First Lite Clothing

December 30, 2012 by  
Filed under Gear & Reviews

FIRST LITE

 

Back to the Basics

 

I feel like, the older I get, the smarter I get.  I’m sure you can find people that would tell you I’m not getting any smarter, but what do they know? Most of them are still wearing their old, traditional camo clothing made from cotton, polyester, and even denim.  Over the last couple years, I have jumped on the band wagon and have been experimenting with some of these new high performance hunting clothing companies.  Let me tell you, there is some great high performance clothing for hunting on the market right now.

 

75 Degrees and the first Lite worked flawlessly!

One such company is a First Lite which is an industry leader out of the Sun Valley, Idaho area.  First Lite is one of the pioneers in high performance hunting clothing.  It all started by wearing merino wool clothing to give them added warmth and freedom of movement on the ski slopes.  They soon fell in love with the attributes of merino wool and wanted to use it on their hunting ventures. The problem was,  merino wool only came in black, so they were forced into wearing a cotton or polyester camouflage over their wool.  They had the same age old problem that most hunters have had.  All the warm clothing was big, bulky, heavy and didn’t breathe very well.  There is nothing worse than being sweaty, wet and cold while skiing and or hunting.  It is miserable and can even cause death!  The solution, start a company that builds state of the art hunting clothing out of merino wool in camouflage patterns.

As we all know it gets cold in Kansas in December! Well the First Lite work perfectly…

 

In 2007, Kenton Carruth and Scott Robinson owners of First Lite, set out on a mission to create clothing that would breath, is light weight and would not restrict the athletes movement.   It all started on the ski slopes and moved into the hunting industry.  From earlier archery season to late season, if you are cold weather deer hunting, they have you covered.  First Lite addressed each of these concerns and faced them head on to come up with what I feel is the perfect combinations for all your hunting adventures.

Texas Mule deer hunting! It can be 60 degrees one day and 20 degrees the next, as was the case on the day I harvested this great buck.

 

Let’s talk about the most important part of your clothing, whether it is early season or late season which is the first layer of clothing next to your skin.  Layering your clothing is the most effective way to achieve the perfect body temperature control in any environment.   The best material to have next to your body, hands down, is merino wool.  Merino wool is much smoother, finer wool when compared to the wool of an ordinary sheep. Not even all merino sheep have wool that is suitable for clothing, especially if it is next to your body.  Only the best merino wool can be used.  Traditional wool, as we all know, is very warm and itchy.  Merino sheep have much softer, finer wool compared to that of their cousin.  These finer strands of Merino wool eliminate the nasty itch caused by traditional wool.  As a matter of fact, when I received my first order of First lite I had to check the collar to see what it was made of.  It did not feel like any other wool I had tried in the past.  It was soft, elastic and fairly light compared to that of other base layers on the market. The collar, to my surprise, read 100% merino wool.

 

A huge attribute to wool is its ability to wick away sweat from your body.  It has the ability to disperse sweat into the millions of fibers and rapidly dry your garment.  The best part about this is, you and your garment remain scent free for longer periods of time.  Body odor is caused by bacteria growing and feeding off your body sweat.  No sweat, no body odor, the wool evaporates and dries quickly not giving bacteria time to grow.  I have tested this very extensively!  These high performance first layers are not cheap, so the average guy can’t afford to run out and buy one for every day of the week.  One base layer is going to have to last you multiple days of wicking away sweat and staying scent free.  Take my word for it, this stuff is amazing and worth every penny.  As Jim Shockey would say (I hope he doesn’t have this trademarked yet) “I trust my life to it”; it’s that good.  With First Lite’s first layers I can guaranty you that you have a much better opportunity to survive a night or two out in the cold, than if you weren’t wearing it.

 

As you can see, I personally, used the heck out of the Llano top, a 170 gram interlocked fabric base layer and the Allegheny 230 gram, mid weight bottom this year.  I tested them from ten degrees to ninety degrees Fahrenheit, and they performed flawlessly. As a base layer or my only layer, First Lite’s merino wool passed everything I could throw at it, including a smell test.  After three days of climbing hills, sweating and filming deer in ninety degree plus temperatures, I took the shirt off and asked my wife to smell it and tell me what she thought.  After a funny look and cautious smell her response was “what, it doesn’t smell like anything” I then told her that I just had taking it off after abusing it for three days in the field.  Her response was ” Wow, we should get you more of this”  I don’t no what she meant by that, but maybe after 12 years of washing my stinky hunting clothes she was ready for a positive change in the smell of my dirty garments.

I truly believe in this product. How people you know will strip down to their undies to show support to a great product. That would be me!

 

One of my favorite attributes to this base layer is it’s ability to stretch in all directions and go right back to its original shape.  A traditional garment would look like an over sized shirt at the end of four or five days of wear. These are breathable and have an articulate cut that allows for less restriction during movement.  What else can I say about these undergarments, besides they are the best!  If you are not a long bottom kind of guy, you need to try their Red Desert Boxers.  They are the bomb!  They are cut and seams are placed to prevent chafing and rashes, that you would normally get from tradition underwear.  I find myself wearing them even when I’m not hunting.  They are comfy!

