USA: Mule Deer Hunting Reports

Ontario Hunter

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Apr 16, 2023
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Hunting reports
I see a thread for whitetail hunting reports but apparently nothing for mule deer, so thought I'd start one.
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I followed my lovely late wife to Canada in 1989. For the last fifteen years I have been returning "home" every fall to hunt uplands, gradually staying longer each season. Now I usually am here six weeks. Six years ago my Montana resident brother asked if I'd hunt big game with him. He's had diabetes since 1974 and it's finally starting to take a toll. So I buy a "Come Home to Hunt" package license that includes deer and elk tags, bird license, and fishing license. The catch is he must be with me when hunting big game (I can hunt birds and fish solo). Mike and I went through school together 1st grade through HS and we started hunting together with our dad back in the early sixties. It's a great way for two guys who were always close to stay closer. I have yet to fill an elk tag from this package deal but that's okay: I shot thirteen of them before moving to Canada. Deer only package is a lot cheaper but I'm happy to make a donation to the state wildlife management. Never know if an opportunity will pop up to shoot another elk.

This year bird hunting has been curtailed significantly. My Lab somehow messed up a hind leg ligament during early October goose season and my 12 year-old cancer survivor Fr Britt is feeling her age. She's still going strong but can no longer hold up to all day hunts. I'm still going strong too after just turning seventy-one. Big game hunting was also curtailed. My brother had medical issues to deal with and his vehicle was acting up. Finally the last week of season, he got on the train and came over to meet me on the East Side. Mike lost some mobility in his left leg last year and now requires a brace. Still gets around but uneven ground is a challenge.

First morning we arrive at my honey hole publicly accessible ranch at daybreak and spot a herd of antelope in the winter wheat at the end of the road. First time in ten years I've seen them on this place. Off to our right I see a couple of animals bedded in a big stubble field. Though they were five hundred yards out, we could tell with the naked eye one was a big buck. I slipped into a deep gully beside the Jimmy to try and get closer. It wound around for several hundred yards before I found a low spot in the field. I stooped and crawled my way for another hundred yards, not knowing exactly where I was in respect to anything. Then I spotted the top of antlers. At first I thought it was an elk (bulls require a draw tag in this area but cows are over-the-counter tags). Crawling closer through the stubble I peeked up again and clearly saw the head of the buck looking my way. He was wearing a heavy rack that was spread freakishly wide, way past its ears. I decided to crawl closer. When eighty yards from it I got on my knees and scoped him. A monster, he was still bedded. Then I made my first mistake. I decided to try a shot at him bedded. I was so close I could surely put a bullet in him on the run if needed. Bullet hit the ground instead of the buck. As he ran broadside I could see he was a whitetail, not a muley. Never seen a whitetail up there before. Trying to get my seventy-one year-old legs underneath me again in a hard cold wind was more difficult than anticipated. I took an awkward shot and knew I missed underneath his belly. He was gone. What I should have done was call my brother and tell him to honk the horn and shoot the buck when he stood up. Or pull the dog whistle from my vest and give that a toot. Oh well. He's gone.

I returned to the Jimmy and made plans for the rest of the day. I would work the huge network of coulees (gullies) where I shot muley bucks the last two years. Mike would watch the ridge tops for movement. Shortly after leaving him I spooked a covey of Huns on the edge of the stubble which spooked a little 2x1 buck from the shallow draw on the other side of the fence. I watched him walk off sniffing the ground for scent of a receptive doe. Through the day I hiked at least fifteen miles and saw the little buck two more times. I walked into at least twenty does and fawns but no shooter buck. By the time we were back to the trailer I was cramping badly, especially right hamstring. Nothing to eat or drink while hunting is typical for me but my years are starting to make a difference. Popped a couple of ibuprofen, drank half a quart of milk and was fine by the following morning.

