The DIY Hunter

Dallen at Sunrise

Dallen hiking down the mountain at sunrise.


Mule Deer does feeding at sun rise

Mule Deer does out feeding.


Spotting 3x4 mule deer

Dallen spotted this nice 3x4 mule deer buck first thing in the morning.


Accura V2 with Vortex 1x24 scope

Dallen setup with my CVA Accura V2 muzzleloader in the place where we watched a two point buck in the cliffs.


Bull moose

This bull moose was chasing a cow moose around the canyon.


two point mule deer in cliffs

Dallen spotted this two point buck that was up in the cliffs close to us.


mule deer buck bedded in chaparral

Relocating the 3x4 buck bedded in the chaparral at near 700 yards from us.


Mule deer in chaparral at 269 yards

Closing the distance, the 3x4 buck is now at 269 yards.


Mule deer in chaparral at 192 yards

This is all we could see of the buck where we setup at 192 yards from him.


Dallen 2015 muzzleloader 3x4 mule deer

Dallen with his heavy antlered, 2015 muzzleloader mule deer.

In 2015 Dallen and I both drew muzzleloader deer tags in Utah. I had to get a second muzzleloader so that we both could hunt together. I chose a CVA Accura V2 with the new Nitride finish and it has been shooting great while setting it up and sighting it in.

We were both wanting to pack in 5-6 miles for this hunt but as the hunt approached they're we just too many things going on for both of us to be able to pack in for the opener, things that included a pinewood derby for KB.

For the opener Dallen and I chose to hike down into the the steep canyons where he shot his 4 point buck in 2014. This is an area that isn't too far from the road but receives little hunting pressure because of the really steep terrain. And when you shoot something in this area you have to bone it out and haul it back up the really steep incline, through boulder fields and overgrown rock fields etc.

Early in the morning of the opener Dallen and I were headed up the mountain in my old Montero. As it was getting light we were slowly working our way down into the canyons.

It didn't take long for us to start spotting deer. Dallen was doing most of the spotting. Does and fawns were plentiful in the area. Not too surprising as this area usually is full of does, fawns and small bucks.

Within a few minutes of our decent Dallen spotted a nice, heavy looking three or four point around 1,000 yards below us. We watched it for a few seconds before it walked into some cover and out of sight. I was able to snap a photo or two before we lost sight of him.

This buck got Dallen pretty excited and he was chomping to go and find him. Not to be too hasteful and pass by other possible nice bucks we continued to slowing work our way sneaking around and peaking into small finger draws looking for other bucks as we worked our way towards the area we last saw the larger buck.

After a couple of hours of hiking we were sitting over a bowl of patchy thick jack pines. I figured that the buck was probably bedded somewhere in these thick small pines. We took a break on a cliff overlooking this bowl and started glassing. Although I figured it would be difficult to find any buck bedded in the think small pines I thought I should at least try.

The plan was to swing through this bowl and hopefully find the buck and gently bump him out so that he makes a couple bounds then stops and turns to take a look allowing for us to get a shot at him. At least this was the plan we were formulating as we tried to figure out where he might be.

While we were glassing from the cliff I started to glass the think chaparral that covered the far sunny side of the canyon. Bingo! I found him. He was bedded in the chaparral and we happened to be at just the right angle to be able to see into the hole he was laying in, that was in the middle of all the thick chaparral. At our current location he was just shy of 700 yards away.

We made a new plan to work our way through some pines on the opposite side of the canyon and see if we could sneak in close enough to be able to take him with our muzzleloaders.

Off we went going as fast as we could yet as quietly as we could so as not to scare him out before we got to where he was located. My biggest concern was that we would bump some other deer or the two moose that were somewhere in the area, out and they would run and scare off the buck.

Trying to be quiet going down the mountain was jamming our toes into the front of our shoes. I was thinking about how uncomfortable my toes were right when Dallen mentioned the same thing.

As we would go through windows in the pines we continued to glass to find him and make sure he was still in the same spot. As we got closer we also got lower and our window to view him diminished. When we got to 192 yards we could only see the top of his antlers over the chaparral.

