Scouting for Mule Deer - Preparing For the Utah Muzzleloader Season

Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter with EGW Rail and 1x20 Nikon Scope

My new Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter is shooting great ready for the Utah muzzleloader mule deer season.


Pack Wheel Hiking Cart

Pausing for a break and looking back at my Pack Wheel on the skyline.


3x4 Mule Deer in velvet

This little buck would have made an easy shot for me with my new TC Encore muzzleloader.


A-Bolt 243 WSSM with Vortex PST and Primos Alpha Dog Caller

Trying to locate a coyote with a Promos Alpha Dog caller for my A-Bolt 243 WSSM to send a 105 A-Max to greet. Unfortunately I didn't see any coyotes this time out.


With my location for archery elk scouted fairly well from using my Browning trail cameras I decided before the archery elk season started and I got wrapped up in it that I needed to hike into the area I wanted to muzzleloader mule deer hunt. The area is really a two day trip to go in and back out, however being crazy as I am I started hiking at 9 am and didn't get back until almost 11 pm. It was a long day but I learned a few things about the area.

I watched one decent four point that would probably tempt me if the opportunity arose during the season. He wasn't huge just a nice four point. I might keep an eye on him for Dallen and the rifle season if the buck makes it tell then and stays in that same area.

To help make the trip in more than just a hike I took my A-Bolt Stainless Varmint 243 WSSM rifle and a Primos electronic caller to see if I could find some coyotes. I setup a couple of times but wasn't able to find any coyotes.

On the way out climbing over a boulder field I almost put my hand next to two rattle snakes. Eeks! That will get the heart pumping. The one snake was pretty good sized for a Utah rattler.

I took in three Browning Recon Force Trail cameras to watch for big muleys. I'm excited to see what they find in the area.

I used a Pack Wheel to carry in my gear and explore some new areas. It worked great. Although I learned not to follow the horse trail around the cliffs. That was a mistake as in cost me 400 or so feet in elevation and I then had to scale a boulder field to get back to the trail I wanted to travel. It wasn't that big of deal as I had a frame pack with me so I loaded my gear on the pack and pushed and carried the empty Pack Wheel over the boulders until I made it back to the trail. Once back at the trail I put my gear back on the Pack Wheel and rolled out.

All in all it was a pretty good day. I learned a few things about the area and am getting excited to hunt the area. I also have a new TC Encore muzzleloader that is shooting great so I'm hoping I can find a big one. Big for me would be 26 inches or wider and I would like it to score 160 plus. I haven't seen very many bucks that meet this criteria in my life so your average 140 inch four point can be a real temptation for me. :)

Browning Recon Force Trail Camera Scouting for Mule Deer

Two Mule Deer Bucks

A Browning Recon Force Trail Camera setup ready to find a good buck for me.


This was the best buck I found while hiking in this day to setup the trail cameras. You can get a better look at him in the video player above.


Large Two Point buck

Two Rattle Snakes in rocks

This large two point might tempt me also. I would like him a little wider though.


Here's the two rattle snake that scared the crap out of me.



Final Preperation for the 2014 Utah Archery Elk Season

26XL Pack Wheel hauling Tree Stands

Hauling up the mountain a metal Tree Stand, Tree Saddle and other gear with a 26" XL Pack Wheel.


Strap covering trail camera lens

This is how I found my bear and elk attacking camera this time out with the strap covering the lens. The bears and elk have really raised havoc on this camera location moving it out of position and tearing it down, so a few weeks prior I moved the trail camera off the Tree Mount and ran an extra loop of the strap around the front of the camera. I did this to the camera to really secure it to the brush. It was secure but an elk bumped the camera and the strap slid up over the lens.


Strap around Recon Force Trail Camera

This time I placed the extra strap around the camera but did it with the strap angling lower in the back of the brush so that it wouldn't slide up and over the lens if a critter messed with the camera.


View of Pack Wheel from Tree Stand

With the tree stand in place here is the view of my Pack Wheel and other gear below on the ground.


With a week before the archery elk opener I needed to take another trip up the mountain for some final preparation.

After studying the trail cameras from this year and last I have found that the elk can be in the area but they aren't there all the time. I have learned some general areas that would have a higher probability of finding elk.

One area that I like, I have found a tree that I would like to put a tree stand in. I think my chances will be much greater at getting an elk if I can get up in a tree.

On this trip in I hauled in a metal tree stand and a Tree Saddle. I wasn't sure which would be the best to use out of the tree I wanted to hunt out of. With a Tree Saddle I can hunt from just about any tree. With my metal stand I need a good straight tree to strap it to. The tree I wanted to place a tree stand in is more of cluster of trees so I wasn't sure if a traditional tree stand would work.

