Bridger mule deer

That's probably the greatest Bridger Mule deer adventure I've ever heard of. You made the best out it in every possible way. Congrats to you on a season of success and thanks for sharing!
 
Another weekend, another hunt. We got up too late to hunt Friday and realized we couldn’t make it to our designated camp site because of all the snow. I mean we could have chained up all four tires and easily made it. But there was several spots with decent views to look at with the last hour of available light. So we made a fire and called it home and settled in for the night.20231103_182410.jpegWe woke the next morning and took off down the trail to our first overlook. The weather was way nicer than expected. I don’t think the temperatures dropped below freezing all night. The sun greeted us to a great showing.IMG_2197.jpegIMG_2200.jpeg20231104_082025.jpegWay up high we cut a herd of deer tracks, unfortunately they were atleast a day old. The high basin seemed to hold no more animals. The snow had developed a hard crust that we could walk on and I believe the deer were having too hard of a time feeding. All the tracks went down hill. You got to go where the deer are! So we spent the day following tracks. They seemed to prefer upper mid elevation, new growth pine trees that were about 15 feet tall. They could feed out of the wind, and there was great grass in these stands. Bad for us that it was impossible to hunt with the crunchy snow! I jumped one good buck at 40 yards but never got a good look. We tried cutting down lower in elevation to some old logged areas with tall grass without snow, but never cut a single track. They preferd the high elevation and snow. Towards evening it really started to blow and rain. I don’t mind the wind and can handle the snow no problem. But camping in the rain with 2 people in the back of a pickup topper trying to dry cloths sucks. I decided to call it a weekend.
72082448625__69BA4B94-78FD-4BE4-B847-A1A771DC9925.jpegThat gave me time to finish up my two euros of the animals I shot earlier this year and get things situated for next week. 5 more days of work and then it’s hunting 9 days for the rut! Let’s hope the weather man brings us some more snow.IMG_2203.jpeg20231104_082221.jpeg
 
Midweek update. We have hunted the last four days. First area we had horrendous winds the first day. Saw nothing till the evening. Two groups of four does with no bucks. With all the effort of backpacking in four miles we decided to pull out to a new area. IMG_2227.jpegIMG_2226.jpegIMG_2230.jpegIMG_2232.jpegWe saw one buck that might have been decent but couldn’t get good glass on him. Sunday we headed up an area way closer to town. With a totally full parking lot we had our doubts. The area we had picked out wasn’t all that far from the trailhead, but very steep. Monday morning rolled around nice and finally calm. We found a nice place to glass from and as I set my bag down it started to roll down the mountain side with my rifle strapped in it. I went to grab it and out popped my binoculars from my chest rig. I watched as they cartwheeled down the mountain. My hunting partner had been giving me a lot of crap about not teathering them in. Much to say, when we finally found them I attached them to my chest rig. As the sun rose we quickly spotted deer.IMG_2255.pngIMG_2245.jpegI decided to pass on a few 140” 4x4’s. I guess they were 3 year old bucks but wanted something better. Not great pics but a decent bucks if it was a general tag. We spotted one more great buck I guessed about 5 years old but it was 2 miles away and a very steep canyon away. We decided to drop it anyway since we needed water. As we were filling up water the filter broke. So much for that. Instead of pushing further we headed back with our water levels low. Our evening glassing session turned up a few more bucks but nothing special. I still think it’s odd camping so close to town. We could hear people working in the valley below.IMG_2237.jpeg
Today dawned a gorgeous day againIMG_2256.jpegWe gain spotted lots of bucks. But again lots of 3 year old 4x4’sIMG_2263.jpegIMG_2266.jpegAgain I decided to pass. I am hoping as the rut picks up we can find some better deer. Packed up camp this afternoon since we where running out of water and food and headed back home for the night. Nice to take a shower and eat some real food. Going back in tomorrow morning for another four days to find mister big!
 

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We interrupt this deer hunt to bring you elk! We hiked into an area we hunted before that holds a lot of deer tracks but hard to hunt with the trees. On the way in we ran into a set of wolf tracks.IMG_2272.jpeg
And the wind, it’s been blowing 20 plus all day. We found a nice campsite 3 miles in on a nice bench that’s semi shelters from the wind. We set up the tipi and stove, headed down to the creek and filtered enough water for a few days, and stacked up a night of firewood. It was around noon when we finished our camp chores. IMG_2275.jpeg

After a quick lunch we decided to walk an old logging road to see if there was any deer around. At the end of the road I looked up and spotted a bull in a small clearing across the canyon. It’s the first bull we have seen since second week of archery in the bridgers. I told my partner to send it. We still have four more days to hunt. Might as well spend one of those packing out an elk. With me in the spotting scope I saw the First shot hit a little high but dropped him in his tracks. Two more quick shots sealed the deal. He probably didn’t need them but he was still alive. IMG_2277.jpegNow the real work began. He died wedged into a dead fall on a steep hillside. We struggled to get him quartered out, while working around that tree but got it done. With night approaching we packed him out to a cool creek bottom, finishing the last load in the dark. Luckily we made it to a nice trail for a reasonable pack out for tomorrow. IMG_2278.jpeg

We climbed out of the creek bottom towards camp for a well deserved beer. Tomorrow will bring I guess to be 15 miles of shuttling meat back to the truck. Let’s hope we can find myself a deer in the next few days to close out another season of fun.
 
