Nevada mule deer buck success

Six-GunSix-Gun Senior MemberPosts: 7,283 Senior Member
D47A8325-E609-4C44-B484-94129894DC7A-285-000000245C22BE79.jpg

Ok, now that I’m back, let me preface this hunt report by stating outright that mule deer might be the weirdest, least jumpy animal I have ever hunted. With that out of the way, I’ll give you some details.

Back in June, I was drawn for Nevada’s Any Legal Weapon early season for a mule deer buck in Game Management Unit 16. This area is massive, covering roughly 12,000 square miles and much of central Nevada. The season runs from Oct 5-22, but based on the advice of the friend who accompanied me (a retired game warden named Frank who used to work this area, who didn’t have a tag and just came along for the fun of the hunt), I chose to go the second week instead of the opener. The early season is a considerably easier draw than the late season, but it’s also notoriously tough with a much lower success rate. The bucks are in scant bachelor herds this early in the season and are not rutting. Simply finding them would prove to be a helluva task given the scale of the country I was hunting.

Monitorvalley.jpg

The weapon of choice for this hunt was my lefty Tikka T3 Lite Stainless in .243 Winchester with a Harris field length bipod. This is the same rifle that the artist formerly known as “BPSNIPER” custom painted for me with his very own carny hands. It was an absolute joy to carry all day in those mountains given how tough the terrain was. The ammo was handloaded 100 gr. Sierra Pro Hunter soft point bullets over Ramshot Hunter powder. I also brought along my Leupold Gold Ring HD spotting scope, my Nikon ATB 12x binos, and my Leupold RX-1000 TBR rangefinder.

Day 1:
After setting up camp the day prior, we got to hunting the high country. I saw well over 40 deer this day, but nearly all were does. We saw most of them after posting up high on a vantage point and peering near a mountainside mahogany thicket. One group walked rather unassumingly past our truck as if they expected to see us there. I say again, mule deer are weird. The only bucks we saw this day were a single spike and a forkhorn that was with a doe. I passed on both. There was lots of action this day, but little worth fussing over.

Day 2:
We tried a lower area in the mountains on the second day, following the banks of a creek. The edges of the creek had mountains and rocky crag formations around it. Within 10 minutes, we spotted deer, but again, they were does. We continued walking and spotting more does…and more does. We didn’t see a single buck this day and I was starting to get a little nervous. We saw fewer overall deer and not a single buck after walking 4 miles in and out of the creek bottom.

Day 3:
The morning effort was a disaster. We went nearly 6 miles down a different mountain creek bed without spotting a single deer. We saw nothing on the way back out either. Now I was starting to get really worried. Being new to mule deer hunting and knowing how tough this particular season is to hunt, my goal was “anything better than a forkhorn.” At this point, that forkie I blew off on the first day starting to haunt me and make me wonder if I just should’ve shot what I was given. We still had a few days left, but this was looking bleak and chats with the locals reflected the exact same sparse buck encounters. One guy apparently passed on a 4-point (8-point, for us whitetail folks) and ended up having to shoot a forkie as he ran out of hunting time. Another simply couldn’t find anything better. Maybe I was being a little too smug in my initial expectations given how the locals were doing.

Then, I decided to go back to basics. I told Frank that I wanted to hit up the same canyon I scouted in the summer, even though I only saw does back then. I knew it held deer, we just had to see if there were now bucks where once there were not. He agreed with my logic and we headed for the spot. On the way out, an obviously insane coyote decided to cross in front of the truck, hold up at 50 yards off the side of the road while I pulled over, wait for me to retrieve the handgun case from the back seat of my crew cab and retrieve my Colt Anaconda, wait further for me to get ammo out from under the hardcover over the bed, load the gun and fire a shot right into its neck. It made for a nice little diversion hunt.

CoyoteHitbyColtAnaconda.jpg

After I smoked the coyote with a 240 gr. Sierra SportsMaster JHC bullet from the .44 mag, we drove deep into the high country over some brutal terrain to find my old, high vantage point. However, looking at the fact that this would be an evening hunt, I decided we needed to get closer to the mountain, as we wouldn’t have time to spot a deer and move in on it in the waning light from as high up as we were. We would trade some elevation and viewing distance for a much closer seat to where the deer previously appeared. It was a gamble, but that decision proved to be the best one of the hunt.

