The DIY Hunter

Dallen and Ryan glassing for elk and mule deer

Oldest son Dallen and good friend Ryan glassing for elk and mule deer.

I was excited to have the buck/bull combo tag for 2010 with this tag giving me the opportunity to hunt for mule deer during the thirteen-day general season elk hunt. I believe that only two thousand of these permits are given out each year and I also have a hunch that this might be the last year that the state will have this particular permit. The purpose for the permit is to help alleviate some hunters from the general deer season in the over-congested, very limited hunting areas of northern Utah.

During the first week of the hunt I found lots of deer and small bucks. I also was distracted with elk in one of my high mountain deer country honey holes. I took a small 5x5 bull elk during the first week of the hunt in the same area I watched a whopper of a 3x4 and about four other smaller four points the year before. You can read more about the elk I harvested and the first week of my hunt in my journal entry titled 2010 Elk Hunt — 5x5 Bull with X-Bolt 270 WSM. With this elk distraction out of the way, I got back to focusing on hunting mule deer.

X-Bolt Stainless Stalker and my Nikon 4-16xSF BDC rifle scope on a cliff

My X-Bolt Stainless Stalker with Nikon Monarch 4-16xSF BDC rifle scope on a cliff.

After taking a bull I regrouped and made plans to hunt some other areas. As the hunt progressed the weather continued to frustrate my efforts. There was a beautiful full moon every night and sunny days with highs in the seventies... perfect conditions for seeing, jack squat!

Monday morning of the final four days of the hunt at 4:00 am found me hiking up my second option mountain with all the gear needed to spend a night or two if needed. By shooting light I was up on some ridges glassing for deer. That morning I watched a lot of deer. I did watch one small four-point buck and a lot of does and fawns. After an afternoon nap, I was back glassing for the afternoon and evening. That evening I again glassed a lot of deer and found three other four-point bucks but none that got me excited enough to want to haul them off the mountain on my back.

My X-Bolt and Nikon rifle scope from where I shot my 2010 mule deer buck

My X-Bolt with Nikon Monarch rifle scope resting on my pack 457 yards across the canyon from my 2010 mule deer.

I spent the night in my camo bivy and was awaken at 12:38 am by a coyote howl just above me on the ridgeline I was on. I spent the night with my head out of the bivy and I also tied a shoelace to the frame of the bivy straight up to an overhead tree limb. I did this to make sure that the bivy was not resting against my sleeping bag and would provide better ventilation but... once again the inside of the bivy was sopping wet come the next morning. So much for having a lightweight bivy shelter system. I will have to go back to running a rope between trees and draping a rain poncho over it in a tent-like fashion. I also have some ideas on using Tyvek house wrap to make a bivy with a few modifications to allow for breathability.

This next morning I was out glassing again. Again many deer but only a small four-point to really look at. This morning I found that I had somehow broken one of the legs on my lightweight tripod. I tried to do some digiscope video of the small four-point but it's a little difficult with a two-legged tripod.

Digiscope view of the final resting place of my 2010 mule deer

After glassing for sometime after my shot to make sure the buck wasn't still alive sneaking out anywhere I found him dead twisted up resting against this pine. I took this digiscope photo through my spotting scope before I made the hour and a half hike around the canyon to get to the downed buck.

I hiked out that afternoon feeling rather disappointed that I might not find anything to even try to go after even though I had the "special" deer tag.

Excited as I was to be able to hunt for deer I also had a son who had an elk tag and hadn't seen any elk when we went over the opening weekend. Wednesday I took Dallen and my friend Ryan who had an unfilled elk tag back to my high country deer area where I had filled my elk tag the week before in hopes that some elk were still in the area. We glassed quite a few deer but couldn't find any deer with antlers and sadly no elk either.

Thursday, the last day of the hunt. It was a little harder for me to get out of bed at 3:30 am. I felt pretty disappointed that I wasn't finding anything. I had the "special" deer tag and was getting my butt handed to me. My feet were in horrible shape from all the off-trail, side-hilling, rough country hiking I had been placing on them with heavy packs etc. The weather and moon were really not in my favor. The bucks just weren't out in the daylight with such warm weather and the bright moon at night.

For my last day I decided to go back to the top of the mountain and hike a couple of miles further to an area I have hunted very little in the past. It would require that I start hiking around 5am to get to where I wanted to be before daylight. Just before daylight found me on the ridge I wanted to be on ready to glass for deer. Before shooting light I spotted a couple of bucks at 1,000 yards that were quickly feeding in the sagebrush and moving towards a saddle and pines on the other side. I dropped off the backside of the ridge and sidehilled yet more steep loose ground with little vegetation.... oh my feet! Good boots, socks, and athletic tape can only do so much...

My 2010 mule deer taken with my Browning 270 WSM X-Bolt, Nikon 4-16xSF BDC rifle scope and 140g AccuBond handloads

My 2010 mule deer taken with my Browning 270 WSM X-Bolt, Nikon Monarch 4-16xSF BDC rifle scope and 140g AccuBond handloads.