We looked over the situation and figured that if we tried to get any closer we would highly risk being able to see him to get a shot. If we went any closer and lower we would be in thick quaking aspens that were twenty feet tall. If he took off while we were in the quakeys we might never see him. If we were able to make it to the other side of the quakeys we would now be right next to the chaparral and we also might not be able to see him very well at this angle.

Given the location we decided to setup at 192 yards. Both of my muzzleloaders were very capable of 200 yards shots. A week or two earlier I was shooting milk jugs out to 200 yards with my CVA Accura V2. I felt that if we waited it out the buck would stand up at some point and Dallen would be ready.

I plugged in 192 yards into Strelok Pro and the current barometric pressure and other weather conditions into my Galaxy S4 phone. Strelok gave me a 4.5 MOA for the shot. We removed the elevation caps on our muzzleloaders and dialed up the 4 1/2 minutes of angle and then waited and waited...

After over an hour of waiting the buck stood up. Dallen was quickly on him. When he stood up he was facing directly away from us offering a shot up the rear. Dallen was patient and after a few seconds he turned broadside looking directly in our direction. I think he could hear us whispering/talking as Dallen prepared to take the shot. Anyhow shortly after he turn broadside Dallen sent him a 300 Gr SST that gave a loud audible whop and the buck dropped like a ton of bricks and out of sight into the chaparral. Time to take a dirt nap Mr. Buck.

Just to be safe I sent Dallen over to find him just in case the buck jumped back up. I was able to guide him to find it as he fought his way through the chaparral.

The buck had dropped right back into the hole he was bedded in. And a hole in the ground it was. Deer have probably been bedding in this spot for who nows how long. There was a near two foot deep whole dug into the side hill.

We decided there just wasn't enough room to work in that location and that all the dusty dirt would get all over the meat if we tried to bone him out in this spot. So we pulled him out of the chaparral and into the quakeys on some grass so that we could work on him.

After we boned out and caped the buck we loaded it up in our Alps Outdoorz eXtreme Commander and Pathfinder packs for the trip back up and out of the canyon.

The trip out was in the dark. With it being a hot day it was nice to hike in the cool of the night. We spooted a few deer checking us out from the skylines on our way out.

The Commander eXtreme pack was so comfortable for the pack out. Although I didn't weigh it I'm pretty sure I was pushing near the 80 pound mark and this pack fit like a glove to my back making the trip out "enjoyable" given the amount of weight I was carrying.

What a fun hunt. Good job Dallen!

Now it's time for me to get a good muley with a muzzleloader.

Dallen smiling after shooting 3x4 buck

Look at that smile just after Dallen gives the 3x4 a dirt nap from 192 yards with a CVA Accura V2 with 1x Vortex scope.


Dallen hiking over to downed buck

Dallen hiking over to find the downed buck.


Dallen finding 3x4 buck

Dallen checking out the buck just after finding it.


together with 3x4 buck

Dallen and I with his 3x4 mule deer.


Alps extreme Commander pack with mule deer

Testing out the new Alps eXtreme Commander pack for the first time.


Dallen with the buck all caped out

All caped out and ready to pack out. If you are needing a cape it's in our freezer just drop me an email.


Hanging fat in the trees for the birds

I like to take chunks of fat and hang it in the trees for  Chickadees and other birds to eat.


Alps eXtreme commander pack with boned out mule deer

Finalizing getting the Alps eXtreme Commander pack loaded for the trip out.

This pack was amazing comfortable for hauling this load of meat and other gear. This is now my go to meat hauler pack.


Packing out mule deer with Alps packs

Headed back out of the canyon with our gear and meat on our Alps packs.


Packing out mule deer with Alps packs

Dallen with a lot of the gear, some of the meat, and the caped out head.


Doe on ridgeline at dusk

This doe was keeping an eye on us as it was getting dark.


Packing out mule deer with Alps Pathfinder pack in dark

Dallen scaling up through a boulder field on our hike out up the mountain.

KB rabbit squeal

KB working a rabbit squeal trying to bring in a coyote.

