A year to reminisce

ridgetops

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It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years since the first HAC. When I had shared my Utah bighorn sheep hunt . Since that time, I’ve had an incredible run of good luck hunting Utah general season Muleys. I’ve been able to kill six 4 point or better bucks with the top two scoring 210” and 191”. I’ve also been able to put a tag on a couple 300”+ general season bulls.

This year I’ve decided to challenge myself and return to a unit that has really kicked my butt in the past.

The last time I hunted the area, I hunted 7 days and only saw one small 2 point and the time before that, I only saw one deer period in 3 days of hunting. Although it was a nice buck, I couldn’t get close enough for a shot.

So with a new game plan this time around, will it be “third times a charm” or “three strikes and I’m out”?

I’m also probably going to try and do the general season muzzy elk hunt for the first time this year.

One of my good friends also drew a Nevada desert bighorn tag, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to tag along and help out on that late Nov. hunt.

Hopefully I’ll be able to continue and pay it forward by helping one of the 5 Stansbury sheep tag holders again this year. I’ve been fortunate to be able to help several of these hunters over the past few years.

Scouting season is just around the corner, so stayed tuned for another adventure for 2020.

Here’s some video’s I’ve uploaded of a few general season bucks I’ve either scouted or passed on during the past nine seasons, with a couple kill shots hidden among the video’s.

 
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ridgetops

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Well it's under a month now until my first scouting trip of the year. Until then, I thought I'd share a few stories of what I've been up to since the last time I did one of these hunt adventure threads.
If some of you remember from my 2010 HAC thread, I was after a big 3 point we called "lucky". Which seemed to always slip past us.
We had unfinished business, so the gang decided to go back and hunt the same area as we did in 2010. I never did see "lucky" during any of my scouting trips and I had a close call with a cool cactus buck during that 2011 muzzleloader season but in the end, I ended up eating tag soup.
Although my buddy Corby did end up coming across "lucky" during the rifle hunt. Unfortunately the buck had regressed from the year before.
Here's the gang with lucky.
2011 Group with Corby's rifle buck.jpg
 

ridgetops

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2012:
Started out with a bang with me spotting the first true 30” buck in early July and then several other great bucks throughout the summer.

This was going to be an extra special year because I had told my son that I would take him hunting with me when he turned eight and he just so happened to turn eight on the second weekend of the rifle deer hunt. I had a dedicated hunter deer tag, so my plan was to hold out shooting a buck unless it was one of those once in a lifetime encounters.

Opening day of the archery hunt had me watching two 190”+ bucks and several 150”-160” bucks feeding at less than 100 yards away but a failed stalk would let them live another week.

One week later my buddy Paul killed one of the 160” bucks and then the next day my other friend Tom killed a 193” buck that was part of that opening day group. I had lots of trial cam pics. and video footage of Tom's buck.

Also, I had taken my oldest daughter with me on that backpacking trip into our backcountry spike camp for the weekend.

Here’s a picture of us coming out with Tom’s buck.
Group with Tom's 2012 archery buck - Copy.JPG




And Paul with his buck.
pauls 2012 buck - Copy.jpg
 

ridgetops

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Less than a week later, the gang found ourselves in Idaho overlooking the snake river in search of a moose for Tom to put an arrow in.
We hiked about 10 miles that first day but in the end, we spotted a great bull from the road while driving to a different location. Tom ended up shooting the bull on an a small island in the middle of the river just before dark. We shuttled and packed meat across the river all night long. We loaded the last of it into the trucks around 7:00am. I was glad I was there to help but after that experience, I have no desire to hunt moose for myself. lol
In six days, Tom was able to kill two record book animals with his bow.
Here's a picture of Tom's top 20 P & Y archery moose and the gang.

Tom's 2012 moose.JPG
Tom's 2012 moose2.JPG
 

ridgetops

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A few weeks later, Paul tagged a nice 5 point archery bull elk up in Idaho. We were definitely starting out 2012 with a bang.

When the general season muzzy deer hunt finally came along. My cousin and I hunted hard for 4 days and had a close call on one great buck but we just couldn’t close the distance on it.

Now it was time for the rifle hunt.

I passed on a 30” wide buck with short tines on opening day in hopes of seeing another buck that lived in the same canyon that was a solid 180"+ but I had no such luck finding it. John’s wife killed a nice 4 point and Tom’s son shot an average 3 point on the first day and John killed a tall 3 point with a cheater mid-week.
Here's a picture of John's buck.

