Just got home from first true DIY muley hunt

mcseal2

Handloader
Nov 1, 2010
723
4
A friend and I went on our first true DIY muley hunt this year. We only hunted with a guide once, but had hunted muleys a couple other times with more knowledgeable friends who helped steer us in the right direction. This time we wanted to do it on our own. We got some advice from people, but once we got to the unit it was up to us to figure it out.

I started the preparation for this hunt by re-reading the mule deer books I had and then by buying some new ones. Mike Eastman's, Robby Dennings, and Kurt Darner's were among the most helpful. I read the books a little at a time in the evenings starting late this spring and marked information I wanted to remember with a highlighter. I took the highlighted sections and made a "cliff notes" type file of them on my home computer, a list I can pack on hunts to check over in the evenings when I'm struggling. Doing it this way makes me read the stuff from the book twice by the time it makes my file and helps me remember it. Having the ever-evolving list along makes me think over my strategy when it isn't working and helps me think of all options when coming up with the next day's plan. Its probably not necessary for those of you who grew up in the west and know the game there well, but seems to help me as I try to improve my own ability.

We took a 3 day scouting trip in late August and saw some nice bucks. Nothing was huge and most forked really high on the back, but several were older bucks that we would have been happy taking. It also gave us a chance to look over the unit and have some idea of where to start once we got to the hunt. The deer were visible with their coats and velvet racks so we got an idea of what the unit held. A lot of the bucks fork high on the back and won't score great but are still plenty nice enough for us.

I was competing in and helping to put on a ranch rodeo near home on Saturday the first so we didn't leave for our hunt until 7pm Saturday. We had my truck loaded earlier so my buddy picked me up at the rodeo and we drove through the night, slept a little in the truck and started checking out the hunting area Sunday morning. It was our first time in the area during season so we wanted to see what pressure was like. We weren't really hunting yet, more checking out where the pressure was. It was everywhere! We gave up counting at 150 camper trailers fairly early and never even counted the tents or other temporary dwellings. The area has a general tag for residents and MANY non-residents hunt it also. Closer to midday we checked into our hotel, unloaded, and got ready to hunt for real. We hit some country that evening with less pressure that looked good and where we saw a big 3x3 on our scouting trip but turned up only a group of 18 does right at dark.

The next morning we were back in that same area glassing and looking over more country. We spent much of the day around there and saw very few hunters, problem was we saw no deer either. I'd got a new Polaris Ranger since our scouting trip so we needed a new ORV sticker and the hotel had been sent a book of 2017 stickers instead of 2016 stickers since our scouting trip. We ended up making a 160 mile round trip midday to get the proper sticker so we could use our UTV, got back to hunt that afternoon. Checking out some places we hadn't scouted we found some good looking pinion patches with good rock faces, boulders, and lots of cuts that looked like they should hold a few deer but couldn't glass any up before dark. We glassed parts of that area again the next two mornings and again didn't see any deer. I slipped in to check it out after the second morning and saw almost no tracks or other sign so we wrote that area off. There was probably a big old buck holed up in there somewhere but without having scouted it and with only a few days of season there we decided to try elsewhere despite the hunting pressure.

We headed up to some higher elevation canyons we had scouted. There were 30+ camps on the short road leading into the canyons but during mid-afternoon there were few hunters out. We saw some small bucks and does walking and glassing along some patches of timber that required a few hundred yards of walking to reach but no good deer. By evening we had slipped into a nice spot to glass and saw a few deer and elk, but none with antlers. We could hear ATV's and UTV's above us most of the time on the roads and figured the bigger bucks were probably holed up. Early October isn't prime time for daylight buck activity anyway and we figured it wouldn't take much to keep them from popping out where we could see them.

The following morning saw us trying a new area again. We did a lot of glassing longer distances from or fairly near our UTV. We were again in territory we hadn't scouted and wanted to know what was there, kinda get the whole picture so we could make better decisions about it. The truck, ATV, and UTV traffic seemed to be heavy and fairly constant everywhere we went so we figured ours wasn't going to be the first one a buck saw or make it more nervous. Deer were really moving that day, we saw over 200 deer by the days end and a lot of new country. We picked a spot on some walk-in ground we hiked into and glassed from for that evenings hunt and saw a lot of deer but again no mature bucks. There were enough deer around the walk-in we didn't know if we could reach a decent glassing point without spooking them. A small snow/sleet shower and brief, heavy wind gave us our window to get in and it turned into a nice crisp evening after. Really a neat day watching that many deer even if it was almost all does and a few fork horns.

