2008 Mule Deer Hunt — Quest to Find The Large Typical Ghost Buck

Model 1885 Mule Deer Hunt 2008After seeing a couple of potential shooter bucks and one really nice buck in 2007. I was looking forward to go back into the area for 2008. Those thoughts quickly were all but dashed as the Winter of 2007/2008 just decimated the deer herd here in Northern Utah.

This was my third year in my current round of the Dedicated Hunter program. A program that allows you to hunt the archery, muzzleloader and rifle seasons. It does come with a limit of harvesting only two deer in three years and other requirements. I was hopeful that during one of the three seasons this year I would find the large buck from 2007 back in the area but, not too hopeful with the number of deer I saw lying dead in the spring.

Backpacking out during the mule deer muzzloader hunt in 2008Opening day of the archery season saw me working my way around the same basin from my successful 2007 mule deer hunt.  Where I had seen dozens of deer the year before I only found handfuls this year. It was a pretty disappointing day with one large exception. I worked my why around the basin and dropped around another when I spotted the shadow of something working it's way towards me in the pines. I worked my way into position to see what it was when all of the sudden it made a 90 degree turn broadside to me and walked through an opening at 56 yards and my jaw hit the ground. It was one of the largest typical four points I had ever seen on the hoof, both wide and tall. His only weakness was that his g3's were only in the 8 inch range. I quickly judged him to be a minimum of 180 inches. The direction he was now heading would put him on a game trail some 30 yards in front of me and slightly uphill. I was ready but, he didn't show up in the time I figured it should have taken him. After another minute or so I spotted him trotting out the opposite direction away from me. Blasted wind! All I could figure was that the wind had swirled enough for him to get a whiff up me.

The rest of the seasons I became obsessed with getting that buck. I went in a couple more times with my bow and was unsuccessful in locating him again. During the muzzleloader season I was back in the area with my brother. We backpacked in and setup a base camp the night before the season opener. On the way in we spotted a couple smaller bucks and a large two point. That two point ended up being the second largest buck I would see that entire year.

 

3 Point Mule Deer Bedded Muzzleloader Season 2008

Here is a 3 point bedded down during the muzzleloader season. This deer is about a hundred yards from me at the time. The picture is a little grainy. I need a better camera with a better optical zoom.

We spent the next four days trying to locate the large typical but were unsuccessful in finding him. However we bumped a deer that had to of been bedded before light. I took note of this thinking that it might have been the buck and made one last trip in with a muzzleloader before the season ended. This time I came into the basin from the opposite direction to get a better vantage point and watch the area where we had bumped the deer several days before.

I watched what I figured was the large two point way across the basin and a smaller 3 point but I didn't see anything work it's way into the area we had bumped the deer from. I decided I would swing downwind and try creeping my way through the area and see if I could lightly bump him if he was in there and hope if he was there he would offer a shot.  A tactic I was successful using muzzleloader hunting for muleys in my youth. While fully camouflaged I would work my way into the wind quietly. If I bumped a buck they would often bounce a couple bounces then stop at around 50 yards, turn broadside and look back to see what bumped them. I was going to see if the old tactic work for me today.

About 50 yards from were we had bumped the deer before I was working my way through the thick pockets of fallen timber and jack pines when not 10 yards directly in front of me I bumped a buck. In fact all I could see was a very quick look at a antler fork in the small pines. The buck made two bounces and everything went dead silent. Unfortunately, I was not any any position to see where he was. I crept around the direction I saw and heard him bound too but he was a ghost. He just disappeared, vanished! Ok, now I was mad. I'll be back in three weeks with my rifle and we'll see who wins next time.

Three weeks passed and my brother and I had hiked much of the night to swing way out and around the basin to slip in to a position where we had an excellent vantage point to cover a large area with a rifle. I decided not to pack either of my lighter weight 243 WSSM rifles due to the long distances across the canyon from the vantage point I had chosen. I packed in my long range Model 1885 in 270 WSM. I have ultra confidence in this rifle out to 600 yards.  And this rifle has proved it's self on the range and on cow elk at 555 yards and 608 yard shots.

As daylight broke we watched a few does and fawns and a small four point but we didn't see anything enter the bedding area just like we had in the past. Around noon my brother decided to sneak into the hidden deer lair while I watched to see what might come out.

Large two point mule deer taken by my brother during the 2008 rifle seasonHe made it across the canyon and into the lair and like two times before, a buck was in there and it came bailing out. My brother could tell it was an ok buck but wasn't able to positively identify how big he really was. He made a split second decision and shot the buck through a opening in the dark timber. There ended up being a lot of ground shrinkage compared to the buck we were after. He made the right call though, because if it had of been the large typical he would have been elated but when you only have a narrow window of time to make a shot you do what you have to do. Once we got to the downed buck we found that it was the large two point we had seen before. An inspection of the teeth and I'd say he was a three and a half year old two point, as the first molars had been in for a lengthy period of time and were heavily black stained. The rest of the day we boned out the deer and hauled him up and out of the basin.

I took one more trip back into the basin that season and I spent a very cold night and a good long day hunting another of my honey holes. I remember that trip well, because of family commitments I didn't get started hiking until 11 o'clock at night. At 2 am I pulled out my sleeping bag and a tarp and rolled up under some maple trees to get a few winks of sleep before I got up and started hunting further up the mountain at daylight. I found there was a few more deer in this area but I could only find does and small bucks.

I did learn a very valuable lesson that day regarding keeping my feet cool. The night before in my sleeping bag the temperature had dropped to the low teens so it was a might bit cool the next morning and I wore two pairs of socks. Big mistake! With all the hiking I got in that day, the friction generated way to much heat in my boots, which in turn gave me huge blisters on the balls of my feet. It felt like I had a rock in both of my boots as I hiked. Not fun at all.

Thanks to the winter kill most of the bucks I saw this year were two year old bucks with the usual 3 point antlers and around a 17 inch spread. It was obvious the winter before had wiped out all the fawns and many of the older bucks, thus leaving a handful of the yearling aged bucks that were now the two and a half year old variety for the fall.

Maybe I'll have better luck in 2009. Although, I'm a firm believer that you make your own luck, by spending time on the range and in the field. Sometimes luck does fall your way but, it sure isn't going too if you're sitting on the recliner watching TV or checking on your Facebook friends when you could be out hunting.

Additional information