IDAHO HAS BANNER YEAR!

November 10, 2010 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

This could possibly be the best year of deer hunting in 20 years!

Please don’t steal these photos they are copyrighted material!

With all the texts and e-mails that I have received in the last 2 months it is looking like the best year in decades for trophy mule deer hunting in Idaho.  I have seen and heard of over 20 bucks that gross over 200 inches. I have personally seen 7 that came out of  units 44 and 45, two out of 43, one out of 46, and 5 out of the owyhees (Unit 40).  Not to mention the rumors of some monsters coming out of 39 again this year.  Two of them over 220 gross inches.  There are way to many 180 and 190 bucks to try and keep track of this year.  I will post pictures as I get permission. Some of the people are pimping their pictures and stories to magazines so some pics might take a while.

Personally, I harvested my best buck to date scoring 221 6/8 inches gross.  It has a 205 inch frame, with 21 inch G-2s.  I scouted for 20 days prior to season and harvested him on the fifth day of the season, which was actually the first day we hunted deer because of the unseasonable warm (down right hot,mid 90s) weather during the first three days of the hunt.

Bennett Alderman holds his Dads great 222 inch buck!  Thanks for your help Ben!

Another view of my great buck!  What an awesome day!

James sent us this photo of his 2010 Idaho buck.  He says it scores 202 gross and is a 9×7

Great picture James!  I love the Antler Junkie hat. Congrats on your dream buck!

John sent us this picture of his 2010 Idaho Buck!  It goes 191 gross typical.  He is sending us a story here in the next week with better pictures.

Great buck John.  I cant wait to read the story and see the field pics.

Big Buck hunter Luke Harris sent us this picture of his Idaho buck. Luke has worked his tail off and has taken some great bucks in the last couple years.

Cool buck with some great character!  Congrats on all your success.  It was a pleasure talking with you this year!

Dallas Smith gave us permission to run this photo of a buck he named 7 and 7.  Dallas has filmed this deer for the past four years.  Unfortunately, this buck digressed this year because of his old age.  Last year this buck was estimated to gross around the 210 inch mark.   This year he taped out to the 195 inch mark.  What a cool looking buck with great character and mass.  7 and 7 stretches the tape out to 34 inches wide. Congrats goes out to Dallas and Ryan  (Dallas’ big brother) on your many years of success.

The boys with their dads, Dallas and Ryan, and one impressive deer

Ryan Smith harvests another great buck!  200 inch mule deer are no stranger to the Smith family,  combining for over five in the last six years, these brothers put the smack down on big bucks.

Ryan smith and his latest 200 inch mule deer!  His second in the last four years.

Joebob  sent us this great pic of his buck that he shot in unit 39 on a general hunt.  Talk about winning the lottery. This awesome buck scores 214 gross and has an unbelievable heavy typical frame that goes 195.

Even on some of the general hunts in Idaho produced some great deer .  Nice work Joebob, You really showed up the rest of us, Congrats.

Micheal Borzick sent in this picture of his great Idaho buck.  Micheal writes

Steve,

I got one more Idaho Mule Deer for your banner year…232 4/8.

If you know and official measurer that could give me a green score I would be much obliged. The last picture is of the sheds and yes without a doubt those are his. Fair chase, Unit 40, 13×13, 7 inch bases, 21” inside spread, 31” outside, 11” and 5” droptines

Thanks,

Randy Scott sent in these picture of his boys and his grandson with their unit 40 bucks.  Randy Writes

Steve, here are the bucks my boys took this year just like the good old days. We had loads of fun, this is my grandson’s first buck it is going to be hard
to top this I am so proud.
Randy Scott


Hunting hard does pay off!

May 14, 2010 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

by Brian Richter

Found First On

mule-deer-country-logo1

The lowlight of day break and excessive distance made his trophy status difficult to judge.  Nevertheless, I was certain he was the one.  All I needed was for him to lie down and I would make my move.  He had been courting a doe since daybreak; but suddenly, and without notice, Romeo left Juliet and disappeared into a nasty basalt canyon.  With two miles and multiple rocky canyons between us, he might as well have flown to the moon.  A knot grew in my stomach.

There are three periods of emotional charge in big game hunting:

Anticipation: Everything leading up to the adrenaline rush.

High Noon: This is the climax.

Descent: The feeling of remorse, or disappointment that it’s over.

It was September 1, 1990, and it was my first year carrying a gun.  The gun was a 20ga Remington 870, wingmaster express.  My father and I were hunting sage grouse with our yellow lab, Pal, in a remote area of the Idaho desert.  Early in the day I had my first close encounter with a rattlesnake.  I barely made it back to the truck with my dignity (or my bladder).  But now, after having shot my first grouse and recovering my pride, we took an afternoon break.  Our resting spot gave us a view of the valley we had crossed in the morning.  Hidden amongst the sea of sage and bitter brush in the valley below something white caught my eye.  After focusing my binos, I determined the prize was an elk antler.  I bounded down the slope with Pal at my heels.  When we had reached the clearing were the sun bleached elk antler was lying, I was shocked to discover that it wasn’t an elk antler at all… It was a matched set of mule deer antlers.  Antlers that would score around 200 gross inches and inspire my hunting imagination for years to come.

