2007 Archery Elk Hunt — 5 Point Bull

I decided I would have another go at archery elk hunting the same area I went the previous year. This time I had my wife drop me off on the other end of this public property. As usual I was going in as light as I could. I had my water pump and five to six days of food, prepared to spend the next four or five days in the woods.

Small spring to pump water from
Here is a small spring that I pumped water from on my second day on the mountain.

The first night I was able to hike in far enough to be in elk country. That night I was in the bottom of a canyon in some really thick maples and oak brush as it got dark and so I pulled out the sleeping bag and slept in this thick cover. As I was crawling into my sleeping bag I skunk tried to join me but I quickly let him know he wasn't welcome.

Before light I was up and worked my way around one of the larger canyons. I was running low on water and I found a tiny little spring around mid-day. It took me a good two hours to fill several quarts of water from the little seeping spring.

By that evening I had worked my way around and up on a ridge line. I had found some elk sign along the way but nothing really fresh. As I started up this ridge line I heard a single deep sounding bugle across the canyon. I tried cow calling but never got an answer. With about a half hour of shooting light left I found some cows and young bulls working their way up to the ridge that I was on. With the wind and amount of light left I decide it best to back off. I would try for them in the morning.

Three small bull elk
Three young bulls giving me the slip this morning. One of them is most likely the bull I shot the evening after taking this photo.

Early the next morning there was no sign of them in the canyon they were in the night before so I decided to work my way around into the next canyon, cow calling as I went along. I crested one finger ridge and cow called and the canyon erupted with crashing timber and hoofs blazing out of the canyon. I guess I was a little to aggressive with the cow call, because four young bulls and a couple cows headed for the next canyon when I blew the cow call. I did get one of the bulls to come back to investigate to about 100 yards then he decided he didn't like something and he left.

I made note of where two small groups of elk went as they vacated the canyon. I figured that maybe at least one of the four small bulls in these groups would bed down on the shady side of the next ridge about a mile away.

The rest of the afternoon I worked my way with my main pack up to my favorite base camp location. I filled up my two water bottles and a couple of two liter bladders from a spring and pond about 600 yards below my base camp. I setup my tarp system with parachute cord. Basically  I make a tent/bivy like enclosure by running and chord between two trees then drape a tarp over the chord and tie down the sides and corners. I don't like taking any more weight than I have too so a tarp does me just fine. Although I'm itching to try Tyvek sometime soon and make a bivy.

That afternoon I made my plan. I was going to hike about a mile down the ridge with the wind at my back. Once I got towards the end of the ridge I would then swing around the ridge and drop into an opening in the bottom of the next canyon. Once in place I should be downwind of at least some of the elk that should be up in the dark timber above me.

After I was there for a while, I very and I mean very softly would cow call with a Primos Hyper Lip Single with the sound chamber on it. After about a half hour I could hear something moving out of the timber above. It slowly worked it's way down and then around on a trail that I hoped the elk would take to enter the meadow. As the hoof sounds made it around to the opening I could see that it was one of the young rag horn bulls. He cautiously walked out into the open area and stopped at 42 yards. Unfortunately he had spotted me but, wasn't sure what I was. I settled the 40 yard pin low behind his shoulder and let it fly. The arrow hit home but the bull made a serious turn towards me with an about-face turn as the arrow struck.

5 point Bull Elk Taken with Browning Adrenaline SX BowI waited a good half hour then started to sneak to where I last saw him run. I bumped him and decided it best, as it was getting dark, that I come back in the morning.

The next morning I headed back down the canyon to pick up the trail. I followed his tracks for about another 100 yards into some thick under growth. I started crawling around following the tracks, as the blood had since dried up... hmm, something smells like a barnyard....to late. I was less that 10 yards from him and he wasn't finished yet. He bolted and I bolted to keep up with him. I got pretty banged up in the face going through the thick under growth. He didn't go far and stopped in the pines. I slipped around him and threaded an arrow through some dead falls and he was done.

My first shot the night before had entered nice and low behind the heart but when he whirled the arrow bent back and though the intestines then out and back into his hind leg stopping against his femur. At times elk can be very tough animals to bring down.

