Jerry Harbottle is on a roll again!

September 14, 2012 by  
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Jerry Harbottle downs a great Colorado Muzzy buck!


Jerry Harbottle is once again in the spotlight!  He continues to harvest monsters deer ever year! I asked him what his secret was to killing some of the countries largest mulies every year and he stated ” It’s my watch.  I flash them with the watch and they can’t stand it.  It drives them crazy and they have to come and check it out”.  Well I don’t don’t know what to believe….He keeps smacking the big ones so he is doing something right.  Watch or not…He shot this one at 25 yards.  I think I’m going to get me one of those big fancy watches one day!  Keep up the great work Jerry.  I’m looking forward to a story here in the near future.  Congrats big guy!

Short G2’s  I don’t know if I would have shot it.  Should have let it grow another year…

 Love the mass and the eye guards. 204 inch gross mulie with the smoke pole.


Idaho Fish and Game to kill Thousands of Deer!

November 11, 2011 by  
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Idaho fish and Game commission gave the game department permission to kill thousands of deer on the winter range!


Yesterday, the commission approved the killing of 500 doe from the Bennett hills winter range.  The  two hunts of 275 tags each will start in December and run through the end of the month.  This hunt was concocted after a fire tore through the winter range in August of this year.  The first proposal was to kill 2000 head.  The local and the state biologist feel that the lack of feed will stress the deer into having a poor fawn crop or even the possibility of starvation.  These are both possibilities, I agree.  Were I disagree is with the solution.

Killing 500 does is not going to take the stress away from the other deer looking for food!  It is going to stress the deer even more with the thousand plus hunters driving around flinging bullets into the herds. The deer will be on their winter reserves as it is and now  you’re going to chase them for 30 days and through some lead at them.  Makes total since to me.  Yea right!  There will be some deer die, they do every year.  Maybe even a few more, but I’m willing to take my chances that it won’t be 500 more.  It’s not like the winter range was even close to carrying capacity as it was.

Sure 60,000 acres is a ton of habitat, but deer aren’t stupid they will find food.  The deer only need to move a couple miles one way or the other to find suitable food.  Most of them will gather in the fields to forage on left overs.  It might cause a huge increase in depredation claims but that is part of the game.  It’s nothing new. The fish and Game  can have my tag fees and put it towards a depredation claim.  I will be buying a tag along with hundreds of other concerned hunters just to turn them back in at the next commissioners meeting!

Killing 500 does this year is truly  harvesting 1,500 deer this year because they will be already bread and carrying twins.  Over the next six years that is 26,000 deer that could have been born. Sure you need to factor in that all deer don’t have twins and some deer die ever year due to harvest, winter, predation and other causes.  But, even if you take half that number its 13,000 deer that they are taking away from the sportsmen and women of this great state.

Just my two cents.  I would love to hear yours.


For more info on cost of application and how to apply, check out the post on the forum page under Idaho. Lets make a statement and let them know we are done supporting this kind of nonsense.


Steve Alderman

Once in a lifetime!

August 28, 2011 by  
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2010 Deer Hunt
by, Blake Tubbs

After hunting for seven days I finally saw the one. It snowed a skiff the night before, which resulted in Jeff and me not getting out of our sleeping bags as early as we should have. We were hiking to our destination and it was already getting light and we still had half a mile to go. As we were heading to our destination, we were moving pretty swiftly and I was pretty irritated at myself for not getting out of bed a half hour earlier. That was until we spooked some deer over a ridge and I saw a buck that I knew was the “one.” If we would have left camp when we intended it would have still been dark and would have never seen that buck.

We immediately ran to the top of the ridge expecting to see it from the top, since it was open sage brush country on the other side. We saw several deer, but not the buck. I knew he had to be there somewhere and continued to look for about 15 minutes. I finally decided to go back down the hill to retrieve my pack from where I had left it and see if I could find the buck’s tracks. His tracks were pretty obvious compared to other deer and I followed them to where we had previously been on top of the ridge. The snow had melted on the other side and we sat there wondering how far away he was by now. We were looking into a really big, open drainage and we kept saying to each other that we should be able to spot him. After standing there for another 10 minutes we heard rustling about 150 yards below us in a patch of 3 to 4 foot tall brush. I was then shocked to see “my buck” run out of that small patch of brush at full speed.

I immediately put my gun up to start blasting, but Jeff pulled the barrel of my gun down saying, “where’s he going to go?” It was wide open country and he was right in the fact that it would have been a tough shot with the buck at full speed and me having a serious case of buck fever. The deer ran until he was about 800 yards out and then just stopped and started to browse all by himself. It was an amazing experience to watch that buck in our binoculars and spotting scope for 30 minutes. As soon as he crested a small ridge and was out of sight about a quarter mile away, I hurried as swiftly and quietly as possible to hopefully catch him just on the other side and within range.
Once near the crest of the ridge, I paused to catch my breath, got on my belly and crawled to the top. He was not where I expected him to be, but was 200 yards to my left with several does. I was able to shift to the left without being noticed and bring the buck down in his tracks with one shot from my Remington model 700 30-06. Jeff watched the whole ordeal unfold through the spotting scope and was worried I might not be able to see the buck since he didn’t go where we expected him to. Jeff was watching the buck when all of a sudden he just disappeared and 3 seconds later Jeff heard a shot.