Anticipation

The maturation of this hunt was nothing out of the ordinary for those of us living in Idaho, a state that has yet to adopt a preference point system.  After nineteen years of application, my father and I had finally drawn a much coveted desert mule deer tag.  It was now late August, and we were slowly bouncing and weaving down a brutal lava and sand two-track.   Despite the season opener being more than a month off, my excitement was soaring!

I had been watching a buck for several weekends that I was certain would go two hundred inches, and like any long distance relationship, my heart was brimming with excitement to make contact once again.  I had named him the Burgundy Buck, after Will Farrell’s character in the movie Anchorman, as they both shared a proclivity for showing off.  Sadly, I was not the only one to affix him a nickname, there was another who affectionately referred to him as Lefty.

Jason and I met each other, and the Burgundy Buck, at nearly the exact same moment.   “You wouldn’t shoot that little buck would you,” came a quite voice behind me.  I nearly leapt out of my skin, there, in the middle of an uninhabited desert, was a man in full camo staring down at me.  It was a happenstance encounter considering the seemingly endless miles of country lying within the unit’s boundaries. The season opener was still months away, and I was perched on a mound of dirt watching a bachelor herd of bucks I had just spotted, among them, was Lefty.  Jason’s calm smile easily revealed his intentions; he too had just seen the size of that rack!  Two men lusting over the same trophy was nothing new to history, and we cordially exchanged numbers and agreed if either of us were lucky enough to harvest the magnificent animal we would inform the other.

First light on opening morning found my father and I glassing from atop a small rocky bluff near Lefty’s preferred bed, however, I had not seen him there in weeks.  Our location offered a perfect 360-degree view of the landscape and several bucks were spotted from his original bachelor group, but not Lefty.  That afternoon we relocated to a higher vantage point enabling us to glass adjacent drainages, but still no Lefty.

On day three, the afternoon turned gray in the west, which precisely mirrored my spirits; Lefty, was nowhere to be found.  That evening it began to spit snow and we awoke on day four to nearly a foot of wet, heavy snow and zero visibility.  Adding insult to injury, our forty-year-old wall tent collapsed on top of me during the night, no longer able to bear the heavy load.

By day five, melting snow had turned the roads into a greasy mess.  My hunt was going from bad to worse, and we determined a retreat to lower elevation was in order.  Aided by a hard freeze and a 6 A.M. departure, we narrowly made the pavement the following morning.  Despite our harrowing escape, there was one casualty.  My sweet mother, our camp cook, had had enough.  She announced her resignation the moment our truck tires gripped the solid asphalt, leaving Dad and I to feed ourselves.

While choking down breakfast at a roadside pull-off, my cell phone beeped indicating I had service and messages waiting.  One was from Jason; he called to inform me he had harvested Lefty on the second day of the hunt!  He had clocked in a lot of hours with that buck.  He deserved it I reckoned.

It was hard to leave camp that morning without my father.  He had been my hunting partner for twenty years. We had relocated to the opposite corner of the hunt, a region that can be extremely rocky and treacherous.  I would be going alone.  No words of explanation were needed.

On day nine of the hunt I crossed his path, there, in the damp clay at the edge of a small creek were long hoof prints with due claws pressed deep into the soft soil; the telltale indication of a mature mule deer buck.  There were a couple of doe groups frequenting the water source as well, and I resolved to keep a vigilant eye on the ladies, gambling that he would eventually show up.

The next day brought extreme heat upon the desert.  Only days ago I felt I was in Antarctica, and now, I felt as though I just de-boarded a plane in the Sahara.  By eleven it was in the high sixty’s, and realizing the chances of seeing a big buck in these conditions were poor, I elected to head back to camp and savor my tenth P.B.&J. lunch in a row.  Following lunch and a short nap, I gathered my gear and began a long ascent into the sage.  The lava beds acted like thousands of black solar panels and I made it only a few hundred yards before being forced to stop and remove layers.  With antlers on the brain, I failed to consider other desert inhabitants who actually prefer this type of weather.

Holy @#$%!!!  RATTLER!!!  My distaste for the little bastards is exasperated immensely by my inability to hear them, which is due, I believe, to repeated unprotected exposure to gunfire as a boy.  The nasty little creature had rolled himself into the classic, “come get some” defensive coil.  Slowly, I circled around him while trying to keep my composure.  Nervous but undaunted, I marched on.  Minutes later, however, I saw another, now I was truly a mess.  I froze and began examining the area.  There, against a break in the rocks, the grass moved in waves and a serpentine ball undulated against the black curtain of lava.  I had been told of large groups of rattlers coming out of their dens to sun themselves in the fall, but these far-flung stories were cataloged in the abstract corner of my brain reserved for mermaids, big foot, and the Lock Ness monster.

