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.


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  
Filed under the PURSUIT

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!


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.


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.


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.

MDC poperotzy

Jake Shea Scores!

October 14, 2009 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

Jake Shea scores on his biggest muzzleloader buck to date.

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

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


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

Story coming soon……..

Idaho State Record Muzzy Buck!

October 4, 2009 by  
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New Idaho State Record Muzzy buck Harvest

Dallas Smith is no stranger when it comes to large mule deer.  Over the last few years, Dallas has added three awesome mule deer to his collection each scoring over the magical 200 inch mark. However, none of them come close to the accomplishment he achieved this past week. Dallas harvested the pending new # 4 in the world mule deer with a muzzleloader and it is also the new State Record in Idaho.  The unfortunate part of this story is that the buck will never be recorded in the books.   Dallas has to date decided that he doesn’t want to strip the velvet off the buck to have it officially scored.  I can’t say that I blame him.  It’s a once in a lifetime buck and keeping it the way it was when it was harvested is important to Dallas.

dallas3Dallas Smith with his latest monster in his collection

Dallas has watched this buck for the past five years and even tried to harvest it a time or two only to fall short in his quest.  This is ok if you look at the end result which is a 265 inch gross monster.  His Buck has a 204 inch frame with approximately 60 inches of trash.  It has only been unofficial scored, but when I held this monster in my hands, score went completely out the window.  This buck is dense, heavy, wide, nasty,and just plain old incredible.  When I lifted it off the ground, I was amazed at the weight of the antlers.  As shown in the picture above, these antlers felt like they would tip the scales at over 15 pounds which is a true monster in anyone’s eyes.

Comparing this buck to his sheds from the last few years shows this buck has grown into a true giant.  Two years ago his sheds scored in at just over 207 gross inches.  Last year his sheds grossed at just over the 228 inch mark.  Now he has grown into the mega 265 inch giant the Dallas harvested earlier this week.

dallas2Dallas With his 265 inch giant

I’m sure you are asking yourself why is this buck in velvet in October?  Well, the truth is still somewhat of a mystery to all.  He did grow a fresh set of horns every year, however this buck held his velvet well into October every year.  Like I said, Dallas knew this buck well.  He watched the buck two years ago shed its velvet at the end of October and last year it shed it in the middle of October.  At the time of harvest, the testicles of this deer were only one-fourth the size of a normal mule deer.  So obviously this buck had some sort of testicular issues whether it be lack of testicles from a birth defect, some sort of trauma, or a genetic defect.  This buck grew his antlers a month and half  longer then normal mule deer.

Is he a cactus buck?  In my opinion, yes.  Anytime there is testicular malfunction that allows antlers to grow at an abnormal rate, it should be considered a cactus buck.  Some cactus bucks never shed their antlers and some shed them ever few years.   In the case of this buck, his deficiency was slight enough that he shed them and grew a new set every year.  He had some sort of testosterone deficiency to allow him to grow his antlers for a longer time period than that of a normal mule deer which would fit the definition of a cactus buck.


Dallas, my hat is off to you and your brother for keeping this buck such a secret.  I don’t blame you one bit!  As far as I know, the only people that new this buck was alive were Dallas, his wife, his three sons, his brother Ryan and a good friend, Tony.  They all kept this buck under wraps until it was on the ground.  Congrats to all of you that were mentioned as you all played a part in Dallas harvesting this spectacular trophy. We can’t wait for the story and field pictures!


Photo Courtesy of Ryan Smith


Bennett Alderman is all smiles as he holds the 2007 set of sheds from the Smith buck


The sheds score 207 inches gross,  This buck packed his antlers well into March

Congratulations Dallas on such a fine trophy and a spectacular last few years of hunting these awesome animals. You brothers have done it again, I’m jealous…..

Steve Alderman

Kansas Muzzleloader Mule Deer!

September 16, 2009 by  
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Kansas, Muzzleloading Mule Deer!

During the 2003 and 2004 mule deer seasons I was fortunate enough to bag two monster muleys thanks to my friend Matt Beckman and his father Mike who run a guide service in western Kansas. With Matt’s help and generosity, during the 2003 early muzzleloader season, I was able to shoot a 205-inch non-typical mule deer at twenty-two steps while he was bedded down in an uncut milo field. This past season was a little different because I was hunting with my father and my wife during rifle season so I was more interested in getting their mule deer first. Time was also a factor as I had only a day and a half to hunt before both Matt and myself had to be back to work.Kansas Muzzy

The first morning of the hunt my father scored on a real nice whitetail. Later that day, with only 45 minute of shooting light left, my wife had just enough time to make a sneak to within 50 yards of a nice mule deer while he was feeding. She made a great shot with her .308 and the buck went all of five yards and fell dead. Awesome, two great bucks in the same day!

