The DIY Hunter

Dallen with his 2014 mule deer

Dallen hunting with neoprene rifle jacket

Dallen hunting with my X-Bolt, 270 WSM nicely protected in a Browning neoprene gun jacket.


Dallen sneaking past a 3 point buck

Dallen found it quite entertaining to be sneaking past this 3 point buck without it knowing we where there.


4x2 mule deer bedded

This large 2 point buck actually has two small forks on one side. Guess it's a 4x2 buck then. We watched him for a few hours hoping a larger buck was with him.


4 point mule deer dead on cliff

View from where Dallen shot his buck with the zoom cranked up on the camera.


Dallen with 4 point mule deer and Alps Pathfinder pack

Dallen with his 2014 mule deer and Alps Outdoorz Pathfinder pack.


Browning Escalade Knife Model 662 with mule deer

I love my Browning Escalade knife. It is the best knife I have ever used asside from my custom knife Russ Kommer made for me which is just a little larger than this knife. I love small bladed, deep bellied, fixed blade skinners. This is a small knife that you can bone out a deer really fast with.


Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50 Spotting Scope on Alps Outdoorz Pathfinder

Hauling around my lightweight spotting scope, a Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50 on a Ultrec Carbon Fiber Tripod with my Alps Outdoorz Pathfinder pack.

After eating tag soup during the muzzleloader season and Dallen's rifle elk hunt not ending the way we would have liked, we were itching to find a good buck for Dallen.

Dallen really wanted to try and find the large Large 3x4 Buck that outsmarted me during the muzzleloader season. I couldn't blame him. It was a nice buck and I would really like to have Dallen get him.

The day before the opener we got dropped of by my brother and started our five and a half mile trek in to where we needed to be to hunt for this buck.

Where I found the large 3x4 buck during the muzzleloader season was about 6 miles in, in an area that we knew we would be competing with horse hunters. There was a horse camp a couple hundred yards from where we camped Friday evening so as daylight approached on the opener we weren't sure how much competition there with be. As it worked out we had the canyon to ourselves. This was nice. We spotted 14 deer in the canyon and 6 bucks but not the large 3x4 we were after. There was one four point but he wasn't very large so Dallen wasn't interested in him.

After watching the canyon until around midday I dropped my Alps Pathfinder pack and looped way around the backside of the canyon and down then I brushed up the canyon hoping to bump deer back towards Dallen. Something was wrong with this picture when I was a kid I was a brusher for my dad as he sat on the ridge and  now I'm brushing for my own kids. Hmm... something's not right with this picture. Anyhow, it took me a good two hours to brush the canyon and I only got out a fawn that came within 20 yards of Dallen. We had watched six deer down in the canyon earlier so I must have somehow walked right past most of them.

For the afternoon we slipped into another canyon we hoped no one had been in yet. Jackpot! Just as we were entering the canyon I am watching to the right where the deer like to bed and unbeknownst to me Dallen was watching a small 3x4 out feeding right below us. Luckily Dallen pointed out the deer before I spooked it. We watched this buck and also found a large two point (4x2 with small forks on one side) bedded in the canyon. We sat on them for a couple hours hoping that a larger buck was bedded with them that would get up to feed come evening. Well evening came and a big one never showed up. Darn it!

Being good boys we packed it up and hiked off the mountain in the dark so that we could attend church on Sunday.

Back to school and work on Monday. Dallen however was really itching to get a deer so we both played hooky on Friday. Instead of going all the way back in where we were for the opener we decided to go to a closer but rougher area to hunt. It is a really steep climb in and out of this area. I killed a good buck in 2003 in the area, a bull elk in 2010 and Dallen killed a bull in 2012 in this area.

In the dark Friday morning we were working our way down the canyon. As we approached the first finger draw we paused to let it get light enough before proceeding so as not to spook any deer out before we could see to shoot. As it got light enough to shoot we peaked around the ridge and sure enough right below us was a three point feeding.