After we admired the beauty of the magnificent animal, we took care of him and were able to head out for an evening hunt in hope of finding another one. We spotted another really nice buck and watched him in the spotting scope for quite a while before we made a plan to stalk him. Jeff tried to close the gap, but there were too many does to make that possible and he got away. Over the next couple of days we continued to look, but none of the bucks were as nice so we eventually decided to go back to where we’d seen that buck two days before. To our surprise we were able to spot him near the same spot. However, this time we decided to just watch him until he lay down before making a game plan. I didn’t think he would ever lie down, and he never did. We watched him and a 3-point go up into a small finger at the top of his mountain until they were out of our site. There was no chance to make a stalk from where we were, we’d already tried that. So, we decided to drop off the backside of the mountain, get on the other side of the deer’s mountain and climb up from the backside to come up the finger we’d last seen him in.

From the backside it was tough to determine which finger was the right one. After an hour of hiking we crested the top of the mountain and five minutes later I thought we were busted when I saw the 3-point running away from us. After another 10 minutes of walking we found the finger we thought he should be in. All of a sudden Jeff just froze and signaled for me to get down, whispering that the buck was about 200 yards away lying down. I never saw the deer and Jeff could only see him when standing up. I was carrying the spotting scope tripod, so I quietly extended the legs as far as possible and Jeff used it to balance his 300 ultra mag on. It took one shot. The deer was lying underneath a cliff and never got up from his bed. By the time we got him off the mountain we just made it home in time to go trick-or-treating.

New issue of Hunting Illustrated

November 4, 2009 by  
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In stores now…….Until January 26,2010

Mule Deer and Front Stuffers

By Steve Alderman

compressed HI43cover

My heart beat uncontrollably as I saw huge mule deer antlers at fifty six yards. The date was Oct 1st. 8:30 a.m and It was 40 degrees, over cast, with winds gusting up to 35 miles an hour.  I had been watching and filming this buck for the past three months and now wasn’t the time to mess up all of the hard work I had done.  I knew I needed to cover four more yards to get a clean shot, but the buck bedded with his butt into the hill so he could see every movement within the 240 degree field of view in front of him.  My only course of action was to slowly back up a couple yards, lay flat on my belly, then move ever so slowly back into place at a mere fifty two yards from my quarry for a clear shot.  I wasn’t in much of a rush as the deer was now bedded for the day. Laying on my belly with my gun at my side, I started inching forward ever so slowly.  A mature mule deer has  keen senses that can pick up movement at hundreds of yards away,  so how was I  to go undetected at fifty?  Moving as slow as possible was going to be my only choice.  Using knees and elbows would cause to much movement which meant that all I could do was use my toes.  That’s right.   My plan was to use my toes to push my body the last four yards.  Nothing was moving except for my toes which were hidden from the deer by the rest of my body.  Moving two inches at a time worked out to be slow enough as I got to my marked destination without being noticed.  Now, all I had to do was wait for the deer to stand and change his position in his bed.

As I lay a mere fifty yards from the biggest buck I ever have had the chance to harvest, I did something stupid.  I looked back and talked to the camera guy to make sure he was rolling and could see the deer.  That’s right, I moved my head at  fifty two yards from the bedded buck and yes he did catch the movement.  Lucky for me I was camoed out in Kings camouflage  and some 3-d leafy camo from Scentlok.  The buck caught the movement but did not recognize it as danger.  It was a very tense situation as the deer was now staring directly at me with my gun still at my side.   I knew the deer wasn’t going to lay there in his bed and tolerate the movement of something that wasn’t there when he bedded, so I slowly brought my gun into position and I mean slowly.  I obviously did not want to spook the already alert deer.  The deer saw the movement and was curious as to what it was so he stood to get a better look.  I still believe to this the day that the only reason the deer didn’t bolt was that the movement was so slow and that it was windy enough that he didn’t perceive it as a threat.  He just couldn’t figure it out so he stood to get a closer look and that is when the roar of my gun and the smoke from the end of the barrel broke the morning silence.steve2

Writing this story makes me as giddy and nervous as a boy getting his first bike.  It makes me realize why I enjoy hunting with short range weapons so much, especially those stinky old muzzleloaders.  It’s the times at the shooting benches sighting in these replicas of the early years, the blown stalks, the missed shots, the times in camp and in the hills with your closest buddies.  Most importantly, its getting to know the mule deer and his habits like no one else which drives me to hunt this way.  It’s getting close and out smarting these old majestic deer on their ground, in their core areas, and making it all come together with a quick clean harvest.