2012 John's rifle buck.JPG
 

ridgetops

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Now it was Saturday and my son was turning 8. As promised, I planned on taking him out and we would shoot the first 3 point or better buck I saw to give him the experience of the harvest.

Corby still had a tag but had to work until the next morning, so Tom offered to help me out with spotting and packing one out, if needed.

We end up finding a nice 4 point to take and we were home by early afternoon to celebrate my son’s birthday with the rest of the family.
2012 Group with Koby's rifle buck2.jpg


Here’s a short video I put together of that day.

 

ridgetops

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So with Corby having the last unfilled tag in our group, he headed for the mountains once his Sunday morning shift ended at 7:00am. Although he arrived at the base of the mountain well after sunrise, his persistence paid off and he ended up killing a buck of a lifetime on the last hour of the last day. After getting news that the buck was down, I headed his way and helped him and Tom get it off the mountain. The buck was a 10x9 and ended up scoring 226”. The buck ended up on the cover of Trophy Hunter mag.

2012 Group with Corby's rifle buck.png

2012 Corby's rifle buck.JPG



And to top off the 2012 year. I had a kid named Kade (known on this forum as Katorade) contact me about his dad drawing a Stansbury sheep tag. I was able to point them in the right direction and his dad kill a nice 10 year old ram. Kade and I have stayed in contact ever since, sharing our successful hunts each year and even getting together to help other sheep hunters that have reached out to us.
I honestly didn't think 2012 hunting season could be beat but what I found out later, it was only the beginning of some great adventures.
 

ridgetops

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Well I finally got to go on a road trip this past weekend. With several months of google earth scouting and mapping out a route on my phones onx maps app. I was ready to do a solo backcountry overnighter. What I didn't plan on was running into a road closed sign several miles before the spot I was planning on hiking in from.
closer.jpg


So it was time for plan B. I drove about 8 miles to another canyon, only to discovered another closer.
closer2 - Copy.jpg

Now I was starting to get really frustrated. It was time for plan C. I knew where there was an atv trail that would take me up a very rough route for about 15 miles but once I got ready to head up this trail but I had a really bad feeling that I shouldn't go up there. Over the years I've learned to listen to those feelings.
So now it was time for plan D and just like that, I took off for a different part of the unit. This was a spot that the deer would migrate through in the fall but I was hoping to find some resident deer. I drove around on my atv for about 20 miles checking out the country and glassing different areas. I never picked up a single deer. So I found a roadside spot to pitch a tent for the night and then tried to come up with a plan E. This first day was not going at all as planned. I sent my wife a text right before I went to bed and told her where I was camping and where I was planning on going in the morning.
My alarm went off at 4:15am and I quickly threw my stuff in the truck and was off to a new area in the low country. A friend of mine told me about this spot years ago. He had heard of a guy that had killed a big buck down in the flats.
I got to this new spot just as the sun was starting to hit the upper peaks on the distant mountains. Within 200 yards of where I unloaded my atv, I had a group of bucks cross the road right in front of me and a couple of them caught my interest. One had great backs but crawdad fronts and the other had good fronts but average backs but they did have good growth for early July. Unfortunately I never saw anther deer after that. Next trip I'll try another part of the unit and hopefully won't see any more closer signs.
Here my first still picture of the scouting season and a video clip of the bucks.
P1230010 - Copy.JPG


 

ridgetops

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2013:

This year became a very productive one for finding giant bucks.

It would be my friend Paul’s turn to draw out on an Idaho moose tag.

It’s crazy to think that my group of friend that I hunt with had drawn out on four different OIL tags in five years, including Tom’s 2009 mountain goat.

This would also be the year that I would introduce a new friend of mine Roger to the way I hunt and how much sacrifice it takes to hunt big ole muley bucks.

I had found some great bucks during the summer but when the archery season came around. My group of hunting buddies all had different plans or had to work opening weekend. Roger didn’t have anyone to go with and he was picking my brain about areas to check out. I offered to take him to a new area that I had never been to before but felt like it looked promising.

Roger and I found a couple 180” bucks that opening day but they just weren’t in a good location to make a stalk on.