As I drove the truck down the other side of the mountain toward a new, lower vantage point, I almost immediately spotted 3 deer on the low edge of the adjacent mountain. They looked close, but I had no choice to bail out of the truck as they watched and hope they wouldn’t spook. They didn’t (did I mention that mulies are weird?) Given how we had seen almost nothing but does up to this point, I wasn’t immediately excited. Then, a flash of antler changed my mood slightly until I noticed that all three deer were forkies…bummer. I painfully mulled over the thought of lowering my expectations for the sake of filling my tag given that precedent up to this point did not lend itself to the notion that there would be any more opportunities. Just then, a 4th deer appeared and a quick look through the spotting scope showed that he had 3 points on one side. For the purposes of this hunt, he was immediately considered a shooter.

A quick laser reading confirmed that this was a very doable 262 yard shot. The problem was that my buck and one of the forkies were leapfrogging next to each other while feeding, presenting a very real risk of hitting both deer. Worse, they were about to feed behind a large tree. They did just that before I could shoot, forcing me to gather up and run up my new mountain vantage point a bit higher before they fed back out and saw me in full sprint. I got back into shooting position with the bipod legs fully deployed to clear the sage brush. When my buck finally fed clear of his buddy, I shot. My buck just stood there for a moment, and then gradually started walking like he had a bad back. None of the other bucks around him did much more than look up to see what his problem was. About 15 seconds later he came rolling down the mountain. The post-mortem would later show that the 100 gr. Sierra Pro Hunter got total pass-through and double-lunged him.

Muledeerdown.jpg

Not a terribly large or well-spread rack, but I found out upon recovery that he had a 4th point on his far side that I didn’t notice in my haste to set up. Given how poorly most of the other hunters I talked to had done, bagging a 4x3 buck was a very nice treat. Another nice treat was his buddies hanging around for a photo opportunity after he fell dead no more than 100 yards away to watch us recover him (weird, no?)

Muledeerbystanders.jpg

Regardless, I had my mule deer hanging in camp just a few hours later and that was more than I could ask for.
Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
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Replies

  • RazorbackerRazorbacker Senior Member Posts: 4,646 Senior Member
    Nice! Congrats. Based on the size of your hand and forearm as it appears in the pic, that thing has some serious mass in that side of his rack.
    Look forward to the full report.
    Teach your children to love guns, they'll never be able to afford drugs
  • ZeeZee Senior Member Posts: 20,564 Senior Member
    Awesome!!!!!
    "To Hell with efficiency, it's performance we want!" - Elmer Keith
  • BuffcoBuffco Senior Member Posts: 6,244 Senior Member
    Nice! Congrats. Based on the size of your hand and forearm as it appears in the pic, that thing has some serious mass in that side of his rack.
    Look forward to the full report.

    No, sixguns arms are tiny. Like, carney tiny. He's only 3'11", and really sensitive about it.... Just letting you know.

    Nice, Luis. How do you have so much time for so much hunting and VARIETY?
  • TeachTeach Senior Member Posts: 18,347 Senior Member
    Looking good! When are you going to take one with that smokepole?
    Jerry
    Hide and wail in terror, Eloi- - - -We Morlocks are on the hunt!
    ASK-HOLE Someone who asks for advice and always does something opposite
  • 5280 shooter II5280 shooter II Senior Member Posts: 3,923 Senior Member
    Buffco wrote: »
    Nice, Luis. How do you have so much time for so much hunting and VARIETY?

    Because he doesn't have a real 9-5 job.........:tooth:

    Nice score Six-gun!
    God show's mercy on drunks and dumb animals.........two outa three ain't a bad score!
  • JayhawkerJayhawker Moderator Posts: 14,972 Senior Member
    Nice buck Luis...Congratulations!
    Sharps Model 1874 - "The rifle that made the west safe for Winchester"
  • CaliFFLCaliFFL Senior Member Posts: 4,636 Senior Member
    Nice buck! Congrats!
    The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me.