KB rabbit squeal

My new Alps Outdoorz Crossfire X pack. This pack is sweet. It is the most comfortable day pack I have ever used. Lots of cool pockets and features. I really like the vented back. There is no sweaty back as the pack rests just off my back behind a neat ventilation system.

KB rabbit squeal

Selfie on KB and me while coyote hunting.

In March my two young boys, my wife and daughter all took Hunter Safety and recieved their blue cards. Since then KB, my youngest, has been asking me daily to take him coyote hunting with his Micro Midas BL22. It has been really cute to see him so excited to want to go coyote hunting.

We set out on a Saturday morning in March to see if we could fool a willey coyote. We took a few hand calls and my DIY electronic caller.

We tired a lot of challenge howls and distressed critters at a couple of different setups as we hiked across the mountain. We saw a lot of deer and caught a glimpse of an elk in the oak brush. Unfortunately we never could find a coyote for KB. He was pretty bummed yet was determined to keep on going until we found some coyotes. It was pretty cool to see his determination. He wanted a coyote. I think he also had ideas for the $50 he would get for the bounty on each coyote.

We were hunting in what should be a good area for shed elk antlers so we spent a lot of time looking around trying to find some with no luck. I'd bet most of the elk still had their antlers on their head but I had been hearing reports that they were dropping them already.

As we were driving back off the mountain KB made the comment that "Dad you were right, it's not as easy to get coyotes as it looks on the hunting videos." Yeap, I have yet to see a hunting video that doesn't make it look too easy.

KB Coyote Hunting BL-22

KB hiking in to hunt coyotes with his Browning Micro Midas BL-22 rifle.

KB rabbit squeal

My DIY electronic coyote caller.

KB rabbit squeal

KB's Browning Micro Midas BL-22 rifle.

KB rabbit squeal

A-Bolt Stainless Varmint 243 WSSM with Vortex Viper PST 6-24x50 with SFP and EBR MOA reticle.

270 WSM Winchester Model 1885 cow elk hunting

Someone looks a little tired. Maybe you should stop being a teenager who thinks he doesn't need to go to bed at night and get to bed before midnight Mr. Dallen. ;)

Dallen was also carrying a Model 1885, my 270 WSM setup with 150 Gr Berger VLDs.

Model 1885 300 Win Mag Cow elk hunting

My 300 Win Mag Model 1885 High Wall with Vortex Viper PST 6-24x50.

Browning Neoprene Rifle Jacket in Snow

Browning's Neoprene Rifle Jacket protecting my Model 1885. This rifle jacket is awesome for keeping snow and other debris out of the barrel and off the scope lenses. I love being able to just lay my rifle down on most anything and it doesn't get scratched.

Goofy antler bull elk

Too bad this wasn't a cow. Dallen could have easily taken this goofy antlered bull had it been a cow.

Alaska Guide Creations Bino Pack Model 1885 300 Win Mag hunting cow elk

Trying out a Alaska Guide Creations bino pack for the first time that a good friend of mine sent me a for Christmas this year. It's a nice bino pack. The pack just lacked a pouch to fit my large range finder. I sewed a fleece pouch that hangs on the side of the bino pack to hold my large Bushnell Elite 1500 range finder.

Model 1885 300 Win Mag shooting from Cliff

This is where I shot the cow elk from with my 300 Win Mag Model 1885.

300 Win Mag empty shell on cliff

The empty 300 Win Mag case from the first 645 yard shot across the canyon.

Dead cow elk across canyon

One cow down and the two others didn't move. I wanted to shoot the cow on the right but she was blocked by way to many limbs.

Cow elk bedded

As it would be I was able to get within 200 yards of the cow and calf in a spot where I could have taken a shot. If I knew I could have made it this close without them taking off and known that I could have seen them I would have opted to move in closer.


Frosted Beard elk hunting

I think it was a little cold this morning. My short beard was fully frosted like a flocked Christmas tree.