The next morning we finally caught a break. We had found some country the previous day where we thought the pressure could work to our advantage and it did. Another hunters truck on a 2 track near us bumped a good buck out only 40yds from us and my buddy dumped him at 80yds. The buck was a nice 5x5 and was collared with a transmitter. We were happy as this was the first decent buck we had seen in 5 days of hunting. We got the buck taken care of and hauled out, and contacted the biologist for the area so he could come get the collar. That evening we hunted an area we scouted that had really looked good when scouting and where we had seen some mature bucks. Conditions were finally right to get in there and we were excited. We slipped in very carefully, found a spot we could get across the skyline in vegetation and have cover to glass from. We had barely got set-up when a truck came up the two track in the bottom. As he came up a UTV came roaring down off some private land and went to meet the truck. I don't know what was said but the UTV went back into the private and the truck left the area. We continued to glass the country as the UTV continued to drive around along the fence of the private ground. The guys in it saw our orange where we were tucked in and looked at us for awhile in their glass. Then they worked the fenceline a while longer driving and glassing and then fired a shot that echoed up the canyon before leaving. They gave no indication they were shooting at game, never went and looked for the result of the shot. I think they were either trying to spook something out to shoot or trying to spook the game before leaving with us there. It was to late in the day to move so we stuck it out there until about 15 minutes before dark when the UTV came back and drove through the bottom we were glassing again. We pulled out and made our way back to our truck.

The following morning we were back in similar country to where the buck had been pushed to us the day before. We spotted a buck shortly after first light slipping through some brush. I got the glass on him and decided he had plenty of horn for me. I ranged him at 325yds and got prone over my pack. By the time he gave me a clear shot he was at 358yds and I dropped him as he walked away. I don't think he ever knew we were there but I had to take a tough shot when he paused as he was headed away with no sign of turning broadside. I had faith in the 180gr AccuBond to do the job from the new 300WM I have been practicing with and it didn't disappoint. The exit wound was right behind the opposite shoulder despite the entry being considerably further back than I'd have liked. The buck was probably leaving to get bedded up before hunters got in that deep. Once that buck was taken care of we headed to our hotel in town for what we considered a well deserved nap. Our schedule all week had been rough for us. By the time we got to our hotel and ate whatever we had thrown in the crock pot that morning, then caught a shower it was 11:30 or 12. We slept a bit and got up at 4 to be at our spots early. Our naps we wanted to get in at midday just didn't seem to be happening as we were always busy exploring, getting the ORV sticker, or something. Anyway when we got back to the hotel and ready to unwind my buddy couldn't find his knife. It was a family heirloom from his Grandpa so we headed back out to see if we could track it down. Luckily we did recover it about 2 miles from where we loaded my deer into the UTV on a 2 track. It had been lying on our cooler in the UTV and luckily it fell off where we spotted it and nobody else had. That day felt like we found a needle in a haystack twice!

It says my pic files are to big to put here. If anyone wants to see the bucks, look under the same name on Eastman's forum in my hunting pics album, I have them there. Also Rifles Inc put a pic up on their site I sent them of mine and the rifle they built me over the summer.

Back at the hotel we relaxed and enjoyed a peaceful evening. We had got to be friends with the hunters in the room next to us. While they were hunting that evening we got supper ready for them and us. They were ready for a steak and some potatoes and onions grilled in foil after a week of sandwiches or bar food. I had a package of giant sirloins I'd brought along from a beef we had butchered last spring. We had a few drinks and told some more lies, then packed up and left the next day for our home states. We traded contact info, they were great people.
 

Al in SC

Beginner
Sep 28, 2010
173
0
Well written very interesting story. Thanks a ton for posting. Sound like a great hunt.
what state you hunting in?
 

wisconsinteacher

Handloader
Dec 2, 2010
1,901
10
Great story. I am going on the same adventure and hope to have the same results as you. Thanks and congrats on a great hunt!!!
 

salmonchaser

Handloader
Dec 13, 2013
3,384
605
Well done, looking forward to the photos. Amazing how crowded conditions can be left behind with a little walking.
My guess is the guys on the fence line ran those guys in the truck out, lied about ownership. Here in Oregon I've had guys try that on narrow strips of BLM. In the area we hunt.
Great story, congratulations and get those pictures posted. Before I got posting figured out I sent mine to Fotis:)


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

mcseal2

Handloader
Nov 1, 2010
723
4
Thanks guys. I never have figured out pics on here, the ones my camera takes it says are to big of files. You might have to look at them on the other sites, I just am not tech savy enough to post them here for you.
 
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