The DIY Hunter

Digiscope Photo of 3x4 Mule Deer on Opening Day

Digiscope photo of 3x4 mule deer Dallen named the "Back Door Buck" that we watched on opening day from 832 yards away.

One day off my feet from packing my 2010 Mule Deer  off the mountain and I was back with Dallen trying to locate him a good first-ever Mule Deer.

After I brought home my mule deer he was itching to get his first. One thing in his favor was that the weather had turned snowy and cold.

Opening day we were heading out the ridge before light. As it started to get light we were sneaking our way down into to canyon. We glassed and glassed and couldn't find a single deer... very strange. There was a large storm approaching and best I could tell is that the deer knew very well what was about to hit and they were all locked up in their beds in preparation for the storm.

At about 9am I found a nice looking 3x4 with good eye guards bedded across the canyon at 832 yards. We watched him for a few minutes and made our plan to slip around the ridge and pop up about 300 yards away from him across the canyon. A longer shot but not out of Dallen's comfort zone for shooting a deer with my 243 WSSM A-Bolt Stainless Laminate Hunter rifle, a rifle he has been taking a strong liking too.

As we were just about to slip around the ridge the buck decided to get up. I quickly snapped a blurry digiscope photo and a little video with the camera on my spotting scope of the buck. We hoped that he would just move a little and bed back down. But to our disappointment, he slipped back around into the next canyon and the heavy pines. There was little chance we were going to find him in there. :(

An hour later the snow started flying. We pulled out our Browning XPO and DryLite waterproof clothing and sat out the storm for about 2 to 3 hours. Our hope was that we would find some deer getting out from under the dripping pines after the storm lifted. We had no such luck in finding any more deer to chase.

Dallen likes to name things in relation to hunting. For instance, my X-Bolt 270 WSM rifle is “Sonic Boom”, the 243 WSSM A-Bolt Stainless Laminate Hunter he is hunting with is “Sure Shot.” The buck we watched on opening morning he named the “Back Door Buck”. The size of this buck now became the self-imposed bar he set for himself. “Dad I want to shoot that buck or something larger” was his exact words as we left the mountain opening day.

The next three days it snowed off and on in the high country we had been hunting in. Dallen was in school Monday through Wednesday with the storms leaving the area Tuesday evening.

I figured that the area we hunted on opening day might have a couple of feet of snow and be very difficult to get into the area let alone would the deer still be in this high country?

Dallen was out of school on Thursday and Friday so we made plans to backpack into the area I watched four small four points during the rifle elk hunt when I had buck & bull tags with the buck/bull combo limited draw.

Early Thursday morning found us hiking in the dark heading up the steep mountain with packs and gear ready to spend a night or two if necessary. On the way in we saw a doe and fawn and a lot of empty mountain.

Five hours of hiking later and we made it into where I wanted to start glassing from. We dropped our packs and spent the next hour or two glassing. Within a couple of minutes, we started finding deer. The deer kept appearing until we had counted around twenty does, fawns and two-point bucks. It was mid-day and the deer would bed down for twenty minutes or so then get up and feed then bed again. I started heckling Dallen to shoot a two-point and he wouldn't budge.

After a couple of hours, I spotted just the right sized first buck for Dallen, a small four-point buck that had gotten up and was feeding and milling around through some does. The buck was heading down the side of the canyon and towards some heavy oak brush on our side of the canyon about 600 yards further up the canyon. The buck was out of range so I grabbed the spotting scope and we took off around the backside of the ridge. We popped up and slipped in for a shot. The buck was at 300 yards a doable shot for Dallen but we were just a little too late as the buck had now made it into the heavy oak brush.

Dallen and his first mule deer buck taken with a 243 WSSM A-Bolt rifle

Dallen and his first mule deer buck taken with a 243 WSSM A-Bolt rifle.


Dallen packing his first mule deer buck out on his back

Dallen packing his first mule deer buck out on his back... well some of the deer. Most of it is on Dad's back.

The wind was perfect so we slipped back around the ridge and then crept in about 150 yards above the heavy oak brush we had seen the buck enter. In the process we had been spotted by some does across the canyon that was getting nervous... As we had left all of our gear 600 yards back and the fact that some of the does had us spotted I decided to use my coyote howler to get the deer a little uncomfortable in hopes that the buck would emerge.

The coyote call did make a lot of deer uncomfortable and different deer got up, moved around and circled back but no sign of the four-point we had watched. A two-point walked through the brush within 60 yards of us but Dallen paid him no attention. We then decided to just sit on this buck and wait it out to see what might happen.

Dallen and I just before dark hauling his first mule deer off the mountain.

Dallen and I packing his deer off the mountain just before dark — just three more hours of hiking to go.

I'm wearing my favorite flashlight on my cap, a Browning Alpha. It's small, has a strong aluminum housing, takes one regular AA battery, clips on my cap and has a very bright LED beam.

About a half-hour right in front of us, we spotted what looked like two four points bucks milling through the oak brush at about 40 yards. The brush was very thick and we could see very little of each buck. We both whispered to each other that we thought the buck on the right was larger but how much larger??? Well, two steps from making it into a "shooting lane" the bucks turned back to the left and this placed the smaller buck on the left walking through a shooting lane... we waited for the other buck to come out but he didn't in time before the smaller buck had us spotted. The game was up! I told Dallen to take him in fear that they were about to bolt and not present any shot, Dallen quickly obliged... Then we both cried when we saw the other buck... One of the largest bucks I've seen on the hoof.

If I had it to do over I still would have had him take the shot he had. And as he said, "we'll get him (the big buck) next year." That's right Dallen, we will, yes we will.

Dallen is still tickled to death with his first buck. I thought he was going to sleep with the head and rack in his bed that first night. It was a really wonderful experience being there with my son. It is fun to go hunting with Dallen, with all the excitement he has for hunting and the outdoors.

You shot a great first buck Dallen. Your amazing patients to hold out for a four-point paid off nicely. Nice buck and congratulations Hunting Bud!

Dallen's Mule Deer buck European skull mounted

Here's Dallen's mule deer buck on the wall European skull mounted. You can learn more about how I do my mounts in my DIY European Skull Mounting Process journal entry.

Dallen was using the following for his hunt:

  • 243 WSSM
  • A-Bolt Stainless Laminate Hunter with 22" barrel
  • Bushnell Elite 3200 3-10x SA Scope
  • 80g Barnes Tipped Triple Shock
  • Muzzle velocity of 3360 fps — You can view this handload on my 243 WSSM Handloads page.

From the looks of his buck I would put him at 2 1/2 or maybe 3 1/2 years old. I sent the incisor teeth off to along with my mule deer I took in 2010 with my X-Bolt to have them age the deer.

Update Dec. 13th 2010: Just got word from the folks at Dallen's first Mule Deer is 3 1/2 years old.

Now it's time to get prepared to go hunting for whitetail deer in Oklahoma and try to get Dallen his first Whitetail buck.

After this hunt I finally decided to upgraded my digiscoping system. I bought a FujiFilm HS10 camera that shoots full HD video, has a 30x zoom, takes raw formatted images and runs on AA batteries. I'm excited to start taking better video and "digiscope" images of deer, elk and varmints at long ranges with this camera. You can learn more about my digiscope setup and the digital cameras I was looking at buying in my Digiscope Video of 243 WSSM Shooting a Milk Jug at 311 Yards journal entry.