I also like using the Tree saddle as a harness system when hanging my tree stand to free up my hands to hang the tree stand.

The last time I went in to check my trail cameras the camera watching the spring had been messed up again. This time I decided to take the camera off the Browning Tree Mount and strap the camera directly to the bundled brush. I like the Browning Tree Mounts because to can easily point the camera in the direction you need but  it also makes the camera a lot more vulnerable to having critters (bears and elk in my case) bump and pull the camera off or out of position. This appeared like it would work except the strap I placed around the camera angled up in the back and an elk bumped the camera and the strap slipped up and over the lens. Dang it! Well and least the camera wasn't on the ground this time. :)

I like wrapping the camera with the strap so this time I placed the strap around the tree with the strap angling downward so if it does gets bumped the strap would likely slide downward in the front and not over the lens. We'll see how this goes.

Being about a week away from the opener and reviewing the trail camera footage it is showing that the elk have pretty much vacated the area by the end of August. They did the same thing last year.

Through July the two largest bulls (4x5 and 5x5) I have seen have been pretty regulars to the area. Incidentally both of these bulls have matching down turned G1 brow tines. for the past few week they have been gone. Hopefully they return during the archery season. I would love to get one of them but I'm not picky when it comes to elk. I like the meat so if I do get a chance at any bull I'm going to take it.

The two 5x6 bulls that were in the area last year have never showed up this year. I wonder if they made it through the hunting seasons last year.

There is a good amount of elk activity during the first of July in the area. Hopefully they start coming back in the end of August and into September. The video on the page shows some of the elk in the area.

The Bears Are Back - Checking My Trail Cameras In June 2014

Bull Elk on Browning Spec Ops trail camera

No real monster bulls on the cameras. This is one of the better sized bulls that have been caught on the trail cameras.

Any bull is a shooter in my book. I love elk meat and when it comes to archery elk hunting anything I can get I will take. This would be a really nice bull for me.

Bruising from knee surgery

A little extra bruising after my seventh knee surgery. All the grinding on the bone caused a lot of bleeding this time around.


Brown Creeper Bird

Here's an illusive Browning Creeper I watched while out checking the trail cameras. Not a common bird to see and difficult to get it to hold still to take it's picture.


Recon Force XR trail camera attacked by bear

Bear attacked Recon Force XR (BTC-2XR) trail camera and a battery pack. Camera upside down and power cable chewed through.

Water damaged Browning Recon Force XR (BTC-2XR) trail camera

External battery pack port that water was able to enter the camera through after the bears attacked the camera.


Water damaged Browning Recon Force XR (BTC-2XR) trail camera

Selfie of Dad and I out checking my trail cameras.


Shortly after checking and moving my trail cameras around in May the transmission fell out in my right knee. This knee has a long track record of issues dating back over twenty years to that fateful day I jumped that XR500 and the bike came down on top of me. My knee was now in a vicious cycle of locking up and swelling. It would lock up in a bent state going down stairs preventing me from straightening my leg.

I went to Dr. Harrison and got a cortisone shot which helped but my knee still wouldn't stop locking up. It was time for another surgery. So in the end of May I had my seventh knee surgery to date. Most of what Dr. Harrison did in this surgery was grind out large bone spurs of arthritis that had grown throughout my knee. One spur was in the center area and was pinching up against the ACL. I suspect this was the spur that kept locking up the motion of my knee.

My knee is so much smoother since the surgery. Thank you for keeping me out on the mountain Dr. Harrison!

I wanted to give my knee a little time to heal before I went back up the mountain to check my cameras. So the cameras hadn't been checked in a good five weeks.

This time out I went with my dad. It was nice to spend time with him on the mountain and show him my favorite locations to find elk and where the bears have been etc. It brought back fond memories of my youth spending time with him camping, hunting, hiking, exploring, and looking for birds in the mountains.

At each camera location we would skim through the videos captured from the trail camera on my phone. At one camera we realized that we had bumped a young bull out when we were in the bottom of one canyon it snuck out the top going on the trail right past one of my cameras. You can see this elk (last elk on video) on the Velvet Antlered Elk video on this page. At another camera the last critter to go past the camera before us was a black bear. Dad made the comment that I needed to walk first incase we ran into the bear. Thanks dad. We didn't run into any bears but we did find where bears had been raiding ant beds.

At the location where I found the bears the most the previous year, we found that they had returned. One camera had been busted from the tree, a power chord to a external battery pack had been chewed through, and another camera had been turned upside down. Dang bears!

