The DIY Hunter

Muzzleloader mule deer hunting with my boys.

This year Dallen and I drew general muzzleloader deer tags and Kaden drew a rifle tag. With Kaden still a youth hunter he can hunt all of the seasons with his rifle tag so he also hunted with Dallen and I during the muzzleloader season.

Going back the last couple of years I have been dealing with some challenges in my life and 2022 had its share of them for me to say the least. Last year in 2021 I was mountain biking almost every day throughout the summer and early fall to get in shape but most importantly to strengthen my right knee to make it through the hunting seasons. I made it through many hikes during the 2021 hunting season until my final 11+ mile hunt in November during the muzzleloader elk season. The bone on bone in my right knee never recovered from that hike. It was time. A time I feared and hoped would never come, time to get a full knee replacement.

The first of May 2022 I had Dr. Grunander replace my knee. Going into the surgery my flexion was only 108° and losing ground. The swelling and pain made hiking impossible. After the replacement, I was up walking that day and doing everything I could to try and heal in time to hunt in September but... I quickly became a "special" one for the Physical Terrorists. My knee wasn't bending. No matter how hard I tried I couldn't get my knee to bend enough to ride a bike. I had a manipulation surgery in August which helped improve my flexion and another manipulation surgery in December of 2022 that as I write this has now given me the ability to go down stairs with only stiffness and a little pain. I can now pedal a bike with only some stiffness and a little pain as well. To this day I am stretching my knee multiple times a day to try and keep the 100+ degree bend in my knee so I can ride a bike. I'm trying to get it to hold at least a 115 degree bend... it will bend that far but it takes a minute of stretching it.

Right leg a week after knee replacement.Right leg a week after knee replacement in May of 2022.

With my knee not doing the greatest I didn't even attempt solo hunting during the archery elk season and started my hunting this fall with the muzzleloader deer season at the end of September. At the time I thought my knee was going to be my greatest issue this fall... unfortunately, greater health issues were to come.

A couple of days into the season and I was able to take some days off and packed 4+ miles into the backcountry to hunt with Dallen and Kaden. We were hunting our favorite rifle deer hunting location instead of our favorite muzzleloader deer hunting location this year. Our favorite muzzleloader deer hunting location is just a little too difficult of terrain for my less-than-functional knee.

Glassing the buck I eventually shoot with my Paramount muzzleloader.Glassing the buck I eventually shoot with my Paramount muzzleloader.

My 2022 muzzleloader mule deer buck shortly before I take the shot.My 2022 muzzleloader mule deer bedded. The buck stood up and bedded in a broadside position shortly after this photo.

Two point bucks on the skyline muzzleloader deer hunting.Two-point bucks on the skyline while muzzleloader deer hunting.

After a couple of days of hunting, we were able to find a handful of two-point bucks and a couple of small three-points. We also found one small four-point buck. We glassed him up multiple times over a couple of day period of time. With this buck being the largest buck we could find we set out on our last evening to try and harvest him. Early in the afternoon we dropped down into a canyon and set up 500 yards across the canyon from where we last saw him earlier that morning. Dallen might have taken a shot at a three-point we jumped as we worked our way into position. A clean miss.

With where the buck was last seen if we were to cross the canyon there was no great location to be able to see the buck. We needed to stay across the canyon so that we could find him. Once found we would then make a call on how we would make a play on him. It wasn't long after we set up that I spotted the buck bedded down at 375 yards and further down in the canyon than where we thought he bedded for the day.

We gave Kaden first dibs on shooting the buck and he passed. He knew he would have much better chances of seeing much larger bucks during the rifle season. This was a good call for him which paid off with him taking his largest buck to date. More on that buck later. Anyhow, with my knee not doing the greatest and having two of my boys with me I decided to take the buck over Dallen. Sorry and thank you Dallen. And Dallen wasn't upset because the buck was pretty small.

Browning OVIX camo and my 2022 muzzleloader mule deer.A whole lot of one of my favorite camo patterns, Browning OVIX and my 2022 muzzleloader mule deer.

I set up with my homemade double cross shooting sticks and a shooting bag under my armpit. In this position, I can get near bench stability from a sitting position. With my CVA Paramount muzzleloader, I am very comfortable at shooting out to 500 yards with great precision. When we spotted this buck he was well within range but bedded at a poor angle. I will post a photo of him bedded in this position. With the buck bedded I had plenty of time to calculate the shot distance, angle, barometric pressure and wind using Strelok Pro (love that app!). After a few minutes, the buck stood up and then quickly bedded right back down except he had moved forward a bit and was now bedded near perfectly broadside. I can make that shot now! And the Paramount didn't let me down. What a fantastic muzzleloader! With the blast of the muzzy and the whop of the impact, the buck jumped up, dove forward and piled right up. 