It took the better part of the day to complete the remaining half-mile climb to my vantage point.  Despite not seeing another snake, the entire hike I felt as though I was trekking across a freshly laid minefield.  I spent the afternoon and evening glassing, but saw nothing.  Another evening had passed without finding the buck; I had only four days left to hunt.

High Noon

Like any other morning, day eleven found me impatiently setting up my spotting scope twenty minutes before there was enough light to see.  As soon as dawn broke, I knelt to go to work. Immediately I spotted a deer up against the lava rock rim.  There was so little light that I would not have known he was a buck had he not been raking his antlers so violently.  Then a doe appeared not more than twenty yards below him.  He immediately turned to pursue her.  When he intercepted her path, he extended his neck and raised his nose.  He alternated between this flehmen position and raking his antlers while the doe fed.  He disappeared into a small patch of high sage and I watched for five minutes as the brush shook violently.  By the time he reappeared the light had improved enough that I could see sage hanging from his head.  When he shook the sage off, I could see that he was really tall with deep backs and long main beams.   I couldn’t count points but I knew he was the one.  After about ten minutes they bedded down right out in the open.  As a younger hunter I would have tried to close the gap right then.  But something wasn’t right.  They were too exposed here.  And I didn’t believe that he would stay with a doe this early in the season.   They remained bedded for about ten minutes, and then the doe stood up and started back the way she came.  I remember saying out loud, “follow your girlfriend.”  Sure enough he got up and followed.  Then it happened…she squatted to urinate.  As soon as she moved on, the buck came and put his nose to the ground.   That was all he needed to confirm that this little honey wasn’t in the shag’n mood. Without so much as blowing her a kiss, he was gone.  He walked straight down into the basalt canyon and out of sight.  The doe didn’t seem to mind a bit.  Me on the other hand…well, I freaked out.

There was only one thing to do.  I strapped my scope to my pack and ran.  The pack I use has a scabbard that my muzzleloader fits perfectly into.  If you’re a musket hunter with a gun short enough to fit into the scabbard, this style of pack is invaluable.  It keeps your nipple clean and dry, and in the off chance you need to run like hell through rough terrain, your hands are free.  After scrambling down countless rockslides and ascending narrow paths between basalt spires I had reached the canyon he had descended into.  I had covered nearly two miles at a dead run without stopping and now I was coughing up lactic acid something fierce.  It would be several minutes before I would be steady enough to start glassing.  After catching my breath I belly crawled to the edge and quickly scanned to make sure he wasn’t out in the open.  From this vantage point I could see three patches of high sage and a portion of the creek bottom bellow.  Unfortunately there was a lot that I couldn’t see because the canyon was a labyrinth of giant basalt spires.  After carefully scanning the high sage for about forty-five minutes my heart began to sink.  Finding him here would be next to impossible.

I would spend the next eight hours playing the wind.  I crept through the stone maze, peeking around corners and peering over ledges.  As the hours passed I began to lose hope.  As evening approached I came to grips with the reality that I would have to return tomorrow.  Maybe I could catch him making another house call.  I had walked about a quarter mile towards camp when something white caught my eye.  There was a three-foot gap between two of the basalt spires that created a window.  Through this opening I could see a lone deer bedded on an open ledge. It was the buck!  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  He had been right there hidden amongst the countless folds in the landscape.  I zapped him at 267 yards.  The waning light gave the situation a sense of urgency.  I quickly adorned my face and hands with camo garments and slid my smoke pole out of the scabbard.  With my windicater in one hand and shooting sticks in the other I was off. After closing the gap to two hundred yards I found myself atop a 15 ft ledge.  I removed my boots and found a gap that I could chimney down.  Once I had reached the ground below I sprinted straight at the buck.  He was lazily staring the other way.  Most likely in a love induced trance.  The ground beneath my feet was gravel that had been compacted into the dry clay below.  This firm surface made it possible to run the last 100 yards without making a sound.  Every few seconds I sent a puff of chalk into the air, insuring the wind was on my side.  The buck was oblivious to my presence.  With trembling hands I lowered my shooting sticks.  As I crouched to get into position my foot slid across the gravel!  The buck was on his feet immediately.  I tried to slow my erratic breathing and squeezed.

