Blowhards, blowing winds, and bashful bucks

np307

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We left NC at 0545 Thursday, 10/12. The Subaru was loaded down for my buddy and I to spend a week in a low point WY mule deer region. For the first time since we started hunting out West together, both of us had a buck tag. Neither of us had hunted mule deer before, so we knew this trip was going to be a learning experience. The trip was full of plenty of drama, with the first episode coming just a few hours into the trip. I had changed the oil and rotated the tires the day before we left, and apparently I didnt torque the left rear lug nuts back down. Thankfully I had my milwaukee battery impact handy and I ugga dugga'd them down to a torque that I'm sure I will regret the next time I remove that tire.


The rest of the journey was pretty calm and we rolled into WY the next day. It had snowed on our drive out, but not very much. The dirt and gravel roads were definitely a little snotty though, so we had some fun sliding around trying to figure out what the terrain looked like, checking out spots we had marked on the map, and generally getting familiar with the area. We also had a type 6 antelope tag each that was already valid, so as evening approached and a herd was spotted, my buddy decided to make a stalk in the snow in his crocs and shorts. The stalk was unsuccesful, but the image is still pretty hilarious in my opinion.

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As darkness fell, we circled back around to a section of ground that looked like a decent spot to camp. We knew there would be wind, but we really couldnt find any windbreaks to camp in. We settled for a flat spot just below the road on a small chunk of BLM. We got camp situated in the dark and got a decent night of rest, excited for what tomorrow would hold.


The sun was already lighting the morning when we got up the next day. As we got some water boiling for coffee and breakfast, we heard the unmistakable sound of an elk bugle. We walked outside to see a small herd with at least 6 branch antlered bulls and probably 40-50 cows. We watched them move on for a while and then resumed getting all of our stuff organized for the day.
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As we were about to leave and start scouting, we were met by the neighboring rancher who was very angry with our camping spot. We were pretty sure he was full of crap, but didnt want to risk him vandalizing our camp so we moved on. The rest of that story is detailed in this thread:
 
With camp moved, we began scouting. We still werent sure exactly where the mule deer would be, so we tried several different habitat types in the area. Nothing turned up any sign of deer. That evening though, we discovered the key to scouting mule deer: driving. On our way back to camp at dark, we began paying attention to where the mule deer were feeding at the roads. We saw one nice buck, and several of the heavy feeding areas were adjacent to some public land. So we set a plan to hunt some of those spots the next morning and went to bed.

Its a great feeling to see the animal youre hunting on opening day, especially when its a new experience. My buddy and I both saw does that morning and strategized as we went back to camp. We noticed some similarities in where we were seeing deer and decided to find some more parcels with similar features. We spent much of the afternoon trying to find access to such pieces of land but only found private road after private road. It looked very much like we were going to be relegated to a few small parcels of public land for the trip.
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The next day we returned to our spots from opening day. We both saw deer again, but this time I also saw a shooter buck. He was already on private by the time I saw him due to a poor setup on my part. I watched him split off from the does and walk extremely cautiously into the neighboring patch of private. I was encouraged by seeing him but disappointed I had missed an opportunity.

I decided that since we were only seeing deer activity on our sections during the early and late movement times, I wanted to go fill my antelope tag. We got a tip from some other hunters about where they had seen the most antelope that day, so up we drove. Sure enough, we found several large groups of antelope and after a short stalk, I found a couple stragglers at 275 yards and punched my tag. By far the farthest shot I've ever taken on an animal and it was very satisfying to have all of the time I had spent at the range the past year pay dividends.

We quickly got the antelope taken care of and returned to our respective spots for the evening hunt. As I was sidehilling around a point to get to my new and improved setup, i noticed a group of mule deer on the private field across from me. I dropped down and glassed. 7 deer, 6 slick heads, and 1 forky. Now in the past, I have been famously trigger happy on filling my tags, but this time I wanted to excercise some restraint and hold out for a bigger buck. The group passed by at less than 100 yards and never noticed me. I wondered if I might regret that decision later, but in the moment I was at peace with my choice.
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The next day was forecast for some strong winds. In hind sight, the winds probably werent even noticeable for Wyomingans and their wildlife. We, however, thought that all the animals would be hunkered down and so we made a plan to go still hunt a creek bottom. I turned up nothing, but my buddy saw at least a dozen does. Not a buck among them.

