The Mule Deer Commitment

By Aron Snyder
Colorado, DIY, Public Land

The Mule Deer Commitment - Aron SnyderJuly/August 2013 EBJ (Issue 78) - Like most western hunters, I have a bad case of EADD (Elk Attention Deficit Disorder) and I quickly forget that any other animal exists after I hear the first bugle of the season. Now that’s not to say that I haven’t shot any mule deer, as I’ve shot one just about every year, but that was just because I ran into them when I was trying to kill an elk. So in 2012 I decided to make the commitment to spending the first seven days in a high country mule deer hunt…..even if it killed me!

On this hunt I was lucky enough to be joined by my good friend Marc Gutman and he would be trying to kill an elk while I attempted to be a mule deer hunter. I hiked in one day ahead of Marc in hopes of pinpointing some of the mule deer I had picked out in preseason scouting. I figured glassing a bunch of mule deer the day before the season opened would help keep my mind on the task at hand, but after glassing for several hours at 12,000 feet, I spotted no deer worth chasing. The lack of deer wasn’t helping my EADD and the thoughts of chasing elk with Marc the next morning were creeping in fast!

I decided to drop down off my glassing point Friday afternoon, the day before season, and meet up with Marc on the valley floor. I was just about out of water anyway and it didn’t take long to convince myself that I might get a better, or at least different, view from the valley floor. Shortly after I met up with Marc we glassed several cow elk just a few hundred yards from where I was just sitting. Seeing those elk weren’t helping me stick with my mule deer goal, but they were close to my glassing area, and if one of them happened to walk by, the right thing to do would be shoot it!

After a discussing our options for a few minutes, we decided to camp on the valley floor for the night and head up the mountain before first light. The idea behind this was for Marc to get ahead of me as I tried calling elk into shooting range. This plan had nothing to do with mule deer, but the end result would put me back on my glassing point no matter what happened.

Like most hunters, I’ve never slept well on the night before season, but this night my restless sleep was from something completely different! I was kicking myself in the butt for not staying at my glassing point and sticking with the initial plan, and around midnight I had to have an internal "coming to Jesus meeting.” It wasn’t like I had come off the mountain early or anything, but I had told myself all through scouting season that I would commit the first week to mule deer, and at this point my plan was fading fast!

On opening morning I was back on track and ready to put everything I had into mule deer. I knew Marc wouldn’t care if he hunted elk alone, as that was the plan all along. At 11,500 feet, about the halfway point up the mountain, Marc and I separated. He would head after that group of elk and I would stay put, glassing for mule deer until he returned. I was perched right above a basin that I had scouted multiple times, and over the course of the summer, I had probably seen over 20 total bucks. After a few hours of glassing, Marc returned and told me about his events of the morning and they were about as eventful as mine.

The Mule Deer Commitment - Aron Snyder

For a full account of Aron's adventure, go to page 42 in the July/August 2013 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.