The DIY Hunter

In 2004 my brother Weston, and good friend Clint backpacked into one of our favorite locations to mule deer hunt. I was excited at the opportunity to hopefully help Clint get his first mule deer.

We hiked in one evening and spent the night. The next day we watched a group of several does, a couple of two points and a small 3x4 buck for a couple of hours and we decided to look for something larger. We found another small two-point in another canyon but no shooters.

That afternoon we went back to our base camp and moved camp further around the mountain. That evening we glassed off a point and could see some does bedded down in the oak brush below us. While we were sitting there my brother looks over my shoulder to see a nice buck coming around the ridge straight at me, only 10 yards away. The deer bolts and Weston drills the buck on the run at 75 yards. Just an awesome shot!

We boned out Weston's buck that evening and hauled it back to our base camp. The next morning Clint and I went different directions looking for shooter bucks. An hour or so after shooting light a buck came trotting around the canyon. I could tell he had four points at least on the side that was facing me but the buck never stopped to give me a good look at his antlers. I waited until he was just about to disappear into the oak brush at about 170 yards and decided to drop the hammer.

He wasn't quite the size of buck I was looking for, especially because I would have to sit out hunting mule deer the next year. It was my second year in the dedicated hunter program and I had killed a buck last year and now this one my second year of the program.  You only get two bucks in three years so I'll be sitting out the Mule Deer hunt in 2005.

Weston's Mule Deer Buck taken in 2004

Weston's Buck

Brady's Mule Deer Buck taken in 2004

My Buck

Clint's Mule Deer Buck taken in 2004

Clint's first Buck

After I had my buck down Clint and Weston came back around and met up with me. We glassed around watching different deer moving up finger draws. Then across the canyon we spotted a small four-point. At the long range I handed Clint my rifle and told him where to hold to make the shot and the 270 WSM did the job. Clint had is first mule deer buck.

The rest of the day we boned out the deer and we all packed a buck out on our backs through a snowstorm. A hunt we will always remember.

  • Weston shot this buck with my 25-06 Rem. Remington BDL.
  • Clint's buck and mine were shot with 130g Triple Shocks from a Winchester Model 70 Ultimate Shadow in 270 WSM.

I hunt a little during the hot first couple of weeks of the archery elk season but, as usual, I never really get serious until the last week. I really think the archery elk hunters get a poor time to hunt here in Utah. Elk are usually answering better to calls during the rifle hunt. For whatever reason archers get to hunt in the 90-degree temperatures of the end of August and the first week or so of September just when the elk start to really rut. I really don't care to put a great big animal on the ground five miles from the truck with the temperature over 90 degrees. I also like calling and hearing bulls respond to calls. So my archery elk seasons usually are wrapped up in the last four or so days when I am most likely to get a bull to respond to my calling and I have the best chance of keeping the meat from spoiling.

This year I had done a bunch of pre-season scouting of a new area I wanted to hunt, via topo maps and Google Earth. I really like being able to "fly" the area with Google Earth and get a much better understanding of the terrain and vegetation.

Four days before the end of the season I took off ready to explore and hunt this new area. When I got to this general area I found that it was packed with sheep. There were sheep everywhere! Just great! There wasn't a chance in the world any elk were within miles of this area. So in disgust, I turned around and drove the three hours straight back home.

My 2004 5x5 bull elkI got a couple of hours of rest, came up with a new game plan and headed out again. I spent the next evening on the mountain. Early the next morning I hiked into the area I shot a spike with my bow the previous year. I hiked out onto a point and called and got an immediate response from a bull below me. I worked him and reeled him in and let him pass by at 50 yards. This bull was only a 3x4 and I was hoping to find something a little better this year.

I worked my way around and down into the area the bull had come from in hopes that a herd bull was around in this canyon. As I worked my way down around through the pines I got a response from another bull. This time I pulled in a little 4x4 or maybe a 5x5. He looked to be the same basic 2 1/2 year age that the first bull was. This bull came to within 20 yards and stopped behind some pine limbs. I could see his nose just sniffing and sniffing and knew it was only a matter of seconds before he bolted, and he did. All the elk urine in the world poured on my pant legs and arms just isn't enough to cover up my armpit smell.

My 2004 5x5 bull elkThe rest of the day I worked my way out and around the canyon so I could come right up the middle and be down wind of everything in the canyon. I had no luck in finding any elk and that evening I climbed up and around into the next major canyon. As I worked my way around this canyon I spotted a bull pushing six cows around the top of the canyon. I tried calling but got no response. So I would cow call a couple times then run as fasts as I could for a hundred yards or so, then call again. After doing this a couple of times and getting to within about 600 yards the bull still hadn't responded.

