Out of all the big game animals to hunt, the mule deer is by far my favorite. Something about a mule deer buck sparks a fire into me that no other animal can. The way a mature mule deer buck can disappear and stash closely resembles that of a ghost. Im always haunted by the images of the bucks that always get away. Being from the state of New Mexico itís harder to find these big mule deer. Donít get me wrong there is still a lot of potential to come across a nice buck but not like the state of Colorado. Home of the Mule Deer.
My little brother was able to save up some points and draw a non- resident youth deer tag in one of our favorite units. We have hunted this unit before and had good luck on past hunts with some good bucks and now it was my little brothers turn to notch his tag on a Colorado muley.
A storm system rolled in the day before opening morning and rained all night. It seemed like we have had nothing but bad weather on all of our hunts this year. We were restricted to the cover of the truck for the first hour of the hunt. We parked on a point where we could glass the valleys and hopefully turn up some deer. Although all the cloud cover made it really dark to see, we still turned up a few deer. The rain wasnít bothering them whatsoever. I put the spotting scope on them to see if there were any good bucks worth getting a closer look at. There was only a fork horn and a spike buck with all the does we spotted. We figured that since the rain wasnít affecting the deer activity that we would just throw on the rain gear and tough it out for the morning hunt.
We decided to park the truck on the top of the highest ridge and work our way down and hunt the rolling hills/canyons. It was going to be a pretty long hike and would most likely last all day. Before we found a spot to park the truck, my dad hits the break and immediately grabs his binos. He said ďYouíre not going to believe this but there is a nice bull elk on top of that ridge about 500 yards awayĒ. Sure enough there was a great 6x6 bull just standing there. We were all in shock because this is the first year that we didnít buy an over the counter elk tag in Colorado. All we could do is take a few pictures through the spotting scope and carry on our way.
As soon as we started our hike, it didnít take long to turn up deer. Every little draw we looked into had a few does and small bucks in it. Where were all the mature bucks? We knew that it was pretty close to the rut and these bucks should be with the does. A little more into the hike, I glassed up a nice deer shed across the canyon.
I separated from my dad and little brother to go get it and when I was walking up the hill back to them I saw some deer across the canyon. As soon as I put my binos on them I could see that there was a good buck in the group. I didnít get a good look at the buck because I was rushing back to tell them but I distinctly saw a wide frame on the buck about 26-28 inches wide. A definite shooter! The deer were already onto us and I could see my dad and little brother already on the stalk. By the time I caught up to my dad and little brother, the deer had already went up and over the hill. It turns out that there was another good buck in the group that I didnít see. A shooter 3x3 with good top forks.
Doe and a fawn
Little guy that wanted his pic taken
We decided to continue on our hike and stick to the original game plan and save that big framed buck for the evening hunt. I felt confident that we would find more deer the deeper we went into our hike. It also gave us a chance to explore new country. Later that morning we were walking along this fence line when I glanced to my left and saw deer scattered I the timber on the edge of a meadow. After further examining the group I could see a buck in the back. All I could see were horns and I got a little excited and made the buck sound bigger than what he actually was. We all immediately got down and my little brother set up for a shot. After we had time to get a good look at the buck we decided that it wasnít something we were looking for. It was a big fork that had about 8 does with him. He was showing signs of rut activity so I pulled out the spotting scope and took a few pictures of the rutting buck.
A very beautiful buck that we would be more than happy to take on a general season hunt in NM but we knew we could do better if we held out.
Found another nice shed
Not long after I found the shed I found this. A skull of a buck that had shed.
I recognized this shed and it turns out that it was the other side to one I found 2 years ago on the same ridge while hunting deer. Im thinking its the sheds to the shed buck skull.
After my brother passed up that buck we decided to start hunting our way back to the truck. There was this one small canyon that had a bunch of aspen and for some reason we were drawn there. Just as we were about to go into the canyon my dad froze in his tracks. I glanced to the left and saw what made him froze. It was a buck! It had to be with that body size! I could see a good rack and without hesitation I told my brother to shoot that buck! My brother didnít get a good look at the buck and didnít know how big he was so it took him a little longer than usual to set up. He finally saw that this buck was a shooter 4x4 with eyeguards but it was too late. Just as he was about mid-squeeze on the trigger he saw the buck bound off like all spooked muleys do. As I saw the buck bounce off through my binos I saw him join up with another similar sized body deer but could not see the head. It was definitely another buck but couldnít tell how big he was.
The pursuit was on! We followed the bucks through the timber until we stumbled upon a camp. We figured that the bucks also saw the camp and changed their direction into a deep canyon. We were right. Not long after entering the canyon we caught a glimpse of the deer running away. It was the same two bucks but again it was a really quick sighting of only the back 4x4 with no shot opportunities. We followed them as they continued up the canyon. We double-timed our pace because these bucks had a good jump on us and we knew that they would follow this canyon up. We kept on and on until exhaustion got the best of us. We were sucking air pretty good when I spotted deer running through the pines a little further down the same canyon. This time there were more than just two. We figured that two bucks must have joined up with the previous group with the big fork.
We kept on going chasing the deer until the canyon finally ended into a ridge. We got on top of the ridge hoping the deer would be just on the other side. Sure enough there they were! They all spooked and all of the deer took off running through the pines. There were a lot of deer and it became chaotic. My little brother kneeled down and rested the rifle on his knee hoping that one of the shooter bucks would stop in an opening for a shot. As all the deer were running through the tall pines all we could see were small forks and does. No sign of the 4x4 until my dad said ďThere he is! The 4x4! Ē The buck never stopped and never gave a clear shot. We figured that if we stayed on top of the ridge the buck might offer a clear shot. The buck didnít follow the rest of the group. We were just about to call it quits and head back to the truck when all of a sudden the buck appears on the opposite ridge. My little brother sets up on the sticks and takes his shot. The buck dropped in his tracks! He made a great 277 yard shot across the canyon and the buck weíve been after all day is finally down!
Pic through the spotter
This buck grew more and more as we walked up to him.
Little bro with his 2014 muley
The packout with the gamecart
On the way out this buck crossed the road and stuck around for a few pics.
This hunt was a pretty awesome experience for us. Getting away from all the roads and the crowds really paid off. Not only did we not run into any other hunters but the quality and quantity of the deer got way better. We had a blast and we canít wait to be back chasing the muleys of the backcountry.