Side view of my 2010 mule deer taken with my Browning 270 WSM X-Bolt, Nikon 4-16xSF BDC rifle scope and 140g AccuBond handloads

Side view of my 2010 mule deer taken with my Browning 270 WSM X-Bolt with Nikon Monarch 4-16xSF BDC rifle scope and 140g Nosler AccuBond handloads.

By shooting light the bucks had made it over the saddle. Shortly after I made it to an outcropping of cliffs looking across at the backside of the saddle and the canyon across from me. I quickly spotted the two bucks, a two-point and an eighteen inch wide three-point. Dang it! I watched the pair work their way around and into a bedding area of pines. There where small openings in the pines and I could see the two bucks every so often in the openings. After ten minutes or so I was able to spot another two-point and a doe in the pines. I set my rifle up laying across my backpack on the cliff ready for a shot if needed.

Another few minutes passed and then out of a cluster of pines emerged another buck moving through a small opening in the pines. I quickly had the rifle scope on him and could see that this was a mature deer. I also noticed that one of his antlers was missing some hardware. The buck walked through the opening in a matter of a few seconds I judged him to be a mature buck then the buck stopped with his head behind the next group of pines. Not knowing if he would ever emerge again and with this being the last day of the hunt I decided to take him busted antler and all. I had previously ranged the three-point buck and figured the aiming point for my Nikon Monarch 4-16x42SF BDC rifle scope's reticle (you can read about how I set up my scope and holdover points in my Setting Up The Nikon Monarch 4-16x42SF BDC Rifle Scope On My X-Bolt journal entry) and I held for a 450 yard shot and sent a 140g Nosler AccuBond heading across the canyon. An audible whop quickly answered the boom of the rifle. With the recoil of the rifle, I was unable to see where and what the buck did. He just disappeared. I started watching the different smaller bucks as they would move in and out of the pines. All of these bucks were looking down in one particular direction so I focused my glassing on this area.

After several minutes of seeing the smaller bucks and not the one I shot at, I finally found him all twisted up against a pine, thirty or so yards straight down from where I shot him at. A double-check with my Bushnell Elite 1500 range finder — 457 yards. Two yards closer than the bull elk I shot the week before. I really like my X-Bolt, 270 WSM 140g Accubond handload, and Nikon Monarch rifle scope combination!

It took an hour and a half to make it around the canyon and over to where the buck was. Again more loose ground and sidehilling yet another canyon... oh my feet!

270 WSM 140g AccuBond handload entrance hole on my 2010 mule deer

Shot with a 270 WSM 140g AccuBond handload clocking in at 3300 fps from my X-Bolt. The bullet entered the right shoulder/leg bone crushing the bone and blowing the heck out of the heart area in the chest cavity.


270 WSM 140g AccuBond handload exit hole on my 2010 mule deer

The exit hole was about an inch in diameter and exited about six inches behind the left shoulder.

The buck has a nice looking roman nosed... a mature buck, if he just hadn't busted off his G2... darn it all! I was still happy. He is a beautiful buck with four-inch eye guards and heavy 5 1/2 inch bases. If I had of seen this deer early in the season I would have let him walk. If I was hunting private property that had better control on who hunted and what deer there was to hunt I would have let this buck walk to see another year. But, this was a general public land hunting area on a very harsh mountain. Deer are lucky to make it through winter on this mountain let alone hunting season, so I am tickled with my hard-earned 2010 mule deer.

2010 mule deer boned out and on my pack heading back to the truck

Taking a rest stop on the way back to the truck. Just two miles left to go...

After a few photos from the tripod that I remembered to use this time, out came my favorite custom Russ Kommer knife for the boning and caping. Nine hours later I was back to my truck. Oh, I can get off of my feet.... yes, that feels good!

It would be interesting to know what happened to the buck's antler. It had to take one heck of a blow to bust his G2 and so low on the G2 also. I wonder if it was shot off during the muzzleloader season? I guess I'll never know.

I caped the buck and have some ideas for the use of the cape. As for mounting, I am going to do a European Skull Mount. As I write this the skull is in a tub of water going through the maceration process of cleaning the flesh from the bone. You can learn more about my how I do my European Skull mounts with my DIY European Skull Mounting Process.

My 2010 Mule Deer buck European skull mounted

My 2010 mule deer buck European skull mounted in my office. You can learn more about how I do my mounts in my DIY European skull mounting process journal entry.


My 2010 Mule Deer buck European skull mounted showing missing tooth

The buck had a tooth abscess. A small portion of the tooth with no roots was floating around in his gums wearing into the bone of his skull.

From the looks of the tooth wear and the size of the antlers I would guess this buck was a minimum of 4 1/2 years old but tooth wear aging is so subjective and not very accurate. For curiosity's sake, I think I am going to send in the two middle incisor teeth to have them age the deer at Wildlife Analytical Laboratories aka The process they use to age deer is very accurate and looks fairly affordable. Once I have the info back on the age I will update this entry.

Update Dec. 13th 2010: Just got word from the folks at My 2010 Mule Deer is 5 1/2 years old.

Next up. Dallen's general season rifle deer hunt with 243 WSSM.