Leupold BX-4 Rangefinding Binoculars

Utah General Season Rifle Mule Deer Recap w/ Pics

TexAg09

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Here's a (maybe not so) quick recap from my general season rifle mule deer hunt in Utah. I also figured I'd talk about a few gear items that stood out as well.

I left Texas on Friday around noon, and picked up my buddy (Casey) half way at the Albuquerque airport that night. We drove through the night, and got to the trail head in Utah around noon on Saturday. I had another friend (Justin) who flew out Friday, and packed in Friday night. We packed in about 6 miles, and started hunting Saturday afternoon. We started seeing deer immediately, and I saw a decent 3x4 buck. I decided to not end the hunt on the first afternoon, but the phrase "never pass on the first day what you would shoot on the last" stuck in my head. We ended the day seeing mostly small 3x3s and forkies. The next day was more smaller bucks and does, but Casey saw a 3x3 and decided to try his luck. It was not good. He shot three times and missed. Having his confidence shaken and realizing that he only brought 5 bullets total he decided to go into town the next morning (Monday) to buy more bullets and spend some time at the local range. While at the range Casey struck up a conversation with Brian from Hushin, and he was extremely friendly and helped Casey get dialed in. Casey had no idea who he was until towards the end of their conversation. He seemed like a really good guy for taking the time to answer questions and help a complete stranger get his gun set up.

Monday called for thunderstorms later in the day, but I planned to hunt a mile or so away from camp despite that. Justin hunted down the ridge from our camp. Late morning I ran into a guy who remembered me from hunting there 2 years ago. Not a lot of out of state guys hunt this area, so we're kind of memorable. He told me I was hunting a great spot and that he had wounded a nice 4x4 there on Saturday morning, but was unable to find him. That didn't really boost my confidence, and my thoughts continued to go back to the 3x4 I passed on earlier. Keeping an eye on the radar, the storm seemed to keep getting delayed until later in the day. With that I decided to move farther around the bowl to get a different angle. Despite the radar showing I still had another hour or two before the storm should hit I heard thunder and saw lightning as soon as I got into my new position. Being deathly afraid on getting struck by lightning on a mountain I high tailed it back to camp in record time. As I got to camp Justin was coming in as well. He had shot a pretty small 4x4 that morning, and was just starting his pack out. Not soon after we got to camp the storm hit, and we were stuck in our tents for a few hours. Casey was hiking back in at this time as well, and had to ride out the storm under a rock outcropping. After the storm let up Justin packed out his deer that night, and came back the next morning for his camping equipment. He ended up flying back home Tuesday afternoon.

Tuesday found Casey and I hunting the same ridge, but different sides. I had high expectations because I had hoped the storm would get deer moving, and maybe bring out some bigger bucks. As daylight broke I started scanning trails that I knew the deer used in hopes of seeing something. I found a deer bedded down on the trail, but couldn't tell much in the light. I kind of assumed it was a doe. I noted the location and kept glassing. I found a group of 6 bucks feeding along another drainage area, and watched them for some time. I went back to the bedded deer, and now could tell it was in fact a buck, but because of the brush around him I couldn't tell how good he was. I went back to the group of bucks in hopes a larger buck could be found. Despite trying to add inches with my eyes they were all still too small to consider this early in the hunt. I decided to go back to my bedded buck, and caught him just as he was starting to stand up. Once he was up I saw he was a decent 4x4, and it was now time to try my luck. I ranged him at 327 yards, and dropped him with one shot with my .308. It was a perfect shot in my opinion. I'm not normally a good shot, so I'm very happy that my range time and dry firing exercises paid off. Oddly enough my buck still had some velvet on his antlers. He ended up being just a hair over 20" wide. Casey helped me bone out the meat, and I packed him out to the truck alone. I went into town for dry ice and planned to meet back up with Casey the next day.

Wednesday morning I received a text from Casey that he had a buck down. I found him working on butchering a nice mature 2x3 that was a little over 25" wide. We packed him out, and then went back in for our camping gear. The sun had set and a full moon was starting to rise as we started our final hike out. The moon was so bright that we could see animals silhouetted in its light which made for a neat pack out. The trail dipped below a ridge and along the peak we could make out a nice bull moose about 70 yards away. We also saw several nice mule deer out enjoying the moonlight.

Thursday I dropped Casey off at the airport, and started my drive home. On the drive home I found out from friends I met on the mountain that a guy shot an even better 4x4 in the same area as my buck. I'm not going to lie I am a little jealous after I saw pictures, but I'm still happy with my buck. Comparison is the thief of joy, right?

Gear Notes:
Mystery Ranch Marshall Pack - I was cursing all the clips and straps...until I had to pack out my deer. They came in very handy once I had to pack out my meat, antlers and rifle in one trip. Very comfortable pack. I added a Kuiu gun carrier, and ran my rifle up the middle on the back of the pack. It worked out great. My only complaint is that if you put a holster on the hip belt it makes for the straps to get twisted very easily, and as soon as you unclip the belt the weight of the holster will pull the strap down. Basically carrying a holster on the hip belt is a PITA. I was looking between this and a Stone Glacier 5900, and went with the Marshall because it fit my 23" torso the best. I was happy with it overall.

Australian Outback Ammo .308 165 grain gamekings - This bullet lowered the boom on this buck! I was very happy with how it shot at the range and in the field. 2 years ago I shot a mule deer at 350 yards with 150 grain Hornady SSTs, and you can tell this bullet hit this buck a lot harder than the SSTs. (Plus my gun doesn't like the 165 grain SSTs.) The SSTs didn't even have an exit hole, and the Outback had a great exit wound.This will probably be my new go to for big game. Very happy with it's performance.

Meindl Denali Boots - Great boots, but need better insoles. You would think if you spent $300 on boots they would come with better insoles. I have tender feet, and these boots were a difference maker. Much better than my Danners. Also, kept my feet dry while hiking through snow and rain.

Training Notes - My training consisted of riding a road bike 2-3 times a week with rides up to 40 miles long, and walking 4 miles 2-3 times a week with a 40lbs sack of corn and 10lbs dumbbell in the pack and 5lbs ankle weights on each ankle. I think I was in pretty good shape for this hunt. This area is steep and thick, and I never was more than just a little tired at times. I recommend the road bike for guys with poor knees. It really helps get your endurance and cardio ready to go. The weighted walks were great for getting your body used to being under load, and being able to handle it. One word of caution is to look out for weevils in your corn. I kept the sack of corn in my pack for a few months, and it got weevils. Not what you want to find as you're about to load your sleeping bag into your pack!

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Casey's wide 2x3 and my 4x4 with velvet.
Utah Mule Deer 18.jpg
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DSCN0430.jpg
 
Great story and pics, congrats on a nice buck and a great hunt! Any guess on the pack weight when you packed the deboned meat and antlers back to the truck?
 
Thanks! I would guess 65-70lbs with meat, rifle, optics, and food/water in my pack. The Marshall made it pretty comfortable.
 
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One gear item I forgot to mention was the Pnuma Selkirk jacket. I have crazy long arms, and the tall size fit great. However, this is not a backpacking jacket. It is way too heavy, and doesn't pack down at all. I had my doubts before the trip, but I really like the jacket otherwise. It was just too much of a weight/space penalty for me to bring again.
 

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