After some discussion we decided to return to the same property. Mike suggested that we check out a small reservoir where I'd seen three does the day before. We could almost drive to it and he was okay with shooting does. On the way in what do we see but that young buck running across a green winter wheat field ... straight to our vehicle! Mike stepped out and shot it with a 35 Whelen he borrowed from a local friend (train reservation was too late to get his guns on board). I gutted it and threw it on the hitch carrier. We drove back to the whitetail wheatfield but no deer. The antelope were back and we watched as they were hunted ... by a pair of golden eagles! The antelope ran off and I departed for the same vast coulee network. Surprisingly, I was finding no deer. The way to hunt this country is walk the bottoms slowly, carefully looking around every corner and up every side gully. Most hunters walk the ridges. Yes, they can see further, but they can also be seen further, especially when legally attired in flame orange. When I find deer walking the bottoms, I'm seldom out of range. Shortly before ten I slowly walked around the corner of a deep coulee and spotted a buck on the skyline ahead of me. With the naked eye I could tell he was a big one. And he was looking right at me. There would be no stalking for a closer shot. I'd have to shoot him from there. The buck was between two hundred and 250 yards. Way too far for offhand and no way could I shoot 200' elevation uphill from prone position. I backed up, sat down, and was with some difficulty able to get the crosshairs on the buck. It was a straight frontal shot that I was hesitant to try at that range. He turned his head and started to walk off. Nuts! Then after two steps he stopped almost broadside. It's now or never. Boom ... thuck! The buck dropped his head and stepped downhill out of sight. That guy is going nowhere.

It took a good fifteen minutes to climb the steep face of the coulee. The buck fell only a few yards from where shot. He was laying out of sight on a small bench. I turned around and could barely see my Jimmy parked on a ridge in the distance, probably three miles as the crow flies. In cell range I called my brother and he reported another big buck had just walked by the vehicle, totally oblivious with nose in the air sniffing for a girlfriend. I called my friend who loaned the rifle and he agreed to bring his SxS from town to retrieve the buck. Then I pulled the buck fifteen yards to the top of the ridge for a scenic photo op.

I shot the buck with the WWII 30-06 Dad dolled up for me back in 1962. 165 gr Partition hit behind the left shoulder and was lodged under the skin of right ham. Oddly, no broken bones. The bullet jumped sideways after impact as the buck was nearly broadside when I shot. This deer was a whopper. Three of us worked for twenty minutes trying to lift it into the back of the SxS. Finally, with great difficulty and a makeshift rope hoist we managed to put it in. I never hunt from one of those buggies but they are welcome to haul out my game!

I sliced my finger gutting the deer but managed to close the wound with flagging tape so I wasn't bleeding on my gun during the long walk out to meet the guys and show them the way to the buck. Thinking outside the box!
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Edit: To clarify, it's my honey hole but not my ranch.
The western US holds a lot of mystique for those of us on the East coast. Its as close to a true wilderness as you can get here anymore and there is an aura about that area that, not much has changed here in the last 200 years. Love it! Nice buck by the way!
Nice buck, congrats
I hunted NW Wyoming twice this year (for elk).

Due to the harsh winter last year, I didn't expect to see very many deer.

We actually, saw quite a few in September and October. I didn't see a big buck, but there seemed to be about as many deer as there as I had seen in the past.

Pronghorn was another story...
I hunted NW Wyoming twice this year (for elk).

Due to the harsh winter last year, I didn't expect to see very many deer.

We actually, saw quite a few in September and October. I didn't see a big buck, but there seemed to be about as many deer as there as I had seen in the past.

Pronghorn was another story...
North west part of the state wasn't hit nearly as bad as the west central and south portions of the state. Some areas experienced nearly 80% loss of deer and antelope. 100% fawn and yearling mortality in many of the wintering area's too. 100 miles either side of I-80, west of Laramie was probably the worst.

Then couple that with a large percentage of CWD infected deer in many units and it was a perfect storm.

I didn't even bother hunting deer this year along with many of my friends. Those I know who hunted deer had very little success. It will take years for the herd to recover after losing 2 generations of animals. Pretty sad to watch.

Luckily the northern part of the state faired a lot better than we did.
I didn't even go out for mule deer this year. Hardly been out for whitetail. Once I get my last two puppies sold, I'm gonna spend a lot of time afield.

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sgtsabai wrote on krish's profile.
I recently had operation for Agent Orange caused throat cancer and cannot talk so phone calls are out. I am interested, maybe more so after seeing the pics. No decision today, it's radiology and chemo day and sometimes that leaves me a bit worn down. I did notice the used rifle had only one reenforcing bolt in contrast to the NIB.
sgtsabai wrote on krish's profile.
I'm interested. Maybe more so in the used as I want to have some work done on one and restocked. Would it be too much trouble to send some pics of both. Btw, [redacted].
sgtsabai wrote on flyfishdoc's profile.
Do you still have that CZ?
Maintenance is going we fitted new walkway lights at the Wildgoose lodge!