Descent

When the smoke cleared he was lying with his back toward me.  I reached into my essentials bag for a quick loader and prepared for a second shot, but it would be unnecessary.  My arms were tingling and my tongue felt swollen.  I had taken many big game animals before this one.  But this was a sensation entirely new to me.  Over the course of the last eleven days I had endured the broadest spectrum of conditions the Idaho desert had ever thrown at me.  Not to mention an emotional roller coaster ride that took me from nauseas lows to heart pounding highs.  Just minutes ago I was convinced I had blown it.  And now I was standing in stocking feet beside the buck that rewarded my efforts.    My 214inch buck was lying less than a mile away from the clearing where I had found my deer hunting inspiration nineteen years earlier.

The buck would gross 214 3/8 inches with 19 inch G2s and 27 inch main beams.


Breeding Stock?

March 22, 2010 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

Here is a buck out of old Mexico that is breeding stock on a hunting ranch.  The deer is said to be for sale for the fair price of $280,000.00.  It was sent over on an e-mail so the truth is not  known.  I just thought you would enjoy seeing this monster buck.  It is a shame he is not a wild deer, but all the same he is a tremendous desert mule deer. From what I can see he looks like a fairly young mule deer  at 3  1/2 to 5  1/2 years old.  I’m leaning more towards 3  1/2 or 4  1/2.  He really looks young, everything except for his head gear.

Check out the video of  two monster high fenced bucks,  from Old Mexico, in the webisode tab

It goes to show that mule deer a capable of being raised in a controlled environment.  Let alone, one of the toughest environments, the Sonoran Desert.  More and more high fenced operation are being put up every year in Old Mexico. Estimates run as high as ten percent of Old Mexico’s mule deer hunting is high fenced. A trend that is sure to continue into the future.

Zach’s latest record buck!

March 2, 2010 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

Zach’s Latest record book deer.  Scoring in 228 net, Zach’s buck is the new number two record Pope and Young buck for the state of Idaho.  What a great couple of years Zach has had chasing monster mule deer.  Zach will be a guest speaker at the Mule Deer University, this weekend at the Sports show here in Boise.

A photo of Zach’s great buck from August 2009

Zach harvest a second great Pope and Young buck during the 2009 season.  His incredible typical buck would have scored close to the 200 inch mark if not for the 6 inches of broken main beam.

Zach’s state record archery buck from 2001. It good to see he finally upgraded his bow!  Rumor has it that Zach is going to be shooting Hoyt this coming year.  Welcome to the awesome world of Hoyt, Zach. I’m sure you will add some more tremendous bucks to your wall!

Texas mule deer hunting at its finest

January 28, 2010 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

TWO TEXAS MONSTERS

Rick Meritt and Donnie Starks harvested two of the largest deer to come out of Texas this year. Rick’s Deer gave the state record a run for the money, with a 214 inch typical frame and a gross score of 223 inches, it fell in to second place. If it wasn’t for the extra inline this deer would have smashed the state record typical score. 223 not to bad for a four by five.

Rick Meritt Texas

Rick Meritts 223 inch gross Texas monster

Donnie’s buck is no slouch with a gross score of 203 inches. It looks like someone might have been looking at the antlers during one of the shots. I’m not saying it was you Donnie, it’s just an observation!
Donnie Starks Texas

Donnie Starks’ Beautiful 203 inch Texas monster

Congrats to Rick and Donnie on two spectacular Texas mule deer. I’ve been looking at Texas now for a few years. Talk about a tough state to get some hunting rights in. Thanks Rick for the Pictures.  I don’t know if you were just sharing some of your success with me and the readers or just rubbing it in!  Regardless, thanks for sharing.

Gaines_Co._Bucks_2009_057You can truly see how big Rick’s deer is next to Donnies 203 inch monster

I had the pleasure of meeting Rick this year and I was not disappointed.  Rick is a true southern gentleman whose love for hunting mule deer has granted him the opportunity to hunt several different states and Mexico annually.  His passion for large mule deer is has taken him to the best mule deer spots out west.  However, this is Ricks first book deer.  It just goes to show you how hard these trophy animals are to come by. Congrats Rick on one of the biggest typical bucks I have ever seen.

Gaines County '08 016Rick’s 2008 Texas mule deer is 195 inch gross buck

I can’t wait until we start laying down some tape of these bucks as you harvest them!  Makes for some great memories.  Thanks again Rick!

Steve

300 inch muzzy buck out of Oregon

December 9, 2009 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

Lucky hunter takes a 300 inch cactus buck in Oregon with his muzzleloader!

102_2810 A friend of mine from Oregon called a said this buck unofficially scores 301 gross.  What a pig and congrats to the lucky hunter.  It could be the second largest buck ever killed with a muzzleloader.   Arnold Sandoval’s is the largest that I know of.  It was harvested in Nevada.  I believe it scored around 304 gross and was 35 inches wide.

Sandoval175Arnold Sandoval with his 2006 muzzleloader buck that grossed 304

New issue of Hunting Illustrated

November 4, 2009 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

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.