I know from past experience that lack of patience is where most people fail when it comes to short range weapons.  I don’t think you can teach this when it comes to hunting as every situation is different and people need to figure it out on their own.  They try to push the situation and make the deer stand up for their clear shot, which nine times out of ten doesn’t work.  The deer blows out of his bed never giving the  hunter the shot they set out to get.  Patience is a virtue in this situation.  You must wait for the deer to do what is natural for him.  He will get up and change his position in his bed a couple times a day, sometimes even grabbing a bite to eat in the process.  I have only seen two deer in all my years of hunting not change their beds.  Those two deer would bed at first light and not move from their bed until after dark.  So, there are the rare occasions when a deer won’t leave his bed but generally they will change their position at some point in the day and that is when you take advantage of the situation.  If you are patient,  the deer will be less cautious and simply do what comes natural for them.  They will be less likely to pick up the slight movement of the hunter who is ready for the shot.  You can usually spot a patient hunter by the amount of success he or she has while short range weapon hunting.steve1

Sure, there are many disadvantages to muzzleloader hunting over modern firearms.  First and foremost is the one shot challenge.  If it is an issue, it only takes one shot right?  Yeah, I’ve said that a few times and found my self running back to my pack to get another load on more than one occasion. Secondly, there would be the shot distance issue of 150 yards max with open sites and 250 max with a scope.  You all know someone or maybe even have yourself harvested a deer further than that.  For the most part with open sites, you cover half the deer up with the front site at 150 yards and then it is a guess as to were your bullet is going to hit. You might as well throw your ethics out the window if you are going to try and harvest a buck past this with open sites.  At 250 yards with a scope, there are all kinds of issues  to deal with such as bullet drop, with 20-25 inches being the norm on average and that is  if you use 150 grains of powder, wind drift up to and sometimes over a foot at 200 yards with a 15 mile an hour wind, and then there is the moisture issue.  Moisture is an issue a muzzleloader hunter could go on about for days.ssteve

However, four million muzzleloader hunters, including myself, feel that the benefits to hunting with a front stuffer far outweigh the disadvantages.  For me, the first advantage is less hunters in the field which also equates to better draw odds on some of those once in a lifetime hunts.  Secondly, getting close to the game you pursue and out witting a wise old mule deer on his turf at under a 150 yards is arguable the hardest game animal to hunt under these conditions.  Lastly, getting within range of a trophy mule deer with short range weapons will teach you patience,  proper shot placement and most importantly hunting ethics. Ethics, meaning humanely hunting and harvesting the game. i.e. your effective range for your gun and your load.  Hunting with a muzzleloader forces you to get closer to the animal so you can make that one shot harvest.  A muzzleloader hunter must spend more time at the bench getting to know his gun, its capabilities and limitations.  Merely shooting and hitting the target at 100 yards is not acceptable when it comes to muzzleloader hunting.  The hunter must know how the gun is going to preform under all conditions and distances.  There are many more variables to consider when hunting with a muzzleloader which makes it all the more enjoyable and satisfying to hunt with, especially when you are successful at putting your tag on a wise old mule deer.

So back to my hunt.   The roar of my gun and the smoke from my barrel broke the morning silence.  As the smoke quickly drifted to the side I could see my deer high-tailing it down the mountain side.  Could I have missed, I thought to myself?   There was simply no way I missed when he was only fifty two yards away.   To my utter relief, the deer ran about 60 yards were he proceeded to lay down and expire.  I was expecting him to crumble at the shot.  He was only fifty two yards and quartering to me when I put the front bead on his front shoulder and squeezed the trigger.   I guess when I was caught off-guard in the stand off, I forgot to allow for wind drift. Yes, even at fifty yards you will get wind drift.  The wind was blowing 30  to 35 miles an hour and even at fifty two yards I should have allowed for some sort of drift.  My bullet actually hit 3 inches to the left of where I was aiming and missed the shoulder completely causing me to second guess a hit or a miss.  Like I said, I was expecting him to crumble at the sound of the shot.  The best part was even after my slight miscalculation I ended up with my biggest Idaho buck to date.  I guess I’m lucky that the deer wasn’t standing at 125 yards because I could have missed him all together.steve

That buck ended a great season of short range weapon hunting.  I ended up harvesting three 200 inch plus bucks in three different countries all with short range weapons.   A rare feat that not to many hunters, if any, can say that they have accomplished even with high powered modern rifles.  One of the bucks was a 207 incher in Old Mexico with my trusty front stuffer.  Next, was a 208 inch buck in Alberta, Canada with my hoyt bow, and then back to Idaho to finish it off with a monster 213 inch non-typical.  Once again, it was my trusty muzzleloader that got the job done.  What a fantastic year!  I truly believe that hunting with a muzzleloader since I was 17 years old has made me a better hunter.  I also believe it can make anyone a better hunter.  There is never a substitution for more time spent in the field and at the bench.  Muzzleloading forces you to spend quality time doing both and what a good excuse to get out and have some fun in the field.


This hunt is featured in the new hunting video by Creekside Productions.  Mule Deer Country is mule deer hunting at its finest,  from Idaho to Old Mexico.  Watch as two monster Desert Mule Deer hit the dirt.  One of them is the largest ever harvested in Mexico with a muzzleloader, scoring over 208 inches gross.

Follow wildlife photographer and videographer Vince Martinez as he show cases some of Colorado’s finest mule deer.  Come with us as we take you on twelve action packed hunts, including four from Sonora Mexico.  You don’t want to be the last pearson to discover this radically new video from Creekside Productions.

Jake Shea Scores!

October 14, 2009 by  
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Jake Shea scores on his biggest muzzleloader buck to date.

After seven fun filled days of hunting Jake found a buck that was worthy of his tag.  IDAHO’S PUBLIC LAND AT ITS BEST!Jakes buck 1

Jakes great muzzleloader buck scores 198 inches.  It has great g-2s with one over 20 inches long, a g-3 that is 15 inches long, and main beams that stretch the tape right at 26 inches.