    Ayn Rand
  • Ernie BishopErnie Bishop Senior Member Posts: 6,981 Senior Member
    Very happy for you.
    Look forward to more details in the future.
    Ernie

    "The Un-Tactical"
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 7,283 Senior Member
    Original post updated with hunt report. Also, here are some other random picture from camp and the high country.

    My deer hanging at camp among the aspen trees:

    Deerhangingatcamp.jpg


    A beer sitting in the perfectly chilling creek water nearby:

    Beerinthecreek.jpg


    The beautiful creek running just beside our campsite:

    Creekbycamp.jpg


    A mule deer doe taking a break from feeding and drinking from a different area we passed through on the way to a fishing hole:

    Muledeerdoebythecreek.jpg


    A mule deer fawn perhaps 10 yards away from me at dusk:

    Muledeerfawn.jpg
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 7,283 Senior Member
    Because he doesn't have a real 9-5 job.........:tooth:

    Nice score Six-gun!

    This is true, and I wouldn't have it any other way. :that:
    Nice! Congrats. Based on the size of your hand and forearm as it appears in the pic, that thing has some serious mass in that side of his rack.
    Look forward to the full report.

    He's not terribly beefy in the antlers, but he is respectable. I had the option to shoot him or the wider spread forkhorn (on the left) you see in the pic in my now edited original post. I chose point count over spread, but it really was splitting hairs with how tough this hunt was. Remind me to wait for a late season tag next time, even if it takes a few more years to draw!
    Buffco wrote: »
    No, sixguns arms are tiny. Like, carney tiny. He's only 3'11", and really sensitive about it.... Just letting you know.

    Nice, Luis. How do you have so much time for so much hunting and VARIETY?

    The time is easy. I get 30 days a year in leave as a military member. The hard part is the piece I left out: paying for the wife to go to Cancun with one of my female cousin and dropping a large chunk of spending cash on her to boot as paymet for my numerous hunts.
    Teach wrote: »
    Looking good! When are you going to take one with that smokepole?
    Jerry

    As soon as I get back to a state where the distances are practical enough for me to attempt it, I want to get that thing out. That will probably be my next whitetail hunt back in Nebraska, hopefully next year.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 7,283 Senior Member
    Oh, and thanks again for all of the nice replies, boys. I really did have fun. I'll have to fill you in on the Nevada duck opener when I get a chance. These two hunts fell right on top of each other, but both were a great time.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • JermanatorJermanator Senior Member Posts: 15,114 Senior Member
    Awesome! Congratulations.
  • NNNN Senior Member Posts: 23,942 Senior Member
    Great story and hunt, hey.
    A Veteran is someone that served in the Military, it does not matter where they served.
  • knitepoetknitepoet Senior Member Posts: 18,744 Senior Member
    Luis, :yousuck: Nice hustle mi amigo :beer:
    Still waiting on you to make it to Maxwell AFB between 11/17/12 and 01/31/13 :cuss:
    Seven Habits of Highly Effective Pirates, Rule #37: There is no “overkill”. There is only “open fire” and “I need to reload”.


  • orchidmanorchidman Senior Member Posts: 7,718 Senior Member
    Once again you have made me envious. Excellent hunt and writeup Luis. Love the pics, especially of the creek and the last one of the fawn.

    I look forward to your 'range' report of the duck opener.
    Still enjoying the trip of a lifetime and making the best of what I have.....
  • bklysenbklysen Member Posts: 403 Member
    Congrats on another awesome hunt, Luis. Your pics and stories are always top notch, like a few others here. Makes me feel like I'm right there...

    Interesting that you mention a noticeable difference in behavior between Whitetails and Muleys you've seen in the field. I have hunted only Whitetails so I can't speak with any experience about that, but you're not the first guy to make mention of this.