A great management buck! I put this gear through its paces and I feel in love with. You can’t go wrong with First Lite gear. You have my word on it!

 

First Lite has all of their clothing in many of the popular camouflage patterns available on the market today.  If you are not a fan of camo, they also have them in a number of solid colors.  With multiple garment configurations and fabric weights in their first layers there is no reason for your core to ever get cold again.

 

This is not a paid endorsement, just my personal beliefs on how great First Lite’s products are.

 

PRO’s:  The best of the best. Breathable, light weight, wicks away moisture, and helps you remain odorless longer. Their clothing is everything you could possibly need!  They have me hooked!

CON’s:  First Lite is a little on the pricey side, but worth every penny.  Other under garments that compete with First Lite are similarly priced.

PRODUCT: I would like to see them expand their product line!  Maybe something that is water proof.  If it’s not raining you will need nothing besides what they offer, except for an excuse to get out in the field.

COMPANY: These guys are great!  I stopped in during an archery deer hunt and they treated me as if they had known me for years. Small company, with small company values. Order your clothes early as they do run out of certain sizes and colors.  They do sell their clothing on the retail market, so it can be readily available in your area.  Ask your nearest retailer for First Lite clothing.

 

Jerry Harbottle is on a roll again!

September 14, 2012 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

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.

LOST AND FOUND

May 11, 2011 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

By: Tivon Miller

Was I crazy? The anxiety was killing me! What was I doing passing on a 200” deer even on this hunt? However, 3 weeks before while out scouting with my good friend Jason Sandusky, we found the buck I was looking for.
This particular buck had been the topic of conversation between me and most of my close friends since I found out of my good fortune of drawing the tag I had put in for, for so long. Over the 4th of July weekend, my wife, kids and I were staying with our friends the Mooseman’s. Brian was re-telling a story told the previous October, about a buck that his stepdad had missed in my unit last year. As he was giving me every last detail about the bucks’ antler configuration, it dawned on me that he was talking about the same monster that my brother, was lucky enough to find a shed off of later that winter. After a quick look at the pictures Brian had snapped of the buck it was confirmed it was the same buck. So now all I had to do was go find that deer. We all know how easy that is!


After three or four scouting trips with my 10 year old son Gavin, and buddies Jason and Brent, we had found some great bucks. A few from 180-190”, but not what I wanted yet. Hunting stories filled the air in Brent’s pickup all the way down on Friday. We made our way in the heat of the day to the spot where Brent had shot his buck a couple of years prior. As we turned up the rocky road, it was a spot I was very familiar with. Brent showed me where he got his 200 incher and we continued to another location that we wanted to check. Just before dark we found an upper 180’s buck that topped off a great day. The next morning started off early, as we covered a lot of new country, trying to learn a new part of the unit. At noon we stopped to have lunch in the middle of a two-track road. I unloaded my pack off of the cooler in the back seat and made our sandwiches. An hour later, and 30 dirt road miles away, as I reached back to my pack to get some chap stick on my wind burnt lips. I said, “Oh crap!” “You’ve got to be kidding me!” My backpack with all of my gear, including my Swarovski spotting scope and anything else you need to hunt with was gone. I was freaking out!
Just minutes before neither of us could stop talking about the hunt and all of the possible hot spots, but now hardly a word was spoken. Brent flew down the dirt roads to get me back to my gear, and I wondered if my pack might still be there. As we pulled up to the spot where we had ate lunch just an hour before, the pack was gone! We searched the area off either side of the road, in hopes someone had come along, saw it and hid it just in case the owner came back. But the intense reality set in that someone else had my gear.
The next few days were a wreck. Picturing someone else fondling all my stuff and looking through the digital camera photos of our family memories was almost too much to bear. My wife and I decided to spend all day Monday hanging posters all over the unit, that just a few days before meant so much to me for the fact I held such a great tag. Now it felt like this whole experience was a disaster.
Two weeks later after returning home from an evening archery elk hunt, my sister in law called and said a man called saying he had my pack! A short minute later I was on the phone with a man, I had never met or heard of, making plans to meet up so I could recover my gear. Thanks Dale! I honestly never thought I would see all my stuff again. You are an honest and refreshing individual.
On the dark drive down, with Sandusky, three weeks after the recovery of my pack, I once again found myself thinking of the buck that consumed my thoughts. As we began glassing I knew it was possible the buck could be living in this area. Within a few minutes Jason said, “I got some bucks, get your scope!” In an excited panic, as I dialed my Swarovski in on the bachelor group, I immediately confirmed what I was hoping. It was my buck, and he was awesome! He had taken full advantage of the mild winter, and exceptional water year. He had lost the four in character point off of the back of his right G2, but make up for it with a ton of mass, better looking frame, and even a split eye-guard. Jason and I decided he would score between 200 and 210 as an 8×6! We snuck out of the area knowing the obsession of keeping tabs on him and his five buddies for the next few weeks, would now kick in. I honestly didn’t even want to leave.