Boned out 5 Point Elk hanging in my canvas meat bags
Boned out 5 Point Elk hanging in my big game canvas meat bags.

I spent the rest of the day boning him out and hiking the meat up to a trail. I was able to get cell reception and I made a few calls to get some horses in the next morning to help haul out the meat. It was at this time that it really sunk in  that I should work on a system that I could have with me to be able to haul an elk out by myself. I built that system the following year ... My Meat Cart — Elk and Deer Cart.

After I had the bull boned out and hung in the trees I worked my way back to my bases camp and then down to the spring to get more water as I was now completely out. A light rain storm ensued as I was pumping water and a young bull moose came out and walked past me at 20 yards. And then the same bugle I had heard two nights before rang out within 150 yards above me in the quaking aspens. I thought the bull might come in to water while I was there but he never showed. As I hiked back to base camp I found the elusive bull. He was feeding away from me at about 80 yards, the wind was perfect and ground was damp and quite. Everything was perfect for me to slip in on him and seal the deal except my tag was already filled. Oh, did I mention the bull was a 6x6, I'd guess in the 330+ range. Just a gorgeous bull. Some day I'll get my nice six point, some day.

 Some notes and equipment from the hunt:

  • Modified Browning Adrenaline SX BowBrowning Adrenaline SX bow modified with half inch longer limbs and custom strings I made to get the 32" of  draw length I require.
  • Gold Tip Series 22 carbon shafts. The original heavy Series 22 shaft not the ultra light version they now make. I really like the performance I get with this shaft. I wish Gold Tip would bring it back it's a wonderful fat carbon hunting shaft.
  • Rocket Stricknine broadheads. I learned quickly that 90 pounds of kinetic energy can handle a very large cutting diameter broadhead. If you have the energy you might as well use it and the Stricknine has taken three bulls for me in the past five years with great results.

2007 Mule Deer Hunt — My First 30 Inch Buck

Dallen at sunset while bow hunting for mule deer in 2007This year I had an archery elk tag and I was in the dedicated hunter program so I could hunt archery, muzzleloader and rifle season for a mule deer. I have always been pretty horrible at archery hunting for mule deer. I'm ok at the spotting but I'm a big guy that is pretty darn noisy trying to sneak within range. This downfall of mine may not work for deer but being able to sound like a heard of elk tromping around the mountain works pretty good for archery elk hunting. I generally focus on hunting elk with my bow and if a nice buck was to present itself that's an added bonus. Archery deer hunting when I have been in the dedicated hunter program has been more of scouting trips to learn where to find the bucks come muzzleloader season and rifle season. This year was no exception.

One of the last weeks in August I decided I wanted to try dropping into a high altitude basin I had seen elk in before. After Dallen was out of school for the day we took off for the mountain. We hiked in and spent the night under the stars inside a cluster of high altitude pines. It was a night Dallen and I will always remember. The temperature probably never dropped below 65 degrees so we were not comfortable sleeping in our sleeping bags. Now the big or should I say little problem. The mosquitoes! I has never in my life seen it like this. The mosquitoes were driving us crazy biting our faces, hands and anything that stuck out of your sleeping bags. And thus the balance between sweating to death and being eaten to death continued all through the night. Needless to say, we got very little sleep. Next time I plan on going in when the weather is that warm I'll be packing a Thermacell.

Sunrise while bowhunting for mule deer in 2007We were up before light and started working our way down the canyon. I made note of a couple of good sources to pump water from if I was to come back and spend longer amounts of time hunting here. As we rounded a little bend we bumped a couple bucks. They were within range albeit in the range towards the bottom of my sight pins. The one buck was a good 3x3 with a cheater on one side. The other buck we didn't get the best look at but I could see his left four point antler and we could also see that he was pretty darn wide. They never presented a shot but I took good note of how they worked their way around and out of the basin.

We explored around the basin the rest of the day and worked our way back to our base camp and out that night. Another great day with my oldest son.

