The DIY Hunter

3 shot 100 yard group with CVA accura V2 and 300 Gr Aerolite Powerbelt belts.

3 shot 100 yard group with CVA accura V2 and 300 Gr Aerolite Powerbelt belts.

Couple bucks at sunset.

Couple bucks at sunset.

Mature 3x4 buck.

Not a great scoring buck but the most mature buck I could find on this hunt. Unfortunately, he outsmarted me.

This year I have muzzleloader deer and elk tags like last year. I was hopeful to get a muley on the ground and end my mule deer dry spell dating back to 2011.

This year Utah opened up muzzleloaders to have variable power optics. While this is nice option to have, I really would have preferred that a 1x restriction would have stayed in place. Not that I don't like the variable power, just that I know more people will be out hunting with muzzleloaders, something I'm sure the DWR knew would happen, taking a little pressure off the rifle season.

This year I had Dallen come with me on my pack trip in the high country. With heavy amounts of early snow in the high country we had to start hiking a mile further because of impassable snow drifts in the road. With this extra mile and the deep snow to hike through we decided to hunt our way across the mountain for four days instead of just hiking the full six miles in and only hunting in that area.

The night before the opener Dallen and I seen a few deer, a small four and three point were out feeding not far from where we camped. We went to sleep dreaming of big bucks come morning. 

Opening morning we woke and hiked out to a point to glass a basin for deer. We found around ten bucks with a couple four point bucks in the 22 inch wide size. We decided they weren't what I was looking for and picked up camp and headed in another mile to check out some other canyons for the afternoon and evening.

That afternoon we watched a bunch more deer including a beautiful four point buck that tempted me really hard to go after. He again was right around 22 inches wide but had larger very even forks with a very symmetrical frame. We decided to save him for a possible rifle season trip with Dallen and Landen my 12 year old who will be hunting for the first time later in October.

That evening we had a whopper of a lightning storm move in on us. It was pretty intense but just before the storm started dumping on us, the sun was setting with light coming in under the dark storm clouds. It made for some amazing photos that I quickly took of Dallen just before we scrambled to get a tarp out to wrap around us and ride out the lightning storm.

The next morning we hiked up and down some canyons looking for a good buck. All we found were does, so midday we broke camp and started headed further down the trail.

As we were hiking down the trail we crested a ridge line and busted a mature 3x4 buck in a area I never see deer at before. I dropped my gear and took off to try and circle the canyon and get a shot at this nice buck. When I got to within about 150 yards of where I last saw the buck I started slipping my way down through jack pines and snow covered ground. As I was slipping, literally slipping in the snow trying to be as quiet as possible I heard something go out the other side where I couldn't see. I figured it was him but I kept sneaking in to see what I might find. As I got to the spot I found two small bucks both young 3x4's. I was able to sneak to within 40 or so yards of them and get some fun photos but they weren't nearly large enough for me to want to shoot.

That evening we finished packing in the full six miles... make that seven miles this year thanks to the snow. 

The next morning we climbed into and glassed a couple basins finding lots of bucks across one canyon all safely located on a CWMU. After glassing this basin for an hour or so I looked down to our side of the canyon and there was a 4 point right below us that must have been bedded and decided to stand up. He wasn't the largest four point. Probably in the 22 inch wide range but he was in a very easy spot to get him boned out and up to a ridge line where we could haul him off the mountain. With all this in mind Dallen ranged him at 166 yards and a 31 degree downhill cross hill shot. I plugged in the information into Strelok Pro and sent a bullet right over his back. What the heck was that?!? 166 yards was a chip shot with my sub MOA shooting 300 Gr Aerolite bullets, CVA Accura V2 with Vortex 4-16x50 HS LR scope. What just happened?!? I could hit milk jugs out to 310 yards just fine while practicing.

One thing I didn't factor is the lift I would get from the fairly strong wind that was blowing into the steep sidehill. I have learned that shooting across a slope that has a wind blowing against it deflects some of the wind upward creating lift. I had held a little for the crosswind but not thought of any lift at the time of the shot. This alone would account for maybe a couple inches at this range. Second, I obviously may have just pulled the shot, but the shot didn't feel like I pulled it??? And Third, something I have been reading and studying about. If you want to shoot long range with a muzzleloader you need to load it just before you take the shot. Having a load in the barrel over night and various temperature changes must create moisture and something that greatly effects the accuracy. I have read where it is best to discharge your muzzleloader every evening and load a fresh load in the morning. I talked with a guy on the mountain that talked about only loading the muzzleloader after spotting the deer.  More on this third item in a minute.

