Well it really is turning out to be a big year. I had a muzzleloader tag for a unit in Utah this year. I purchased a muzzleloader about five months before the hunt and began practicing. It was extremely challenging and I know I have a lot more to learn about the machine. Thankyou to some of the other members on the Muzzleloader Forums for the help they gave me. Three days before I was to leave I ran into a nightmare. I went to test shoot my weapon and I couldn't even hit paper. It ended up the insides of the holographic sight had rattled loose and no pattern could be achieved with it. I rushed to a gun store here in town and purchased a military grade holographic site and spent the next two days re-patterning the rifle.
The day before season I flew into Salt Lake and rented a vehicle to drive to the hunting area. My guide Bowdy Steele met me and we drove to the hunting area together. Bowdy is a Young tall man that I learned has some of the sharpest eyes of any hunter I have ever met. He is exceptionally driven to kill trophy mule deer. While gassing up he explained that there was a specific buck we would be trying to kill. Apparently he and his brother had located this buck in the archery season and had spent the entire season trying to get an archery client to poke him but the deer's luck had just been too good.
I booked this hunt with the goal of killing at least a 180 inch deer. In fact up until this hunt, I had never seen a 180 inch class deer with a tag in my pocket. I was very hopeful that the next week would change that.
After unloading the gear Bowdy asked if I wanted to go do some scouting and we headed to the mountain. Bowdy told me since the deer had shed his velvet he had kind of changed his pattern and gotten a little more cagey and he had not been seen in a couple of days. Just before dark Bowdy picked him up in the glass on a far mountain side almost two thousand yards away. It was a heck of a spot. It was almost dark and I really couldn't make out much but I could tell I was staring at a deer with a whole lot of head gear.
That night Bowdy's brother, Gunner, joined us along with a friend of his named Jason. Gunner shares the same passion as Bowdy does for giant mule deer and Jason was going to be able to lend a hand for the next day and a half.
Opening morning dawned and we set up gassing a large valley in the area the deer was known to frequent. We glassed for hours and saw close to a dozen different bucks but no sign of the giant. I think that night we all went to bed a little bewildered.
The next morning we were right back in the same area with the same plan. Right at day break Jason spotted our buck with a few smaller friends on a quick march towards a bedding spot. Me and Bowdy took off to try and head them off. We covered a lot of ground really quick. I was glad I had been doing a lot of working out before I came. We approached the area where we thought they would be and could not see any deer. It was a tight little mount cut choked with junipers. We slowly walked the east side of the ridge looking over into the shadowed west side. Suddenly Bowdy crouched down and I did the same. He had spotted the bucks. Problem was they were looking at us. I looked through my binos down the hill and saw the biggest buck I had ever seen looking right back at me. Bowdy ranged him at 250 yards. I put the muzzy on him. I knew the shot was too far for my capabilities I told Bowdy I wasn't going to shoot. I could sence the frustration in Bowdy. He knew we had stepped on this buck and he was scared the buck would leave the area never to be seen again. I had to respect my capabilities and we watched the group of four bucks slowly walk away through the bottom and up over the next ridge. We tried hooking in front of them but they were traveling way faster in that terrain than we could. We put our heads together and decided we could set an ambush in a close by draw that we figured had the best chance of being their evening path back towards a feeding area.
For nine hours we sat in that draw waiting. It was long and boring. Right before dark a giant buck came walking down the draw just as we had hoped. Unfortunately it was not the buck we were after. It was a gorgeous nine point. Heavy and wide with huge front forks. I was tempted. Here was a hellavu typical within my comfort range with a muzzleloader, but one thing kept ringing in my ears. "If you want to kill a giant deer you have to be willing to pass great deer". I could tell Bowdy was wondering about my mental state when I told him lets let this big guy go.
That night over some chili I told all three guys it had been the best day of deer hunting I had ever had. I had laid eyes on two buck most men dream of in the same day. Who cares if the trigger got pulled. This trip was shaping up to be better than I imagined it could be.
Jason had to go back to work so Friday morning it was just Me Bowdy and Gunner on a hill top glassing for the giant. We glassed all morning and finally found one of the smaller friends that had been hanging out with the big deer. We tore that nob apart with our glasses trying to see if the big deer was laying there hidden but it seems the little guy was all alone. We decided to go rest our bodies and eyes and get some lunch.
This is Bowdy and Gunner. I think they were just flat whooped by this time. They were working really hard.
That afternoon we formulated a plan to come in a little farther to the south of where our focus had been. We climbed a hill to glass more of the cedar hills in the area we had spotted the little buck that morning. I had only been glassing for maybe two minutes when I realized Bowdy hissing at me. I looked and realized he was flat out on the ground. I knew some deer was close. I crawled to him and he stated the group of buck including the big one were 550 yards away two hill over and could probably see us. We belly crawled back over the hill and circled north and out of their sight. We climbed the hill that was between us and the bucks and side hilled around to see them. They were a little higher than us so we stayed laid down behind a rock ledge. Bowdy ranged the big guy at 180 yards. We figured he would stand in about an hour and walk downhill closer to us to go to a feeding area. While we were waiting suddenly two doe popped up feet from us. They both walked within eight feet of us as we tried to melt into the dirt and rocks. A little while later the bucks stood up.
They started walking right where the doe had been! Right at us. I waited with the muzzy pointed right at a little lip they would have to cross. Soon one of the small bucks popped over the lip and froze. He stood there for 3 or 4 minutes staring at a situation he could tell didn't seem safe. My elbows ached resting on the jagged rocks but I did not even twitch. After a while he began to move towards us and soon the other three buck walked over the lip. The big guy just kept feeding right to me. I kept expecting him to turn but he never did. Finally I had to do something. The first little guy was dang near in my pocket and I knew at any moment we were going to get busted. I settled the dot on the big fellas shoulder blades and squeezed. He crumbled face first at the shot. It was mortally devastating. I got the shakes something fierce. Bowdy was hooping and hollering. I don't think either of us could believe what had happened. We spent a lot of time taking some good pics. Then I gutted him and we hauled him off the hill. That night as I was cutting up the deer Bowdy and Gunner taped the horns. They said he will go 227 inches. Several people including Wade Lemon drove out to see it. News kind of travels fast in these digital times. I went to bed that night exhausted but very happy. I felt very blessed. It was definitely a hunt God was part of. Again I would also like to thank Bowdy, Gunner and all the guys at Wade Lemon Hunting that made this possible.
We'll see later how my other deer hunts go. Best luck to all of you out there.