The following week I made another trip in myself to see if I could get another shot at the wide buck. After watching the buck the previous week I decided on a plan to slip around in the dark and wait by a pinch point below some cliffs the buck had passed the week before. I had been in place for about a half hour into daylight when the mountain erupted with gun fire high above me around the top of the basin. The shooting was also coming from multiple locations. What in the world? At the time I was very upset but later I realized it might have been a blessing in disguise as I learned more about what was in the canyon that day.

Dallen while bow hunting for mule deer in 2007As the shooting started erupting the canyons emptied themselves of the deer and I mean emptied. I had four bucks come right by me at warp speed and I watched others come out of different areas and retreat to safety in the dense forest below. The buck I had watched the week before was one of the bucks that came right past me but this time he wasn't companions with the 3x3, he had an even older, heavier, taller buck with him. As they were coming I quickly drew my bow and hoped that they would stop or pause. They did, however they stopped inside the edge of some jack pines then dashed again through the open area I was hoping to get a shot from. I now had changed my plans. I wanted the tall, heavy, long tined buck.

After this day I had now counted five to six bucks that had four points or better and many other smaller bucks in that basin.

As I hiked out of the basin that day I ran into a couple of different groups of hunters with dogs and found out what all the shooting was about, the opening of grouse season. Who in the world decided to overlap these seasons I could have strangled that day.

A couple days later I headed up another mountain with my bow and my pack ready to spend the last four days of the archery season trying to tag an elk.  I was successful in tagging a little five point bull with my bow.

My first 30+ inch mule deer taken with a muzzleloaderWith the archery season over I turned my attention back the the high altitude bucks I had seen. The muzzleloader season was just two weeks away and I couldn't get the images of those bucks out of my head. I spent some time on the range with the muzzleloader and was itching to get back in there with something better than my bow.

Two days before the opener we had an early snow storm. From the looks of it the higher elevation mountains had a good foot or more. I really wanted to have my son with me to go after the buck again but, with the snow, I felt it best if he sat this one out. A good friend of mine Ryan also had a muzzleloader tag and I invited him to come along. We went up the night before and found we couldn't drive all the way to the trail head. We decide to sleep in the truck and get up extra early with the additional mile now needed to hike to get into the basin.

Hauling out my 30 inch mule deerI had hopes that if we could slip around into the funnel area we could have a good chance of tagging the two larger bucks. I figured that someone would be hunting up around the ridge and the deer might funnel out like they had during the grouse season. I also setup so I had a good vantage point of the funnel and where I could see into the jack pine where the bucks had pause the previous time.

Just like clockwork the wide buck made his escape and stopped in the jack pines at 45 yards, just like he had before. This time I sent a 45 caliber pistol bullet, from my 50 caliber CVA Firebolt his way. Unfortunately, his bigger brother wasn't with him but I was tickled to death with the wide buck my son had found with me during the archery season. The buck turned out to have a near whitetail like right antler. I'll look for his big brother next year.

Dallen showing off the the 30 inch rack of the buck he spotted with meAfter boning him out I carried the deer out so Ryan could be light enough to explore and hunt some of the pockets on the way out. We had seen a good four point and some smaller bucks slip up and over the one side of the basin as we slipped our way in that morning. We hoped that he could find this buck on our route out of the basin. But that just wasn't to be.

Come to find out the hunter that pushed the buck towards us was a brother to a good friend I work with. We met up with him at the truck and found that he had been scouting the area and the buck he was after happen to be the one with my tag on it or at least that was what he wanted us to believe. Hmm... I guess he hadn't seen the larger buck...or had he? I'll keep that a secret and try for him next year.

The buck measures 31" wide but lacks any antler length to score very well. Oh well, he's over 30 inches wide! I lost a lot of points with the wife when I told her we had to have him mounted. She just didn't understand it when I told her that if a mule deer gets to be 30 inches wide it's the rule that they have to be mounted. After all I didn't want this buck waiting at the pearly gates to thump my rear because he made it to 30 inches and I didn't show him the respect to have him mounted. I thought it was a good explanation, my wife didn't, we compromised. The buck is now mounted but, he is above my desk in my work office and not in my house.

2006 Mule Deer Hunt — Two Good DIY Public Land Bucks

Spotting for deer with my 243 WSSM A-Bolt Stainless Varmint Laminate with fluted barrel.
Spotting for deer with my 243 WSSM A-Bolt Stainless Varmint Laminate with fluted barrel.