Oh, one of the things I found from going out and shooting the 300 Gr Aerolite bullets is that the published BC of .222 for this bullet is not what I was getting with respect to actual bullet drops. My calculation from using Strelok Pro was that the BC was somewhere around .195 for this bullet. I later received an email confirming this from PowerBelt Bullets that the .222 published was incorrect and that their data had the BC at .197. Not the greatest BC for this bullet but the accuracy is amazing!

After missing the shot we hiked down to verify that I hadn't just sent the bullet right through him when Dallen spotted the bullet hit the cliffs behind him. Sure enough a clean miss right over his back. I have spent a lot of time running this miss through my head... I wasn't too upset about not getting this buck as he wasn't a huge buck but missing has been driving me crazy. Anyhow back to the hunt.

After missing I wanted to head down into some untouched canyons. We spent most of the day going into some awesome canyons. We found another four point and another 3x4. The four point wasn't wide but had decent mass and forks however he was right on the private property line according to my maps in Back Country Navigator Pro and the KML I downloaded from the DWR of the CWMU boundaries. So I let the buck walk just to be safe.

When we were down in these canyons we bumped a doe that climbed up a few yards and stopped right out in the open a little over 100 yards from us. The strangest thing I have ever seen with a deer's behavior during a hunting season then happened. The doe was right in the path of where we needed to go, to climb out of the canyon, so we just kept hiking towards her and she never moved, in fact she started chewing her cud and browsing on some of the vegetation by her. It was really steep where we were at as we slowly hiked past her. She was probably only 40 yards away as we hiked past her. It was like she was a pet deer in a national park or something. Kind of strange experience for me on this mountain.

Latter that evening we glassed a bunch more bucks with one in particular that I wanted to shoot. The group of bucks was feeding out of the CWMU and onto the public ground at the last light of the day. I felt that it best to wake up extra early the next morning and slip into the area and cut off the route back to the CWMU hoping they would be there the next morning.

Well it sounded like a good plan but the deer had all disappeared except one small buck come morning. It appeared that they moved back into the CWMU long before daylight and were already bedded at daylight. Curses!!!

This was my last day to hunt and hike off the mountain. We stopped and hiked through some nasty thick small quaking aspens trying to check out some different canyons on the way off the mountain but never found a deer.

So yet another year that I come up short getting a mule deer. There's always next year I guess. I've been saying that for a few years now. 

So back to accuracy issues with a load that sits in your muzzleloader for an extended period of time. After the hunt I went shooting some reloads in some rifles and I also needed to empty my muzzleloader. I setup the chronograph and fired the load that had been sitting in my muzzleloader for several days. That shot missed the bullseye by near four inches to the right. I loaded up the muzzleloader and fired again. This fresh load only missed a perfect center shot by only 1/2 inch. The velocities (which I wrote down and can't find now) were both around 20 fps of one another so that wsn't a problem. So what caused the inaccuracy of the sitting charge?

At a minimum I will be discharging my muzzleloader at each day's end on future hunts. If I can get a quick system to load my muzzleloader I may hunt with an unloaded gun in the future. I also wonder if I ran a spit batch down the bore on top of a sitting charge just before taking a shot would bring the accuracy back to where it should be. It's kind of hard to do a lot of field testing on this. Load a gun leave it outside for a few days the shoot it and then repeat... This could take forever to get good data on what is going on.

Next up Landen's first elk hunt. 

CVA accura V2 at sunrise.

CVA accura V2 at sunrise with a Vortex Viper scope.

Dallen glassing.

Dallen glassing.

One of many bucks we saw on opening day.

One of many bucks we saw on opening day.

Another buck in the snow below us.

Another buck in the snow below us.

This buck looked pretty good.

I was very tempted to go after this buck but decided to pass.

Dallen making me nervous looking off some cliffs.

Dallen making me neverous looking off some cliffs.

Heavy four point buck.

I probably would have shot this buck if he wasn't right on the public land boundary.

View of camp from above.

View of camp from above.

Two bucks I snuck in on.

Two bucks I snuck in on.

Selfie of Dallen and I.