You two are having a heck of an experience. Good luck with the rest of the season!
 
What a night! Woke up at 11:39pm to the tipi going flying over our head, stovepipe and wall. A huge downward wind gust came up and ripped out all the stakes. We scampered around in our long John’s restaking and adding additional guy out points to secure everything. It was a long and restless night. Morning finally dawned with a cool sunrise. IMG_2280.jpegWe set off down to the creek bottom to start piggybacking our loads towards the truck. We saw one little 4x4 along the way and one doe in our second trip.IMG_2282.jpegA friend helped us shuttle the last couple miles with the help of an otter sled. Luckily that part was all snow covered. After 7 hours and 8.5 miles we had it done. Then came the long trudge back to camp just as night fell. Hopefully this wind will die down and we get a couple of nice days.
 
What a night! Woke up at 11:39pm to the tipi going flying over our head, stovepipe and wall. A huge downward wind gust came up and ripped out all the stakes. We scampered around in our long John’s restaking and adding additional guy out points to secure everything. It was a long and restless night. Morning finally dawned with a cool sunrise. View attachment 302040We set off down to the creek bottom to start piggybacking our loads towards the truck. We saw one little 4x4 along the way and one doe in our second trip.View attachment 302041A friend helped us shuttle the last couple miles with the help of an otter sled. Luckily that part was all snow covered. After 7 hours and 8.5 miles we had it done. Then came the long trudge back to camp just as night fell. Hopefully this wind will die down and we get a couple of nice days.
That is a really nice bull elk, congrats. That has been a successful hunt for you guys
 
Friday dawned another windy and sleepless night. Great sunrise again though. We hunted some lower timbered country and found a couple deer but nothing spectacular.IMG_2286.jpegAfter no sleep for two days because of the horrible wind I decided to head home for the evening and sleep in a real bed. This morning we packed in hitting the trail before 5am to a spot we have been seeing more does and bucks. I found this guy at first light. IMG_2300.jpegIMG_2301.jpegI was starting to get a little buck fever. All I could see was a huge main frame with decent mass. As it got lighter out I began to see he was just a 3x3. Apparently he was king of the ridge and spent all morning showing the trees just who was the boss. We found three more smaller bucks including another 3x3 that walked past us at 49 yards and the decent 4x4 we saw earlier this week. The afternoon sun in and all the deer bedded down for the day. As night approached I saw a doe emerge from the trees and the large main framed 3x3 stood guard all evening again showing the trees he was the boss. A small 2x2 came out of the same draw and made his way to the next drainage. And that was it. One last morning hunt tomorrow. Also saw some huge flicks of Bohemian waxwings. IMG_2313.jpegWe will see what tomorrow brings.IMG_2307.jpeg
 
Sunday morning was a now show, spent most of the morning perched above our favorite glassing spot but everything moved out over the night. We moved further up the mountain, opening more hillsides, hoping to catch something out in the openings to no avail. Mid morning we meet a guy working his way up our ridge line, the first hunter we had seen all rifle season, looking for elk. Got to give it to the guy, he was committed. It’s quite the trek to get up there for a day hunt. We decided to call it quits. With chores piling up at home, we packed up and trudged for our last time down the “ridge of pain”. It’s way steeper than the photos look. IMG_2317.jpegThe one saving grace for the weekend is I found a decent 3 point shed. It made a decent kickstand for the backpack.IMG_2315.jpegIt looks like I’ll only get more more day out this week. Still holding out for something special Saturday or this will be my first deer tag soup in 15 years. With a full freezer from an Alaskan fishing trip and already notched tags of 2 turkeys, an antelope and elk, I just don’t have the heart to shot a small deer to accomplish my Montana “trifecta”. Let’s bring on some snow mid week and hope for the best to close out the big game season.
 
Great story, certainly doing the tag justice. The Bridgers are certainly steep. I took a friend with me on one hunt into an area, he refused to go again after that because of how steep it was. Shot my buck in that steep hellhole too. When I had the tag many years ago I shot my buck today, the tuesday before Thanksgiving, after giving it hell all archery and rifle season.
 
Your story is bringing back fond memories of hunting the Bridgers in the '90's.

Shot some really nice deer in there, a shame that is has gone so far downhill.

You boys are giving it one hell of an effort, hope you find one you like!