The bull and cows had now made it to a saddle and disappeared from my view. I then decided to try using both my Primos Hyper Lip Single and Hyper Lip Double and go back and forth from one to the other trying to sound like two cows competing for a bull's attention. That did it! The bull decided to answer back and I fired right back with both of these "cows" trying to get his attention. As no other bulls had responded, I guess he figured it was safe to leave his current gals and go round up two more to bring back to his harem and down the mountain, he came.

He came barreling off the mountain and I charged ahead as fast as I could to make up some of the distance. When he got to within 70 yards I kept myself behind some large pines and would make noises like I was a cow was walking behind the tree out of his view. I was trying to get him to come out of the timber into an open area where I could get a shot. I had the wind to my advantage but he was really wanting to see an elk and he decides to turn and head back. I ran the 50 yards or so to catch-up to him keeping a pine between me and him. He was in an open area behind this last pine and was walking broadside. I ranged him at 65 yards drew back my bow and stepped out into plain sight to the side of the pine. He stopped turned to look at me, I settled my 60-yard pin on the edge of his shoulder and let the arrow fly.

The arrow hit home. Nice and low right behind the heart, perfect! The bull ran maybe, 40 yards and toppled over. Yahoo!

There was a little ground shrinkage from how big I thought he was in my mad rush to catch up with him but, I was still very excited. He was a nice 5x5, at least a 3 1/2 year old bull. Not too bad, not too bad.

Some notes and equipment from the hunt:

  • My 2004 5x5 bull elkBrowning Adrenaline SX bow modified with half-inch longer limbs and custom strings I made to get the 32" of draw length I require.
  • Gold Tip Series 22 carbon shafts. The original heavy Series 22 shaft not the ultra-light version they now make. I really like the performance I get with this shaft. I wish Gold Tip would bring it back it's a wonderful fat carbon hunting shaft.
  • Rocket Stricknine broadheads. I learned quickly that 90 pounds of kinetic energy can handle a very large cutting diameter broadhead. If you have the energy you might as well use it and the Stricknine broadhead does a fine job of it. I am now two for two with this broadhead.

Backpacking during the 2003 Mule Deer Hunt

This year I started the dedicated hunter program here in Utah. This allowed me to hunt all three deer seasons (rifle, muzzleloader, archery) with some service hours required and the limit of only two deer in three years. I was excited about the opportunity to be able to be in the field more. I really enjoy the experience of getting out and spending time on the mountain far more than the antlers on the wall. I had gotten very spoiled with opportunities to hunt while living in Oklahoma. In Oklahoma there are bag limits on deer and lengthy seasons. With the exception of the dedicated hunter program, in Utah there there is a trend for more restrictions to the amount of time you can spend in the field. Needless to say, I was excited to have the opportunity to get in the field more this year.

27 inch mule deer buck taken in 2003

I went through the archery and muzzleloader seasons without finding any buck I felt was large enough to shoot. Going into the rifle season my brother and I planned a lengthy hike the night before the opener. We spent the night and hunted the next day as we worked our way across the mountain and down to where I had previously left my truck. We saw a dozen or so deer but only one small buck. We were able to explore some areas of the mountain that I had never been before. We also hiked through some pretty rough country that I'm pretty sure few people have ever set foot. I always enjoy exploring different areas of the mountains when I hunt. This hunt checked off one of the areas on my list to explore.

Me and my 2003 mule deer

2003 Mule Deer

2003 Mule Deer Jaw Bone

After the opening weekend I gave it a couple of days to settle down before I went out again. This time I was hunting by myself and had a good friend dropped me off in the early morning hours and I started hiking in the dark towards the area I wanted to hunt. As it got light I watched several groups of deer, mostly does, fawns and a few smaller bucks. I slowly worked my way around the mountain for a couple hours stopping to glass from different vantage points.

At one point I spotted some does running several hundred yards below me but they disappeared around a ridge line. I decided to go investigate what might be causing the does to be in such a rush. I had high hopes that a frisky buck might be the culprit.

I took a little time to traverse the steep terrain to get into a position to view below the ridge line. As I slowly worked my way around the ridge line and glassed below I spotted some deer coming around a cluster of jack pines. I quickly dropped into a shooting position pulled my rifle up and put a shell in the chamber. The deer were at 250 yards and on a steep downward angle from my position. I watched a couple of does come around the pines and through a 50 yard opening before they disappeared into some thick cover and into the next sub-canyon. Then, just after the does came though, a mature looking buck came out of the pines and started to head towards the thick cover. I took a second or two look at him, decided he was a shooter and dropped the hammer when the buck paused for a second. The buck took two bounds and tipped over. Yahoo!

Once I made it down to the buck I was very excited. It was the largest buck to date that I had ever taken. He lacked length in his G2s and G3s but he is 27 inches wide and has 5 inch bases. He had a huge pot belly and cool looking roman nose. One of his back molars is worn down almost to the gum line. Maybe a 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 year old buck.

  • For this hunt I used my Remington BDL in  25-06 Rem.
  • 100g Nosler Partition Handloads