We watched the three point for a few minutes and then re-charted our course sneaking past him so that he wouldn't bust down the canyon scaring everything out before we could get there. Dallen thought it was pretty funny to be so close to the deer without the buck knowing it.

As we worked our way down the canyon we spotted a buck about a 1000 yards away. My new Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50 spotting scope made it crystal clear that it was just another three point and not worth going after. We also spotted a lot of other does and fawns in the area and a few moose but no big bucks.

Working our way along a ridgeline we would look off one side then the other. Then at 87 yards two bucks jumped out and stopped on a small cliff. Dallen was behind me, took to steps to get around me and boom. The larger of the two bucks dropped like a sack of tatters. Not a twitch. The 150 Gr Accubond Long Range out of my 270 WSM X-Bolt just crushed him with a high shoulder shot angling down to the lower shoulder on the opposite side.

The bullet stopped against the hide on the opposite shoulder. The lungs where destroyed along with the backbone. The recovered bullet weighed 58.2 grains. I was very pleased with the performance of this bullet. This could be my go to mule deer bullet, it works well on deer at close range, yet has plenty of energy and expansion to cleanly take deer out to 1000 yards. Not that I would shot at a deer at 1000 yards but the bullet has the potential.

What a cool experience to have Dallen just pull up and shot the deer without any coaching. I was actually trying to get my camera ready to take some photos of the bucks right when Dallen dropped the hammer. Dallen has really matured as a hunter and has really impressed me with his marksmanship skills and hunting abilities. I'll take a little credit for spending time at the reloading bench and getting the rifles setup to shoot well. He has the green light from Dad out to 600 yards. Given the right conditions Dallen is great at making the shot. This comes form experience and he is getting pretty darn experienced at a young age.

After a few photos it was time to bone out the deer. I had Dallen do a lot of the work this time. My Browning Escalade knife worked awesome at boning out the deer. I love deep bellied skinning knives with a short blade and this knife is sweet.

We decided to cape out the buck to give to our taxidermist in case he needs a cape for someone else.

After getting it all boned out we put half of the meat into each of our Alps Outdoorz Pathfinder packs. I really like how versatile this pack is. I do think a Alps Outdoorz Traverse EPS pack would be an even better option for this style of hunting. Once home the meat weighed in right at 60 pounds. There probably was a good 5 pounds of meat we lost in the front shoulders from the bullet.

Dallen has now taken three, 4 point bucks and one 3 point in the six years he has hunted deer. That's not too bad. Actually the one year he had swine flu and was only able to get out for a few hours that season so I don't know if that season should count. He has done really good considering all of his deer have been taken on public land in Northern Utah, in a very heavily hunted unit.

Nice job Dallen!

Dallen admiring his 2014 mule deer

Dallen admiring his 2014 mule deer.


Browning neoprene rifle jacket

I purchased this Browning neoprene rifle jacket this past year and have just loved it. It's just like a neoprene scope cover except it is for the whole rifle. The scope and rifle are protected. It snaps off just as fast as a scope cover. I no longer have to tape the end of my barrel or have a scope cover. When it rains or snows the rifle is covered. I really like it when it comes to sitting the rifle down. I can lay the rifle on any surface and not worry about scratching the rifle or scope.


Dallen hunting on skyline

Man that camo looks good. I love RealTree Max-1 camouflage.


3x4 mule deer feeding

Dallen spotted this 3x4 buck feeding 200 yards below us on opening day.


Dallen packing mule deer alps pathfinder pack

Packing mule deer X-Bolt and Alps Pathfinder pack


Dallen packing mule deer with Alps Pathfinder pack

My X-Bolt 270 WSM with Vortex Viper 4-16x50 HS LR rifle scope. Packing out the buck in a Alps Outdoorz Pathfinder pack.


Hiking down to dead mule deer buck

Dallen hiking down to his buck.