    Did the non-hunting guy who joined you (a local as I understand) have any comment on this? Just curious, as my only exposure to Mule deer has been a tourist from the Midwest seeing them roaming around in terrain similar to what you've pictured. Granted, this was not during any hunting season but it just struck me at how relatively 'unbothered' they seemed by my presence at that time. I figured they were just an oddball specimen. Just curious...
  • shootershooter Senior Member Posts: 1,186 Senior Member
    Congrats on a fine hunt. It looks like all your pre-season scouting paid off.
    There's no such thing as having too much ammo, unless you're on fire or trying to swim!
  • Diver43Diver43 Senior Member Posts: 8,592 Senior Member
    Congratulations! Thanks for sharing your experience

    Sent from my SPH-D710 using Tapatalk 2
    Logistics cannot win a war, but its absence or inadequacy can cause defeat. FM100-5
  • SlanteyedshootistSlanteyedshootist Senior Member Posts: 3,947 Senior Member
    :applause::cool2:
    The answer to 1984 is 1776
  • N454casullN454casull Member Posts: 357 Member
    Good job man! thats about the same size as the one I shot this year! Just made a batch of snack sticks out of the trim meat and man were they good!
  • Big Al1Big Al1 Senior Member Posts: 7,027 Senior Member
    As usuall, great story and great pics!! That's some wide open country!! Any buck these days is a trophy.
    What will you doing at Maxwell, charm school?? Tyndall's only three hours down the road if you got time. Got a spare bedroom you're welcome to. Shootin' range is 45 minutes away!!
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 7,283 Senior Member
    knitepoet wrote: »
    Luis, :yousuck: Nice hustle mi amigo :beer:
    Still waiting on you to make it to Maxwell AFB between 11/17/12 and 01/31/13 :cuss:
    I know, dude, I know! I really do want to get down there. I am thinking about how I can make it happen. Hopefully, I can get down there via work like I did with my Maryland hunt. I really wish I had more time in 2008 when I was at Squadron Officer School, but free time was at a premium back then.
    orchidman wrote: »
    Once again you have made me envious. Excellent hunt and writeup Luis. Love the pics, especially of the creek and the last one of the fawn.

    I look forward to your 'range' report of the duck opener.

    Thanks a lot, Alec. That area was beautiful and that creek made me wish I knew how to fly fish. There were plenty of nice brook and rainbow trout in that water. As soon as I get the gusto, I'll post that duck report I owe you guys. It's already about a week overdo, but I was stuck in the mountains with no net connection for the past week.
    bklysen wrote: »
    Congrats on another awesome hunt, Luis. Your pics and stories are always top notch, like a few others here. Makes me feel like I'm right there...

    Did the non-hunting guy who joined you (a local as I understand) have any comment on this? Just curious, as my only exposure to Mule deer has been a tourist from the Midwest seeing them roaming around in terrain similar to what you've pictured. Granted, this was not during any hunting season but it just struck me at how relatively 'unbothered' they seemed by my presence at that time. I figured they were just an oddball specimen. Just curious...

    Thanks for your kind words, Barry. Frank said that mulies tend to build stress over time and don't put it into high gear immediately like the whitetails you and I are used to seeing. The forkie we saw on the first day was a good example of this. That deer was only 150 or so yards from us when we came over a hill to look at him. Once we saw that he was a sub par deer with no other better options around him (just that one doe), we were more cavalier in our movements and far less discrete. We started talking in a conversational tone and the deer would periodically look up at us. Then, an ATV and UTV from another hunting party drove by them within 100 yards and they still didn't run off. Again, they just looked up and watched as the drivers went by obliviously. Finally, when Frank got up to grab my spotting scope, the deer had enough and bounded over the hill, stopping to look back at us several times. By the way, there is nothing subtle about a mule deer bounding off on those rocky mountainsides. Their hooves clacking against those rocks are LOUD. You could easily hear a deer before you see him in that environment.
    N454casull wrote: »
    Good job man! thats about the same size as the one I shot this year! Just made a batch of snack sticks out of the trim meat and man were they good!

    Yeah, I was just thinking about your hunt a little bit back. I'm going to have to do some creative recipe work with this one on account of I've never had mulie venison before. Speaking of which, shoot me a PM with your personal email when you get a minute. I have a recipe I wanted to send you.
    Big Al1 wrote: »
    As usuall, great story and great pics!! That's some wide open country!! Any buck these days is a trophy.
    What will you doing at Maxwell, charm school?? Tyndall's only three hours down the road if you got time. Got a spare bedroom you're welcome to. Shootin' range is 45 minutes away!!

