I finished up with my ‘fall’ clients last week and had a chance to get out and do some deer hunting for myself. I set up a trip with friend Pat Minamide and we headed out on Friday. I saw a few whitetails on Friday, but only 1 small buck. Pat and I split up on Saturday morning, and I watched a creek bottom where a whitie had made a few aggressive rubs and Pat cruised some logging roads and walked into a few cutblocks. He spotted about a half-dozen whitetail does, but no bucks. We then figured a good plan for middle of the day would be to glass a large hillside that usually harboured some decent mule deer. We set up for glassing about 11:00 and after about 20 minutes Pat picked up a small group of mulies. We put the spotting scope on them, but turned out to be a small buck and 3 does. We kept glassing the hillside and about 20 minutes of hard glassing later, I spotted what appeared to ‘may’ be the white face and large rack of a mule deer in a micro-clearing in the forest at about 1.5 km. away. I quickly grabbed the spotting scope and zoomed in on the object. Sure enough, it was a very large buck bedded in the opening. We both looked him over carefully and were in awe. We then started to formulate a plan on how to get an opportunity on this buck. He was bedded is a very good spot for him and not so good for us. The mico-clearing he was in was surrounded by thick forest and rocky ridges and we knew it would be extremely hard to get a look at him from shooting distance. We kept analyzing the situation, but knew at some point we were just going to have to make a play on him and hope for the best. I found myself starting to shake with anticipation and I was still 1.5 km. away from him! I can’t say as I have ever had that happen with a mule deer.
Our plan was to drive closer to the deer, have Pat drop me off, then we would separate and I would stalk closer to the deer to try and gain a vantage and Pat would return to the glassing location and act as spotter. Fortunately, we had hand-held radios and this was ultimately the tool that made the difference. I hiked in to a spot on a rocky ridge down wind of the deer and worked up and down the ridge a bit to see if I could see the opening he was bedded in. Pat was able to locate me on the ridge and did his best to describe where the buck was, but as we suspected, the timber around the opening was just too tall and too thick to see into. I figured the only real option we had at that point was to just be patient and wait for the buck to get up on his own and make the first move. Now the waiting began. I was on pins and needles and every 15 minutes or so I would ask Pat what was going on. Pat continued to glass the buck and soon was able to see another smaller buck and a doe near the bedded buck. The doe moved around a bit once and the big buck just followed her around, and we thought maybe this was going to be the chance to possibly make a move on the deer. Unfortunately, they all bedded back down again. I was absolutely on edge, knowing I was within about 150 metres of the deer but couldn’t see anything that was going on. Pat kept watching the deer and I waited impatiently. After almost 3 hours of waiting, Pat radioed me and said the doe was moving uphill towards an open ridge I could see well, and suggested I move around that way a bit. I snuck about 50 metres to my left and then saw the doe come up onto the open ridge. I quickly dropped to my knees and shuffled over to a large Douglas-fir blowdown that would make a great shooting rest, knowing the big buck would be on her tail. As soon as I looked over the blowdown, there he was at about 100 metres out in the open! The shot was anticlimatic after all the tense waiting and the old monarch was cleanly dispatched with a heart shot. I made my way to the buck and could not believe the size of his body and the mass of his rack. Pat was then on his way over to help me with pictures, get the buck off the mountain and into the truck.
This was truly a joint effort and I highly doubt I would have got this deer without Pat’s help. We both discussed the hunt over and over again the rest of the day and into the early morning hours over cocktails and both agreed this was a classic mule deer hunt if there ever was one.