The camera that had been turned upside down had the external battery pack plugged into it. Using this external power source exposed the camera to allow moisture to get into the camera. This is fine if the camera is right side up but with the camera upside down the camera ended up getting completely full of water. Even the SD card was completely covered in water. I figured the SD card and camera were finished... however, after I brought them home, cleaned them up and dried them out the SD card worked and had the videos still intact. And to my complete surprise the Recon Force XR (BTC-2XR) camera still works. Yeah! I suspect Browning will add a seal to the power chord in the future to prevent water from entering the camera in this manner.

This year I placed a new Browning Strike Force trail camera in the same location that I had a Spec Ops trail camera the year before. The Spec Ops is a Black Flash camera while the Strike Force is a standard IR camera. I quickly noticed a huge difference in the quality of my night videos with the Strike Force. The spring that this camera is watching is around 15 to 25 yards away. The Strike Force easily illuminates the area and with the Spec Ops it was pushing it to see the critters very well at times.

From how I understand it, this is a issue with the imaging sensors being able to see the standard IR light spectrum better than the Black Flash light spectrum. There are benefits to both systems. In the areas I use trail cameras I prefer the standard IR flash and right now my favorite trail camera is this really small Strike Force (BTC-5) trail camera. I like that some animals notice the faint red dots on the camera and look at the camera. I don't find that the critters are afraid or avoid the cameras. The only negative could be that they come up and rub on or pull on the camera damaging it however, I haven't had any cameras get damaged from critters at night. Bears during the day, yes. Watch the video to see a comparison of black flash vs standard IR flash at night from the same location.

After reviewing the footage of the bears I believe the camera attacks were the work of two bears. I believe the same two bears that Dallen and I watched during his elk hunt last fall.

First Time Out Checking My Trail Cameras - Spring 2014

Bull Elk on Browning Recon Force XR trail camera photo.

Here's a bull elk about ready to start growing his antlers. This was taken with a Recon Force XR (BTC-2XR) trail camera. Click on the image to download the full size original JPG this trail camera captured.


Recon Force XR trail camera on tree

Browning Recon Force XR (BTC-2XR) trail camera.


Elk on Recon Force XR trail camera

Here's a cow and a yearling bull starting to grow his first antlers. This was taken with a Recon Force XR (BTC-2XR) trail camera. Click on the image to download the full size original JPG this trail camera captured.


Recon Force XR trail camera, Recon Force trail camera, battery pack and tree mounts

On this clump of small trees I strapped on a Recon Force XR (BTC-2XR) trail camera, a Recon Force (BTC-2) trail camera, and a battery pack. To get the cameras pointed in the right direction I use Browning Tree Mounts.

This location saw a lot of activity last year so I wanted to double up the cameras in hopes of catching more of the action there. One camera just can't cover this spring well enough.


Browning Recon Force XR (BTC-2XR) trail camera with battery pack

This location at times saw a lot of activity last year. To keep the camera taking video as long as possible, I have a micro sized Strike Force (BTC-5) trail camera with an external battery pack attached. I also have a 32 Gig SDHC memory card in the camera. As long as the bears don't tear down the camera this camera should have plenty of battery and memory to keep taking videos until I return to check it.


I picked up a couple newer 2014 models of trail cameras this year. I put them out on the mountain back in April when I was out hunting for shed antlers with my boys. For weeks now I have been wondering what might be passing by the cameras. With it being so early in the year I knew that there probably weren't a ton of critters in that high area on the mountain however I was hoping to possibly catch a glimpse of a black bear.

This time up the mountain I brought all my trail cameras that I pulled from the river bottom where I had them out all winter and early spring. I moved all the cameras around this trip out.

I placed cameras in my favorite spots from last year and with the additional new cameras I am experimenting with some other locations to see how active they are and what might pass in those locations.

One thing I am doing a little different this year is I am purchasing 32 Gig SDHC memory cards. I primarily like to set the cameras on video mode and last year there were a few times that in less than two weeks I would have full cards using 16 and 8 gig cards. Not wanting to miss any of the action I am working on getting the largest capacity SD cards.

Well after reviewing the images and video I didn't get anything super exciting but there are a few critters starting to move into the area. There's a few coyotes, lots of mule deer and elk in the area. Antlers are just starting to grow and no sign of bears, fawns and calf elk yet. Next trip out I should start seeing some fawns and calves I would believe.

It was pretty funny to watch a couple doe mule deer detect my scent on the camera from the day before when I put the camera out. You can check out some of that footage below.

Some bull elk pass by my Strike Force trail camera. The one bull stops and turns to look back. It is pretty cool to see the moisture of his breath in the air.