By the time Labor Day weekend had come around, I met up with the gang in a canyon where we had a couple great bucks located from our trail cameras. As I was hiking in to meet up with them on Friday afternoon, I located a 200” typical and we quickly made plans to be right on top of the buck the next morning. Unfortunately there was a big deep canyon between us and the big buck, I did get some good pictures and video of the big buck. We came up with a good game plan to make a stalk on the buck and we were just about ready to draw straws on who would be the lucky one to try and go after the buck. When a friend of Paul’s up in Idaho that had been watching a big bull moose hanging out on private property but close to public lands. Paul’s friend had called to let Paul know the bull was now on public land and he should get up there ASAP! Paul was really torn about what to do, forget about the bull and help his buddy’s try and kill a 200” buck or head for Idaho. We all voted to leave the buck for another day and we quickly bailed off the mountain. Paul’s brother (which was with us) had been very sick from the hike in and Paul felt really bad about leaving him because he was in no condition to travel several hundred miles to Idaho. So I offered to stay behind had help his brother out while they went after the bull. That’s the type of friendships we had developed.

Paul ended up killing the bull and Roger ended up going out with another friend to a new area and killed a cool looking non-typical with his bow. That ended the archery season.

When the muzzleloader hunt came around, Paul, John and I would be back in the same canyon where the 200” typical, a 34” wide 8x7 and a cool 180” buck with a big hook cheater that all resided in.

Unfortunately we got hit by a huge 3 day snowstorm and heavy fog, which made those three days very miserable to hunt. We finally bailed off the mountain to hunt lower country and regroup but Paul had to get back to work in Idaho.

The next morning Tom met up with John and his daughter and myself. We were going to try and find a crazy droptine buck that looked more like a raghorn elk than your typical mule deer buck. We didn’t find the raghorn but I did find a another nice buck I had found earlier in the summer and had named him “beamer” because of his long twisting main beam.

Although he was much smaller than some of the other bucks we were after, it was a cool opportunity to have family and friends with me and to watch me make a stalk on the buck. The stalk worked out perfect and I made a 60 yard shot on beamer.

Here’s Tom, John, his daughter and me with my buck.
He ended up being 28" wide and scored in the low 170's
2013 Group with Koby's muzzy buck.JPG


No one else would tag one during the muzzy hunt.
 

ridgetops

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2013 Utah general season elk hunt:
One week after I killed my muzzy buck, I was able to score on a great general season bull.
Here's the story: https://www.monstermuleys.info/xf/threads/what-a-week-my-best-bull-yet.52022/

Then the following weekend (which was one week before the general season rifle hunt) my buddies Tom and Corby called me to let me know that they had found another great buck in the same canyon as the other three bucks we had on our hit list from earlier in the year. I don't know how we missed seeing this buck all summer but I guess he was under our noses the whole time (according to some other hunters).
Here's the video Corby got that day.


Tom, his son and Corby were back in this canyon the night before the opener and relocated the buck we had named "cheaters". After hearing this over the phone, Paul, John and I all offered to help Tom or his son kill this buck and maybe run into one of the other bucks we knew was in the area.
Opening morning came and Tom had a chance at the cheaters buck but he didn't feel good about the shot, so he passed on it. Another hunter ended up killing the 34" 8x7 just up canyon from us. I found out later that the hook cheater buck was killed in the next canyon over from us.
I located one other cool non-typical that afternoon but it didn't work out to get one of the guys in our group on it.
So the next day, we went into a little honey hole canyon that we knew would hold a nice buck for Tom's son to shoot. Tom didn't even take his rifle because he just wanted to focus on his son's success. Luck would have it that they found two nice bucks feeding together and after Tom's son Ethen dropped his buck, the other buck just stood there looking at the downed buck. So after some discussion, Tom took his son's rifle and dropped the other buck. Knowing he was giving up the chance at those other great bucks we had scouted out but this opportunity was to good to pass on. A father / son combo with the same rifle. How cool is that!

2013 Group with Tom's & Ethan's rifle bucks.jpg


Another cool back story is that these two bucks were killed about 50 yards from where I shot my muzzy buck just a couple weeks earlier.
Paul had some chances of some nice bucks but he held out to the very end for a chance at one of the better bucks we had seen in the area but with no luck.
That ended a pretty terrific 2013 season.
 

ridgetops

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I'm not going to have time to review more years past hunts for now. With my daughter wedding coming up, things have got really crazy.
But here's a recap of my most recent scouting trip.

