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Blown Stalk Mule Deer Stories

RobertD

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Jul 16, 2020
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Southwest Georgia (GA)
I’ve been thinking this morning about blown stalks, and a trip I took which featured several, most of them performed by me. This was on a mule deer hunt in canyon country in the snow. Late archery season in New Mexico. My brother was also on this trip, and he had some opportunities of his own. Personally, I had chances at three stalks throughout the four days we hunted.

For the first, we had glassed three bucks across a canyon. This wasn’t so much a failed stalk as a stalk that was low in quality to begin with. They were moving too quickly to properly close any distance, and it became a classic case of the sun going down on us before we could get anywhere close to them.

The next day, same canyon, we found one of the three bucks, now with two does, near the same spot we had first seen the three bucks. They were moving the same way, but much more slowly, and it was much earlier in the day. I repeated the prior day’s move to cross the canyon, and it worked. Fairly quickly I got to something like two hundred yards from the three deer just using snow and topography. They continued the same direction but started cheating higher up the canyon wall. I followed, and for a stretch I got badly out of breath. I even had to take a break, but I kept sneaking and ranging. I remember ranging the buck at one thirty and being surprised at how close I was getting. Going higher we got into trees, and that allowed me to close the distance even more.

I got held up when they crossed an open park, crouching at the edge of my side of the gap. The buck was on the opposite side, licking a branch. Seventy-one yards. Someone who is a better archery shot than me would’ve killed him right there.

I devised a plan: When they resumed walking, they would hit a little dip. When they did, I would hustle across the open space and then hide behind the tree the buck was standing by while I relocate them. I couldn’t see the does (how many eyebrows just raised?), but I watched the buck disappear into the dip.

I made my move, and this is precisely when the stalk was blown. There she was: One of the does was standing about ten yards uphill from where the buck had been, quartering away but looking over her shoulder at some idiot standing in the snow behind and below her.

The next day I had my chance at a do-over. Found them again, same canyon, but way out in the big flat middle in the bottom - away from all the things that I hid behind to sneak up on them. I had one more good idea left.

There was a ravine of sorts running through the flat bottom they were feeding in. There was a way to get into the ravine a long way away from them and out of sight, and then use it to get close to where they were. I figured I could get out of it somewhere closer to them and try to stalk from there.

This idea worked extremely well. It was like walking down a hallway made of snow. It was a bit difficult to climb the snow wall and get out, but I got out of the ravine at something like eighty yards away from the deer.

This is where things went south. I tried to stalk and had a little bit of cover to work with, but it was extremely difficult compared to the prior day’s stalk. I got to within just over forty yards from the buck, a shot distance I was comfortable with. But I also knew that while I hadn’t done enough to blow the stalk completely, I had done enough to set the does on edge. The buck was much slower to pick up on the “something’s wrong” but eventually he did as well. I was right there at the distance I had wanted, completely pinned down. I tried to think of some way I could draw my bow, my brain short-circuited a bit from the tenseness of the situation, and I basically kinda half-stood and tried to draw. That was goodbye.

Both of those latter two stalks were heartbreakers, but I really like thinking about them in hindsight. I got some things right and I got some things embarrassingly wrong. When they end, the feeling is just brutal, but while they’re going on, it’s a really good time. Plus, the next time one of these states decides to let me hunt one with a rifle, I’ll feel better about my chances after failing so brilliantly with a bow.

Hope to hear from anyone else who’s got a good blown stalk story.
 