Three unsuccessful scouting trips later, with my brother and buddy Adam, since locating the buck, we had yet to turn him up. On each trip we found all of his buddies, but not him. What the heck! He had disappeared. I knew he had to be here under one of these rocks, but I didn’t want to tromp all over his home and run him out. In the back of my mind I wondered if he had been harvested by a muzzleloader hunter. I figured if someone had known about him I should have at least seen them on the opener. Two days later I would return with the camper, and spend my last couple days trying to locate my buck.
Once the camper was unhooked and somewhat leveled, I headed to another part of the unit looking for a mid 190’s typical; I had only heard of. What in the heck was I thinking? On the drive to look for this new buck, all I could think about was my buck. I can’t find my buck if I’m looking for some new buck! Too late now! It would be dark before I got back. Tomorrow morning and evening would be devoted to relocating the 8 by 6.
The alarm went off and I thought…”In 24 hours the hunt of my life starts.” “It would be nice to find my buck today”. I picked the hillside apart over and over from a mile away, looking at all of the country my buck could be hiding in. Just as I was getting ready to move a half mile to the north, there he was. Thank God! A doe and fawn had passed by his bed and he couldn’t resist checking her out. Thankfully, that’s what gave him away. After just a couple minutes, he hurried his way around to the west slope to put himself back in the shade. I immediately called my brother to let him know the good news! At two o’clock he moved only 100 yards from the spot he had been all morning. He tucked himself between some sage and rim rock, and although I stayed until dark with my brother now by my side. We did not see him again.
Sandusky and I made our way up the mountain in the dark and I couldn’t help but wonder what this day held. Darkness gave way to opening morning as we glassed the country below. A handful of small bucks and does filtered up the mountain while we gradually made our way towards my buck’s hideout from the day before. Our glasses went to serious work for the next couple of hours, but we couldn’t turn him up. A while later we talked to Cliff and he had seen a group of bucks around the corner from us with one really good buck in the group. Once we got him spotted, we agreed, it was a great buck, probably right at 200”! Was I crazy? What was I doing passing a 200” deer? I have never killed a 200” deer. I knew what buck I wanted and it was only opening day. I couldn’t give up on my buck already. As I was having a close heart to heart with myself, it was interrupted by Sandusky, hissing, “Tivon get over here, I got a good buck!” With my tripod legs still fully extended I ran, jumping over rocks trying to get to where I could get a look at the buck. When the pistol grip settled, I was happy to see my buck lying underneath a pile of rocks, surrounded by thick sage brush. I quickly realized why I passed the other buck. If all the years of general season had taught me anything, it was to never give up on your goals. We spent the next few minutes videoing the buck and we quickly devised a plan on how to get within range of him.
All the way back down the mountain, I prayed the buck would stay put. We occasionally peeked over rocks ever so slowly to keep him landmarked. An hour later and 167 yards away, I could see his right antler poking out from his bed in the thick sage. I had so many different scenarios playing out in my mind. At one point, during the wait I even considered walking in the thick sage brush and jump shooting him like a jack rabbit, but I knew that was the wrong thing to do. As I was taking pictures of the antler we could see from our vantage point, all of the sudden he was up. Immediately I was on my belly, behind my rifle scope, and as he made his way out of the brush I could see his antler tips and flashes of his grey hide. I looked for a small opening he might step into. There he was! My Kimber 7mm 08 put him down just as fast as he showed up, and the hunt was over!
The short wind sprint over to my buck that I had been thinking about all summer was the best feeling of my hunting career. I couldn’t help but feel some remorse for the fallen buck. I thought of how many times he might have used this bedding area to avoid danger. I have been very fortunate to harvest some very nice general season bucks, and this was the icing on the cake! Every detail about my buck will be forever etched in my mind. The mass was awesome! As I picked his head up off the ground I noticed he had broken a couple of inches off two of his extras on the left side in the fall. Between pictures and video we would be able to get his antlers back to their original state. He had a mid 190’s frame with a unique fishhook like right main beam. The extra on the left side took me back in time to the winter range, when my brother picked up the left antler. He is a 27 inch wide 8 by 6 that ended up scoring 211 once the points were fixed by Dan Morrow at High Country Taxidermy!
Sharing that hunt with my brother and Sandusky on that afternoon, taking photos and video of the whole experience is something I will never forget. Thanks you guys! And thanks to all my other good friends who helped me on my quest. After both my pack and my buck ended up being lost and found, I feel very fortunate to have relocated both.

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.

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

Living Colorado Giant

December 25, 2009 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

Here is a giant deer that was  photographed in Colorado!  Looks like a park deer to me.  Maybe someone will share some information on this buck with us! Let’s not hold out breath.

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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

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