The DIY Hunter

Kaden mule deer buck in camera across canyon.

This deer season in Utah rolled around with Dallen having and muzzleloader tag and me and my two younger boys having rifle tags.

For the muzzleloader hunt, I went out with Dallen a couple of times. On two occasions Kaden carried my muzzleloader as youth hunters with a rifle tag can hunt all of the seasons. We had a few good trips hiking up the mountain but didn't find a lot of deer. One trip that Dallen and I went on had us pushing probably 9 miles and didn't see a single deer. After that trip in we switch to a different area of public land and found a few right along the fence with the private land.

Dallen hunting at sunset.

Hunting in the rain with Kaden.

Dallen did have a close encounter with a four-point buck that out-smarted him while he was trying to slip into closer range with his CVA Accura V2. He now wants a CVA Paramount Muzzleloader like mine to extend his range a little more.

After the muzzleloader season, we were back after the elk for the rifle elk season before we switched back to deer hunting again.

The rifle deer season had some really late dates pushing the close of the season on October 31st. This had us excited because the deer really start to move into the public land in November for the rut so the chances of better bucks starting to migrate into the area would be greater.

The day before the opener had me and Kaden packing in to set up camp. We made it in the four miles to the area we like to hunt ready for the opener in the morning.

As the light started to fill the sky we were set up on our shooting sticks watching our favorite canyon. It didn't take long before the canyon erupted with deer going everywhere. The sky was cloudy making the lighting quite dark. As the deer started moving rapidly all over the canyon we spotted two four-point bucks running together. Kaden was ready and on them but they weren't stopping. I was going back and forth from my rifle to my range finder and my 50-year-old eyes were having a hard time adjusting to the different optics and just looking without optics across the canyon in the dim lighting. 

It became quite clear the bucks were not going to stop and were getting further and further away. Without saying a word Kaden took the shot at the buck moving at 320 yards and drilled in through the heart. What a cool moment for me to just give him the range and he knew what to do. He's becoming quite the marksman and hunter. After the shot, he told me he was holding right on the front edge of the buck as it was moving to compensate for the movement and he judged it perfectly.

After Kaden's buck hit the dirt I turned my attention to the other four-point that was now running. I thought about shooting it but it was just too difficult to spot him amongst all the other deer across the canyon with my bare eyes then switch to a rangefinder then over to a rifle with my old eyes. Oh well, the most important thing was making sure Kaden made the shot. Nice work Kaden!

We rushed to get a few photos before it started to rain and then it rained on us the whole time working on boning out the buck. 

Kaden 2021 mule deer buck with X-Bolt 300 WSM.

After we had the buck boned out we headed back to camp to rest and get out of the rain inside of our tent. One thing I have found with boning out deer and elk meat is that if I can get the meat boned out it has always been tasty good even when I get it off the mountain the day after it was harvested. So we were going to spend the night and see if I could find a buck in the evening or the next morning before hauling the meat off the mountain.

As it started getting late into the afternoon the rain started to stop so we set up glassing the canyon for the evening. That evening we saw a few buck smaller bucks and a couple of mountain lions about 400 yards up the canyon from our camp. These are the first mountain lions that Kaden had ever seen. They were hanging around one spot in the brush so I figured they had a kill somewhere right there. (Shaky handheld video of the kitties is below.)

Cooking fresh tenderloin in the tent.

Roasting chunks of tenderloin over our camp stove. Yum! Fresh venison on the mountain is delicious.

Morning rolled around and we were out glassing again for deer. It was a little difficult as fog kept rolling in blocking our ability to see across the canyons. We watched a good number of deer but nothing in the four-point category so after a couple of hours we decided to pack up and get Kaden and his buck off the mountain.

As we walked back to our tent we decided to walk and look off the other side of the point we were camping on. As we approached to edge of the point and neared some maple trees a buck jumped out and took off running. I could see he was a young three-point... the best buck we had seen since opening morning. I quickly decided to try and take him as I ran back to the tent to grab my rifle and shooting sticks. To date, none of my boys have ever seen me shoot a buck or bull. I have always been hunting by myself whenever I have taken bull elk and buck deer. This was running through my head rapidly as I knew this could be a good opportunity to fill a tag with Kaden there to share the memory with.

DIY Hunter 2021 mule deer buck.

As I ran back to the edge of the ridgeline I dropped and ranged the buck now running across the canyon about to go over the ridge. 400 yards. The buck paused as it got to the next ridgeline looking over the ridge and I quickly sent a 147 ELD-M over to meet him. The buck flipped upside down right in his tracks and then a large cloud of fog rolled in blocking any view of where the buck was. 