Ben Long

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Joined
Aug 8, 2011
Messages
1,264
Location
Kalispell, MT
Rifle season. Central Montana. Dawn. Late October. Private ranch.
Glassing mid morning I find a big, bedded buck under the lip of a coulee. Amazing I ever saw him. Saw a bit of sun glint off one pair of tines, then picked the rest of the rack from the grass and brush. Really nice 5x5, snoozing away.
Wind was perfect. He was bedded directly under the only juniper for a quarter mile. All I had to do is walk quietly to the lip of the coulee, peek over the rim, and shoot him in his bed inside 25 yards. The most perfect set up I've ever had.
I crept to the edge. I went SOOOOO SLOW. SOOOO quiet. I had all the time in the world so I would just stop and let the bursts of adrenaline and shakes work their way through my system. I felt like a damn puma. I had this buck dead to rights as I stepped up to the juniper and peeked over the rim.
At that moment, I heard a shot nearby. Turns out the farmer's kid had been walking up the coulee from the bottom. He bumped a forkhorn and winged it. In an instant, the coulee just erupted with deer. Maybe a dozen (who could count!) does, fawns and little bucks pour right past me and out into the prairie. Then the Big Boy, who was within spitting distance all this time, tears by me so close I felt his wind. The kid is banging away at the poor buck he hit.
The rest of the deer lined out, putting distance between me and them. I flopped prone and put my pack up as a rest. I had to kind of pivot around on my belly to keep him in my scope. Finally, he did the muley thing and stopped and looked back, like I knew he would.
As you might figure, I was pretty flustered at this stage. But I had a good rest and a broadside deer. I don't know how far he was. I was thinking inside 200 kbut he may have been beyond 300. I held too low and heard teh bullet zing across the hardpan. l was lucky to missclean.
 
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Beignet

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Joined
Feb 27, 2021
Messages
547
Location
Missoula
Not exactly a stalk, per se. But, my favorite happened this past rifle season to a friend of mine with me at his side, trying to help him get into his first ungulate kill. A chance that I ultimately helped to blow.

We'd been hunting elk out of a wall tent for a few days and had gotten into a few, but bumped them to who knows where after an exciting close encounter. A little defeated, we decided to head elsewhere and try to fill an extra whitetail doe tag he had purchased. I had a slot of a few days of practically private BMA access for deer the following week and was focused more on helping my buddy get his first critter on this trip than hunting deer myself.

We get to a likely looking spot and he's beating around down in a creek bottom trying to see if he can flush himself out a whitetail doe. I didn't feel like tromping around in the marshy wet stuff, and was comfortably hanging out in the open on an old two track glassing some nearby hills. I spotted a mule deer doe happily chomping away on one of the hillsides. She was also be legal in this unit on a general tag. I go ahead and range the animal at ~170 yards. Him and I had been shooting a bit and he was capable of getting one in the vitals at this range. The set-up was perfect, with and an old ditch he could climb into and shoot off the rim of. Ideally the deer would've rolled right down the hill and made for an easy retrieve.

I try to whisper to my buddy to come out of the willows. He doesn't hear me. The doe has seen me at this point and doesn't seem to care much about my presence. I was apparent that she was more into the grass she'd found than a bipedal animal in orange making noise. Finally I just say in my loud-but-not-yelling voice "THERE IS A DEER ON THE HILLSIDE THAT YOU SHOULD COME AND SHOOT."

He comes busting out of the willows, spots her immediately, and gets set up for the shot. I confirm range and plug my ears in anticipation of him touching off his 30-06. It doesn't happen. I take my fingers down as he turns back and whispers "There's another one."

A rather sizeable 4x4 had heard the commotion and stepped out of the brush to investigate. I'd have been very pleased to have shot this buck myself and foregone my BMA hunt the following week. But, I had already got my buddy on it and it would have made a helluva first deer for him. He gets set up on that one and I'm back to having my fingers in my ears. Thinking he's hesitating over some moral quandary on shooting a deer for the first time, I finally say out loud, "SHOOT!" Having a little helpful peer pressure sure helped me pull the trigger for the first time...

Turns out there was no moral quandary about shooting an animal at all. A second, much larger buck had also briefly stepped out of the woods to investigate. A real bruiser to see on easily accessible public land. But, he didn't hang out for long. The big-boy turned back into the woods shortly after I'd yelled to shoot, and the other two took their cue and high-tailed it out of there. Oof.

We both still had some adrenaline surging despite no shots being fired. Once we settled down my buddy asks "How often does something like that happen?"

"Well. Never, really. That was pure dumb luck." I reply.

As we discuss the events of the day, my buddy, formerly a vegetarian, says "I thought I would have had some great moral decision to make having a deer in my crosshairs, but I defaulted straight to thinking about the biggest set of antlers I could get."

He went back to the area the following week. He didn't see those two bucks again. But he did end up filling his general tag nearby and putting some meat in the freezer.

Needless to say, we're both pretty excited about going back to Hesitation Hill this year and looking for the two that got away.
 