Dallen with the caped head and mule deer rack

Dallen's buck caped out in a meat bag ready to haul out.



A female Red Crossbill was hanging around watching us on the pack out.


Dallen's 2014 mule deer buck

Dallen and me with his 2014 mule deer.


Recovered 150 Gr Accubond Long Range 270 WSM

Here's the recovered 150 Gr. Accubond Long Range bullet reduced to 58.2 grains. It was resting against the hide on the opposite shoulder.


Cool sunny grass photo

I thought this made a pretty cool photo of the grass in the sun with a dark shadowed canyon below.


Packing out mule deer buck with Alps Pathfinder pack

Dallen packing out his mule deer buck.

Dallen sitting on cliff elk hunting with X-Bolt

Dallen on the lookout for elk. The RealTree Max-1 camo works so well in the rocks and many other western terrains.

Dallen sitting on cliff elk hunting with X-Bolt

Dallen hunting with my X-Bolt, 270 WSM with a  Vortex Viper HS LR 4-16x50 rifle scope and EGW 20 MOA Picatinny rail.

Me and the boys elk hunting.

Selfie of me and the boys hunting for elk.

Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50 spotting scope

Using a Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50 spotting scope to glass for critters.

Townsend's Solitaire

This Townsend's Solitaire landed next to me while hunting.

Rough Grouse Strutting in the Fall

This Rough Grouse was strutting in the fall. I guess they do strut outside of their spring breeding season.

Bull Elk on Trail Camera

This might be the bull we lost. I clearly saw a 5th point in my binos and Dallen thought it was a 4 point. The shape of the antlers could look like either. Anyhow this bull was in the area the day before he shot the bull. We have however had many 5, 4 and 4x5 bulls on trail camera in the area this year so who knows for sure.

This year Dallen had a rifle elk tag we both have cow elk tags so we decided to hunt the area that I have most of my trail cameras in watching for elk and where our cow elk permits were for. I was successful in taking a spike with my bow back in August, a spike in 2013 and Dallen's bull in 2013 from this area. — 2013 Utah Youth Elk Hunt — Dallen Shoots Big Ol' Charlie One Horn

For the opening weekend, we decided to take the little brothers along with us to hunt. This was Dallen's younger brother's first time out big game hunting. They were super excited to go hunting with us. It's always fun to take young kids hunting and see their excitement.

The night before the opener we all headed up the mountain and slept in a tent. Early the next morning we were hiking up the mountain in the dark.

We have a spot that we like to sit and watch for elk. There are some cliffs overlooking a draw that has a couple of springs and a couple of my trail cameras. Not a lot of elk frequent the area however if they do the spot provides a great vantage point to get a good shot. This spot proved to be a good spot on Dallen's elk hunt last year.

After making the steep hike up to the cliffs we spent the rest of the day hanging out there watching for elk. We didn't see any elk. We did see a few does and fawn mule deer.

It was a fun day with the boys. I wish we could have seen some elk with the little boys being there. But we all had fun spending time together.

On the way out we pulled the SD cards from the trail cameras. They showed a few elk being in the area but not a lot. Just as I expected based on my experience with watching the area with the cameras the year before. It's cool how you can learn the general patterns of the game in an area with a few trail cameras.

The following weekend Dallen and I headed back up the mountain. Friday evening while hiking in we spotted some cow elk about a 1000 yards below us that headed into some thick cover. With not seeing a bull and the area they were in we decided to hope that something would come out in the draw we like to watch. Well, nothing did that evening nor through most of the day on Saturday.

Around midday, we decided to switch locations. We headed to the area we seen the elk the day before. As we got within 500 yards or so of this area we spotted a bull moving in and out of the oak brush. There were also several cows with the bull and they were working their way up the canyon.

