2013 Wyoming Mule Deer

When our group didn’t draw Non-resident Wyoming elk Tags, we looked into the Deer and Pronghorn Draw.

I looked at the Draw odds for a limited entry unit, and determined that my odds were reasonable if I applied for the higher priced “Special Tag” With five preference points, I was able to draw my unit. The problem was, I’d never set foot in that country until I set up camp on September 23rd.

2013-09-23 19.54.02
Monday
After setting up my wall tent and stove, I climbed a mountain I’d decided to focus on that sat ringed by a pretty well traveled road. i assumed the road would cause the deer to be concentrated at the highest point, far from the road at 10,000 feet elevation. What I did find was plenty of elk sign, but very little deer sign, or deer.
2013-09-23 16.23.55
At a secluded lake I was fortunate to witness a six point bull elk with his harem as they ghosted into the timber. I also spotted three more small bulls at a distance, but returned to camp without a single deer sighting. I began to doubt my deer spotting ability.

Tuesday
The next morning I glassed the side of the mountain as daylight spread across the mountain. One lone pair of deer were skylines briefly so I went to that side to see if I could find more of their ilk. Sign was more prevalent, but downed trees and steep side hills funneled me back down before I could reach the summit. I slunk back to my camp, and was surprised to see a small branch antlered buck watching me from the roadside. I attempted a stalk , but the wind was wrong, and the deer had vanished by the time I returned.

That afternoon, I watched a tiny spike feeding unconcerned along the treeline, and began to re-evaluate where I was looking for deer. After chatting with a local glassing for bear, I headed to another nearby area for a different angle to glass the mountainside.

When I arrived at my location I busied myself getting a tripod set up to glass. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a deer eying me. It was a buck! I ranged him at 27 yards then came to full draw. Looking at his forked horns then back at his clear vitals, I said “Whack, you are dead”. Then his small 3 point companion tempted me, and I “counted coup”, and let down.

As I turned to go back to glassing, I spotted another buck. I ranged him at 99 yards. He was bigger! He had me pegged but seemed unconcerned. Soon he was joined by another, then a third, and a fourth buck. Between the four of them they began to act a little spooky, but more inquisitive.

Eventually they high stepped into cover. A few minutes later I saw them heading back up the mountain, towards a decommissioned road, I made plans to venture onto in the morning.

Wednesday.
2013-09-25 12.11.34
I awoke to a dusting of snow, and clouds that promised more. The intensity increased as I walked up the road that now was a game trail. Along the way I bumped numerous does and fawns, but the visibility disintegrated as the morning wore on. The swirling winds caused a nice buck to spook out 200 yards ahead of me, too far for a shot or even a clear photo. At 11:00 am I called it and headed back to camp.

As I walked back to camp I made the decision I would go to lower ground for the night then return when the weather cleared.   As I packed up I could see there was going to be significant accumulation.  I ended up packing tent, stove and all my gear as a foot of snow came down in two hours.  It was a butt puckering drive down the 18 miles to the highway.  I broke the drivers side windshield wiper.  With big wet flakes piling up on the windshield I did not want to lose momentum by trying to stop and repair the wiper.  So I alternated wiping away the snow with my left hand and looking through the passenger side that the wiper was barely keeping up.

I was able to wire the wiper blade on when I reached the highway, and at that point I’d decided I was done for a day or so in the high country.  I headed for town, bought a new wiper blade, and a pair of Pac Boots (Kenetrek Grizzly’s) and spent the night with some friends in a warm, dry bed with sheets.

The next four days are covered in the story of my Antelope hunt….

After tagging out on my antelope hunt, we established our base camp at our friend’s place and commuted to the deer unit.  Monday’s evening scouting trip did not turn up any deer, so we tried a new spot in the morning based on some conversations with the locals.

2013-10-01 09.49.25Tuesday- Opening day of Rifle season

My father and uncle came along to add extra eyes.  We saw does and small bucks early just after daybreak, as well as a bull , cow and calf elk.  Then we covered six miles on foot before lunch, as we peeked into bucky looking niches surrounded by aspens on a glacial carved bench. We surprised a band of pronghorn at 150 yards and throughout the day we bumped them repeatedly.  We chuckled as a young buck brought a potential girlfriend within 30 yards of us in the open.  Finally, the boss buck ran him off, and we watched him cast aimlessly about looking for company the rest of the afternoon.

Another highlight of the evening was watching a cow and yearling elk feed out on our right while four does fed out on the tree edges on our right.  We walked off the hill at dark, and had dinner in town.

Wednesday

The next morning we returned to where I’d had my archery season encounter with the six bucks.  Almost immediately I saw a buck on the skyline.  I attempted a stalk, but he busted me and ran off into the thick timber before I could get him in my sights.  I felt like I’d blown my only opportunity I’d have and i began doubting my decision to pass on the little bucks the week prior.

After talking with a couple of road traveling moose hunters, we used the time remaining of the morning to still hunt along a treeline paralleling a road.  At 10:00 am my father convinced me to return to the truck.  I remember him asking me.  “So what do you want?”  meaning did I want to hike to the top of the mountain, or glass from below.

My smart aleck reply was “I want a buck to step out in front of me near the truck ” in a joking tone.

As we reached the pickup parked along the road, a buck stood up and ambled toward the treeline.  I could see deep forks and long lines with my naked eye.

I sprinted into the trees and he locked eyes with me like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.  His antlers were obscured by branches, even at the bow close range.  When he moved his head, I saw antlers, and put the crosshairs on his shoulders and jerked the trigger.   Once again I obliterated a shoulder as he crashed through the trees and fell dead just steps from where I pulled the trigger.

Upon closer examination I saw he had long tines and a huge body.  I was glad to be done hunting even though I knew there were monster bucks in the unit.

2013-10-02 10.41.44 2013-10-02 10.42.48 2013-10-02 10.53.44

He joined my antelope at Fetzner Taxidermy for the European mount treatment, and I look forward to the final mount.  His 130 pounds of hanging weight became steaks and breakfast sausage at Hog Island Meats.

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