Selfie of Dallen and I.

Group of several bucks on a CWMU.

Group of several bucks on a CWMU.

My CVA Accura V2.

My CVA Accura V2.

Small 3x4 buck I snuck in on.

Small 3x4 buck I snuck in on.

It has been a few years since I took a trip to Wyoming to do a little target practicing. My son Landen will be hunting deer and elk for the first time this year and I have found no better way to get a child familiar with acquiring targets, loading a rifle and generally learning how to use a rifle under some pressure than prairie dog hunting. This provides a little stress to a young hunter and helps them work through this so that they can get a good quality shot off. This pays big dividends when your child is out deer and elk hunting.

The first hour or so Landen was a little stressed trying to find them in the scope and getting on them quick enough. It didn't take too long before he was working the action and blasting away all on his own. This worked great so that I could spend most of my time helping KB, my youngest. KB has a few more years before he will be able to deer and elk hunt. 

I ended up only shooting a handful of times but that was all I needed. My closest shot was a prairie dog at 329 yards. I took one at 470 yards and set a new longest shot on a prairie dog at 900 yards on this trip. Check out the video of this shot.

It was a great day being able to spend it with all three of my boys. They had a blast, literally. What a fun day. Now it's time to apply the aloe vera on my sunburn. Ouch!

243 WSSM A-Bolt Varmint Stainless

243 WSSM A-Bolt Varmint Stainless coyote hunting.  

When KB and I were hunting during the muzzleloader elk hunt we made some coyote challenge barks and had coyotes in four directions going crazy all around us. So I decide to take out my 243 WSSM A-Bolt Varmint rifle to see if I could find some to shoot when I went in to check my cameras.

On the way up the mountain, I set up to call for coyotes. After calling for a few minutes I spotted a coyote somewhat behind me on a ridge 199 yards away. I swung my rifle and shooting sticks around steadied and sent a 105 A-Max out to meet him. Well, it didn't work out quite the way I was hoping. Oops, I think that bullet sailed right over the coyote. I just educated that song dog. Dang it!

A later trip to the range showed the rifle was shooting an inch and a half high at 100 yards. Add the extra inch I dialed up for the 200-yard shot and I was probably around 3 inches high at 200 yards. Hmm.... I still should have hit the coyote but this might have been just enough to make me miss. Dang it!

After I went and verified that I missed I started hiking back to my Montero. As I hiked back along the path I had hiked in a came across a set of bear tracks crossing over my tracks heading around the hill behind where I had set up to call. I'm not sure how close the bear came to me but he was somewhere behind me within 100 yards while I was calling for coyotes.

I drove up the mountain further and headed in to check my cameras. About a mile up the mountain I crossed some really large bear tracks in the snow. I ended up crossing over these large bears tracks many times while I retrieved most of my cameras.

I decided to leave three of my older cameras up on the mountain to stay for the winter. I set them to only take a couple of photos per each trigger so that they wouldn't fill up the SD cards, hopefully before I could retrieve them in the spring. I'm excited to see what these cameras capture on the mountain through winter.

I ended up getting the large black bear on three of my trail cameras. Two cameras were taking photos and a Recon Force Full HD camera got some great video footage of the bear. (see the video on page)

Sadly, I found a lion killed fawn near my cameras. It appeared to have been killed a day or two before. The bear had sat down in the snow by the carcass but I don't think he ate much. Only the neck and brisket area around the rib cage had been eaten. The hair on the fawns chin had been mauled making me believe that a cougar had killed the fawn. Because of the fresh snow, there were only the fresh bear tracks going to it. I'm pretty sure it was a lion.

It was a beautiful and sad day to hike up into the area for the last time this year. I can't wait to see what the cameras capture through winter.


Big Black Bear Track in snow

Track from the large black bear.

3 shot group of 243 WSSM 105 A-Max

The 105 A-Max is shooting well just an inch and a half high and a little to the right at 100 yards. Given I dialed up an inch to take the 199 yard shot at the coyote I was around three inches high at 199 yards... just maybe enough to contribute to my missed shot.

Mountain Lion killed mule deer fawn

It appeared that a mountain lion killed this fawn within the last couple of days. Notice how all the white hair under its chin is matted and twisted. It looks like a cougar may have had a hold of this fawn's face.

Bear track in the snow

More of the large black bear's tracks in the snow.