for those once in a lifetime tags.
Eventually I will hunt the area late in the year, but it most likely happen next year or the year after.
I have been contemplating this hunt the last 2 seasons. It looks like the best bet for a backpack hunter is to get flown in to one of the air strips and hike in, at least for the early season. You can also drive up to the edge of the wilderness and hike in, this is most likely what I will do, but will probably not be the only one with this idea.
The soil in unit 27 is not very nutritious and this is mostly what dictates the "stunted" antler growth. I do not doubt that there are those that have hunted this unit extensively and know where the pockets of good forage are
Thank you for that tid bit of information. Why do you think the forage is less nutritious? Google Earth doesn't make it look like Idaho's GMU 67 or some of Colorado's High Country in relation to green mountain sides and basins. I have read that fires have helped improve some of the forage and antler growth. Its not an area I expect to produce a 200 inch buck, but I think your right about trying to find those pockets of good forage. Those pockets of good forage will most likely hold a good buck or two year after year.
It is based on the geology of the area. They call it the Idaho Batholith, it's basically sandy well drained soil. I have heard that Nasa has been able to map photosynthesis via satellites. That would be an excellent tool for scouting because it would show where the more intense photosynthesis is going on, this is most likely where the flora would be more nutritious.
The fires are great, they open up the land and allow new growth (early succession), this is where Mule deer thrive. Young plants have more nutrition per unit volume, hence the health benefits of alfalfa sprouts.
Thanks for the great information. Thats very useful and I will look into it more. It won't necessarily stop me from heading back there, but it is something I will definitely keep in mind. Some of the outfitter websites had some good pictures of some real nice bucks, but saw very few big mature bulls. Really, I saw no great bulls in the pictures. I'll continue researching.
By all means don't let anything stop you from heading in there, it looks like a great hunt. Personally I would be more than happy with a 160-170 Buck or a nice 5 point Elk. I've seen those pics on the outfitters sites too and they correspond with what you will see if you do a unit 27 search on the MM site
Also check out Robby's Nov. mule deer hunt in the live hunt section.
I've hunted the unit early and late. I would pick the early hunt just because I like the high country. Bucks are few and far between on the early hunt, but I have seen a couple great bucks that I couldn't score on. The late is fun but draws a big crowd and the best bucks we've taken are 160's. There are plenty of high elevation roads that leave the Stanley and Challis area that you can take off and hit the high country without having to use a air taxi... If you do use an air taxi, be sure to check out Arnold Aviation out of Cascade...competitive prices and even better people!!
My focus is definitely going to be the early season when I can enjoy the high country. I have a couple areas in mind that look promising. I'll give myself a solid 10 to 14 days in some of the most remote country I have ever found on Google Earth in the Lower 48 and see what happens. I have one mountain in particular I plan on spending some time glassing and hunting. It has a great high country pass with numerous escape route options, plus the option for a buck to circle around the mountain and back to his bed. It appears to have plenty of vegetation, cover, and water. Hopefully, 5 miles from the nearest air strip, 12 miles or so from the nearest road, and no trails going up onto it is enough to keep most any hunter or guide from hunting it. I'll just have to hike there and find out opening day.
Thank You for all the great information and advice,
The early hunt would be preferable for me also. It's simply a lot more pleasant to be backpack hunting in the high country when the weather is not so cold. The Elk aspect of the hunt would be better earlier as well. At the end of last season I was really wanting to put in for an early hunt this year. However I am going to be on a wildland fire crew this summer so the late hunt is probably my only choice.
Fires could definitely put a damper on my hunt or even postpone it. Last September I was dealing with very poor visibility in GMU 48. I couldn't glass from one mountainside to the other. I already had two bucks scouted out and blew my stalk on the first one by making the stupid attempt of going in blind. Granted he was the smaller buck of the two and I got within 35 yards of him. I just didn't know his exact position and he caught me before I saw him. I had a piece of brush between me and him and he must of caught my movement through it since he didn't know what I was. The second and bigger buck was nowhere to be found and I never got another glimpse of him, but I did cross some big deer tracks heading up the other side of the mountain he was hanging around earlier in July.
I drew the November unit 27 hunt. I have already scouted bucks in otc units that are bigger than anything I will probably see in the middlefork, but it just seems like a fun hunt that I should try. I haven't bought the tag yet, but probably will. I am strongly considering one of the airstrips on the north end of the unit. Anyone else hunting this unit this season?
I don't know if I'll make it out there this year due to time constraints, but taking of the air strips should put you in a great position. The pack out back to the air strip will also be downhill most likely and the rates for flights in and out seem very reasonable. Good luck on your hunt whether it is OTC or in gmu 27.