    I actually wanted to go see knitepoet a few years back when I was, in fact, going to charm school (i.e. Squadron Officer School), but I haven't been able to get back there since. I think he's going to fly out and choke me out if I don't find time sooner ather than later to come hunt with him down there. I'm just hoping the AF finds a way to send me down there again. If I get down there, Tyndall is definitely not a far drive. We'll see what we can do.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • knitepoetknitepoet Senior Member Posts: 18,744 Senior Member
    Six-Gun wrote: »
    I think he's going to fly out and choke me out if I don't find time sooner ather than later to come hunt with him down there.
    Naaaaa, I'll send Buffco, he can handle the light stuff for me :roll2:
    Seven Habits of Highly Effective Pirates, Rule #37: There is no “overkill”. There is only “open fire” and “I need to reload”.


  • LinefinderLinefinder Moderator Posts: 4,476 Senior Member
    Good deal, Luis!

    Mike
    Decisions have consequences, not everything in life gets an automatic mulligan.
    KSU Firefighter
  • MileHighShooterMileHighShooter Senior Member Posts: 4,768 Senior Member
    All I want to know is....how much of my advice, actually helped? lol
    Wambli Ska wrote: »
    Once again, please refrain from cutting short any baseless totally emotional arguments with facts. It leads to boring, completely objective conversations well beyond the comprehension ability of many.
  • ZeeZee Senior Member Posts: 20,564 Senior Member
    Man, you'd think a guy could at least get a picture of the rifle used to take the game.........WITH the game taken!

    :-(
    "To Hell with efficiency, it's performance we want!" - Elmer Keith
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 7,283 Senior Member
    All I want to know is....how much of my advice, actually helped? lol

    I can say that we did see a lot of deer for 1/2 to 2/3 of the way up the mountain, which is exactly what you told me would be the case. We saw smatterings of them at the low summits and the one I shot (and his buddies) fed very low on that particular mountain. One thing I gotta say, though, regarding our discussion about caliber for this hunt is that while I agree that a good magnum caliber will buy you some flatter trajectory at distance out here, that .243 romped this deer hard. I was very pleased to see total pass-through with only 100 gr. bullet at 250 yards, but there is a catch. Linefinder warned me ahead of time that on thin-skinned game, some of the worst blood shot meat he has seen has come at the heand of a .243 Win. In this case, it was not outwardly terrible - I got your typical, slightly larger than fist sized bloodshot flank meat around the entrance and exit, and a small segment of damaged backstrap - but that's more than I got with a 7mm-08 doing 2700 FPS with a Barnes TTSX. Part of me wonders if the bullet helped keep damage down or potentially made it worse. I went with the ProHunter because it is more stout/less rapidly expanding than the comperable GameKing offering, but at 3,000+ FPS, ya never know. From what Linefinder told me, while it's his bullet of choice for the task, a Ballistic Tip can do ugly things to an antelope under certain conditions.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 7,283 Senior Member
    Zee wrote: »
    Man, you'd think a guy could at least get a picture of the rifle used to take the game.........WITH the game taken!

    :-(

    I really feel bad about that. I meant to do it, but Frank was in a rush (rightfully so) to get the deer field dressed, skinned and back to camp to hang as it was unseasonably warm up in our area (nearly 80 during the day). As soon as we got the deer to the truck, it dawned on me that I never got the gun in with the kill. Bad on me, but still, much credit goes out to the guy who painted it. It was PERFECT for this environment.

    TikkaT3paintedside.jpg

    (FYI - the scope in the pick was swapped out for A Leupold VX-3 3.5-10x40mm with Boone & Crockett reticle, my standard big game setup)
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • JermanatorJermanator Senior Member Posts: 15,114 Senior Member
    That is a good looking paint job. Unlike some people, I will make sure to get a photo of my rifle with the game if I bag something. :p
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 7,283 Senior Member
    Jermanator wrote: »
    That is a good looking paint job. Unlike some people, I will make sure to get a photo of my rifle with the game if I bag something. :p

    Hey now! I already feel bad enough for forgetting to get that pic. It's all good, though. It won't be the last hunt with that gun and I'll be sure to correct my mistake.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
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