A few bucks from South Dakota

SDBugler

Active Member
I haven’t posted stories or pics for a while so thought I would catch up and post up some bucks from our past couple seasons here in SD.

In 2018 my family didn’t fare very well in the draws and I was the only one to pick up a tag for a mule deer here in SD. My middle son Spencer picked up a whitetail tag as a second choice in the same unit and was able to carry a rifle along on the hunt in case we bumped into a good one, although the area that we chase mule deer doesn’t have much for the whitetails. My youngest son Kyle hadn’t filled his archery tag so he had his bow along in case we found a good buck that I didn’t want to put my tag on.

We split up opening morning to cover more area but it was pretty slow. Spencer however, did get a glimpse of a pretty decent buck just as it was getting light enough to see but the buck was bird dogging some does and didn’t stick around long enough to get a good look at him. The afternoon wasn’t much better as the temps were warm and we were dealing with a full moon.

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On day two we decided to see if we could locate the buck Spencer had seen the prior morning. Just before sunrise we found him with a doe on one of the open hillsides behind us. We watched him for an hour as he hung out with his doe at 400 yards away. My sons were telling me to take him but I had set my goals on 180+. The buck had some extra character points that made him tempting though. I passed on him in the hopes that we would be able to stalk in closer and Kyle in on the buck for a chance with his bow. The buck and doe eventually went up over the hill and that was our chance to close the distance to get in range for an archery shot but there ended up being more deer on the other side and the buck ended up chasing does and smaller bucks around in the thick stuff and we lost them. The afternoon of the second day was pretty slow.

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Day three was the last day that Spencer and Kyle would be able to hunt with me as they had to go back to college. We decided to head back to the same area of the buck from day 2 as we were seeing decent numbers of does in that draw and hoped that the bucks would eventually filter in looking for a hot doe. Just before sunrise we located the buck from the previous morning and my sons tried to convince me that I should shoot him. The buck was staying in the draw so I told them we would watch him throughout the early morning and if we didn’t locate anything bigger, that I would go after him. A couple hours later we hadn’t seen anything bigger and the buck was feeding up the far side of the draw. I decided I would go after the buck since the boys were still there with me and able to be a part of the harvest (and also there to help with the pack out!!). We made a plan to get in closer. Spencer would stay back and watch the buck through the scope and provide hand signals if he moved while Kyle and I would sneak in for a stalk. The plan would be to sneak in as close as possible and try to get Kyle a shot with his bow but I would take him with the rifle if necessary. As we were getting about 200 yards away the wind switched and the buck got a sniff of us and started heading over the top of the ridge. I got prone on the bi-pod and took a shot just as he crested the ridge. It sounded like a hit but the buck never flinched or gave any indication of a hit. We waited for Spencer to gather his stuff and join us before heading over to where the buck was last seen. We didn’t find any blood but I was pretty positive of my shot even though it was rushed.. We decided to give him another half hour before following his tracks up over the top and see if we could find some blood or relocate him again. As we got up on top we located one small speck of blood just prior to his tracks dropping down into the next draw. Just as we peeked over into the bottom of the next adjacent draw the buck spotted us and got up about 300 yards away and started trotting away. I got down prone again Spencer got a quick range on him and yelled 345 yards. I put the cross hairs a few inches high and lead the buck slightly and my second shot dropped him in his tracks.

(looking down from where second shot was taken from)
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SDBugler

Active Member
After pictures Spencer and I skinned and deboned the buck while Kyle went back to our bivy camp and retrieved packs. We got the buck taken care of, pulled camp and packed everything out the 4.5 miles back to the truck by mid-afternoon.

(headed back to camp)
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Five days after harvesting my buck, I lost my father as he was out deer hunting on the opening day of the east river deer season. We were all fortunate that a man and his young son who were out pheasant hunting happened to come across dad’s body out in the middle of a CRP field. Otherwise we would have been wondering why dad hadn’t returned home that night. My dad was a great part of my life and my hunting heritage as well as a huge part of my three sons’ upbringing. We will all miss him dearly.