Sunday morning I picked Matt up an hour before shooting light and we decided that we were only going to hunt the big bucks until 11:00 a.m. because we both had to leave early to get back home. Before I left the motel my wife told me that I could not shoot a deer unless it was big, because our freezer was full.

The first spot we went to was a place were Matt’s dad had seen a couple nice bucks feeding in a cut cornfield the night before. We got set up in the cornfield on a terrace where we had a good view of the place and just as it was getting light enough to see, we spotted three bucks moving around at the far edge of the field. The one was a nice buck but I chose to pass on it. We made our way around and glassed some other areas and around 9:30 Matt said that we could check one last spot before we headed back to town. It was an area where deer regularly bedded and our plan was to walk out the small weedy draw in hopes of intercepting a buck. We parked in the adjacent pasture to the north and started to work our way south to the draw. We made it 50 yards from the truck when I looked to the east along a creek bottom and saw some deer that were already bedded. As soon as we put our binoculars up we knew he was the one! But, we were caught on top of the hill in the wide open. The deer noticed us as soon as we noticed them and the herd proceeded up a draw and stopped at the south end of it. This gave us a good opportunity to put a stalk on the giant. After one hour of crawling and using the contours of the land, I managed to get within 200 yards. I slowly stood up from my position and placed a vital shot dropping the giant buck. As Matt and myself approached, there was no ground shrinkage….just ground growth! The deer had a 28 5/8 spread with a gross score of 200 inches!

Idaho Monster!

September 16, 2009 by  
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Idaho Buck

After discussing with my good friend and mule deer hunting companion, Neal Myler, where to apply for mule deer tag, I took his advice and applied for the Eastern Idaho unit he had drawn in 2002. He said it was a great area but had been tough because of very little snow. When the drawing results were out I found, that as usual, I had not drawn my elk tag but was excited to see I did draw a mule deer tag.

The area we would be hunting our giant bucks is very dependant on the snow driving the mule deer down but Neal and I scouted as much as our time would allow. By the first week of the hunt there was no snow and few deer. During that week I had spotted a few smaller bucks and Neal had the same report except for a heavy 26-inch non-typical. However, he didn’t think the big buck would score well because of short points. I had to leave town for a few days so I decided to pray for snow and hit it hard when I got back.Idaho Buck-1

When I returned I found that it had indeed snowed and was continuing to do so. That, combined with the rut peaking and the fact that it’s easier to spot in the snow, Neal and I found a lot of deer. I was amazed at the difference. Over the next few days we spotted several bucks, the best was a 26-incher that was “okay” but kind of light with weak fronts.

Leaving the low country we went a little higher where the timber started. Suddenly, Neal spotted a huge typical at 600 yards. We figured he was close to making book. There was a sheer cliff below him and without coming over the other side of the mountain, there was just no way. We watched him walk into the timber and disappear. Later that day, Neal spotted another buck bedded under a tree at 200 yards. As I glassed him, I could see one side of a great typical frame, 180-190 inches. I had a dead rest and the safety off when Neal whistled and as the big buck turned we saw one side that went four inches past his ear and the other side being broke off right above his brow tine. I couldn’t get the safety back on fast enough.Idaho Buck-3

The next morning we parked the truck and started back at it again. Neal and I had just split around a knob when suddenly I spotted a doe not fifty yards away. Behind her a doe, then a small buck. Behind and above him was another mule deer. I moved up a little and waited. When he came between two trees I cold see the back of the left antler and a forked cheater. I knew he was big and that cheater was all I needed. The two does were ahead of me and I watched them walk between some junipers with the big buck bringing up the rear. I didn’t look at antlers once I knew it was him. The shot was only 75 yards and the Sako 300 Remington Ultra Mad did it’s job. Double-lunged, he went to his knees and then backed down into the draw. When I got to him all I could see the rack sticking out of the knee deep snow. Neal had heard me shoot and soon we were celebrating together. The five by nine big buck measured 32 inches wide to the cheaters and had a 28-inch mainframe! With thirteen inches of non-typical points he grossed 193! Special thanks to my good friend Neal for his time and efforts, I couldn’t have done it without your help.