On the fourth day of the hunt we woke up to over 10 inches of snow.  By the end of the day we had over 14 inches of the white stuff.

Story coming soon……..

Idaho Mule Deer on a Super Tag

June 26, 2009 by  
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Idaho Mule Deer on a Super Tag!


By Dennis Pahlisch


  As with all hunts they start with obtaining a tag.  Well, the year 2007 will go down as the best ever in my hunting quest because I won lottery draw tags for Colorado deer and Idaho Deer.Robs_colorado_2007_raffle_tag_big_deer_028

Dennis’ awesome buck from Colorado, Haveseted two months after his Idaho Super Tag


You may have read about my Colorado story by now, but this one is focused on Idaho. I have a long time friend, Steve Alderman, from Boise , Idaho and Steve and I have gone on many hunts together in Oregon, Old Mexico and Idaho.  Steve always told me if I draw a tag in Idaho to give him a call!! When I received the call from the Idaho Fish and Game informing me that I had drawn the Idaho Super Tag for deer, I couldn’t wait to tell Steve the great news. I picked up the phone and the dates were set for the hunt.  Due to work conflicts I couldn’t make it to Idaho until the first part of November.

0Dennis super tag

Dennis’ great 191 gross Idaho buck!


I met Steve the night before the hunt was to begin and we set out to glass several areas that held big deer. I was excited to hunt this great area.  Two years earlier I was lucky enough to hunt it and I knew there was the potential for a mature buck.  I soon remembered why they call this the Lava Region as it has the most rock in all the world . You literally have to walk from rock to rock at times.  Oh well, what ever it takes to find a big deer has always been fine with me! We looked around for several days and were seeing several deer in the 170-180 ‘’ range.  We saw great deer, but I wanted to hold out for 190 or better.  More importantly a deer that was special!! I am really not a score fanatic but I love deer that are in the older class with mass, cheaters, width, or something unique. dennis super tag2

The search went on for several days when we ended up on a large mountain top where we could see for miles.  Steve saw the buck first and in an instant we both had our spotting scopes on him at about 1&1/2 miles away. We both thought the deer we were glassing was a mature buck with a very high and narrow rack grossing somewhere in the 190s. We continued to watch him until he bedded down on a sharp cliff ledge where, of course, he could see danger approaching from every angle.  We made our plan, left our perch and the stalk was on.  After we had covered the first mile through a deep canyon, we started up the other side but had to wait a number of times because we could see the deer’s head as he lifted it occasionally to scan his surrounding and then put it back down to rest. We were approaching him from below and had a rim that we could put between the deer and ourselves.  This was the only way we could approach the big buck and stay somewhat concealed. We crossed one area which had a straight view of the deer and we approached.  We pressed on very slowly through this area within constant view of the deer as he slept!!  We made it past the deer’s senses and got into position a mere 60 yards away to take the shot when he awoke.  We waited and waited until finally we got impatient. Steve made a deer bleat sound to get him to stand.  It didn’t work and the buck slept on, occasionally moving his ears around as Steve bleated at him.  Finally after about 5 minutes, the doe that he had pulled from the herd to breed became nervous and got up to leave.  This was shot we were hoping for!  The the buck did not want to leave his doe, so he rose to round her up.  It was at that moment that I took the shot and of course the picture is proof of the outcome.  I hope I would not miss at 60 yards!!! Dennis super tag 3

Deer like this are very difficult to harvest and I owe Steve my gratitude and thanks for having kept me company and tagging along with me on my Idaho Super Hunt. The hunt, the friendship, and even the pack out, was a trip to remember!! 



Editors note….

I first met Dennis at the Mule Deer Foundations national banquet in Reno Nevada. Dennis and I hit it off from the start. A strong love for the sport of hunting and an extreme desire to pursue monster mule deer. Dennis and I keep in touch after the banquet on a number of occasions, discussing mule deer related issues through out the West from Canada to as far south as old Mexico. What I know and respect about Dennis is that he is a family and Business man first, then a hunter and provider. He includes his family in everything, including his successful business as a builder and his love for hunting.  Dennis understands the plight of the mule deer and donates time and monetary contributions to the cause every year. I am honored to be a friend of Dennis’ and to have had the pleasure to share many successful hunting trips with him. This Story is one of the many lasting memories that Dennis and I share.




Mexico Monsters

April 9, 2009 by  
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Whats in your pack?
Muzzleloading mule deer

By Steve Alderman

2007mexico_coverWith all of the new technology in our backpacks hunting has gone to a new level. Gone are the days of stalking a deer. Gone are the days of  hiking for miles to get to the basin that holds that group of bachelor bucks. Gone are the days when you had to guess how far the deer was and where you needed to aim your gun, which incidentally was only lethal out to 300 yards. Gone are the days when you, the average hunter, had a fair chance to run into the buck of your dreams.