We grabbed some gear to work on the buck and off we went over to find him. Given the fog rolled in we weren't sure if he may have jumped back up and ran off but that wasn't the case. He was stone-cold right where I shot him at.

What a cool experience to share with Kaden. I kind of wish I would have shot smaller bucks in years past when my boys were with me. We now were each coming out extra heavy packing deer with our gear off the mountain.

The 147 ELD-M performed great in taking this buck. You can learn more below in the video and caption of the bullet.

After taking this buck with my 6.5 PRC I will want to make sure not to hit a shoulder on a bull elk with this bullet/cartridge combo but a shot into the boiler room through the ribs should be deadly on a bull elk. Although I do have better rifles to take elk with I really like how lightweight and comfortable this rifle is to shoot so... I might still carry it on some of my elk hunts.

Our 2021 deer season turned out great. I didn't shoot the largest buck on the mountain but I had an absolute great time sharing this memory with Kaden. 

Here are some technical details of how the 147 ELD-M bullet performed on my 2021 mule deer buck.

Technical ELD-M Bullet Performance Details • 147 Gr ELD-M • 6.5 PRC • MV 3,000 FPS • 400 Yards • 10-15° Downhill Shot • Recovered Bullet Weight - 21 Gr. • The bullet hit just off the top rear edge of the left shoulder blade blowing a fist-sized hole through the rib cage in the top of the chest cavity. The bullet angled down and forward going through the front of the right shoulder bone and almost exited the hide on the front of the shoulder close to the neck. • The buck dropped immediately upon impact. 

Dallen muzzleloader deer hunting looking across canyon.

Nice two point buck we passed on.

DIY Hunter 2021 mule deer with 6.5 PRC.

Paramount muzzleloader mule deer hunting.

Two Utah 2021 mule deer bucks at Browning tent.

Selfie of Kaden and his 2021 mule deer buck.

Hunting in snow storm in Uinta mountains.

Elk have been a nemesis for me for many years now. I'm not sure what is going on. I have been working my rear off to find them year after year... Since I killed my spike elk in 2014 I have only seen a couple of elk. Yes, you heard correct while hunting multiple seasons per year and also hunting with my boys for the past seven years I have only seen a couple of elk total.

In 2020 I hunted a total of nine days for elk and never saw a single elk. This year I personally hunted 10 days for elk. I had the three-season combo tag again this year in my pocket and figured this was the year for me to fill the freezer... I was wrong.

I was super excited that the DWR extended the general archery elk season this year. The Archery elk hunt this year ended five days after it usually closed here in Utah. The season actually ended on the 22nd of September... the furthest into September ever.

Archery Hunting

My QuikSpin vanes on my series 22 arrow shafts archery elk hunting in Uinta mountains.

My QuikSpin vanes on my Series 22 (original heavy version) arrow shafts archery elk hunting in Uinta mountains.

Waking up to snow whil archery elk hunting in Uinta mountains.

Waking up to snow while archery elk hunting in Uinta mountains.

My favorite hunting treat - Swedish Fish.

My favorite hunting treat - Swedish Fish.

Hoyt bow archery elk hunting in Uinta mountains.

One of many, many wallows I found in the Uinta mountains while archery elk hunting.

One of many, many wallows I found in the Uinta mountains while archery elk hunting.

Wearing blaze orage while archery elk hunting in Uinta mountains.

Wearing blaze orange while archery elk hunting in Uinta mountains because the season overlapped with the rifle youth elk hunt.

For archery season headed to the North Slope of the Uinta mountains. I then packed in three miles and set up camp. For the following three days I hiked in another three miles in different directions hunting for elk. I found a lot of fresh sign and heard and saw a couple of hunters but could never find an elk. 

One day hunting my way slowly back to camp I found a spike elk that had been shot in the hindquarters with an arrow from what looked to be about a week prior.

Extremely fresh elk bed in the snow.

Extremely fresh elk bed in the snow while we were rifle hunting.

I found a lot of cool wallows in the area but none of them really looked to have been recently used. I really only believe I heard one valid elk call during the 4 days I archery hunted, it was a bugle in response to my cow calls as I was hiking in with my camp.

I did enjoy the peace of being on the mountain by myself for a few days and I was really pumped that my knee held out with me putting in six-plus miles on them a couple of the days. Both of my knees are in bad shape with them having seven surgeries to date. My right knee has really been bothering me this year and a trip to my knee surgeon was not very comforting... "you're basically bone on bone and the only surgery that is going to help you is a replacement."