HI43_stmd_salderman

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.

Christina bags a great 195 inch buck!

November 2, 2009 by  
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A Wife’s Joy………A Husband’s Misery

By Christina Morrow

Why is it that men procrastinate everything to absolute last minute? This is the very question I mutter to Daniel, my husband, every year between 11:00 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. on May 31st. That is usually about the time he remembers that we have to put in for our Idaho Controlled Hunt tags. I guess I shouldn’t complain too much about this family tradition as it usually ends in excellent results……at least for me. One year this May 31st late night ritual resulted in a great bull moose tag for me. In 2009, the ritual resulted in a premier mule deer tag, again for me. Of course the ritual hasn’t really resulted in anything for Daniel, but that is his whiny story (definitely for another day).


christina buck3Christina, Dan her husband and myself with Chris’ great Idaho buck!  194 gross

When I found out that I drew this particular mule deer tag I was excited!  However, since I really didn’t recognize the extent of my good fortune at the time, I must admit that most of my excitement and joy was centered around Daniel’s obvious misery in that he didn’t draw the tag. As I talked to others and learned more about the hunt my excitement – and my anxiety – grew. At some point, my anxiety surpassed my excitement. By early October, I was just plain nervous. It finally registered that I would only have a couple of weeks for my hunt and in that time, I would only have a few days that I would actually be able to get away and concentrate on my hunt. It didn’t help either that during the first half of October I saw a steady stream of big bucks being brought over to our house. Daniel is a taxidermist and it seemed like everyone was harvesting monster bucks this year. I felt the pressure piling on. Of course, my biggest fear was that I would get up close to one of these big, monster bucks and then would miss the shot. As opening day drew near I also started to realize that Daniel was equally concerned about this issue……..impossibly, he may have been even more nervous about this than I.

My mom flew into town the evening before my hunt started. She was going to spend four days in town with our boys, Dylan and Jake, so that Daniel and I could concentrate on my hunt. Of course, between work, kids, and life in general, we didn’t have time to start packing and getting ready for the hunt until that same evening that my mom arrived. So after a quick run to the airport, Daniel and I both began packing – again something at the last minute.  In our true and typical fashion we finished packing at around 1:00 a.m. the morning of my hunt. So we set the alarm and tried to get a few hours sleep.


christina buck4Chris with her hard earned buck!

When the alarm went off at 4:00 a.m. I thought……”Well this is it” and then “Holy cow I’m tired!” I jumped into the shower – since I knew I wouldn’t get that luxury for a few days – and we set off. As we were leaving town, it was pouring rain. Not the start we had hoped for, but not something I could fix, so I focused on enjoying my coffee and trying to remain calm. Daniel was not very helpful in the latter; he spent the next two hours reinforcing over and over that I just needed to remember to “squeeze the trigger……..” or that once I did shoot I needed to immediately “get another round in the chamber!” Needless to say, it was a very long couple of hours. I couldn’t have been happier to jump out of the truck into the cold and soggy air.

christina buck1I just love this pic!  Congrats guys on a great buck.  I had a great time!

I was very lucky and fortunate in that we had several friends going along to help us with the hunt. Daniel’s good friend Steve Alderman came along as well as Joe Pennington. We also had another one of Steve friends, Dave, camping and occasionally hunting with us.  We all met up and headed out for our first day of hunting.

If I had listened to Daniel my hunt would have been over opening morning. I think he wanted me to shoot the first buck we saw…….honestly, I think he wanted me to shoot all of the bucks we saw and we saw a lot that day. At the end of the day, we estimated seeing something like forty bucks opening morning. I had never hunted deer in open country like this before. I grew up hunting white tail with my dad up north. Binoculars were definitely not something you needed up there and we rarely ever would sit and glass an area. I was amazed at the sheer volume of deer we were seeing each day. I got to watch bucks sparing and fighting. We nearly walked right up on top of several does sleeping on the edge of a ravine that first day. It was incredible. I enjoyed every minute of it.

In any event, I don’t think I was being too picky that day. We did see a lot of bucks……several decent bucks………just not a buck that I simply knew I wanted to shoot. We saw several three and four point bucks that day. Of those, there were two that I thought about harvesting. One we jumped up at mid-morning. He was a beautiful four-point.  He was running with a big forked-horn cactus buck. We estimated that he was likely a 170’s class buck. Definitely a trophy deer. I just decided I wanted to pass on him. Daniel kept looking at me and saying “Are you sure?” His questioning me, made me question myself. I kept thinking “Am I being too picky, have I set my expectations too high”…..and a million other thoughts. But I held firm. I wanted something different, an original……a buck with some personality and I decided I would wait for it.