Technology has been one of the key components to the demise of the modern mule deer.  Technology coupled with drought currently affecting many of the western states and non native grasses taking over the winter ranges, have caused mule deer numbers to plummet. Don’t get me wrong.  I think technology is great if it makes you a more ethical hunter. It is absolutely important to harvest an animal as quickly and humanely as possible and all those gadgets in your pack will help with that.  However, shooting at animals a half a mile away has taken the sport out of hunting. It’s no longer hunting, it’s shooting. What happened to old belly crawling or sneaking from bush to bush to get close enough for a fatal shot?  Technology!  Get out your range finder, set up your bipod and shoot 600 yards.  Technology has taken it from a sport of hunting to the sport of shooting.  Again, don’t get me wrong as there is nothing wrong with shooting long range.  I just think there is a time and a place for it.  To me, shooting an unsuspecting buck in his bed at 600 yards is not sporting, however, getting in close enough that the keen senses of the mule deer have a chance to detect you is.  Has hunting lost its heritage?  Has the goal changed from going out and having a good time with family and friends in the woods to doing whatever is takes to kill the biggest buck on the mountain?  My point being mule deer need a break. I’m not saying you need to give up hunting but, maybe we can pick up a bow or a muzzle loader and respark the heritage.  Let’s give some of those unsuspecting mule deer a slightly better chance to make it until next year.

Let’s take a look at muzzleloading, if we may.  Talk about advances in technology!  You don’t even have to use a cap anymore.  CV has come out with a gun that uses a spark from a battery to light the powder.  Savage has a gun that uses strictly smokeless powder and boast over 2000 feet per second velocities. Where’s the heritage in that? Muzzleloader hunting is about fumbling to get the cap on your gun as the deer stots out of the picture. The smell of the powder, the haze of smoke, and most importantly the stalking of the game.



I know what you are thinking!  Yes you do have a better chance to kill a monster with your rifle over a smoke pole, however, stalking and harvesting a 200” mule deer at 100 or even 150 yards is much more gratifying then shooting one at 400 yards with a rifle. Trust me, I’ve done both.  You can kill big deer with your muzzy, if  you just learn to be patient.  Big deer have fallen to black powder and a slug. Look at the world record rocky mountain non typical mule deer that came out of Utah, the Barton buck which is a 297 gross giant.  Also the new world record bull elk out of Utah a 423” inch monster harvested by Greg Holman. How about Arnold Sandoval’s buck from Nevada that goes 306 gross and is one of the two biggest velvet bucks ever harvested with any weapon?  Big animals can fall to short range weapons, but it takes a little more stalking ability and a lot more luck. 

It doesn’t really matter to me what you hunt with, but if you have the best interest of the game in mind you might just want to leave some of that technology at home and get back to the basics of hunting. Here is one such story.

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to old Mexico on a mule  deer hunt. In Mexico you can use the weapon of your choice . I love to hunt and stalk wise old mule deer on their turf. There is nothing more gratifying than stalking within 100 yards or less of a mature mule deer buck.  So, my weapon of choice was my trusty front stuffer(muzzleloader). Yes, there was the concern that I could go on the hunt of my dreams and come home empty handed, but anytime you go hunting you should realize there is always that chance. We call it tag soup and it happens more often than not with short range weapons.  However, on this trip that would not be the case. I was very fortunate to harvest not only a spectacular mule deer but also an awesome coues deer with my traditional gear.  Hunting mule deer in the thick nasty under tangled mess of iron wood and cactus is more suited for a high racked vehicle and a long range shooting rifle. With all of the vegetation it was easy to get turned around and loose sight of the quarry, but it also helped with the stalking of game once it was spotted.

On the second day  of the hunt we spotted a group of deer from a vantage point about 1200 yards away where they were feeding and carrying on.  The date was Jan 5th and the pre-rut was in full swing. We snuck within 150 yards of a buck that was around the 180” mark, just not the buck I drove 1500 miles to shoot. We watched the buck and his herd carry on for over 15 minutes before they started to move to their bedding area, when off to our left a monster buck appeared from around an iron wood.  I knew instantly this was a buck I came to Mexico to harvest.  I found myself in a stare down with one of the monarchs of the Mexico.  It seemed like it lasted for over 20 minutes, but realistically it was more like 3 minutes before the buck turned to follow his harem. I pulled the trigger and the smoke flew.  After moving around the haze, I could see my Mexico buck lying on the ground a mere 180 yards away.  My desert mule deer ended up being 30 inches wide, with 7 points on his left side and 6 on his right with a typical rack of 198 4/8 SCI and a gross score of 206 4/8 inches.  It made him the new world record desert mule deer with a muzzle loader.  It broke the old record by over 25 inches. Breaking the old record by this much taught me a few things.  Its tuff to hunt Mexico mulies with a smoke pole and more people need to bite the bullet, put away their rifles and hunt these wiley old desert mulies with a muzzleloader. 

Two days later I was hunting for coues deer.  I actually went to Mexico with the prediction that I would come home empty handed when it came to a coues after hearing all the stories of the gray ghost of the desert and the long shots that are need to anchor one to the ground. What were the odds of getting close enough to one with the muzzleloader?  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I could stalk the gray ghost and had a number of coues within range of my slug. Finally, on the fourth day of my hunt I got within a 100 yards of a buck I considered a shooter.  After several minutes of waiting, the buck finally made it to a clearing were I could get a shot. At 105 yards my muzzy barked, the buck jumped and went 5 yards before falling to the ground. My coues was a beautiful 5×5 with matching kickers on both sides. He ended up scoring 106 4/8 SCI making it the largest non typical to fall to a muzzleloader.






