Steve's First Mule Deer

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It was the first year that Steve had ventured out to central Wyoming to hunt mule deer. He had gone at the invitation of Dale, a fellow worker from General Motors in Flint, Michigan. They headed out from their Great Lakes State home in time to arrive two days before the October 15 opener of the deer season. This gave them the rest of that day to get their trailer camp set up and the next day to do some scouting.

When opening day arrived, they got up well before dawn so that they could drive the 7 or 8 miles to the spot where they wanted to hunt. Because of the rugged terrain, this short distance took almost 2 hours. Steve said that they put the truck in 4-wheel low when they got there, and never took it out until they hit the pavement on the way back home.

It was Dale’s custom to only take a deer that was 4x4 or better, and he encouraged Steve to hold off for at least a few days on anything less. As they hunted the many canyons and draws that dotted the area, they saw quite a few does and several smaller bucks during the first three days, and Steve was sorely tempted to shoot one of them. But Dale promised him that he’d see more, and he might very well see a good-sized buck with a nice rack.

Day four saw a storm moving into the area. The temperature was dropping all day, and as they were down in a canyon it began to snow. The further they went, the more it snowed. By the time they got back out of the canyon. There were 4 inches of snow on the ground. The weather must have sent the deer into hiding, because they didn’t see a thing that day of the storm.

 The varied terrain of their hunting area.

 The varied terrain of this beautiful hunting area several days after the storm.

It was now October 19, the 5th day of the season. Steve was starting to think that he had missed his chance to get a buck. So as they once again began to work their way through a canyon, Steve decided that if he saw another buck, he would take it. They were moving along the sides of the canyon, one on each side, with about 80 yards separating them as the crow flies, but much further if one were to go to the bottom and back up the other side. There were many draws that came into this canyon, so as they moved along, they would occasionally have to travel downward to get around the “mouth” of the deep draw before heading back up on the canyon side.

It was the third draw they had come to, and as Steve approached the edge of it, he carefully peeked around the corner so he could see up the draw. With his binoculars, he spotted 4 deer about 140 yards away, 3 does and a buck. He couldn’t tell exactly how big it’s antlers were, but he was ready to shoot a buck. He signaled to Dale that he was going to shoot, so he stopped to watch the action through his binoculars. Steve found the deer in the scope of his .30-06 and pressed the trigger. At the shot, the deer jumped into the air and went down. The does all started running off, and it was then that they saw another buck with at least 3 points on a side making his escape as well.

Dale came across to Steve’s side of the canyon and they both worked their way up the draw to find that after the buck had fallen, it slid down into some thick mahogany. It took them over 1 ½ hours to get the deer up out of the draw to a spot where they could drive the truck to retrieve it. They then walked the 1.5 miles back to the truck, drove back to where the deer lay and put it in the truck.

It wasn’t a 4x4, but Steve was happy. He had his first mule deer from his first “out west” hunt. This would be just the first of many more times that he would pull a 5th wheel camper across many miles to enjoy pursuing these wonderful animals of the western U.S.

This was taken after they returned to their camp after dark.


ndemiter's picture

i'd bet you had a lot of fun

i'd bet you had a lot of fun on that hunt!

and nice job not giving up finding your animal. it sounded like it might have gotten difficult for a minute.

groovy mike's picture

I love a happy ending

Nice story Jerry –

Thanks for sharing it. A story is always better with pictures too – so thanks for sharing those as well. I agree with my buddy Arrowflipper too – I love a happy ending and this sure sounds like one top me. And having travelled from New York State to Washington to hunt mule deer with him I know exactly what he means that it is like going to a different country. Mule deer hunting in the wide open western United States is an entirely different experience than hunting white tails in the hilly wooded areas of the eastern states where shots are close and views are short. You guys who haven’t been I strongly recommend that you try it. God willing, I’ll be able to get back and do it again soon. Travelling with the camper is a great idea. I’m so far east, I can’t take advantage of anything like that to hunt in the west but thank God I have friends willing to let me share their homes and tents!

At least here in New York the snow really makes the deer stand out. I look forward to a coating of snow during white tail season – not only to help tracking efforts but because it makes deer easy to spot. I suspect it was the cold more than the snow that may have caused the deer to hole up for Steve. A “bird in the hand” definitely is better than “a bird in the bush.” I have ended too many seasons without a deer to hold out for something “better” any more. I take the first legal deer I see, and I am grateful for it! When I have a chance to share a hunt with friends (like Steve did in this story) – it is even better than a successful solo hunt.

Did Dale have a shot at the departing buck? I know he was across the canyon but if it was only 80 yards it’s possible that he might have had an opportunity….? Or did his holding out for a 4x4 preclude his chancing a shot at a deer with an unknown rack? Did he take a deer that season at all or did his strategy of holding out for big bucks give him an empty tag that year?

Groovy Mike

GooseHunter Jr's picture

Nice story!!  Congrats to

Nice story!!  Congrats to Steve a nice looking buck.  Man I sure wish it was deer season!

numbnutz's picture

Congrats to Steve and his

Congrats to Steve and his sucessful hunt. I enjoyed reading this story, Thanks for sharing it with all of us. Sounds like it was a fun hunt. Nice looking deer as well.

arrowflipper's picture

I enjoyed

I really enjoyed your story, and especially the ending.  I love a happy ending.  I think it's great that guys are willing to drive that far to hunt mule deer.  It is a totally different hunting experience.  It's like going to another country almost. 

When it snowed, I'm surprised you didn't see even more deer.  Not that all of a sudden there were more deer; it's that you can see them so much better when the ground is covered with white.  They stand out on that background.

Hey, hind sight is 20-20.  You can always say you should have held off a bit to see it the bigger buck was there, but that doesn't happen too often so my philosophy is that a bird in the hand eats better than a bird in the bush.  And since we're talking about eating, that two point might very well have been better eating than the bigger buck.

Congratulations on a successful hunt, both in having a good time and it harvesting an animal.

hunter25's picture

Good story, I always enjoy

Good story, I always enjoy reading about someones success. Coming out west is a dream for many and being able to do it and see game and ultimately be successful is what keeps guys coming back. It's great they have a camper to use as we generally stay in hotels that time of year if hunting away from home. It costs more and is incnonvenient but sure is nice after a long day of hunting.

It's good to see that he was totally happy even though he didn't get the class of buck his friend thought he might. BTW did Dale get one also?

ManOfTheFall's picture

Great story, I enjoyed it.

Great story, I enjoyed it. Good pictures and a congratulations goes out to Steve on his first muley buck. I intend to get out west one of these years here but so far I haven't managed it. I hope to very soon.

Deer Slayer's picture

Great story and pictures, I

Great story and pictures, I appreciated them. Congraulations to Steve on his first muley buck. My dad and I have talked about takin a trip out west some day but we haven't made it there yet. Some of those muleys I've seen looks like they can get pretty big.