That evening we saw the second buck that I considered. We spotted him shortly before sunset. He was bedded down along the ridge up above a meadow. He was wider than the buck from earlier that day. Another four point. He was taller and his left side laid out more than his right. He was definitely another trophy deer. We left him there that night and headed back for camp.chris' buck

The second day was more of the same. We glassed and watch any number of deer. That morning we saw several more cactus bucks. One stood and watched us for quite awhile. We also watched a little buck that we named “Tri-pod.” He had in-lines in his rear forks that looked like tri-pods. He definitely had personality and was different. He was slightly more heavy that most of the other bucks we’d been seeing as well. However, he wasn’t as big as the four-point we’d seen the evening before, so again I passed him up.

That afternoon Daniel spotted a buck bedded down in front of a big sage. We watched him for quite awhile. He looked massive laying there, but it was difficult to tell if he was big or if we were seeing sage brush as part of what we were looking at. We ultimately decided to walk in and see if we could get a better look. When he finally spooked from his bed, I was glad we had investigated further. Without the sage behind him, he was much smaller than I’d imagined him to be. Again, another great buck, but not what I was looking for.

Later that afternoon when we got back to the truck we had a voicemail from Harry Knox, one of Daniel and Steve’s friends. Harry knew I had a tag and he said that he had seen a deer that day that he thought we might be interested in. So that evening we went over to visit with Harry. When he was explaining about this deer, I was getting excited. He said it had kickers on both sides and that its front main beam on one side was wavy. He said it was pretty heavy at the base and pretty tall. Harry estimated the deer to be in the 180’s. The deer sounded awesome to me so we decided we would head out in the morning to see if we could find him.

The deer was in quite a ways so we all headed out there together. We set up on a rock ledge overlooking three draws that merged together. We had four spotting scopes together and got them all set up to glass the area.  Out of pure luck when Dave set up his spotting scope and started to focus it in on rocks in the far distance, a buck walked right through his line of sight.  Dave and Joe both started following the buck.  All of the guys were able to see him for a few minutes before he bedded down.

Once the buck was bedded down, he wasn’t easy to see.  We kept watching him though and eventually decided that we thought this was the same deer that Harry had told us about.  We could tell that he had kickcers off both sides and could see that he had pretty tall backs.  When I looked at him in the scope, I knew that he was a definite shooter.

We decided on our strategy for the stalk next. Because of the wind, we had to come up from underneath the buck. Definitely a much more difficult stalk, but we knew if we tried to come in above him, he would wind us. We also decided that we would not need spotting scopes on the stalk and so we emptied out our packs of that gear and some other extra gear that we didn’t need to drag across to the next ridge. We stashed all that extra gear in the rocks and took off down into the ravine. On the way down the hill Daniel somehow manages to spot and pull an old deer shed up out of the tag alders and bushes. We get down into the bottom, manage to cross a little creek and start slowly heading back up through another little finger.chris' buck2

At the top of that finger we figured we would be about 500 to 600 yards below and to the deer’s left. Just as we are breaking up out of the bushes in that finger ravine we hear the awful rattle of a rattle snake. Now this is not something I would normally anticipate encountering this time of year.  Normally it would be way to cold for rattle snakes. In fact, only about ten days before the same area was covered in about six inches of snow. However, that day it was beautiful blue sky and had to be about 70 degrees……….apparently warm enough for rattlers. Steve was right in front of me and started pushing me back while we tried to find the snake. I spotted it just as it slithered into a nearby sage. I thought “Great now we can walk around it.” But that’s not what we did. No, as soon as I point to it, all four guys take off after it. They were using the tripod sticks for their cameras and Daniel was running around with a boulder and they were all talking and making noise. They were so very easily distracted from the task at hand!  The snake ultimatly won the battle. It had a hole or something in the middle of that sage that it crawled into. The boys all recognized their defeat and decided to move on. As we walked away, I hoped the rest of my stalk was more successful than our attempted stalk on that snake.

Just as we started to move forward we saw movement to our right and looked up in time to see two big bucks cresting the rock rim above us. The first one that went over – the one I was just able to see – looked like a beast……but isn’t that how it always works? At this point we couldn’t see “my deer” and we just had to hope that he hadn’t been spooked from his bed.  We kept moving forward.

Another couple hundred yards later and we could see just the tops of “my deers” antlers over the edge of some rocks that he was bedded next to. We hadn’t spooked him….yet. We had to keep moving closer and try to get set up for a shot. Now I didn’t mention this before, but Steve and Joe were both carrying cameras so that they could try and videotape the kill. We had five people, two with cameras to set up and me setting up for a shot. Amazingly, we somehow managed to sneak up to about 70 yards from the deer.  We could see the top half of his rack and then just rocks. The idea was to get the cameras set up, get me set up on shooting sticks on top of my own pile of rocks, then we would get the deer to stand up and finally I would shoot it. A great idea, easy to say, easy to type……not so easy to execute.chris' buck1