The trick was that we were on a sidehill that was covered in trees. This presented a challenge to find a window through the limbs to get a clear shot across the canyon. We were able to find a window and set up for the shot. I ranged the bull, had Strelok Pro open on my Galaxy S4 phone. At the range and current weather conditions, my X-Bolt 270 WSM with 150 Gr Accubond Long Range bullet needed 8.5 MOA. Dallen dialed the scope. The Bull stopped broadside in the clear and Dallen sent the shot. Whop!

The bull was hit hard. The cows all rapidly cleared the area. The bull very gingerly turned and slowly started walking directly towards us getting deeper and deeper into the scrub oak brush. As it was moving in the brush Dallen sent a couple more shots his way. The target size was now much smaller and there was a lot of brush to try and get a bullet to pass through. His third shot hit the bull in a hind leg sending fur flying into the air. Then shortly after this, the bull disappeared into the brush.

As sick as the bull looked I figured the bull would be dead within minutes and by the time would get across the canyon we would find him dead.

We slowing approached where we thought he would be dead. As we approached the bull was about 30 yards off from where we thought he would be and he jumped up and took off into the trees where Dallen couldn't see to get a shot. Dang it!

We started following the bull we ran into two other hunters, friends of my cousin and the bull had just ran into them and they had bumped the elk down a creek bottom. This could have been good if they were prepared to see an elk but may have just pushed the elk harder...

Well, to make a long story short we never found him. We spent the rest of that evening looking into the dark, most of the next day and went back another day searching for him, but no elk.

Dallen is pretty upset about the bull getting away. He made a good shot and sometimes elk just don't go down. I would really like to know exactly where the bullet hit, the amount of penetration and recover the bullet. This bullet should have performed very well at 550 yards. With the weather conditions, Strelok Pro shows that the bullet was going 2400 fps and had 1900 ft-lbs of energy, still plenty to kill an elk.

Some would argue that we shouldn't be shooting distances this far but Dallen has proven his marksmanship skills time and time again. He can shoot and this bullet should have done the job. Again, I would really like to know exactly where that bullet hit, the penetration and expansion...

As I write this we still plan on going back and looking for birds to help us locate him and at least recover the rack. Hopefully, we will still be able to find him.

The boys sitting on a cliff elk hunting

The boys on the lookout for elk.

A bull moose he saw elk hunting

Here's a bull moose Dallen and I got within about 35 yards of.

KB smiling while elk hunting

KB with some of our snacks around his lips.

Landen elk hunting

Landen having fun elk hunting.

Moon on skyline

The last glimpse of the moon as it passes behind a ridge.

Beautiful fall colored quaking aspens

Some beautiful fall colored Quaking Aspens.

Deer Hunting with my Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter with EGW Rail and 1x20 Nikon Scope

Hunting with my Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter.
TC Encore Pro Hunter - First Time Out With My New Muzzleloader

Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50 with Ultrec Carbon Fiber Tripod

I just love my new Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50 spotting scope. Lightweight, compact and nice clear glass. This scope works great with my carbon fiber Ultrec tripod.

TC Encore Vortex Razor HD Spotting scope

Last rays of light from the sun one evening on my TC Encore, Alps Pathfinder pack and Vortex Razor HD 11-33x50 spotting scope.

Hunting with Salomon Trail Running Shoes

I've "seen the light" in a different style of footwear for hunting, that being trail running shoes. I have been using trail running shoes for a year or so while hunting and this is my first time using Salomon mountain trail running shoes. As long as it is dry these shoes are awesome for hunting. I also have some Salomon gaiters on order to keep the debris out for my next trip out.

These shoes aren't going to last like a full leather hiking boot but they are so comfortable to hike in. They are extremely lightweight, offer awesome traction, very breathable, and have great cushioning. I think they are greatly helping my bad knees.

After a couple of scouting trips. I was ready to spend some time on the mountain with my new TC Encore muzzleloader and see if I could get a nice mule deer.

The opener was on Wednesday so on Tuesday morning I had my brother and father drop me off at the trailhead. It was over five miles to where I wanted to camp for the first evening. 