What a dream come true!  I was fortunate enough to travel to Mexico with the opportunity to hunt two of the most sought after big game animals in North America and to hunt with my weapon of choice,  my trusty front stuffer. To harvest two new SCi world records, now that was a surprise of a lifetime.

Hunter:                    Steve Alderman
Location:                 Sonora, Mexico
Private land
Self guided hunt
Date:                       Jan 4th through 10th
Days scouted:         1
Days hunted:          6
Weather:                 clear to partly cloudy
Temp:                      35 to 75 degrees F
Terrain:                   Very thick with small openings ( lots of cactus)
Camouflage:           Kings Desert Shadow
Spotting scope:      Swarovski 20-60x 65
Binoculars:             Swarovski 10×42 ELs
Range Finder:        Swarovski laser guide 8×30
Footwear:                Danner Groose
Pack:                         Eberlestock J 104
ATV:                         None
Other gear

Weapon:               Markesbery Muzzleloader (Brown Bear)
Caliber:                50 cal Brown Bear
Bullets:                 Power belts 348 grain 100% lead conicals
Powder:               105 grains of Triple seven ffg


March 14, 2009 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT


I’v asked Mike to write a story twice now and he finally told me to go ahead and write it.  Actually, he said he was to busy bone collecting to write the story!  So I will do my part.

I met Mike Weeks In the fall of 2006 when he was hunting the famed 45 unit in Idaho.  He was hunting with another guy that came from Texas as well.  His so called help who knew the area, weighed about 350lbs and after the first day of hunting couldn’t go any further due to the silver dollar sized blisters on his feet.  

Feeling sorry for Mike, I invited him to tag along with us for the rest of the season.  I mean you would feel sorry for this guy if you met him also!  He’s a red head and talks with a funny accent.  Mike is used to hunting whitetails, he’s out of shape because he sits in a blind and the list goes on and on.  You see, you would feel sorry for him too.  That is where this story begins.mule-deer-country-logo-final

OK mike,  you have one week to finish the story or I will!

YOU CAN SEE THIS HUNT ON THE NEW VIDEO BY CREEKSIDE MEDIA GROUP CALLED…                                                               ”’MULE DEER COUTRY’ KARMA.”    You can find here in the store

IDAHO SUPER TAG! Ross Rackliff

March 14, 2009 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

My Idaho Superhunt

(Luck has everything to do with it.) By Ross Rackliff

Luckt Hunter, Ross Rackliff!

Lucky Hunter, Ross Rackliff!


Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good.

While this old adage applies to every kind of hunting, it’s perhaps even truer when it comes to big mule deer. 

It seemed that the more research I did on where – and how – to hunt big mule deer, the tougher it appeared to be. The complicated draw systems and preference points put in place by most western states made it difficult, if not impossible, to hunt a quality mule deer area. 

So when I read about the opportunity to apply for an Idaho Superhunt tag, I figured it was worth a shot. I have to confess that I had no idea what an Idaho Superhunt tag was until three days before the deadline. But I was looking for an opportunity to hunt big mule deer, and I figured a chance at this tag was worth rolling dice for.  So I sent in six tickets (yes, just six tickets!) and forgot about it. 

I was in for a surprise several weeks later when I got home to a message on my answering machine from Idaho Fish and Game. “Congratulations…” it began. I had to listen to the message three times before it finally started to sink in. I’d pulled a tag for an Idaho Superhunt for mule deer!

Doing my homework

As excited as I was to win this once in a lifetime opportunity, I knew I’d have to get busy trying to figure out how to put together a hunt in Idaho from my home in Massachusetts. 

First, I combed through every magazine article I could get my hands on about mule deer hunting in Idaho. I sifted through all the information available on the Idaho Fish and Game website. And I started making calls, beginning with a few Idaho game biologists. They were very helpful, and I learned a lot about different units, and what to expect. 

I’d heard a lot about the quality of bucks in Unit 45, and in speaking to one biologist about it, he recommended that I call Steve Alderman. “Steve pulled a Superhunt tag, too,” he said. “He might talk to you about Unit 45. Then again, he might not.”

I thought, what the heck, I don’t have anything to lose. So I picked up the phone. 

Turns out that Steve would talk to me about hunting mule deer. His passion and enthusiasm was contagious, and I think he took pity on me being from Massachusetts. When he invited me to come out and scout with him in late July, I jumped at the chance.  So far, my luck was holding.

Opening day success!

Opening day success!


 Scouting mission.

I flew out to Idaho for three days of scouting with Steve, and we were joined by Les Gargan and Joe Pennington. For three days we glassed for deer both morning and late afternoon. And I learned pretty quickly the importance of good optics when it comes to glassing out west. My small spotting scope, or as Steve put it, my “pocket scope” wasn’t quite up to the task of spotting game at longer distances. And Steve never passed up an opportunity to give me a hard time about it.   However, “pocket scope” or not, we saw more bucks than I could keep track of, a few over 200 inches, and several more over 180. 

I was excited about the opportunity to come back out during hunting season and look for one of these tremendous bucks. Steve must have taken pity on me and my tiny spotting scope, because he told me that whenever I was ready to come back out and hunt, I was welcome to join him.

My Dad, getting in on the action.

My Dad, getting in on the action.