After taking the past year off from mule deer hunting I was itching to go back after them again. I was also excited to be sporting a "new" knee. With being ineligible to hunt mule deer last year, because of the dedicated hunter program, I finally had my ACL fixed again. It took two surgeries during the summer of 2005, one to get the old screws, faulty ACL removed and cadaver bone added. A second surgery to remove a tendon and thread it through my knee. My knee and leg wasn't near 100 percent this year going into this hunting season but it was more stable.

I entered the dedicated hunter program again this year so I could hunt all the seasons. During the archery and muzzleloader seasons I was unable to locate anything of interest to chase after with a rifle. For the rifle season I decided to spend a couple of days with my brother and friends back in one of our favorite deer locations.

This rifle season I was looking forward to hunting with my 243 WSSM A-Bolt Stainless Varmint Laminate with 85g Barnes Triple Shock bullets. During the past summer I had the barrel fluted. I wish that I had weighed the barrel before and after to know for sure the reduction in weight. I figure that it is close to a pound in weight reduction. One thing for sure is that the rifle feels a lot more balanced and not nearly as top heavy as it was. Another thing the fluting really did was make the rifle really cool looking.

We backpacked in and I spent the night rolled up in a tarp. My friend Clint had a homemade bivy made from Tyvek. What a cool inexpensive lightweight bivy system. I'm definitely going to have to make one of these.

We woke up the first morning to a light snow storm. Perfect! We setup on a point to glass out over a couple of canyons. Snow squalls would move in and reduce our visibility to nothing off and on most of the day. In between squalls my brother Weston spotted a pretty nice buck across the main canyon. Weston and Clint went after him and I stayed back to glass, however in between snow squalls the buck and his does disappeared. I eventually spotted a few deer bedded in the oak brush and my brother and Clint were now in position on a finger ridge about 300 yards away from the bedded deer. I tried picking apart the brush with my spotting scope but I was unable to find the buck.

After waiting him out for a good hour, some other hunters had showed up behind me. I was afraid they might mess things up so I blew a coyote howl to get my brother's attention so I could hand signal and point out the extra company we were going to have. A funny thing happened, the coyote howl must have made the buck uneasy or something because he magically appeared. Just as I got the buck in my spotting scope I saw the buck go down. Then a second or two afterward I heard the report from the rifle. Hmm... I'll have to throw a coyote howl into my bag of tricks for future hunts. My brother was using a 270 WSM A-Bolt Stainless Stalker with a 130g Nosler Partition handload of his to take this buck.

 

Weston's 2006 mule deer taken with a 270 WSM A-Bolt Clint's 2006 mule deer taken with a 243 Win. A-Bolt
Weston's 2006 mule deer taken with a 270 WSM A-Bolt Stainless Stalker Clint's 2006 mule deer taken with a 243 Win. A-Bolt Stainless Stalker

While waiting out this buck Clint had spotted another good buck back across the canyon on the opposite side. After Weston's buck was on the ground they moved their way down the ridge and got as close as they could before they would not be able to see the buck because of the thick oak brush. Clint made a picture perfect 569 yard shot with his 243 Win. A-Bolt Stainless Stalker to bag his second mule deer to date. I believe he was using a 95g Ballistic Tip Winchester factory load. The bullet struck home for a double lung shot with the bullet mushroomed nicely against the opposite shoulder's hide.

I stuck out this year but, for me the experience is far more rewarding than the antlers on the wall. I enjoy spending as much time in the field as I can. If I find a deer that I'd like to shoot that's a bonus.

2005 Muzzleloader Elk — Post Knee Surgery

In 1994 I wrecked while jumping a motorcycle. The wreck damaged my knee and tore my ACL. At the time I was a poor college student with no health insurance. I went almost a year after the injury trying to have an active lifestyle to no avail. I was unable to run, jog and even standing and walking would often result in my knee slipping out and cause me to catch my balance. To make a long story short I had my ACL replaced in 1995 and was told by the doctor that if I had not had the surgery I would have needed knee replacement as the bones were hitting each other when the knee was slipping out. This ACL surgery got me back walking and hiking pretty good but my knee never was solid enough for me to jog, run play basketball etc.