I really enjoyed getting out on the mountain exploring new areas but Archery season didn't go so well... at least at finding any elk. Hopefully rifle and muzzleloader seasons would go better.

Rifle season rolled around a few weeks later and two of my boys opted to join me in the Uintas for four days of sub-freezing temps in a tent. We had a lot of fun together putting in six-plus miles every day looking for elk. We were ever so close on many occasions as we found really fresh beds and tracks in the fresh snow. On one day Kaden spotted three cow elk and if one had been a bull Kaden was set up just in time to shoot it before they ran back into the thick pines. 

At the Jeep JK in the Uinta mountains.

Our Browning X-Bolt rifles in the Uinta mountains.

Our three short action X-Bolt rifles, two 300 WSM rifles and one 6.5 PRC.

Alps Outdoors hunting packs.

This rifle hunt was some of the coldest hunting I have ever experienced. We stayed warm and camped at the trailhead in my little four-man Browning tent. I had a blast spending time with my boys. I only wish Landen would have joined us for the hunt. And my knees held out again putting a lot of miles each day on them.

Next up was rifle deer season and then it was my turn again for elk, this time with my Paramount 45 cal muzzleloader.

My plan for the muzzleloader elk hunt was for me to head back to the Uinta mountains and hunt solo again lower down the mountain than where I had previously hunted. I was planning to sleep in the front seats of my Jeep and explore different areas to hunt. As the hunt approached my Jeep started leaking antifreeze from somewhere on the back of the engine. I purchased a borescope camera and traced it to what I believe was an intake manifold gasket leak. I was right a couple of weeks later when I got in into Precision Auto in Morgan to have it fixed.

Muzzleloader elk hunting.

I took this selfie on the 11.3 mile hike looking for elk with my Paramount muzzleloader. This hike destroyed my knee.

Anyhow, with the leaking antifreeze, I wasn't comfortable driving it the long distance to the Uintas to hunt so I decided to hunt more locally. At four in the morning, I made the half-hour drive to the trailhead of the local public land and off I went into the darkness of morning hiking up the mountain. I had one heck of a hike. Looking at OnX Maps I hiked 11.3 miles as the crow flys this day. I was in some great areas for elk but I didn't see any elk, cut any tracks or hear a single elk. One thing I did find out from this hunt was 11.3 miles was way too much for my right knee. It did this knee in bad. Month's later my right knee is still in pain and not functioning well. I'm going to try and lose some weight to try and help it but I may need to break down and get it replaced.

And so my elk finding slump continues. Maybe 2022 will be better. 

Here are some of the critters we saw while hunting.

Canada Jay eating from my hand while elk hunting in the Uinta mountains.

We had the Canada Jays eating from our hands but we couldn't find any elk.

Canada Jays flying around us while elk hunting in the Uinta mountains.

Good mule deer buck in the Uinta mountains.

Dallen spotted this good mule deer buck one day while we were hunting in the Uinta Mountains.

Raven in the Uinta mountains.

Bald Eagle Uinta mountains..

Bull moose in the Uinta mountains.

Selfie elk hunting in the Uinta mountains.

Selie in the tent elk hunting in the Uinta mountains.

Selfie of me and the boys elk hunting in the Uinta mountains.

Warming up in the sun in Uinta mountains.

The boys out warming up in the sun after sitting in this meadow since first light.

diyhntr Jeep JK Uinta mountains.

Hunting in a meadow in the Uinta mountains.

Sitting on the edge of a meadow with X-Bolt rifle in the Uinta mountains.

Hiking in snow storm in a meadow in the Uinta mountains.

Hiking in snow storm in a meadow in the Uinta mountains.

Snowy beard in the Uinta mountains.

Wilderness boundary sign in the Uinta mountains.

A spike elk the had been shot in the hind quarters and lost in the Uinta mountains.

The broken arrow on a spike elk that had been shot in the hind quarters and lost in the Uinta mountains.

A spike elk that had been shot by another hunter in the hindquarters a week or so prior to me finding it during the archery season, also the only elk I saw in the four days I was archery elk hunting.

Mule Deer Browning Cellular Trail Camera

Watching Mule Deer remotely from a Browning Cellular Trail Camera.

Mule Deer Browning Cellular Trail Camera

The four-point in the back was taken by a mountain lion a few days after this photo was taken.

My number 1 buck on Browning Trail Camera

This was my number one buck I targeted during the muzzleloader hunt in September..

This year I drew a general muzzleloader deer tag and my three boys all drew general rifle tags here in Utah. I was excited to get out with my new CVA Paramount muzzleloader this year. This muzzleloader is a muzzleloading long-range rifle. Well, I least I feel very comfortable taking a 500 yard shot with it if the conditions are right. 

