December/January 2014 EHJ (Issue 140) - I grew up in southern Utah chasing big mule deer around the high mountain peaks and tracking them through sagebrush flats. Mule deer hunting has always been a passion of mine and I have long sought out trophy-class bucks. I have put a few 180 and 190-class bucks on my walls, but always wanted that dream buck. This year, as my family and I put in for our normal general deer season tags, I decided to also put in for the black powder season with my sons.
As the end of May rolled around, I found I had successful ly drawn a muzzleloader deer tag. June and July came and went without much opportunity for scouting. We put out a few trail cameras that showed some good bucks, but nothing that really caught our interest. In August, I bought a general archery elk tag and hit the mountains to fill the freezer and do a bit of deer scouting. I saw a few good bucks and a couple definitely worth trying for.
When I was younger and went rifle hunting with my father, I was full of speed and enthusiasm. We hunted on the side of a huge mountain and it always seemed important to hurry to the top. It might be a difficult climb, but if I should get lucky and kill a deer, dragging it downhill was pretty easy.
Where we like to hunt now requires a different strategy. It is not a difficult place to hunt because a road runs along the ridge in the middle of the unit. That tends to make most hunters lazy because one can often see deer from the road.
It’s about 9,800 feet in elevation with mostly quaking aspen and a sprinkling of spruce and pine. Walking down off the ridge I can sometimes hear vehicles as they drive through. The farther downhill I walk, the thicker the trees are and the likelihood of finding deer increases, but I’m more than aware that should I kill a deer here, it’s an uphill pack out all the way.
I’ve probably seen no more than 10 other hunters where I hunt and stalking here is my favorite method of hunting. I’ve grown wiser with age and have learned that persistence and patience are valuable hunting skills. Besides, like they say, the worst day of hunting is better than the best day of doing anything else.
Last year, I walked for days and saw some deer, but nothing to make me jump up and down with excitement. All totaled, I counted 22 bucks, with the biggest being a small 4x4. That was not what I wanted. A friend got a glimpse of a huge one, but the buck quickly disappeared, never to be seen again.
Opening day of muzzleloader season came quickly. I woke early and met my son Cody. We left town long before first light to get to our spot before sunrise. We discussed where we wanted to go and came up with a plan to find the group of bucks I’d seen a few weeks before. The weather, however was trying to put a damper on our plan.
There had been days of rain, causing washouts. During the night the wind had kicked up and blown branches and trees across the road. After going over and around and moving trees, we made it to our planned spot. The wind was still gusting, but I grabbed my gear and headed to the treeline,
For a full account of Mike's adventure, go to page 18 in the December/January 2014 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.