August/September 2012 EHJ (Issue 132) - Anyone who hunts them knows that a big mule deer buck is one of the most elusive, secretive and downright difficult animals to hunt. Some of these animals live to be 10 years old or more without ever even being seen by a human eye. The most significant weakness of these magnificent animals, their Achilles heel if you will, is the rut. This is the only time of year that hunters get to see these solitary animals make uncharacteristic mistakes. During this time, monster mulie bucks can be seen out in the open without regard for anything more than the does in front of them.
In Idaho, one of the only ways to hunt this magnificent animal in this magical time of year is to draw a controlled hunt. Speaking of Achilles heel, in April 2009, I tore my Achilles tendon while playing on a co-ed softball team. This forced me to change my mind set on which controlled hunts to put in for. Being a Physical Therapist, I knew that the rehab for this injury would take more than six months. So, I decided to put in on a nearly impossible hunt to draw; a hunt that begins in early November. This would give me six months to get ready.
In early July I received a little post card from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Anyone who hunts in Idaho knows exactly what this little card means; it notifies the receiver that you have drawn on one of your controlled hunt applications. This little postcard is still one of the best single pieces of mail I have ever received. For the first time in my life, I had drawn one of the premier tags for hunting mule deer in Idaho! I proceeded to call everyone I knew and give them the good news. Because of the impossible odds of drawing this hunt, my dad, my brother and I convinced our wives that this would be "the hunt of a lifetime.”
Fast forward to late October and it was time to get up to camp and get set up for my hunt. In any other year, we would have spent three weekends a month scouting where we were going to hunt. However, due to my injury, our first real chance to scout this area came two days before the hunt. We had been in the unit many times scouting in previous years and had a good idea where some big bucks would be hanging out. But, any mule deer hunter knows, things change significantly after hunters chase these deer in the general season. The deer find new holes to hide in and become nocturnal. The good thing for us is that early November brings cold weather and this often brings the start of the rut.
I was like a kid waiting for Christmas the whole week leading up to the opener, and only slept about three hours the night before my hunt opened. The first two days of scouting were amazing; 25- 50 decent bucks per day and very few hunters. As 5:30 a.m. rolled around on opening morning, and much to their dismay, I had my dad and brother up and making a big breakfast before a long, exciting day. After eating, we took off on a nasty 12-mile, 90-minute four-wheeler ride that put us on our glassing hill in the dark, about 45 minutes before glassing light. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, except this morning was bitterly cold. The 45 minutes seemed to be longer and more suspense filled than the five months leading up to the hunt!
For a full account of Travis's adventure, go to page 28 in the August/September 2012 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.