First one of the locks on the camera tripods clicked a little too loudly and I watched those antlers turn straight toward us. Why that deer didn’t stand then I have no idea  but I was glad he didn’t. After a few minutes of very shallow short breaths Daniel told me to move forward so we could try to get me set up for a shot. Now, on a good day, at the shooting range, on flat ground, with a cardboard box as a target I have a tough time shooting off of shooting sticks. I was at a complete loss in this situation. Daniel had the sticks set up spanning across a couple of boulders. I was leaning on one boulder and leaning sideways into another trying to shoulder my gun with a backpack still on. To top it all off, right before they made noise to try to get the deer to stand up Daniel says to me, “Now whatever you do, don’t shoot low and hit those rocks because the bullet could ricochet.”  “Holy shit! Are you kidding me!?”  I had so surpassed nervous…….I was terrified. Not only did I have the fear of missing the deer in front of two cameras and four guys, but now I could potentially kill someone to boot.

I know from watching the video that I was only sitting there terrified and horribly uncomfortable for a couple of minutes but it felt like forever! To make matters worse, the deer suddenly developed some sort of deafness. They were making noise and he wouldn’t do anything. Every time they made a noise I would flinch from the anticipation but the deer just laid there. Finally after someone made a loud enough grunt the buck stood up………for once in my life I did what my husband asked me to do. I put the crosshairs on that deer and I squeezed the trigger. Then I went above and beyond, I did a second thing that he had told me to do  – I got another shell in the chamber…..well at least I tried.

Of course, I managed to jam the rifle at that particular time. The deer was bounding away………Dave starts yelling “Do you want me to shoot?” Daniel ripped the gun out of my hands to clear the jam. Everyone was watching “my deer” bound away while Daniel monkied with my jammed rifle. But what they all didn’t know, and didn’t have faith in me to believe was that I hit that deer. I knew I hit him and I hit him good, but I didn’t want to chase him. They all, all four of them, thought I had missed. Imagine their collective surprise when mid-bound thirty yards later he fell over. Daniel, my poor frazzled husband, was so relieved he “teared up”.  Now he will not admit that, but I heard it in his voice, and fortunately we have it all on video.

Once my deer was down, we waited a few minutes and then hiked over. With each step closer he looked bigger and bigger. Definitely a great buck, likely a buck of a lifetime for me. I couldn’t have been more ecstatic. It was awesome!!!  I can’t thank Steve and the boys enough!  What a wonderful adventure.

Editors note….. Tearing up, choking up, or crying like a baby it was very emotional for about 5 seconds, then he realized there was three other guys standing there.  It quickly turned into a kiss and a great job babe.  We know how it went down Dan, we have it on tape tough guy…….  I had a great times guys,  hope we get to do it again sometime.  Maybe I’ll have the tag next time.  11:30 p.m. the night of the deadline,  I will have to try my luck.  Thanks for the laughs!

Steve

Heavy 195 goes down!

November 2, 2009 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

Bruce Harvey takes an incredible 195 inch mule deer home after hunting for only three days.  We had a great last week of hunting with good friends Mike Weeks and Bruce Harvey.  Bruce took a great buck on the third day of the hunt while Mike ended his season with a great  cull buck on the last day.

bruce 4Bruce Harvey with his great Idaho buck!

We watched this buck for three days before he gave us a chance to harvest him. On the second day of the hunt we watched this buck come with in three hundred yards of another hunter.  We watched in horror as this buck narrowly escaped.  The next morning the buck gave us an opportunity and this time he was not as lucky as he was the prior day.

bruce 2The whole crew, Bruce Harvey, Joe Pennington on camera, Les Gargan on audio, good friend Mike Weeks, and myself on camera

Story coming soon….

Idaho’s unit 44 produces a 198 inch monster

October 14, 2009 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

A Once in a Lifetime Second Chance

-Jon Owens


My father and I thought 2008 was going to be our monumental year for Mule Deer Hunting.  We had each harvested the biggest deer we had ever seen in Colorado and Wyoming.  As we were driving back home to Portland, Oregon I called a close friend of mine in Boise to tell him our stories.  He proceeded to send me a picture message with a picture of his deer he harvested on his family’s ranch.  It was a monster.  We met him at a gas station to exchange pictures and right then, dad and I decided we needed to apply in Idaho.  Well, we hit the jackpot and drew that tag.  Little did we know this hunt would be one for the books.

The second day we were there, it was my turn to hunt.  Dad found a great 5×5 mule deer on the first day but didn’t get a shot.  We went out to in a different spot to give the other piece of land a chance to rest.  Once we got to the field that morning we began to glass the canyons with our good friend Steve Alderman.  Finally, we spotted a group of doe’s with what looked like a nice buck a mile and a half to two miles away.  I thought, what the heck, lets put a hunt on him.


jon2

Jon Owens with his great 198 inch monster mule deer!