Wednesday morning, we knew our time was drawing short. We were planning on leaving Thursday, and so we were feeling the pressure to fill at least one mule deer tag. We returned to the spots that seemed from our road scouting at night, as well as from my experiences hunting, to hold at least a few deer consistently. That morning I crossed the open field and then began to descent the rocks toward a bottom full of buck brush and sage. The light was grey and I thought to double check what time legal shooting light was. I made my way down the rocks and started to cross a draw to get to the point where the forky had passed by me. I looked to my left and as clear as day saw a buck watching me. I was pretty sure I was good on time, but I wanted to be coompletely sure. With the buck watching me from 50 yards away, I pulled my phone just high enough to confirm that I was 5 minutes into legal light. In one practiced motion, I slipped my scope cover off and chambered a round quietly. It felt like it was taking forever but in reality I had the rifle to my shoulder in just a few second. Through the scope I saw at least 4 tines on one side and didnt look any closer. The buck was quartered to me and I held just behind his shoulder and squeezed off a round. I was excited to see his feet in the air as he rolled, and then terrified to see him regain footing and move away, and then relieved to see him crash. He expired as I arrived to him.
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This was by no means a giant old muley, but I couldnt ask for anything more. I slowly took care of the meat and soaked in the morning. It was beautiful, though still pretty breezy. I loaded my pack and walked the 3/4 of a mile back to the car.
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After we returned to camp, my buddy decided to go fill his antelope tag. Meanwhile, I processed and bagged all the meat from my deer and cleaned the skull. It turned into a beautiful afternoon and I was just drifting off when I heard the car returning. I opened the hatch and saw game bags, my buddy had completed his mission. I returned him to our spot and then went to town to get ice and situate the coolers. That night we dined on tenderloin and fettuccine alfredo.

The final morning of our hunt and only one tag remained. No mule deer buck was safe from my buddy and I dropped him off where I had killed my buck and quickly returned to begin packing. The plan was to break down everything and stage it so that we could pack it all after the morning hunt. Instead, I returned to camp to find the tent hanging by a thread, flapping in the breeze. I made an executive decision to just stuff everything in the car and take the chance that my buddy wouldn't kill anything.

Pickup time arrived and I rolled up in an overfull car to see game bags again. A little forky met his maker. We had accomplished the goal of punching all of our tags, and I was definitely happy for my buddy, but in the moment I knew what it meant. A total and complete yard sale on the side of the road while the wind was blowing strong. We got the coolers out, got his meat situated, and re-stuffed the car. We still made it to the diner for breakfast and left when we wanted to.

I cant express how much I love the adventure of jumping in the car and trying to figure out animals 1700 miles from home. I hope I never tire of it. One day perhaps I'll pull a premium muley tag and have to really find a big one. But until then, this 3x4 will go right up on the wall next to me biggest whitetail. And if I ever return to this area to hunt, I know exactly where I'm going to set up camp...
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Great story, congrats on the hunt.

Note: It is safer to pack your antlers tines down, just think what could happen if you were walking in a gully..........
 
Big congrats to you and your buddy. Amazing that y’all were able to fill 4 tags in that amount of time in unfamiliar territory! Kudos to y’all. My son and I had less time, but really had a hard time finding bucks. Makes me really appreciate what y’all did
 
Big congrats to you and your buddy. Amazing that y’all were able to fill 4 tags in that amount of time in unfamiliar territory! Kudos to y’all. My son and I had less time, but really had a hard time finding bucks. Makes me really appreciate what y’all did
Yeah it was a fortunate convergence of experience, luck, and persistence. Still don't feel like we figured out the mule deer, more so just figured out a couple pieces of land. We'll take it for sure.
 
Sounds like a fun trip—congratulations to you guys for being persistent, working through obstacles, and finding success.
 
Congratulations on a great trip and nice buck! You shoulda told that rancher to f**k off!
 
Congratulations on a great trip and nice buck! You shoulda told that rancher to f**k off!
Like I mentioned in the other thread, we get to do this for a couple weeks every other year. Just wasn't worth it to get harassed, or have our stuff messed with, or some other altercation. We've been in contact with game and fish as well as BLM. Doubtful anything happens but that's the best we could do.
 
Like I mentioned in the other thread, we get to do this for a couple weeks every other year. Just wasn't worth it to get harassed, or have our stuff messed with, or some other altercation. We've been in contact with game and fish as well as BLM. Doubtful anything happens but that's the best we could do.
Yea I definitely see where you’re coming from.
 
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