This year for the rifle deer hunt, we were very surprised that only one person in our families drew a tag. That person was my wife, Becky. We didn't have much time to scout for her hunt due to the big bull tags and other hunts going on all over the state. She drew her home base tag so she at least knew where to go from previous years.
Here are some pictures of bucks we saw leading up to the hunt. Most of these are not in her unit but it was cool to see good bucks on our other adventures during the year.
These are all Fishlake bucks:
We saw this spike and the next 2 point almost every time we walked in to check the wallow camera
This guy was still in the velvet at the 20th of September.
This guy is missing a whole side
I saw these guys several times throughout the summer/fall. If they survived the rifle hunt, they should be nice bucks next year.
Cool picture of the same bucks with one in the background.
We only got onto my wife's deer unit once all summer and these were the best two bucks we found that evening. We saw about 6 other 2-points and another medium sized buck. We knew that there would be deer in there for the rifle hunt so we just had to find them.
I got a chance to take a hike a couple days before her hunt started and I saw three 2-points and several does. I set up a trail camera on a water hole that looked like it was getting used pretty well but I only got pictures of one animal on it - this lion.
We decided to hunt up there anyway and hope to see something bigger than a two point. I guess I need to mention that by the time the rifle hunt started, Becky was about 7 months pregnant with our first child but she still wanted to give it her best and try and kill a buck.
That first day we ended up hiking around 5 miles. We saw a couple of the 2-points that I knew were in there but passed on shooting them. We didn't see many deer at all which surprised us a lot. We heard lots of shooting that morning down in the main canyon but only a couple shots all afternoon and evening. Here are the pics from our hike.
Becky and her brother killed their biggest bucks right here many years ago.
We saw several elk during the day though.
Sunset on a long day
We got word that night that my sister was going into labor with her first baby so we made the decision to head to Salt Lake that night and be there to support her. We ended up staying up there until Wednesday when she brought baby Lillee home. Then we headed home ourselves.
Becky didn't feel like doing too much Thursday and since it was snowing, we took a drive for a few hours that morning. We only saw 3 deer all morning but did see 4 moose and 13 bull elk.
After a nap we decided to see if we could get up on top in the storm and see what things were like.
We broke through the storm once on top and it started to clear up. The views were great now that everything was white and spotting deer was easy. They were up and moving around and we ended up seeing lots of does and fawns but no bucks.
We got a late start Friday but decided to head back up on top to see if there was anything moving around during the day. We got up there and I stopped in the first place to do some glassing. I immediately found a deer on the far ridge feeding in the aspens. I watched it and could see good main forks on the buck. I couldn't tell how big he really was though because of the trees. It would be a little over two miles to hike down the ridge to where he was. We decided to keep going up the mountain and see if there was anything else.
Glassing up the buck on the other ridge
Zoomed in view of where the buck is - just to the right of the lone pine tree
Maxed out zoom on my Vortex Razor. The thermals made it super hard to focus at this distance but you can see the dark spot about center of the photo in the aspens. That is the buck.
We didn't see any other deer so we made the decision to do the hike out to where this buck is/was. Becky was feeling pretty good so we grabbed our packs and started to hike. We busted a big group of elk out of the pines about half way there. We ended up getting in front of them and got to watch a couple raghorns fight. We were approaching the area above the bucks and I wanted to walk on the back side of the ridge but we looked and there were 3 bull elk bedded 50 yards below us. They had no idea we were there. We watched them for a second and then eased our way forward and spooking them down the hill.
We couldn't see the buck and slowly edged our way toward the aspens. It had been 4 hours or so since we had last seen him so we didn't even know if he was still in there. We got in the aspens and found his tracks but no buck. I walked around for a minute looking at things and went and stood next to one of his beds. I happen to look to the right and saw a dark spot that looked like an ear through the thick aspen trees. I looked and there he was! He was bedded less than 130 yards away facing away from us. There was hardly a shot though due to the thick trees.
We spent the next hour moving around on the hillside trying to get a good shot. We finally got above him enough where he gave Becky a head/neck/front chest shot. I got her set up on my tripod for balance and she said she could take a shot. With light fading too, I hoped for the best. She shot and he bolted from his bed, went about 10 feet, stopped, turned broadside to us and looked back at his bed. I told Becky where he was, she was already on him and he never took another step. She dropped him in his tracks. We were so excited! All this work and plan and time (over 5 hours from spotting him to killing him) and it worked out perfectly! Such an amazing story for us and one we will have to tell our baby girl when she gets here in another month. He turned out to be a 3 point and after the long hike and soon to be long hike back with only one more day to hunt, Becky said she wanted to take him and it worked out great.
With light fading, I decided to try the gutless method for quartering him out. I had never done it before but I have butchered enough deer and elk that I was confident I could figure it out. It was awesome. It saved me a bunch of time in the daylight and I didn't get very messy at all. Since Becky was pregnant, it was up to me to get the deer back to the truck. I didn't want to hike all the way back out there to get a second half of the deer so I put the whole deer in my pack. I didn't think it would be that bad until I tried to lift the pack to my shoulders. Oh my! I got the pack on and the first part of the hike being straight up was brutal. Once on top I did fine but it was quite a load. I've never done a 100 pound pack before. It was worth it and we had a nice, slow hike back to the truck with a full moon to light the way. What a memorable deer hunt!!