This year Dallen and I each drew late season cow elk tags. For this hunt, I was looking forward to trying out a new load in a new rifle. Most especially in a "Big Bore" cartridge for me, a 300 Win Mag. I have always been a fan of low recoiling smaller bored calibers. Back in the day, my first high powered rifle was chambered in 25-06 Rem. I have since really taken a liking to the 243 WSSM and the 270 WSM cartridges.

My new 1885 in 300 Win Mag delivered in December and I have worked as fast as I could to get it scoped with 20 MOA of scope adjustment built into the bases and rings. When I saw that Winchester was doing a small run of 300 Win Mags in the Model 1885 I jumped on the opportunity to get one. I really like 1885 rifles and this rifle would jump me into the 30 caliber bullets for the first time.

The past couple of years I have been really taking a liking to the technical aspects of stretching the distance of my shooting. I have been shooting at Spirit Ridge rifle golf range at steel targets out to 1200 yards with my 243 WSSM and 270 WSM rifles and have really enjoyed it.

Until the last four or so years I have always liked a cartridge and bullet that provided a long max point-blank range. In other words, I like a really fast flat shooting bullet where I could sight it in 2.5 inches high at 100 yards and be near dead on at 300 yards. This being accomplished with traditional duplex rifle scopes. Setup this way I could hold dead on a 7 inch target and hit it from zero to around 350 yards. I also didn't have to worry about having a range finder. I could judge that the distance was within 350 yards and just pull up and shoot.

I have lately been changing my philosophy on my bullet choice and scopes. On most of my rifles I have been getting adjustable target turret style of scopes. I have been switching to heavier, high ballistic coefficient bullets and using Strelok Pro ballistic calculator on my phone to calculate the shot. I now no longer worry about the bullet drop or velocity that much. I work to get an accurate load and then let Strelok Pro tell me what to dial for the shot.

With all this said about higher BC bullets and target turrets I was ready to jump into the 30 caliber realm with my own flare... a Model 1885. Model 1885s aren't your typical long-range rifle that long-range shooter shoot today. Bolt actions rule in this category however I find some features of the 1885 more to my personal liking.

A couple for trips to the range and the reloading bench and I was able to get a 208 Gr Hornady A-Max shooting sub MOA within a couple weeks in December. Not shooting as perfectly as I would like but good enough to take to the field after a cow elk.

Dallen and my first trip out was on January 1st. And what a cold morning it was. It was well below zero and the moisture from my breath was freezing on my beard making it look like a flocked Christmas Tree. It was cold. We were prepared with our Browning technical clothing. What a change from the cotton denim jeans of my youth. I like having better clothing choices we now have.

I knew it was going to be tough to find some elk. The day before we went to glass the ridges way up the canyon from the road with my spotting scope and we were not able to find any sign of elk in the traditional areas they like to winter in along the ridgelines.

We had several vehicles of hiking hunters and some horse hunters in the area when we went in early in the morning on the 1st. With the lack of elk there was also going to be a lot of pressure from hunters. All of the hiking hunters usually only hike in a mile or two and the horse hunters will ride all the way to the back of the property at about 4 miles in. We came prepared to haul two elk out from as far in as we decided to hike.

We decided to head to one of my favorite locations about three miles in to watch a finger canyon the elk like to cross. As we approached this canyon we spotted a young bull with a goofy left antler but no cows. Once to the area I wanted to be in we setup and glassed around the main canyon and only could spot other hunters. After glassing for a while Dallen spotted two cows and a bull moving across the canyon above us over a 1000 yards away.

We took off trying to catch up to the two cows but they were headed out of dodge and we never caught up with them. I'm guessing most likely moving out because of other hunters bumping them. So much for our first trip out. We weren't the only ones that didn't get an elk. Other than us practicing on some rocks this was the only shooting we heard in the area all day.

I was able to dial up a 612 yard shot with the assistance of Strelok Pro and my Galaxy S4 phone and drill a rock. It's nice to verify a load will shoot where you are expecting it to.


Two days later Dallen and I were out again trying another area. We hiked all around in the area finding no sign at all of any elk other than a really smart lone calf that somehow gave us the slip. With pickens slim this year I was going to have Dallen take the calf if it hadn't of slipped out of the draw without us seeing it.

