On March 15th of 2010, I had no idea that I would be moving to Wyoming permanently before the commencement of the Fall archery season and I entered the draw for a non-resident deer tag. In late June I logged on and found the term “successful” listed under the draw results. At that time I was only hoping that same term would describe my season.
The foothills of Wyoming will test your conditioning.
On opening day I passed on a decent 4x4 buck that would probably have received a broadhead on any day except the opener. I had a few friends from Oklahoma visit to hunt antelope over Labor Day weekend and while it was deer season, their success and an enjoyable hunt was my main objective. Somehow my September weekends had become filled with other activities than I had planned and I knew that the weekend of September 11th was going to be my best bet for “success” before rifle season opened.
A buck for next year!
A few weeks prior to season I scouted two state section of land that my friend Scooter had pointed out on the local BLM map and found a giant mule deer. Further inspection of the map showed that the county road didn’t touch the section that I had seen the big deer and therefore was landlocked by private land. My plans changed.
The photo through the binocs is blurry, but the deer on the left is the stuf I was after.
Scooter and I woke up early (him to go to work and me to hunt) had coffee and breakfast in the morning darkness. Scooter’s oldest son (all of five years old) woke up to the smell of coffee and asked what we were doing, upon me telling him I was going hunting he asked “What kind of broadheads are you using?” Apparently my answer was sufficient and he climbed back into his camouflage sheets.
As daylight broke the Easter horizon I found myself staring through my binoculars into the steep, rocky and sage filled canyons on Northeastern Wyoming. Almost immediately a buck stood on the skyline of ridge between two steep ravines and dropped then down the opposite side, I deemed him a shooter at first glance. He wasn’t anywhere near as big as the buck I had seen weeks before but with my hunting days winding down, the chase was on. Down one ravine and up the (extremely steep) other side I carried my Badlands 2200 pack filled with a days supplies, my bow and myself. As I approached the top I took a quick pause to catch my breath and began glassing the terrain. Naturally I could see the furthest “stuff” first and as I moved higher I could see closer to the bottom. I couldn’t see what was inside of 75 yards, I knew he had to be close. I knocked an arrow from my quiver (this one tipped with a 100gr GrizzTrick) and crawled to the edge of the rock ledge. I spotted tines and could tell the deer was looking in my direction and I didn’t dare expose myself. My Leupold RX-1000 locked onto a Juniper tree to the left of the deer and told me he was 50 yards. I came to full draw and when the antlers turned sideways I knee crawled another foot and settled my pin. I pulled the trigger on my Short-N-Sweet and my arrow sailed down the hill… Unfortunately while my arrow was sailing the buck took a step down the hill and I watched my NAP Quikfletch disappear just behind the last rib and it came out just behind the diaphragm. The immediate sickness hit me and I knew it was going to be a long day as the buck went down the ravine, up the other side and into another steep draw.
Since I was at the top of a hill I was able to send a text to Scooter and Scott Abbott. Scooter’s reply to the situation was, “give him time, we’ll go back tonight.” Scott’s was much the same as he told me, “7 hours.” Even when you know that backing out is the smart thing, it’s still difficult especially in open terrain. I proceeded to follow the blood trail for practice as I knew where the deer had gone and that it would take me at least 45 minutes to get to where he went. As I got close to the last ridge he topped I layed down in a patch of Junipers and had a Caprisun and a granola bar. I decided that I wouldn’t go after the deer but I’d try to spot him as I was sure he would bed down. Topping the ridge I found the buck bedded 150 yards facing away but rather than push him over more ridges, or worse yet… onto private land, I backed out and made the long journey back to the truck.
I got back to the truck only to be surprised to see a Wyoming Game and Fish truck parked next to mine. Long story short a landowner had called me in for trespassing. In this part of the state, very rarely are property boundaries marked with fences or anything else and it’s extremely important that you can read topographical maps and know how to use a GPS in accordance with those maps. This piece of state property has literally 50 yards of unmarked contact with the county road which is the only legal place to enter. The game warden immediately affirmed that I was in the correct location and said he would talk to the landowner. An hour later I had a new friend, we shook hands and I gave him a Bowhunting.com DVD.
Back at the house, I passed the time by napping and watching a little college football but I couldn’t wait long enough to catch any of the beat down my Sooners placed on Florida State. Scooters dad, Ol’ Wil, was kind enough to help me with the pack out if we could find the deer. The walk back in was quick since I wasn’t trying to be too sneaky through the majority of it. I crested the hill expecting to see my buck laid over in the sage brush but to my dismay… he was gone. My heart sank thinking that the last seven hours was plenty of time for the wound to clot making blood trailing in the sage brush nearly impossible. I never did find a drop of blood, just a little blood where he brushed up against the sage. The 75 yards I covered in the next 30 minutes took me to the base of a rock cliff and I could finally see antler tips and a nose of my deer bedded in a hole at the base of the cliff. I sneaked up and around to the top of the cliff to where I could get a clean shot and ran a NAP Bloodrunner through both front shoulders. It was the only route I had to the lungs, so I took it. The deer bolted down the draw and piled up 20 yards from the cliff. Eight and half long hours later I got to wrap my hands around his antlers, “success” at last. The deer was old and definitely on the downhill, his body was enormous.
My 2010 Spot and Stalk Mule Deer.
He’s not a giant, but with a $312 non-resident tag and my days winding down, I was happy to punch my tag. Getting the buck out was a feat in itself and it would have been horrible without the hand of Ol’ Wil. Apparently the SD card I brought and my camera didn’t make friends until after the drag.
The uphill climb begins at the truck
My 2010 archery season is off to an incredible start, I hope it continues! If you’ve never done a Do-It-Yourself, spot and stalk hunt for mule deer on public land… give it a shot. You’ll find out what you’re made of in a hurry!