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S-3 Ranch

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Joined
Jan 23, 2022
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242
Location
West Texas - Hesperus Colorado
I had 3 bucks bedded up under a tree up on very peak of mule mountain in our bull pasture , all 3 160-180 class bucks , I climbEd from rock to rock with little other cover , made it to 300 yards and hadn’t been spotted yet , crawLing 100 more yards, I setup for a bipod shot, and poof they had disappeared, i glassed everywhere down on the prairie and saw nothing, next day they where back up under the tree and I had the same stalking results, sure was a bummer when the season ended
 
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neffa3

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Apr 17, 2015
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7,592
Location
Wenatchee
Late archery season WA. Was having poor results in my typical location so I decided to try lower down. Drove around and dropped into a canyon. Tons of people, thought, I was an idiot to try for greener pastures but since I was down there I figured I might as well take my bow for a walk. I get past a big camp, not even a 1/4 mile past, pull off and start up the hill. 500' vert up, I'm looking around, glassing all the far ridges and timber pockets, I don't see anything, but on the little ridgette next to me I see a stump/bush combo and think, damn that looks like a bedded buck, but I just ignore it, I mean it's still within spittin' distance of that camp and only 100yds from me. I keep climbing. Keep glassing all the country above me. Finally I look back and think, I can't believe the stump still looks like a buck from this angle too! Crazy. I just start to move again, and stop, turn and put the bino's on that stump. Sure enough it's a nice 5x5 bedded sound asleep, he eyes are completely closed and his head is nodding. HOLY $HIT. I crouch (pointless) and work my way across to his ridge and start back down. There's almost no wind but what little is there is blowing right to left. Super crunchy snow. But I just go slow. And step by step get closer and closer. Finally I'm at the last real cover, a 4' charlie brown pondo, I range him. 17 yards. Still sound asleep. Based on how he's laying I need him to stand up first. So arrow knocked, I wait. Pretty cool to watch him at that distance for 5-10 minutes. My feet get cold, but I hold steady. Finally he wakes, but doesn't get up, then he's just chewing his cud. Looks around stretches his neck and goes back to sleep.

Not sure how long I sat there, but I was going to wait him out. Well all of sudden I feel a slight chill on the back of my neck. His eyes bolt wide open and he turns to face me. We stare at each other for like 3 second, then on his first movement I start to draw, but it's no use. He goes from laying to running in less than a sec, and doesn't stop for the turnaround until 200 yards out. I was so frustrated I just walked back to the truck and didn't hunt anymore that day.
 
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CowboyLeroy

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Joined
Apr 3, 2021
Messages
396
Location
DIXIE, GA
This is where things went south. I tried to stalk and had a little bit of cover to work with, but it was extremely difficult compared to the prior day’s stalk. I got to within just over forty yards from the buck, a shot distance I was comfortable with. But I got these big ass feet

Fixed it
 

rtraverdavis

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Joined
Oct 20, 2016
Messages
3,060
Location
OREGON
Mine is basically just a series of stupid, rookie mistakes I made the third season after I started hunting. It was 2017 on opening morning of Oregon’s rifle season, which is early October. I’d been watching a group of four small bucks feeding down in the tall sage of the big draw below me since first light. The wind was howling. I was on an open grassy face at the top of the draw, and was a little over 300 yards from the bucks. Between them being young and small, and not wanting to risk a shot in the high wind nor risk blowing them out by moving closer, I decided to just watch the bucks feed down the draw and out of sight into the bigger canyon that the draw fed into.

Once those bucks were gone I moved down the finger ridge that I was on to glass the other side of the big canyon. Almost immediately I spotted him—the biggest mule deer I’d seen up til that point in Oregon. Just a real nice 4x4, heavy and tall. He was bedded in this skinny little slot about halfway up the side of the canyon directly across from me where he had a clear vantage of everything across and below him. The wind was blowing hard from his side of the canyon toward me. I watched him for about a half hour and tried to plan how to get into shooting position. This country has no trees, and the canyon face that the buck was bedded on was very open and sort of featureless save for the little slot he was in.