A week later I was back out looking for elk. This Saturday I was going solo. Dallen had a long week of Basketball games and late-night homework so I let him sleep in. A right-handed player that loves to go left, at 6'4" and 240 lbs he's got some moves. I just love his footwork. Here's a spin move from a few weeks back.

This time out there were five large horse trailers and nine vehicles in the parking lot. There was going to be a lot of people in the canyon.

On the way in I was passed by a group of horse hunters. I knew that I would hike well past where the hikers would go, especially because it had warmed up during the past week and all the southern facing draws were bare of snow. Hiking hunters usually have sleds and sleds don't work so well on bare ground.

As I made the turn off from the main trail I could see fresh horse tracks going on the trail in front of me. Dang it! It wasn't long before I spotted four cows feeding on a point above me... but how long would they stay there? Do the horse hunters see them? Well it didn't take long before I saw the elk pick their heads up and trot over the ridge. A few minutes later I watched the horses go over the ridge possibly after the elk if they even saw them. Oh well.

Even with the horses pushing the elk out of the area I decided to hang out in the area to see what would happen. I hiked up to a really good vantage point and spent a few hours glassing around the canyon. I did hear two shots in the very top of the main canyon but didn't see any elk.

As it got noon I decided to head back off the mountain. I hiked back around from looking in one draw to the draw I hiked up and there they were, three elk across the canyon at 650 yards. Two were bedded in the maples and one was standing a little ways off. The two bedded was clearly a cow and a calf and the lone elk looked larger than the calf. It looked like a yearling cow from my best judgment.

I studied the location and my options. The large cow was bedded into heavy of cover to thread a bullet into. The "yearling" eventually bedded out mostly in the open. There was a limb or two blocking it but not a lot. If I tried to get closer they would easily see me coming. If I moved from my current position the heavy trees would block my sight of the elk... based on this and the lack of seeing any elk I decided to take the shot from where I was at 645 yards.

I took my time and set up my rifle to shoot from a cliff. Strelok Pro gave me 12 MOA to dial my Vortex Viper PST scope and I sent a 208 A-Max across the canyon... Whop! Unfortunately, the shot hit a little further back than it should have.... did I can't the rifle? Did it deflect off a branch? Who knows. I quickly resolved the situation by sending a perfect follow-up heart shot. Whop! Boy these bullets make a loud whop on impact. No questioning if you hit the critter with these bullets.

With the elk down I worked my way around the canyon in full view of the cow and calf still bedded right where they were. As it would be I was able to get within 200 yards of the cow and calf in a spot where I could have taken a shot. If I knew I could have made it this close without them taking off and known that I could have seen them I would have opted to move in closer. Oh well. I got the elk anyway.

A few pics and a boned out elk and off the mountain I went. I would say that I was just about four miles in. The elk was on the shady side of the canyon in almost 2 feet of snow. It took me an hour to slowly work my way through the heavy deep snow for 400 yards or so. The next 3 1/2 miles only took me 1:15 as I was on bare ground and packed snow on the trail so I was cruising along.

The next couple of weeks Dallen and I never made it back out after his cow. Believe it or not, Dallen isn't quite as gung-ho to work so hard to get an antlerless elk. Not quite sure why getting up extra early, hiking in four miles spending all day hunting until after dark to not see a cow elk wouldn't be the most fun way to spend your Saturday?!? I'm going to have to set him straight. ;) I know he'd of been a lot more motivated to do an extreme bull elk hunt but not for a cow elk.

It seems that some years I really have to work to get a cow and this is the furthest I have ever had to go to get a cow. It almost feels like extreme cow elk hunting. 

Re-Tweeking the 208 A-Max 300 Win Mag Load
After this hunt I went back to the reloading bench and tweaked the 208 A-Max load. I am a lot more confident in the load. It is more accurate and faster than the load I used on this hunt. You can check out the load on my 300 Win Mag hand load page.

Other Articles of Interest:

Model 1885 High Wall - Bases, Rings, Triggers Etc.