Utah San Juan Elk Ridge - Muzzleloader Mule Deer

Umpqua Hunter

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My credit card just got hit in Utah. My wife and I both applied for muzzleloader mule deer in the San Juan Elk Ridge area, so one of us drew that tag. The unit looks good on "paper" and has very high hunter success. We had low points (I had 5 points and my wife had 2) and it looked like a good place to apply. Another reason we applied there is that I am in the max point pool for the early rifle elk tag, so if we drew deer first it would give us some scouting time for a future elk tag. I should draw elk within the next 5 years. If you have hunted this unit and are willing to share some info to get us pointed in the right direction for our deer hunt, I would greatly appreciate it.
 

sk1

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wow really, already? normally it's only a few days before the actual results come out

i guess i better not get my hopes up for my LE tag....no activity yet! ;(

congrats
 

robby denning

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I had the rifle tag down there a long time ago (1997). I spent about 20 days on the unit between July and October. I did not kill a buck, but I'm picky. Could have shot several 160-170 deer and saw a couple that were better but no chance to shoot them (one was open season, the other was scouting).

The deer herd has declined in numbers since then (I've spoke with the biologist even recently) but the buck:doe ratio is good. It is not very glassable country and you need to hunt near and in the cover.

It's been so long, I can't remember names in that country, but you don't have to get really specific to find the deer. Much of it is roaded and there are plenty of road hunters, but the muzz season should be pretty quite, unless the elk hunters are out then. The south half is more oakbrush and PJ, with the north half being a little more open, but not a lot. Most of the deer will be on top during the muzz season.

The best advice I could give you is to get down there before the season and find a few bucks to hunt. If that isn't possible, if you could find some of the hunters with archery tags, they will have the most current information and might turn you onto a good buck.

You'll have a nice hunt and could shoot a 160 to 180 deer with some luck.

Todd Black of BTO outfitters is the outfitter for the area and is top notch. I'm an outfitter, too, (Idaho) and hate it when people try to needle me for info with no intention of ever hiring me, and I'm sure he's the same way. However, if someone is upfront with me, I might give them a hand. If you have a few grand just lying around, unlike me, you might even consider hiring him.

Best of luck and hope to follow your hunt on Rokslide.
 
OP
Umpqua Hunter

Umpqua Hunter

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Good info Robbie. I have followed BTO and their elk hunts they do a great job. I spoke to Todd yesterday about doing a "scouting" package. To his credit, he said he would not feel good about that since he would have to send me to his secondary areas since he would be guiding hunters in his best areas. We will be doing this hunt DIY as I am saving my outfitter dollars for when I finally draw the Strip (I'm in the max point pool).

As far as timing for my hunt, the muzzleloader elk hunt will be running at that time, and the early rifle elk hunt will have just finished so the deer will have felt some pressure by the time this hunt rolls around.

I have heard the main concentration of deer is on Elk Ridge, rather then in the Abajo or Blue Mountains. Is that your experience?
 
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robby denning

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I found a few bucks on the Abajo side. Don't even remember the Blue Mountians. Most deer up on Elk Ridge before mid October
 

Hoytnut

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I found a few bucks on the Abajo side. Don't even remember the Blue Mountians. Most deer up on Elk Ridge before mid October

The Blues and the Abajos are the same mountains and not in the Elk Ridge Unit. Most of the deer on Elk Ridge in the early are seasons are on top and fairly accessible. Later in the season they will drop off the tops and into no-mans land. There are still some good bucks on the unit if you hunt hard. Should be a fun hunt. Good luck!
 

a3dhunter

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The Blues and the Abajos are the same mountains and not in the Elk Ridge Unit. Most of the deer on Elk Ridge in the early are seasons are on top and fairly accessible. Later in the season they will drop off the tops and into no-mans land. There are still some good bucks on the unit if you hunt hard. Should be a fun hunt. Good luck!

My understanding was the Abajo's are outside (east) of the San Juan elk ridge unit as well.
A few years ago hunted them with archery equipment right out of Monticello, saw some big bucks up on the road to the radio towers and spent some time hunting in there, but the biggest buck I saw was in the thick lower stuff. I loved being able to watch trophy elk while deer hunting in late August out there.
 

robby denning

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I had a guy call our scouting service that drew the archery elk tag down there (11 points as a nonresident, so he's got the golden touch for sure).

I mentioned you and he's interested in talking to you. Maybe you two can help each other out with scouting and info. You'd be wise to help him as he'll be on the unit before you go and he's got your dream elk tag, too. PM me if interested.
 
OP
Umpqua Hunter

Umpqua Hunter

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Umpqua.
I had a guy call our scouting service that drew the archery elk tag down there (11 points as a nonresident, so he's got the golden touch for sure).

I mentioned you and he's interested in talking to you. Maybe you two can help each other out with scouting and info. You'd be wise to help him as he'll be on the unit before you go and he's got your dream elk tag, too. PM me if interested.

Sounds great Robby...PM is on its way.
 
OP
Umpqua Hunter

Umpqua Hunter

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I wanted to fill you all in. We finally got the results and it was my wife who drew the tag, and with only 2 points. That rocks! She just started hunting in 2010 and this will be her second mule deer hunt.
 
OP
Umpqua Hunter

Umpqua Hunter

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We are leaving on Sunday for my wife's muzzleloader mule deer hunt on the San Juan/Elk Ridge. We have two core areas identified, one on the north end of Elk Ridge, the other on the south end. Has anybody been in there in the last few weeks during the archery or early rifle elk hunt? If so would you be willing to share what you have seen for deer.
 

robby denning

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Good luck UH!
I haven't been there in 15 years..., not very glassable, but does have some good bucks and even some smoker bucks.
 

Wolverine19

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Try hunting West of Shay Ridge. I killed my first mule deer there in 1996. It was around 180" and weighed about 300 lbs. I hunted with some locals from Monticello that still live there. We hiked about 5 miles early in the morning and I was the lucky newby that shot the big deer that year. We camped at the end of Co Rd 1051 (Google Earth). If it is anything like it used to be, you will see lots of deer, lots of elk and hardly any hunters. Then again, that was a long time ago.

The locals are pretty tight lipped about the hunting but they are very nice and love to help otherwise. At the time, the local game warden actually helped us pack out the deer. Pretty funny because there were some California hunters we ran into at camp and they were pretty mad the game warden was helping us.

Good luck!
 
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