Tuesday on the way in I checked my trail cameras. Nothing! Since about the first of September, the cameras have had almost no deer at all on them. At first I thought the camera was messed up but all three of the cameras I had in this high country were devoid of deer starting around the first of September.

One cool thing I found on the trail cameras was two young bull elk up in the really high country. This is cool.

Thursday evening I found three Mountain Goats. I believe they are all billys but I'm no goat expert. In fact, I believe these are the first mountain goats I have ever seen. What's is also cool is that they are on a mountain that has three major roads and highways that they would have had to cross to get to this mountain. These guys are living far from where anyone can hunt them. They have potential to live to die from natural causes in a wicked nasty canyon where few will ever dare bug them.

The lack of deer on the trail cameras should have been a clue that I needed to head down the mountain to find the deer. But I stuck it out and hunted hard where I knew there had to be some good-sized bucks hiding somewhere.

Hiking up and down the mountain to hunt morning and evening in 500 to 1000 vertical foot increments for three days I was a little tired. Yes, I was a little tired but I was excited my bad knees were handling the hiking very well. My last surgery has done wonders on my quality of hunts.

I did see a couple four-point bucks one day out of muzzleloader range. One looked to be a 150 buck with a 24 inch or so wide frame. One morning I briefly spotted a buck down in a nasty hole on the mountain. I could see he had good main beams going out to at least the tip of his ears. I quickly tried to get my spotting scope out to get a better look at him but by the time I had the scope out he had disappeared in the brush.

The next day I decided to try and sneak down into the area I had seen the buck the day before. Getting down into the area was not as easy as I thought it would be. There was a lot of chaparral brush with little to no deer trails in the brush. I worked my way into position over the spot I had seen him the day before. I sat there for an hour or so and didn't see a thing. I decided to try and sneak into the hole and see if I could gently bump him out and have him do the classic bounce, bounce, stop, turn look followed with a boom of my muzzleloader!

Well, it didn't quite work out the way I planned. I slowly started working my way down into the jack quaking aspens and other brush and trees. I noticed a fair amount of deer sign in the area and fresh rubs on the aspens. As I got down in the middle of some aspens I could hear him and saw him bounding out and up through the oak brush of the other side of the canyon. Unfortunately, I was not in a spot to get a shot and I had to run out of the aspens to find a spot to set up for a shot. The buck was larger than I thought he was. He looked really nice but he never stopped until he got to around 450 yards.

I was able to get a few pics of him running out of the canyon. Dang it! A good 3x4 with a solid 28-inch frame.

I paid close attention to where he ran off and that evening I moved my camp over about a mile further in to be able to try and locate the buck again for the remaining evening and following day I was hunting. Well even though I was in great looking deer country I didn't see another deer the rest of the hunt.

All in all, I had a great time on the mountain. I only saw one other person across a canyon one day. It's nice to get out and just enjoy the mountain, see the different wildlife and unwind from all the stresses of life.

I was so hoping to get a good buck this year with my new muzzleloader but it wasn't to be. Dallen has his mindset on trying for the big 3x4 with his rifle in a few weeks. We'll see if we can find him then.

Mountain Goat

One of three Mountain Goats I watched off and on during the hunt.

Mountain Goat

Another photo of a Mountain goat below my camp.

3x4 Mule Deer

This nice looking 3x4 didn't stop after I bumped him until he was 450 yards away. So I took his picture running out of the canyon.

3x4 Mule Deer

Another pic of the large 3x4 buck. He's a dandy. I would have loved to have been able to get him.

Rock Squirrel

This rock squirrel was keeping an eye on me one morning.

Hunting Chaparral Brush

I hate chaparral. I was stuck in this crap for a few hours thinking I was taking a shorter route back to camp.

Here's some footage of the small bucks I found in the high country. So the cameras didn't find any good bucks for me but they did help me know where not to waste my time hunting. The also showed a mass exodus of the deer the first of September.