The hunt

I decided to hunt the rifle season in unit 45, and planned to spend as much time hunting with Steve in Idaho as it took to connect on a big mule deer. I flew in on the Tuesday before the rifle opener, and met Steve, Les, and Joe for dinner. 

We talked about the next day’s hunt, and planned to spend just a few hours the first morning of the hunt glassing for deer. Then we’d take the time to sight in our rifles, have some lunch and get back out in the afternoon. I didn’t know it then, but that plan wasn’t going to hold.

We rode the four-wheeler to the top of a canyon, and started glassing. Right away, we spotted several does, as well as a 4 x 3 buck. The deer were well over 800 yards away, and we kept scouring the canyon for other deer.

We were about ready to pick up and move on when Les exclaimed, “There he is! There he is! There he is!” Apparently, Les had a spotted a buck, and he was a pretty good one.

It took Steve and I just a few moments to find the buck in our spotting scopes, (I bought a new 20-60 x 80 just so I wouldn’t look like a dork from the East).  Even from 600-plus yards, and bedded in the shade, he looked like a very good buck. No wonder Les sounded so excited. The question was, just how good was he? 

Steve and I talked about it, and we decided that in order to find out how good this buck really was, we’d have to get around him and come in for a closer look. 

We circled wide to get around the buck and find a better vantage point, but couldn’t see where he was bedded under the rim of the canyon. Steve crept back along the rim, and peered over and around several outcroppings, trying to find the buck. As we watched through binos, Steve suddenly squatted down and backed off. The hand signals he was sending weren’t hard to figure out. “He wants you to kill this buck.” Les said.

Shoot. And keep shooting.  

As Steve backed off from the buck (he was almost on top of it when he saw it) the buck got up from his bed and started bouncing down into the bottom of the canyon. All I saw was a high, wide rack at first. And then the buck; big-bodied, high-racked, and… moving. I didn’t want to risk a shot at him then, and knew (prayed?) that he would stop at the bottom of the canyon. It would be a long shot, but doable. I don’t know what Les was telling me to do (we were all pretty excited at this point) but I lay on the ground and tried to get as steady as I could.

The buck did stop at the bottom of the canyon, and I found him in my scope. I asked Les how far he was. “Three fifty.” Was his reply. A little farther than I’d wanted to shoot, but I felt confident in my rest, and in my rifle. I held the 300-yard crosshairs high on his chest and slowly squeezed the trigger. 

The gun went off, and I saw the deer react as though he’d been hit hard. Les and Steve also thought the hit was good, and the deer looked like he was going to go down. We were waiting for him to topple over, but he didn’t. I found him in my scope again, and tried to put another bullet in his vitals. And kept trying as he slowly worked his way out of that canyon. It was obvious the buck was hit very hard, but I was extremely disappointed that the shot wasn’t as good as we’d first thought. 

Steve wouldn’t be discouraged, though. “We’ll find this buck.” he told me.

(Confession time: Steve had to drive me back to my motel room for more ammo. How many times did I shoot at the buck? More than once, but less than a dozen. I’ll leave it at that.)

We drove around to the other side of the canyon, and found his blood trail pretty quickly. It was encouraging, but I still wasn’t confident we’d find him. We’d find blood, follow it, and lose it again. 

We kept going to the head of the canyon, and it kept narrowing down until it was nothing but a steep ravine less than a hundred yards across. Steve started going back down the along the edge of the ravine, peeking over the edge. I followed, hoping against hope that we’d find this buck.

Finally, two does bounced up out of the ravine. Could the buck be close by? I thought so, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. Then Steve ducked down and motioned to me. He was pointing over the edge of the ravine, and I knew he’d found the buck. Now all I had to do was close the deal.

The end to a great hunt!

The end to a great hunt!


I laid down and steadied the crosshairs behind the buck’s shoulder. At the shot, the buck lunged out of his bed and toppled over. An incredible feeling of relief washed over me as I stood up to look down at the buck. We all made it down to the buck and marveled at the height and mass of this great buck. He was a true toad, with backs over 21 inches long, really good mass, and several abnormal points on both sides. In my mind, this buck had it all. (He grossed scored 197.)

Regardless of what the buck scored, I felt lucky — no, blessed — to have been able to take this buck. And lucky to have found Steve, Les, and Joe who were gracious enough to share this beautiful mule deer country with me. Their passion for mule deer, and sheer enjoyment in seeing me take this “super” buck, made this experience one I’ll never forget.

I plan on being back, with a Superhunt tag in my pocket and my big spotting scope in my pack . I mean, how tough can it be to pull a Superhunt tag?

“Culling out the Herd”

March 14, 2009 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

Culling out the herd!

I moved here from Texas in 1997, and have been hunting in the mountains of Idaho for the past 11years. The transition of hunting in box stands, on flat lands, to the rugged country in this awesome state was very BRUTAL in the beginning years. It didn’t take me long to hear of the bucks in the famed Unit 45. After applying for the controlled hunt for 10 consecutive years, my lotto number was finally drawn in 2008. I may not have won millions of dollars, but this hunt was the next best thing!