In 2004 I took my second mule deer buck in my second year of the dedicated hunter program so I was ineligible to hunt mule deer in 2005. I decided it was the year to try and get my knee fixed better. In June of 2005 I had a surgery to remove the screws and ACL and have cadaver bone inserted into the hollow areas of my leg bones. Then on the opening day of the archery elk season I had another surgery to take a tendon off the back of my leg and thread it through my knee at a more solid angle than the first ACL replacement.

The surgeries went well and I started rehab. With the back to back surgeries on my knee my right leg was in terrible shape not to mention my body. During this process the doctor told me that hunting was out of the question this fall. But sometimes I have a hard time listening. I was itching to hunt and I decided to try a muzzleloader elk in early November.

Spike elk taken with White muzzleloader in 2005. I was not happy with accuracy of my muzzleloader at the time so I borrowed my good friend Ryan's muzzleloader. It is nice looking White muzzleloader that he had the stock dipped in Mossy Oak Break-Up camo.

Opening day I hobbled around for a couple of hours trying to locate some elk. I started a little to high on the mountain and spotted a nice bull way below me. I worked my way down the maintain cow calling every once in a while. When I got the the general area where I saw the bull he was nowhere to be found. I started working my way around the mountain at this lower elevation and cow called at one point. Immediately something came crashing through the oak brush straight toward me. It was a spike elk, excellent tasting meat for the frying pan. He popped out of the brush at 20 yards and I gave him a face full of smoke and a hefty super slug to the chest.

I propped my camera on my pack and took a couple of photos. You can see in my photo that I'm heavily favoring my right leg. It was probably not the smartest thing to do on my leg and completely exhausted me doing so, but the experience and meat for the family was well worth it. Spike's make for tender and great tasting meat.

2004 Mule Deer Hunt — Three Four Point Bucks on a DIY Public Land Hunt

In 2004 my brother Weston, and good friend Clint backpacked into one of our favorite locations to mule deer hunt. I was excited at the opportunity to hopefully help Clint get his first mule deer.

We hiked in one evening and spent the night. The next day we watched a group of several does, a couple of two points, and a small 3x4 buck for a couple hours and we decided to look for something larger. We found another small two point in another canyon but no shooters.

That afternoon we went back to our base camp and moved camp further around the mountain. That evening we glassed off a point and could see some does bedded down in the oak brush below us. While we were sitting there my brother looks over my shoulder to see a nice buck coming around the ridge straight at me, only 10 yards away. The deer bolts and Weston drills the buck on the run at 75 yards. Just an awesome shot!

We boned out Weston's buck that evening and hauled it back to our base camp. The next morning Clint and I went different directions looking for shooter bucks. An hour or so after shooting light a buck came trotting around the canyon. I could tell he had four points at least on the side that was facing me but the buck never stopped to give me a good look at his antlers. I waited until he was just about to disappear into the oak brush at about 170 yards and decided to drop the hammer.

He wasn't quite the size of buck I was looking for, especially because I would have to sit out hunting mule deer the next year. It was my second year in the dedicated hunter program and I had killed a buck last year and now this one my second year of the program.  You only get two bucks in three years so I'll be sitting out the Mule Deer hunt in 2005.

Weston's Mule Deer Buck taken in 2004 Brady's Mule Deer Buck taken in 2004 Clint's Mule Deer Buck taken in 2004

Weston's Mule Deer Buck

My Mule Deer Buck

Clint's first Mule Deer Buck

After I had my buck down Clint and Weston came back around and met up with me. We glassed around watching different deer moving up finger draws. Then across the canyon we spotted a small four point. At the long range I handed Clint my rifle and told him where to hold to make the shot and the 270 WSM did the job. Clint had is first mule deer buck.

The rest of the day we boned out the deer and we all packed a buck out on our backs through a snow storm. A hunt we will always remember.

  • Weston shot this buck with my 25-06 Rem. Remington BDL.
  • Clint's buck and mine were shot with 130g Triple Shocks from a Winchester Model 70 Ultimate Shadow in 270 WSM.

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