September 9, 2009 by  
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Possible new Pope and Young State record for Washington

washington record all photo rights reserved

What a great guy!  Just got off the phone with the lucky hunter Mark.  What a humble person!  This is a great story, Mark has watched this deer for three years and was able to draw the tag a stick an arrow in this awesome animal.

“It really hasn’t even hit me yet.  The phone has been ringing off the hook and it hasn’t even giving it time the sink in.  I wish the deer was still alive and a pet in my back yard.  Its hard harvesting something you have so much time invested in.  I’ve watched this particular deer for three season now.  He deserves the respect, not me”

From my conversation with mark on the phone I can tell he is a true gentleman in every spectrum of the definition.  Its good to see good people work hard and get what they have put in, back out of a sport they so enjoy.  Congrats mark, on a spectacular buck! I can’t wait to see the field photos and hear the full story!  This is KARMA at its best!wash3

Currently the State record for Washington is a 202 0/8 incher harvested in Franklin County back in 2004 by Tom Adrian.  The number two Pope and Young buck was harvested in 1983 in Chelan County and scores 189 1/8 inches. We should have an unofficial green score some time today. (Information per the 2005 edition of the Pope and Young record book) I’ve my got fingers crossed for you Mark.wash2

Update 9-10-2009

Unofficial gross green score is 209 1/8 inches with 8 7/8 inches if deductions.  This gives it an unofficial net green score of 200 1/8 inches, putting him number two in Washington.  He is 31 1/2 inches wide, with great mass al the way out to the tips. This is a beautiful buck. Congrats mark, thanks for the update!


Founder, Mule Deer Country

Early, Idaho Rifle hunt!

September 5, 2009 by  
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Early rifle hunt in Idaho

It all started when this new taxidermist moved into town and came in the store asking if we needed any work done. After two months of telling him no I finally agreed to take our town’s newest taxidermist, Mike Allemang, with me on my controlled hunt. Also accompanying us was another good friend, Buddy Yeun. I had hunted this unit for the last five years, either with a tag of my own or taking a family member. The biggest buck we had taken scored around 150 B&C. We just hadn’t seen anything that good…..until last year. This is where my story begins.Early rifle hunt in Idaho-2

The back country road we were on is overgrown with buck brush and is about four miles long. The only way to see is to put someone in the back of the truck. Buddy chose this job because I said it would look really bad if I was to be seen in the back with a gun. Everybody agreed and we had a plan. Mike was to drive and video when the time came, Buddy was to spot, and all I had to do was shoot straight.Early rifle hunt in Idaho-3

We drove ¾ of the way down the road and didn’t see anything, less of 100 head of elk. It was 10:00 before we started seeing deer, but something was different. There were no bucks to be found and very few does. Fifteen minutes later, Buddy asked Mike to stop the truck so he could glass a far ridge. After a few moments of spotting, he informed us that he had spotted a deer but did not get a good look at it. He just knew that it look BIG! We walked up the ridge to get a better look. Buddy and I went on ahead to set up and Mike was behind getting the video camera. We only made it 100 yards up the hill when Buddy motioned me to stop. There were a couple mule deer just up the hill and one was a buck. Still not knowing how big the other buck was, we decided to wait for Mike to work his way up the hill. When Mike got there, we finally spotted the second buck and what a monster buck it was! It made you shake just looking at him. We all knew immediately that this was the one I had been waiting for.Early rifle hunt in Idaho-1

As I lined up my shot, the big buck turned and looked directly at us only leaving a very small section of neck and shoulder to be seen from behind the trees. It was 300 yards uphill when I attempted the first shot. I squeezed the trigger with the world’s greatest flinch, and when nothing happened, my heart nearly stopped. I looked at Mike and told me in a very calm voice to relax, calm down, take my safety off, and try again. The second shot, or the first that actually fired, hit the mark! Down went the big buck and one of my greatest dreams came true. My 2003, public land, mule deer buck grossed 206 and netted 199 7/8ths! I have to give special thanks to Buddy Yuen and Mike Allemang for all the help and support and to my dad for taking the time to teach me the correct and responsible way to hunt. Mike mounted the big buck for me and it is one of the best deer mounts I have ever seen. Valley Taxidermy (208) 871-0785

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