Work, work, work. What many don’t realize is we don’t spend every day out hunting and fishing. Don’t get us wrong we spend plenty of time out in God’s country. The past week had been spent tirelessly staring at a computer screen for 12 hours a day, editing video, drafting emails, planning 2014, and editing photos. Tomorrow we would be hitting the road and I had not even looked at a map to make a gameplan. It would be a roadtrip filled with exploration at it’s finest. A map, a gps, and some optics would be the only compass on this trip. We’d drive and look for any likely buck hangout. I won’t rehash Travis’ hunt for you as he’s already written a solid piece detailing the first part of our roadtrip which ended with him shooting a sweet looking 3×3. Please take a few moments and read about his hunt and the beginning of our roadtrip HERE.
What we had learned over the past 3 days is that a lot of the ground we could hunt has little access that doesn’t have roads or ATV trails criss crossing through it. There is no map that will accurately show the roads in an area. This means you must be willing to drive entire days just to see where and how you can access the land you intend to hunt. Areas that look amazing might be total crap if a road is beat right through the middle of it. Take enough time to do the ground work and you will be rewarded though. After getting Travis’ buck on ice in the YETI it was my turn to grab the rifle and start sifting through the country searching for a mature deer. Our first evening was spent driving into a new area with a GPS glued to my hand. It appeared that multiple areas existed that would provide enough seclusion for a big mature buck to exist. One thing we had found was that there is no shortage of small bucks. This night was no different. We spotted deer about two miles off the road and could tell there were a few bucks in the group. A closer look would be needed. As we crested the last grassy knoll a group of 20 mule deer were feeding in front of us. Immediately my eye was caught by a buck harassing a doe who must have been in heat. He chased her back and forth across the field with ruthless authority. Again though, the buck was just not mature. With 4 points on each side many would put a tag on this buck. As a hunter I try to find mature bucks and let the little ones grow. If I don’t find one I’ll eat my tag or shoot a doe. As the sun faded this buck finally had pestered this doe long enough to be granted a quick mount. We headed back to the truck, mildly frustrated and hoping that hard work would eventually pay off. That night we drove over an hour on a rough dirt road accessing the far reaches of a peninsula secluded land.
As sun broke the horizon in the east a few deer could be seen grazing the rolling hills. Again only small bucks were visible. As I glassed the hills multiple truck and ATV tracks could be seen in the yellow grass. The area was closed to motor vehicles but we all know these signs mean nothing to some hunters. I had felt good about the area, but I was now questioning that thought. As I looked through the spotter Travis said he had seen three does further up the adjacent coulee.
I figured we could go take a quick look before heading back to the truck. As I slowly peeked over the ridge I instantly spotted a buck feeding. I dropped my pack and crawled up over the edge. As I raised up my binos I was instantly impressed. He was a narrow and tall 3×4. I had hoped to find a bigger buck but sometimes you just know when you’ve found your buck.
This buck was one that I’d gladly put my tag on and he was only 100 yards away, unaware and feeding in the shade. I snuck back to Travis and we quickly made a gameplan. As I crawled over the hill with gun in tow I found that a small buck had feed up towards our position and was intently staring up at our location. He finally disappeared and I thought he had gone back to feeding. I continued to crawl to a position where I could see down to the big buck.
As I finally slowly sat up I noticed the does looking up to my right. The small buck had circled to our right and had pinned us. He slowly trotted off. The does had taken note and anxiously glanced up at the ridge where we were quietly waiting. True to their nature the does began running up the hill. The buck followed and I quickly got my gun setup on my knee. The does stopped half way up the hill to look back (a tragic mistake for many mule deer). The buck stopped, the sun shining off his rack as he stared back at me. My crosshairs mildly shook over his vitals and I slowly squeezed the trigger. BOOM! The buck instantly dropped. The adrenaline quickly began to flow. We quickly gathered our gear and dropped down through the coulee to go take a look at my deer.
As soon as I layed my hands on him I knew I had made the right decision. This deer was a mature 3×4 with a narrow and tall rack. He was a handsome deer and his rutted up neck told us he was a dominant deer.
After getting some photos of him it was time to drag him down into the shade and begin the real work. As I quickly quartered him up I milled over the past few years and how they had all come down to this moment. So much effort had been put into this success. Finally the buck was de-boned and packed neatly against our NICE frames. It was time to load up and head back to the truck.
The load fit my back nicely and I felt like a million bucks. It was only a short mile and a half to the truck and the quiet hike gave me time to reminisce the past weeks of the hunting season.
When we finally made it to the truck it was time to lay the meat out in the shade to cool and crack a beer. Our annual mule deer trip had been a success and we kept the tradition alive by drinking only the finest, Keystone Light.
The trip was all we had hoped it would be. Two bucks in six days and memories for a lifetime. Tenderloins were cleaned and cooked and it was nice to relax and watch the sun set with no pressure to find deer.
As the sun set we began talking about next year and how we could make our trip next season even better. Plans are already slowly being etched into the calendars, and we can’t wait to return.