(Packing in with dad on our last hunt together in 2017)
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(setting up our last camp together with dad)
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(Last day we hunted together with dad and Kyles buck)
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Last year in 2019 none of us drew a rifle tag for a mule deer in SD but Kyle was lucky and pulled a muzzle loader tag good statewide for the month of December. Spencer and I also drew whitetail tags good for the east river season. We had a good east river hunt and saw some good bucks. Opening morning I was fortunate to be able to help young hunter harvest his first deer. I was sitting on a hill and about mid-morning a truck pulled up to the section of public land and four hunters got out. It appeared to be a man with two sons and their grandpa. They split up into pairs and started walking around opposite sides of a slough below me. I watched them for a while and realized that the grandpa wasn’t able to walk very well and that the youngest boy who was walking with his dad was also struggling to get through the tall grass. Earlier that morning I had watched some does bed in a couple different spots not far from me. I decided to go over and see if one of them had a doe license that I could help them fill. I trotted over to the closest pair and confirmed by suspicions. It was a family with dad, two sons, and grandpa that were hunting together. The youngest boy who was with him was on his first hunt and had a doe tag. They had hunted another area earlier that morning with no deer sighted. I told them about the does I had watched bed earlier and offered to help put the boy on one of them. They thanked me for my offer and we headed to where the closest doe was bedded. I got them to within 100 yards of the doe but they couldn’t see her bedded in the grass so I told the boy to get ready and I would whistle to get the doe to stand. As the doe stood the boy started shaking and hurried the shot and missed. I told them where another pair of does was bedded and that they would be much easier to spot in their beds. They thanked me for my help and we parted ways and I headed back to my hill where I was glassing from. As I got back to the hill I thought to myself “that boy struggled so bad to hold the gun steady I better go back and offer them the use of my bi-pod”. So I trotted back after them and caught up with them just as they were about to the spot where they would be able to see the doe and take a shot. I offered them the use of my bi-pod and so we got the bi-pod attached to the boys gun and he was able to make a great 125 yard shot on his first doe!! Later that evening I located some bucks chasing some does about a mile away and closed the distance to about 500 yards. I watched the biggest buck for a while and sent a few pics to my sons while I watched them. I didn’t think he was quite as big I was looking for and had actually seen a couple bigger ones on adjacent private land earlier that morning but my sons texted back and said I was crazy not to shoot that buck. Spencer even said “if you don’t shoot that buck, I will come over there myself and take him!” The biggest buck eventually pulled away from the group and started walking directly toward me. After watching them for about 20 minutes and with the buck closing the distance to 150 yards, I decided I would go ahead and take him.

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SDBugler

Active Member
For Kyle’s muzzleloader hunt I told him to focus on his college final exams and that I would take time off after he was done with finals and we would spend some time to get him a good mule deer. So early the morning of 12/19 we found ourselves backpacking in in the dark to get to one of our favorite areas. The plan was to bivy in for 4 days before we had to pull out and go to Bozeman for the week of Christmas with mom and his brothers. Then, If he didn’t fill his tag the first trip we would return when we got back and pack in for the last 4 days of the season.

On our first trip we had some snow and cold. The daytime temps were sunny and the temps got up into the low 30’s and the deer were actively feeding in the afternoons to store up for the winter. We saw some good bucks but as hunting goes just not able to get within range for a muzzleloader with open sights.

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On our pack out we came across one of the biggest typical bucks I have ever seen. The buck was bedded in an area where we never see deer because of the amount of traffic up the trail. Of course we didn’t have the muzzleloader loaded and the +210” buck slowly trotted away at 100 yards!!!



While visiting my oldest son Braden in Bozeman for Christmas we were able to do a little fly fishing. It was really different fly-fishing in the winter but the fish didn’t cooperate that day with Braden catching the only fish for the day. But it is always good to get away and enjoy the mountains.

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After Christmas we returned to SD on the tail end of the storm that shut down the state for 3 days. With the interstate still shut down and wind/snow still blowing, we left Rapid city at 2:30 am in hopes of finding a back road open to a different area that we wanted to try out. Unfortunately, every possible road to the area we wanted to get to was blocked with drifts and no possible way to get in. by mid-morning we decided we would try to get back to the area we hunted a week earlier. We were able to get back to the area within 1 mile of where we normally parked so our 4.5 mile pack in got 1 mile longer and the snow was now a lot deeper than the first trip. Kyle wasn’t too excited for the pack in and knew we would be wet and cold for the next 3.5 days but shouldered his pack and we headed in. We took our time and hunted along the way to camp but with the deep snow and taking breaks it took us until late afternoon to get to camp. We got out tents up and were able to glass near camp that evening but didn’t see much. However with the storm ending and nice weather forecasted for the next day we had high hopes the deer would be out feeding after the storm.



The next morning we got out of camp much later than we had hoped. Kyle forgot to open up his wet boots wide open before climbing into his tent for the night. With temps getting into the single digits at night his wet boots froze solid and he couldn’t get his feet into them!!! (That was a lesson learned the hard way to always open wet boots up all the way if it is going to freeze over night!!) As were climbing up to one of our favorite glassing spots we named “eagle hill” I looked back and found a good buck feeding a couple hundred yards behind us. We dropped to the ground and got the glass out to get a better look. A closer look confirmed he was a solid 170 buck and we loaded the muzzleloader for a shot. Although the buck was a little farther than what we would have preferred (210 yards) Kyle was confident he could make the shot. The gun was zeroed for 150 yards and we had a solid rest, dead calm wind, and the buck was feeding with no inclination that we were there. Kyle took a lot of time to make sure everything was perfect but at the shot only the primer went off and the charge didn’t ignite. The buck jerked his head up at the sound but with all the echoing he wasn’t able to locate the source of the sound and returned to feeding after about 5 minutes. By then, I had gotten another primer on the breech plug and Kyle was ready to take a second shot. With everything solid and perfect Kyle pulled the trigger and again the charge didn’t ignite!! I whispered to Kyle that snow must have gotten into the breech plug and frozen over night (lesson #2 learned the hard way to make sure the breech plug is not clogged!!!) I told Kyle I would have to take the Knight Bighorn completely apart to clear the breech plug. After getting the breech plug out, we couldn’t find anything small enough to poke through the small opening so I had to take the entire greasy breech plug and put it in my mouth and blow through it until it warmed up enough to thaw out the plugged opening!! After clearing the breech plug I was able to get the gun re-assembled and loaded and the buck was still feeding!!! Kyle set up for the third attempt but I think the fiasco of two miss-fires and scrambling to disassemble/reassemble the gun got to his nerves and he missed.