Now here’s where the dumb rookie stuff really kicked into gear. Rather than backing out from where I was and dropping down another draw further up the canyon, I just dropped down from right there, which put me in full view of the buck for at least 50 yards. He was far enough away that I couldn’t tell if he saw me or not, but looking back on it I’m almost certain he’d been watching me that whole time I was in view. I was also moving way too fast. Then once I got to the bottom of the canyon I realized the wind was doing all kinds of crazy things down there, swirling around hard. I started to make my way up the side of the canyon that the buck was on, but had a hard time figuring out how to get to the rock pile I’d marked that might give me enough cover and a place to shoot from when the buck stood. I worried about the swirling wind but just blindly continued on, moving too fast, not even sure of where I wanted to get to. After about 200 feet of climbing, I tripped and kicked a rock which went noisily tumbling down the canyon. Of course, the buck had had enough of my shit, and when I looked up there he was less than 100 yards above me, stotting at full tilt in the opposite direction.

I just sat down and soaked in the self-loathing. I hunted the next four days and never found him again. Learned a bunch that morning though.
 

ccc23454

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Joined
Sep 22, 2010
Messages
2,353
Location
Wyoming
Short version: i was aware of big muley in area behind my camp. Seen him in summer, was going to be big. Fast forward into september get a day off from elk decide to see if i can find this deer. Hike in, find him hes hard horned now and guessing around 190s and he's with a smaller buck thats maybe 150-60. There heading up the opposite side of a draw and doing what numerous other deer have done before in there. Knowing ridge i think: if i can get to top first they will cross about 300ish and easy shot. So i drop off back of ridge and beline to top, get there and deer aint there. Its been 15? Minutes...wtf! I start sneaking to lip of ridge i am on binos looking at every tree and hiding hole on opposite hillside nothing. Getting frustrated and questioning where they could of went something catches my attention under me... its the 2 bucks they had crossed to my side drain in that time and were 60ish yards away and staring at me. I pulled rifle up and they bolted! Both crossed into timber on other bank, one finally stopped under a pine and i couldnt tell which one it was but i knew that was my only chance to shot..boom! Get over there and i was crazy hopeful it was the bigger one, as i walked up i could see right antler and the big one had a 6" sticker off his right fork, this one didnt! Good consolation prize but i learned a lesson about just slowing down and realize dont expect animals to do what is expected. Big picture this is what makes hunting fun...
 

WATERMAG

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Joined
Jul 13, 2018
Messages
107
Location
Ohio
Slow walking threw a co-workers woods where he had grass paths mowed so it was nice and quite. Walked up on a nice buck bedding down in a tree top no more then 10 yards away. The only thing I spotted was his ear and the curvature of his main beam. In one fluid motion I took a step back, pulled up my gun, put the crosshairs on his nose and pulled the trigger. Just to see him get up and run away... the only thing that I can think of is I shot right between his antlers being so close. In hindsight, I should have aimed about 4 inches lower on his white throat patch. Live and you learn.
 

mountainlaurel3

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Joined
Feb 14, 2020
Messages
94
Location
SWCO
Slow walking threw a co-workers woods where he had grass paths mowed so it was nice and quite. Walked up on a nice buck bedding down in a tree top no more then 10 yards away. The only thing I spotted was his ear and the curvature of his main beam. In one fluid motion I took a step back, pulled up my gun, put the crosshairs on his nose and pulled the trigger. Just to see him get up and run away... the only thing that I can think of is I shot right between his antlers being so close. In hindsight, I should have aimed about 4 inches lower on his white throat patch. Live and you learn.
Need more info. Buck bedded in a tree top?? And aimed at the nose?
 

grizzly63

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Joined
Oct 10, 2020
Messages
361
I was hunting a piece of Walk in Land and I would typically wait in my truck until it became light enough to see. No sense to scare em off in the dark. Once I could see and make sure there were or were not deer present, I would walk/stalk in. On this particular day I spot a couple of does and a buck trailing them. So I start across the prairie after them. There isn't much for cover except for this stock tank with those three post arrangements on it to keep the cattle out. I manage to get in position where I can use it to somewhat block my approach. I'll be in range when I get to it. As I approach it and take one last look for the deer, the two does are making a mad dash right to it. I hit the deck behind the tank out of sight, guess which way they are going to run when they scatter, fold out the bipod and point myself that direction. After 20-30 seconds I here them approach and start slurping the water. That maybe lasted three seconds before they spooked. Buck in tow. I don't think he even got a drink. They are ran a couple hundred yards and then did the look back thing. I could have killed that buck fairly easy but he was not the caliber of deer I was looking for. Not necessarily a blown stalk but an interesting encounter. You never know what each day brings.
 
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