I lived just off Springhill Road for a number of years and don't know how many hours I spent behind my spotter on the front porch scanning those hills for deer and elk.

Sure was good hunting back then and a hell of a lot less people!
 
Well it’s tag soup for this guy. Went out bright and early Saturday and had limited visibility. The clouds were hanging out where I was sitting the first few hours.IMG_2325.jpegLuckily in the few areas I could see I found deer. I watched a couple bucks chasing around a couple of hot does. Again just your average 3x3 2 year olds. I found a few more single does way up high still with no bucks around. The clouds broke away as the sun came up and I started getting cold. IMG_2326.jpegI made my way to the next drainage in. I cut some buck tracks up high but nothing of size. For the afternoon I found a nice rock perch and glassed the timbered north sides. I picked out a few small herds of does but again no bucks. I finally ran into another deer hunter a few miles in. It’s the first deer hunter I have talked to. I thought I was the only one crazy enough to be hunting back there. With day light fading I made my way back towards my first overlook. I had forgotten my headlamp and my spare was low on batteries and I didn’t want to walk too far back in the dark with no trail. I spotted a doe all alone bedded in this avalanche chute. IMG_2327.jpegI waited around till sunset but nothing else showed up to greet her. As I made my way back towards the truck I ran into these three does. They let me approach to 20 yards before they had enough.IMG_2329.jpegAnd just like that it’s over. First year I haven’t shot a buck in 28 years.
 
Things I learned with this tag this year.

- I wished I had hunted a couple very popular hiking area during bow season. We went in twice just see how many people were in the area and both held over 50 vehicles. I don’t like to hunt around lots of people and blew it off. We went in the last couple of weeks and these spots held a lot of deer.

- Alpine deer are tough. We hiked some stupid steep terrain and the deer were there but never even saw one bed down during archery where we could have planned an approach. During rifle we found them in stuff you could roll a rock 2000 vertical feet without it stopping.

- These deer love the trees. I only saw a few in the more open terrain. I love to walk but had to switch to just glassing the trees.

- This tag is tough on a basically no snow year. Some are still way up high with nothing to push them down.

- There is not as many elk as I remember. We never saw one elk on the west side. We ran into them on the east side but a lot were down low on private.

- Backpacking helped reach a lot of areas. We normally sleep in a camper but there is hardly any places to camp. It’s nice to roll out of the tipi and only have to go a mile or two to the glassing areas we had.

Would I do it again? I don’t think so. These mountains kicked my butt. I am in the best shape of my life and it still was a challenge. Most of the areas we hunted were steep and no trails. It made getting around a lot slower than I predicted. I have learned to almost appreciate cow trails! We saw a decent amount of deer. I actually expected to see less just not the age class I wanted. We saw 3 older deer and killed the best one we saw.
 
Things I learned with this tag this year.

- I wished I had hunted a couple very popular hiking area during bow season. We went in twice just see how many people were in the area and both held over 50 vehicles. I don’t like to hunt around lots of people and blew it off. We went in the last couple of weeks and these spots held a lot of deer.

- Alpine deer are tough. We hiked some stupid steep terrain and the deer were there but never even saw one bed down during archery where we could have planned an approach. During rifle we found them in stuff you could roll a rock 2000 vertical feet without it stopping.

- These deer love the trees. I only saw a few in the more open terrain. I love to walk but had to switch to just glassing the trees.

- This tag is tough on a basically no snow year. Some are still way up high with nothing to push them down.

- There is not as many elk as I remember. We never saw one elk on the west side. We ran into them on the east side but a lot were down low on private.

- Backpacking helped reach a lot of areas. We normally sleep in a camper but there is hardly any places to camp. It’s nice to roll out of the tipi and only have to go a mile or two to the glassing areas we had.

Would I do it again? I don’t think so. These mountains kicked my butt. I am in the best shape of my life and it still was a challenge. Most of the areas we hunted were steep and no trails. It made getting around a lot slower than I predicted. I have learned to almost appreciate cow trails! We saw a decent amount of deer. I actually expected to see less just not the age class I wanted. We saw 3 older deer and killed the best one we saw.
You gave more effort than 95% of the tag holders. Thanks for sharing a great story here on Hunt Talk.

I've had the tag 4 times since it went to limited draw in 1998. I was always looking for a buck I hoped to be 4.5+ years old. I only filled one of those four tags. Like you, I'm not sure I'll ever apply again.

It seems like the winter of 1996-97 hit these mule deer extremely hard and they never rebounded to the prior levels, both in terms of numbers and age class. Add that severe winter to the huge expansion of subdivisions on the west slopes that happened from about 1993-2000 (and has continued through today), the huge increase in year-round recreation on the summer range, and an accumulation of many other things and the likelihood is that the Bridger mule deer herd of the past is a relic of history.
 
Great thread, thanks for sharing. I appreciate your guys’ hard work and enjoyment of the experience.
 
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