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I knew Kyle was disappointed with the miss but I told him that I would confident we would find another shooter buck with the break in the weather. We climbed the rest of the way up eagle hill and got the glass out. It only took 15 minutes and I located three bucks a mile and half away. Even with the cold temps, there were heat waves in the scope and it was hard to tell exactly how big the bucks were, but we agreed that they were worth a closer look. I told Kyle to cross the first valley while I kept tabs on the deer, then when he got to the other side, he could watch them while I crossed the valley. Our plan worked and we were able to close the distance in half before the bucks dropped into a draw for the day. We discussed several options for what to do but ended up agreeing that the bucks would likely get up early that afternoon to feed again so we headed to a hill where we could sit for the day and watch over the draw. When we got to the hill we were surprised to find the bucks along with a fourth buck had crossed the draw and were feeding on the open south facing side of the draw. We were able to get a better look at the bucks and one buck really stood out from the rest. He had a wide rack that looked more like a whitetail, brow tines that curled forward, an extra in-line off his main beam on his left front fork, and a small “devil tine” off his left rear fork. Although his back forks were short, we agreed this was a buck with great character and a unique buck worth taking. We came up with a route that would get us within about 300 yards of the deer where we could wait for them to feed over a small rise and then we could close the distance and catch them on the other side. We did a quick search of the area to make sure there were no other deer in the vicinity that would blow our stalk. I did locate one unique buck bedded back behind us but he was far enough away that we didn’t need to worry about him spooking.

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SDBugler

Active Member
We got to the spot about 300 yards from the bucks but when we arrived we found them bedded on the top of the rise and so we were pinned down for the rest of the day. Early that afternoon, a fifth buck joined the group. This fifth buck was a nice symmetrical 170” buck. I told Kyle that the fifth buck might score a little higher than the character buck but Kyle said he like how unique the character buck was and said he wanted to shoot him rather than the symmetrical 4x4 if we got the chance. A couple hours later the bucks started getting up from their beds and feeding over the other side of the rise. We gathered our gear and were ready to move as the last buck (the character buck) got up and fed over the rise. As we got over to the other side and started peeking over the rise to locate the bucks on the other side, the wind started to get a little sporadic. I told Kyle we need to crawl a little quicker over the top as we didn’t want the bucks to catch scent of us. As we peered down into the other side we saw the symmetrical 4x4 working his way up the other side out of the bottom at 70 yards. I told Kyle the other bucks would likely follow him out the bottom but to get his gun on that buck just in case the wind switched before the others came into view. He was laying prone and had a good rest. I told him I would get up on my knees and look farther down into the bottom and that I would keep looking for the others. After another minute of glassing through the grass, I located two more bucks but at that time Kyle whispered that the 4x4 buck had spotted us on the top of the rise and was looking at us. I told Kyle he better make a decision – shoot the 4x4 now or wait and that buck could spook and take the rest of the bucks with him with no shot opportunity. Kyle said he was willing to risk it for a chance at the character buck. Eventually the other bucks got nervous and started working their way up toward the 4x4. I whispered to Kyle on the ground next to me that they were coming up but not to shoot the first one – the character buck was second in line. By then the 4x4 had bolted over the hill and I prayed that the others wouldn’t bolt too before Kyle could get a shot off. Just then the character buck took a couple more steps and Kyle’s shot rang out dropping the buck in his tracks!!!!

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We were ecstatic that everything worked out and that Kyle was able to harvest such a unique buck. We took some pictures and had about an hour of sunlight left to get the boned out. We got the work completed just as it was getting dark and decided that it would be best if we packed the meat half way back to camp which was 2 miles away. Then we could pull camp in the morning and pick up the meat on the way out in the morning. That 1 mile in the dark with meat in our packs was not fun in the pitch black trying to navigate through drift filled drainages and around drop-offs. We eventually made it back to our tents a couple hours later. The next morning we pulled camp and picked up the meat for the 6 mile hike out. I have packed out several elk in my life but this was one of the worst pack outs I have had with the crusted snow and deep drifts in the low areas. We made it back to the truck by 2 pm exhausted and completely out of energy. I told Kyle it may not be the biggest buck, but when he looks at the mount on the wall it will remind him of one of the memorable hunts.

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WiscoKid

Active Member
Awesome, bucks and story. Hunting with the kids is key, keep it up. South Dakota has been good to me
 

Ranger1

Active Member
AWesome bucks and experiences- makes me miss my days growing up in the Black Hills hunting the deer, turkeys, and elk once. Sorry to hear about your father. Cherished memories.
 

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