A coyote happens to look over and notice the red cluster of IR lights illuminated on the camera. The light they make is invisible but if you are looking directly at the camera you can see a faint red IR LED light dots. I prefer this spectrum of IR lighting over the Black Flash spectrum as it has greater illumination distance and I like that some animals take notice and are curious and investigate the little red LEDs.

The Black Flash cameras like my Spec Ops (BTC-3) trail camera work great they just don't have the flash distance of my trail cameras with the light red LEDs showing when they flash.


Having Fun With The Boys — Hunting For Shed Elk Antlers & Putting Out Trail Cameras

Landen with spike elk shed antler

Dallen and KB looking for elk shed antlers

KB and Dallen looking for shed elk antlers.


Mountain Bluebird

Mountain Bluebird watching us from the oak brush.


KB packing spike elk antlers

KB packing some spike elk antlers in his backpack.


Five spike elk antlers

The crew of us boys with our five spike elk antlers. Landen was a little down for the photo. He wanted to find a big antler. Me too, me too.


My three boys and I decided to go hunt for shed elk antlers over Easter break. I was off for Good Friday and so I took the boys out to see what we could find. 

I knew a very general area of where the elk would be this time of year and we set out to scour the area. The elk would have been shedding their antlers over the past several weeks with the smaller bulls probably just losing their antlers.

The area we were hunting in has lots of thick oak brush. We spent a couple hours weaving around and around looking for antlers. We were finding a great deal of fresh elk tracks so they had to of dropped their antlers somewhere near by.

After a couple hours we found a nice brown elk spike in a meadowy area. After finding this one we really scoured that area very carefully and ended up finding five spike antlers within about 200 yards of each other. Two of the spikes were brown and three were whiteys from years past.

So we have a pretty good idea of where we can find spikes in future years to come but where were the bachelor groups of bulls hanging out when they dropped their antlers? I figured they would be lower because they would have dropped their antlers sooner than the spikes. We spent another couple hours working our way down the mountain hoping to find some nice branched antlers but we couldn't find any.

I had brought a couple of Browning's newest trail cameras with me in my Alps Pathfinder pack. The boys were a little tired so I let them play together building a fort while I hiked up a draw to set out the trail cameras.

I was excited to get a couple of new Recon Force XR, BTC-2XR trail cameras and a Strike Force, BTC-5 trail camera. I have loved the cool videos and images I have been getting with my 2013 models of Browning BTC-1, 2, and 3 trail cameras and I'm excited to try out Browning's new 2014 models this year.

The Strike Force BTC-5 trail camera is really small and is packed with awesome features. I can't wait to see what it captures. It's a little early in the year but I would love to catch some bears or young calf elk and whatever else I can on the cameras.

As luck would have it, as I was out setting out the trail cameras I stumbled onto a small five point elk antler. How funny! I didn't think I was in an area that they would have shed their antlers. The boys weren't amused that somehow I found the "big" antler while I told them to have fun here while I go off to setup trail cameras.

Browning Recon Force XR with Strike Force trail camera

Browning Recon Force XR with Strike Force trail camera back and bottom side

Browning Recon Force XR next to the smaller Strike Force trail camera.


The bottom and back view of a Browning Recon Force XR next to the smaller Strike Force trail camera. I like the heavier duty strap loops on the back of the Strike Force.


Browning Recon Force XR trail camera on tree with door open

Five point elk antler shed

This Recon Force XR trail camera looks much the same as the original Recon Force. One noticeable change are the back-lit buttons when in update mode. Most of the changes come in the form of better images, video, IR lighting and sensors.


I hiked up a draw to put out some trail camera while the boys were playing and building a fort. Oops, the boys aren't going to be happy about me finding a five point antler.


Browning trail camera power pack and Strike Force trail camera on Browning trail camera tree mount

Browning trail camera power pack

I setup a Browning Strike Force trail camera with a Browning Trail Camera Power Pack watching one of my favorite locations from last year. I am curious to see how well the batteries last with this camera and with the power pack setup.


Here's a closer view of the Browning Trail Camera Power Pack.


Browning Recon Force XR and Strike Force trail cameras with doors open

Sample image from Browning Strike Force trail camera

This shows the Browning Recon Force XR next to the smaller Strike Force trail camera with the doors open.


Here's a sample image taken from the Strike Force trail camera. It was a dull cloudy day and as you can see the snow is still on the ground from winter. Within a couple weeks things should really start to green up.

Here's a link to the original high resolution jpg image the Strike Force trail camera took which is a 10 MegaPixel image with a 2.8 MB file size.



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