That was a cool experience to be with two of my boys and take this young buck. Aside from the buck I shot in 2021 with Kaden, these are the only times I have killed a buck or bull with any of my boys. Most of the time I have been hunting solo. I'm really enjoying these hunts with my boys.

Set up ready for my buck to get in the right position for the shot with my Paramount muzzleloader.Set up ready for my buck to get in the right position for the shot with my Paramount muzzleloader.

Browning Monroe frame pack loaded with boned out mule deer.Browning Monroe frame pack loaded with boned-out mule deer meat.

Cooking backstrap in the tent while hunting.Cooking backstrap in the tent while hunting.

We boned out the buck and packed him back to our camp that evening with backstrap shishkabobs for dinner. Yum!

The next morning we were up early looking for a buck for Dallen and Kaden before we made the 4+ mile hike off the mountain with camp and my buck. We spent a couple of hours hiking up a canyon only to find one small forky and a few does. About a half hour after we made it back to camp and in the process of breaking camp my heart went crazy. I felt good but my chest felt like I had an orbital sander vibrating on it, my pulse was quite irregular and I kept almost passing out when I would raise up from bending over... but I felt fine. I figured I must be in atrial fibrillation (AFIB). Which I later confirmed was indeed AFIB.

We finished packing up camp and started heading off the mountain all the while my heart was vibrating weirdly. Whenever we came to any uphill sections I had to go extremely slow or I would start to black out. The trip off the mountain took an extra two hours and by the time we made it to my Jeep my heart was back to normal... Hmm... AFIB? What caused it???

With the buck in the freezer and a couple of days rest, I was back out helping Dallen find a good buck. We found a number of smaller bucks and had a good buck slip around through the pinon pines and disappear. We only caught a glimpse of him but he looked nice and we believe he doubled back on us around a cliffy steep point on the mountain. Cleaver buck.

After a pause to hunt elk in the Unita mountains and another AFIB episode in the Unitas, Kaden and I were back in our favorite deer hunting spot for the last few days of the rifle deer season.

It was dark when we made it to our camping location with our headlamps spying around 10 deer feeding and bedded down right in the spot we pitch our tent. LOL. The next morning we watched many deer and a good four point out around 700 yards. Not a huge enough buck to chase after for the first morning but a nice buck. That afternoon 200 yards from our camp a four-point appeared feeding out of the maple trees. Kaden made a less-than-perfect shot as the buck was facing us and the window to see the buck created a rush to shoot faster than we desired. We took our time working our way around the point making sure he wasn't sneaking out wounded where we couldn't see him but the buck was already expired within 100 yards of where Kaden shot him.

Kaden with his 2022 mule deer buck.Kaden with his 2022 mule deer.

Kaden packing out his 2022 mule deer buck.

The buck Kaden takes earlier in the day.Kaden's buck earlier in the day at around 700 yards.

Great buck Kaden. This buck we believe is the buck that we watched in the morning at 700+ yards away. 

After boning out the buck and making the 300-yard trip back to camp it was deer shishkabobs for dinner again. Yummy!

The next morning we slept in a little and then packed out camp and Kaden's buck. I was glad that my heart did great this whole trip and was hopeful that these episodes were over as I was thinking that the Celebrex prescription I had recently stopped taking for my non-bending knee was the culprit.

I had just an awesome time hunting for deer with my boys this fall. Sorry, we didn't find you a good buck for you Dallen.

AFIB in the emergency room.AFIB in the emergency room.

Since this hunt, I have had two AFIB episodes where I have gone to the emergency room. I had at first thought my AFIB episodes were caused by Celebrex that I was taking for my replaced knee that wasn't bending well... apparently not. My last episode was bad and I had to have my heart shocked back into rhythm. I'm on meds that I'm not happy about but hopefully will keep me alive and away from a stroke that AFIB can cause. I'm not sure what 2023 is going to be like. My knee is slowly and I mean slowly improving and I just don't know what to do with my heart. It might be getting an ablation surgery, we will see. I hate the meds but am not quite ready to die.

Muzzleloader deer hunting with my boys.

Selfie of me hunting with my boys.

45 caliber ELR Powerbelt bullet recovered from mule deer.45 caliber ELR Powerbelt bullet recovered from mule deer. It is interesting that some of the blue cup stayed on through the air and through the deer.

Drinking hot cocoa while glassing for deer.

Muzzleloader deer hunting.

Glassing for mule deer mule deer.

Hanging out in the tent while hunting.

Cooking backstrap in the tent while hunting.

Muzzleloader hunting.