Well, it’s here.  Months of planning, scouting, and praying has all come down to this.  I left work Thursday at 5:00 PM with a load of gear, horses, and hope.  My wife and kids were sweet enough to drive to town and see me off from the parking lot at work.  

I made my road camp by dark.  I had a few minutes to glass the lower fringes of Jalapeño’s home range as dark set in under a sliver of a sinking moon.  I saw a few deer but no good bucks.  We’ve had record setting rains in this country the last month. It’s normally a virtual desert in the mountains, but this year is a spring-like green.  The deer seem to be spread out more, too. 

Keep in mind, I’ve scouted this country four times this year, glassing from the first rays of dawn to mid-morning without ever laying eyes on the buck I call Jalapeño.  All I have to go on that he’s still here is one crappy T-cam pic and the memories of dozens of other big deer that have stuck to their home ranges once I’ve found them over the decades. 

I set camp in the headlights of the truck, fed the horses, and was in bed by 10:30.  Up at 5:45, I glassed the same country I did last night and saw two good bucks.  My Swaro ELs said it was nearly a mile and the sun had not yet crested the mountain, so I couldn’t definitively say one of them was him.  He looked pretty good, though, and the sighting confirmed that the bucks are here.

I’m packing in my spike camp today and enough drinking water to stay in a few days. 

I’ve never found enough water in this country to keep horses, so every few days I have to ride out to water them (and charge batteries so you guys can come along.)  This hunt could run up to 9 days.  With opening day falling on a Saturday, I expect company.  For those of you who followed last year’s hunt, I’m not the only person who knows about Jalapeño so I’m preparing myself for anything. 

The bucks in this area travel from open feeding areas at first light to heavier cover where they spend the day.  Often, you’ll spot them but lose track of them in the folds of the mountain before you can confirm where they’re bedding.  As I’m hunting with a bow, if I can’t bed them, I’m only ruining my chances by tromping all over the mountain until I know where they’re at.   If you don’t find them at first light, it’s often impossible to locate them again.  Of all places I’ve hunted, this one is one of the most frustrating but I’m convinced that is why Jalapeño has made it to 5+ years old living here.

So check back often this next week.  Anything could happen.  Remember to check these previous posts to win a bunch of this gear I’m using on this hunt like an Athen’s Convixtion BowTight Spot Quiver, Vortex 15×56 Vulture Binoculars, and Solid Broadheads. The entry rules are in each of those links.


To follow the rest of this Live Hunt, click on “Blog” top of page and scroll down until you find days 3-13.


The guys at 1-Shot Gear sent me a Hilleberg Nallo 3GT for this hunt.  As you know, I hate “pup” tents (too small for old guys like me) but I agreed that this one might win me over.  It’s huge.  If this hunt runs the whole 9 days, I’ll be thankful for it.   You’re looking at it freshly set up an hour ago.  If you recoginze that campsite, it is the same one I hunted Jalapeño from last year.  I’m about three miles in and a mile away from his feed area.  I camp in camped in heavy cover to avoid spooking deer.  

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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


  1. Good Luck Robby. Thanks for taking us along. How much water do you take in per person per day? Thanks

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