It was a 14 day muzzleloader hunt that took place during the beginning of October. This was my first muzzleloader hunt ever, and my good friend Les Gargan was kind enough to let me use his .45 cal. Markesbury. After begging for time off from work, I had the entire 2 weeks off to play. The first few days of the hunt were incredible. I saw many great bucks during the beginning of my hunt, but after hearing what lurks about in those hills, and seeing the great footage in the Lowland Mulies videos, I knew that I needed to set my standards higher than normal. Not to mention, it took so dang long to get a tag!

After 9 days of trekking through the high dessert rocky canyons, I must have passed up on 50+ bucks. Some cold spells came through that brought in a little snow, and a lot more selection. Exaggeration? Not even! Some Texans may be known to tell big ole campfire stories, but that’s no bull! That was probably the hardest part of my hunt. It wasn’t that it was hard to find nice bucks, the stressor was deciding on when to pull the trigger. My days were getting numbered. I only had 5 more days to seal the deal, and I had already passed on some great bucks. Some met my standards, but things just didn’t work out for me and I missed the opportunity. It was tough sleeping at night with the thoughts of the one that got away, and should I have pulled the trigger nightmares. joe-bob-21

It was time to use my “Life Line”. My good bud Les Gargan arrived at camp on the night of day 9. He is more familiar with the area and joined up with me to help me scout out a different location. We started off bright and early on the 10th day. The quad ride from camp to the start of our journey was cold and dusty. We hiked through several miles of hard, frozen, rock beds before daylight started creeping up on the horizon. Not wanting to spook off too many animals before light, we headed for higher ground. We chose a spot high up on a bluff over-looking a lot of wide open spaces. Spotting scopes and bino’s out, the search began. We glassed our surroundings for about 2 hours. During that time we spotted a couple of potential prospects. Although Les didn’t want to settle for the first thing we saw, I had my heart set on a mature buck that appeared to be a huge 4×3. He had a whitetail-like frame on his left antler, great height, good width, and very nice mass. There was something protruding out the side of the right antler. I tried to grow a kicker on that side, but I just wasn’t sure. After looking him over for about an hour, I decided that we should take a closer look. There was a smaller buck tagging along side of him, and a couple of doe. We patiently waited for them to bed down in some rocks, and then planned our route to take a peek.

Crawling on our bellies, we got close enough into range to view the old buck through the bino’s, but at a safe distance. It didn’t take me long to decide that I was satisfied with what was handed to me. It’s show time!
We got into shooting range of where the buck was bedded in some rocks. Although he was not into view yet, we sat behind some sage brush to go over the playbook. That’s when we came up with…THE PLAN! I moved into a good shooting position, slightly elevated from where the buck was bedded. I was close enough that I could see the top of his antlers but his head and body were out of sight. I was ready. Breathing…CHECK. Hammer cocked…CHECK. Calm…HECK NO, but good as it gets! Les ready with a big rock…CHECK! What…a rock? That’s where the PLAN comes in. Les throws the rock to jump the buck off of his bed. I envisioned the buck to jump up, trot out into the open to take a peek around to see what just woke him up, then he’s mine. The rock flew, noise sounded, the buck jumped up, and went into open just like I had dreamed he would. Only one problem with the plan. It was the wrong buck! During our stalk, the smaller buck had swapped positions with the larger buck. The larger buck busted shortly after, but at a distance that was out of range. I got to watch him trot over the hill and vanish. Camera still rolling, and me sprinting over to the hills edge, he was gone just as quickly as he appeared!

Head hanging low, and time still ticking, we spent the rest of the day searching for a bigger buck. We came across many bucks that I would have taken in a heartbeat in a general hunt, but after what I saw that morning I wasn’t going to settle for anything less. It was getting late, about 5pm, and it would be getting dark soon. We started our journey back to the quads. When we got back to the area where I had lost the buck, we decided to sit down and take one last look around. My mind kept drifting back to how I had blew it, and what I could have done better. Still determined, we continued to glass the area. Far off in the distance below the cliffs, I spotted a buck bedded down up against a big rock cluster. Nothing was visible but his head. He was tucked in nicely behind some sage. I busted out the spotting scope and took a closer look. IT WAS HIM! The buck that got away. That was the sign that I needed to confirm that he was the buck that was meant to be. Except this time, no mistakes!
We had to move fast. Only an hour and a half of daylight left. We closed in, Les set up the video cam, and I started crawling. No rock throwing this time. I crawled into position. After laying there for several minutes, the buck got nervous and busted out of his bed. He ran about 30 yards uphill, turned broad side, and gave me the look that I had been waiting for all day. Ka-boom! It wasn’t the prettiest shot I’ve ever made, but it got the job done! It was a dream come true!joebob-3

Les and I hiked back to the quads in the dark and got a good nights sleep. We made a quick call to Steve Alderman, and he was eager to join in on the pack the next morning. Steve helped with photos and performed a gross score on the buck in the field. The width measured in at 27 1/4in. Typical 4×3 with a whitetail-like frame that measured 25in on the main beams, and the bases measured at 7 inches. Gross score on this buck was ~188in. I remember Steve’s words after we finished the photo shoot. He looked up at me and said, “Beautiful buck, Thanks for Culling out the herd!” Ha. Well, call it what you will, I was ecstatic with my new trophy and I can only dream that I’ll draw the tag again someday. It was the greatest hunt that I have even been on. Thanks to Steve and Les for helping me with the pack on that cold, rainy day! I hope to return the favor of pack mule someday.

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