When we finally reached the top of the canyon, we crept up and saw the group of doe’s.  They were feeding their way up and over the next draw.  We could tell they weren’t spooked so we just sat and waited thinking that the buck was bedded down on the other side of this draw.  As we crept over, Steve went around the right side of the canyon to peak over.  No buck.

So we proceeded to the next draw to our left and find the doe’s.  Still no buck.  Steve felt that the buck might have gone back through this draw and back to the flat land where we came from so we circled around the canyon pushing the does to the bottom of the draw.  Steve went high; I went low as dad followed behind me.  As we were creeping through thick brush on the side of the canyon, the buck jumped up about 15 yards away from me and bounded towards the first draw we came up.  I pulled up my rifle to see a huge cheater on the right antler.  It was the biggest rack I have ever seen.  All I could see was neck, head and antlers bouncing up and down through my scope with thick brush hiding his body.  I didn’t take a shot.


jeff buckJeff Owens with his great 5×5 that scores around 180 inches

We then sprinted to the edge of that canyon trying to see if we can get him running up the next draw.  As I approached and pulled up my rifle, the buck was silhouetting on the top of the next draw over about 200+ yards away.  I didn’t take a shot, so we then tried to get on his tracks and find him.  After walking the next few draws, we decided we needed to let this deer settle to make sure we didn’t run him out of the county.

That night, I just kept picturing what I had seen through the scope thinking, what could I have done differently?  How could I have been more prepared?  Should I have taken that shot?  Will I get another opportunity like that again?  It was a tough feeling.

When the evening of day four rolled around we sat on top of the same canyon Steve and I went the night before looking for the buck we had jumped the day prior.   The previous night my dad harvested the same 5×5 he saw on day one.  He harvested his second chance buck.

This time, there were four of us spotting the canyon.  My dad, Steve, his good friend Les and I posted up on top of the canyon glassing each and every draw we could.  We spotted deer feeding everywhere but still hadn’t found a buck worth putting a hunt on given how much daylight we still had.

Finally, with about an hour left of daylight I heard, “That’s your buck!” coming from Les.  At least that’s the G-rated version.   The buck was about 1,000 yards from us and had just stood up to feed.  That tells you how majestic these animals are.  They can bed down for hours and remain unseen.   I found him in my spotting scope and I knew that was the deer I wanted to hunt.  Then Steve calls out, “that’s the same one from the other day!”  I was pumped!  It’s time to go get my deer.

john4

Jeff, Les, and Jon ready to pack out Jon’s great buck

Fortunately for us, we had the wind in our favor.  It was howling over the canyons hiding the inevitable noise we were making while walking down the canyon trying to avoid the dead Aspen leaves and branches.  We were not quiet, but the wind protected us.

Finally, we got down to the bottom of the canyon and found a tree limb lying over the 7-foot wide creek we needed to cross.  Once over it, we found some Aspen trees to provide cover as we ascended up the canyon.

As we were walking, I was mentally preparing myself.  The thought of the previous opportunity kept flashing back in to my mind.  I replayed what I should do over and over in my head.  This time, I wont be caught off guard.

We got to the Aspens and stopped to glass.  We couldn’t see the deer.  It must be on the other side of the boulder about two hundred yards ahead of us.  This was great!  More cover as we climb.

When we reached the boulder and started climbing again we could see the other smaller buck feeding.  This was a good sign.  We saw this one earlier near my buck.  He must have bedded down again.

As we slowly approached, we were in one line.  We stopped and spread out a little.  Steve to my left, dad right behind me, and the smaller buck spotted us.  He wasn’t spooked.  He looked down the hill, and then continued feeding.  Steve then spotted the antlers of the big buck sticking out of the sagebrush. I couldn’t see him yet, but I was ready.

Jons buck1 We bumped this buck the day before and  ended up harvesting him within 400 yards of where we had seen him the prior day.

Steve took two steps to the left and my buck stood up and stared back down the canyon at us.  I got my scope on him, took a deep breath, exhaled and squeezed the trigger.  I tried to get back on him and couldn’t find him.  I pulled my gun around and found the other buck bounding away.  So I looked over my scope to see something wrestling in the brush, while tumbling down the canyon.  I got him!  My second chance buck!  It was a perfect shot 65 yards off hand.  The bullet entered right behind his right front shoulder and exited through his spine.  I approached my down buck, and we began to realize what a trophy he was.  We later green scored him 198 inches.  He had big 4 plus inch eye guards with cheaters on each side.  It was a dream come true.

Dad and I had a fantastic opportunity to hunt with our friends Steve and Les and harvest the biggest bucks we have ever seen.  It was a fantastic feeling to know that 2009, in Idaho was in fact our monumental season and that the good Lord decided to put these fantastic animals on this earth for us to enjoy.  We are grateful.


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