July 23rd:
I got a pretty late start and with only a couple hours before the sun would be setting. I decided to look over the lower country where I had seen a few bucks a couple weeks earlier. Hopefully I could catch something moving to water since it hadn't rained in several weeks. Unfortunately, a thunderstorm popped up out of nowhere and the rain really came down hard and fast with a lot of lightning to add to the excitement. Thankfully it was a fast mover and I didn't have to wait it out for too long. With only a little more than an hour of glassing light left now, I quickly hiked up a very steep, brushy hillside so I could do some glassing of the surrounding flats. Within minutes I was able to pick up 5 feeding bucks in a far off clearing about 2 miles away. One of them got me excited when I saw his 180" class left side antler but then he turned his head and exposed his very average 3 point side, I have to admit I was a little disappointed. The others were all 2 or 3 year old smaller bucks. Those would be the only deer I would see that evening.
scouting 7-23.jpg

Here's waiting out the storm in the cab of my truck. Muck better than out on atv.

scouting 7-23a.jpg

And here's one of the flats I was overlooking from the hillside that I was glassing from.
 

ridgetops

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July 24th

I was on the road by 4:00am to check out an area on the other side of the unit. I arrived at my pre chosen spot about a half hour before light. I couldn’t believe all the trailers parked in the meadows. I wondered how many of them were other people scouting or maybe setting up early for the upcoming archery hunt. As I started hiking, I found it a lot more brushy than it looked on google earth but I was still able to make good time and got to a good glassing location right around sunrise. I glassed for a couple hours and ended up seeing four nice 3 and 4 point bucks and several smaller ones. By 9:00am it was getting very hot and everything had already bedded, so I decided to head for another spot I had planned on doing a backcountry overnighter.

So, I loaded up the ATV and headed for the new location. After eating lunch and loading my pack for the overnighter, I decided to take my time and hike slower than normal in the afternoon heat. The slope I was climbing was a southwest exposure with very little shade and it was one of the hottest hikes I’ve done in a long time. I finally reached a nice basin around 5 PM and I started looking for a good place to drop my gear and set up camp. I spotted a nice looking pine tree that looked like a good spot to pitch camp. As I got about 10 feet from the tree, I suddenly saw one of the largest rattlesnakes I’ve ever seen—right next to that tree! I estimated it to be at least 50” long and 2 ½ “wide. I quickly moved on to find another spot about a half mile away. I’m glad I had brought a fly tarp tent with me in case of a random thunderstorm. Even though there was no sign of rain, I decided to pitch the tent to give me more security from any slithering visitors.

That evening I ended up seeing three more bucks right before dark. One was a nice, upper-160 or low 170" class four point and right before dark as I moved to put away my spotting scope, a doe snorted about 20 yards away and bounded down the hill. Apparently, it had walked right on me as I was intently glassing the far side of the basin. It sure made me jump! As quickly and cautiously as possible I worked my way back to camp with the light of my headlight, nervous of another snake encounter.

Here's a look at that big ole snake.

scouting 7-24b.jpg


Here's a look at my camp spot overlooking the basin that I had seen the nice 4 point. I circled were my tent is set up.

scouting 7-24.jpg


Here's a look at my jimmy rigged shelter to keep the bugs and serpents at bay. lol

scouting 7-25d.jpg
 

ridgetops

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July 25th

I actually slept pretty well and was up a half hour before first light. That’s the great thing about doing overnighters and spike camping. You can start looking for animals usually right from camp. I went back to where I had been the night before and spotted a couple new bucks. The biggest was a 24-25” wide mid 160” class 4x4 and he had a 22-23” wide 2 point with him. I then moved over the hill and found 8 more bucks moving into the shade of the landscape to feed a little longer before bedding for the day.

It was getting to be mid-morning and I decided to check one more spot before heading back and breaking camp. I found a funky 3x4 bedded on a very steep north facing side hill in which I took a picture of it through my spotting scope with my hand held cell phone. Wished I had one of those phone scopes. lol

That ended the scouting for this trip. So I headed back and broke camp. As I was hiking out, I came across a couple small pines that were torn up by a pretty big buck from the year before. I would have thought maybe an elk but there’s no history of elk in this country.