To help with finding me a deer to go after with my muzzleloader I employed my trail cameras. I found three four-point bucks in the area over the summer and leading up until the first of September and then they disappeared about the time they shed their velvet.

One buck I am sure was killed by a lion on around July 20th from studying my cellular trail camera that he was coming into with two buddies. The three bucks were regulars to the camera until a couple of mountain lions showed up and hung around for four days. Four days after the mountain lions left only two bucks returned for the rest of summer.

My favorite buck was a 3x4 that was coming out of private land and into public land to drink at a spring every fifth day or so and then only half of the time it came was during daylight hours. I hiked in to watch this spring three times during the muzzleloader hunt but he never showed up while I was there.

Deer hunting with my CVA Paramount muzzleloader

Deer hunting with my CVA Paramount muzzleloader.

The night before the opener of the rifle hunt my three boys and I hiked into our favorite rifle deer location to hunt the opener. It's a good four-mile hike and my boys were up to the task. Opening morning and we rolled out of our tent in a great location. We had plenty of deer around us and a few small bucks but my young boys have been spoiled and they each wanted to get a four-point buck. Unfortunately by mid-day, we hadn't seen a four-point buck and the DWR made us pack back out because of a fire. That sucked. We were a mile past the horse camps, on foot...

Sad having to pack back out because of a fire.

Sad faces as we prepare to pack right back off the mountain because of a fire.

fire closure.

Wildfire in the dark.

A view of part of the fire as we packed out on opening day in the dark.

With the property closed, we decided to try our luck on the Wasatch Front mountains. The deer herd has been in horrible shape on this mountain for several years now so I haven't hunted it at all for about four years. A combination of no good winter range, archers hunting the bucks during the rut, mountain lions everywhere (my trail cameras show lots of lions), R&K outfitters on the nearby CWMU killing everything they can find and highway 89 slaughtering deer has just really bummed me out about that mountain. There aren't the bucks up there like there used to be ten years ago.

Opening morning buck.

A buck the boys passed on opening morning.

A buck I watched during the muzzleloader hunt.

I watched this buck while I was set up watching for the big 3x4 buck during the muzzleloader hunt.

Small bucks Kaden passed on.

Some small bucks Kaden passed on... maybe should have shot one of them.

On the first trip out on the Wasatch Dallen found a good buck way down the mountain. We hiked down and around to get to the buck as fast as we possibly could. As we closed the distance from 1,200 yards down to 454 yards we watched the buck bed under the edge of a pine tree. The buck was bedded offering a decent shot if Dallen could thread it into his chest. Setting up with some shooting sticks and a pack under his shoulder Dallen made a near-perfect shot with his X-Bolt in 300 WSM and the buck never moved.

Spotting Dallens buck feeding

Dallens buck bedded

Dallens buck down

Right after Dallen shot his 2020 buck.

Spotting Dallen's 2020 buck (top photo) up until just after he takes the shot (bottom photo).

After getting to the buck we found that its left antler had nearly been shot off a few days prior. We made a splint on the antler to make sure we didn't break it completely off while we were working on it. As we were taking photos of his notched tag on the antlers we kept noticing some odd cut marks on the right antler. It took us a while to figure this out but the cut marks line up perfectly with two blades of a three-bladed broadhead.  How crazy is that? He was shot in the right antler with an arrow and the left antler with a rifle. 

Dallen 2020 buck

Broadhead cut through antler

Notice the broadhead slices through the antler. One blade sliced above the tag notches and another blade sliced between the two tag notches shown in this photo.

Bullet hole in left antler

And a bullet hole through the left antler with a corresponding hole through the top of his ear that you can see in the background.

After getting Dallen's buck packed off the mountains with our favorite Alpsoutdoorz Extreme packs(#ad) I made a couple more trips back in with all of my boys. We had some awesome hikes but never found any other four-point bucks for Kaden and Landen. We had a great time I just wished we could have made it back into our favorite location. Next year, next year.

With Dallen getting this buck in 2020 my two young boys always reminded me of is how lucky Dallen is. Dallen has a way of finding four-point bucks. The buck he took this year is now the 8th four point he has taken in his young life. Come to think of it, I have only taken seven in my ancient life. He has been pretty lucky but also works hard to find them. 

300 WSM Browning X-Bolt Hells Canyon Speed.

Brothers hunting.

Brothers hunting.

Hunting Selfie.

Kaden hunting.

Hunting with my three boys.

Smith Creek Lakes with my Jeep JK.

Exploring the Smith Creek Lakes in my JK with my new Hankook MT2 tires.