It was now time to meet up with my wife and kids for an extended camping trip and try and check my trail cameras I had set up in a general season any bull unit.

Here's a look at the canyon were I saw the group of bucks feeding.
scouting 7-24a.jpg


Here's the funky 3x4 bedded
scouting 7-25c.jpg


And here's the torn up tree I came across on the hike out
scouting 7-25.jpg
 

ridgetops

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Sept. 4th
After going back to my plan A spot only to find out that the area was still closed down due to the extreme fire season that was going on. I decided to try an area that I hunted years ago. I got there later than I had hoped but after a very dicey atv ride up a very rough and steep trail. I hiked in a little over a mile and after finding a fairly level spot, I dropped off my tent, sleeping pad and a few other things. Then went looking for some bucks and a good place to glass in the morning. With only about 10 minutes of light and after spotting a few small bucks about a mile away. Suddenly a very nice 170" class buck just appear out of nowhere and was standing about 300 yards straight across the canyon from me. He had one antler behind a tree and was staring right at me. I have no idea how long he had been standing there but he never moved an inch until after it got too dark to see. He did rotate his head a few times and I got a look at his other side and the width of his antlers. I'd guess he was pushing 27-28" wide. I was hoping to see him again in the morning but he must of sneaked out of the canyon after I left because I never did see him again. I saw a few other small bucks that next morning but that was about it. Oh ya, I ran into another rattlesnake. I sure do hate those damn things.

Here's the tent I used on this trip. It's not waterproof but it sure is nice to have along to keep the bugs out on those warm summer nights. weights only about 2 lbs.
thumbnail.jpg



And the snake

snake 9-4.jpg
 

ridgetops

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Sept. 5th
Now it was time to go check some trail cameras I had set up earlier in the summer. Although I had missed out on getting a general season elk tag for myself. I was planning on helping out some family and friends on their hunts.
I was pleasantly surprised to see what had showed up on my cameras.
This was the first year since 1998 that I never got out for a single day of scouting in August but thank goodness my trail cameras came through for me.
Here's a few pictures I got during the summer.

First the elk.
HUNT1071 - Copy.JPG

HUNT1094 - Copy.JPG

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ridgetops

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Here's some of the bucks came in front of the camera.
I have to admit, I was a little bummed not to have a tag for this unit.

A very nice looking 3 x 3
HUNT0265.JPG

I named this buck 49er
HUNT2667.JPG


HUNT0103 - Copy.JPG

Here's 49er from last year
HUNT5558 - Copy.JPG

HUNT0571 - Copy.JPG


I'll be sharing some more nice bucks from my trail cams this year.
 

ridgetops

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Here's a little inline buck that I passed on last year about 45 minutes before I ended up killing a 190" buck.
HUNT1974.JPG
STC_0480.JPG

I was pretty happy to see this buck return this year with a little more growth. Hopefully he returns next year and with a wetter spring and summer, he could end up being a huge buck. I don't think I could have passed on him this year if I had the chance though.
HUNT0125.JPG
HUNT3136 - Copy.JPG
HUNT3138 - Copy.JPG
 

ridgetops

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Oct. 2nd

I made it to elk camp with about an hour to spare. Briefly greeted everyone in camp and then got ready for the general season any bull opener the next morning. Although I missed out on the rush for tags this year, I was excited to be able to help out.

Oct. 3rd and 4th

We were able to get the two best bulls down in the first two days. I ended up leaving camp on Monday the 5th to start scouting for my early rifle general season deer tag.

The next day on Oct. 6th, one of the youth hunters killed a nice 6x6 bull.

Later in the season a couple smaller bulls were also taken from our camp but I didn’t get any pictures of those bulls.

Here’s a look at the first three bulls that were taken from our group.

Two were from youth hunters.

IMG_5870-1.jpg
IMG_5876-2.jpg
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2020 elk - Copy.jpg
 

ridgetops

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I forgot to share an experience I had on Sunday, Oct. 4th.
I was on a lookout glassing for elk for my friends. When I noticed some deer working their way down a ridge line towards me. After I got my spotting scope on them, I couldn't believe I was looking at the collared and inline bucks that were from my trail cameras. I was about 1.5 miles lower on the mountain from where my cameras were set up.
That inline buck could be something special next year if he ends up making it back.
 

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