Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Open Season - a Mule Deer Buck Hunt

This past October I went on my very first hunt.
The only shooting I'd done before this hunt has been at a target while lying prone with my rifle propped on a sandbag.

This target practice is necessary when hunting not only to sight in your rifle, but also to get comfortable with handling your gun.

However, im not sure how exactly one could ever get enough practice, because once I'm in the hills with my scope on a buck 200 yards away, i kind of forget all my practice and all my shooting skills!!!

Nevertheless, the buck was dropped, and i was a happy lady, JOYOUS even.
Too loud, as im pretty sure i scared all the other deer clean out of the area when i hooted and hollered after my buck was down.

Anyway, back to the hunt.

It was a cold October morning, the second morning of the open buck season for our unit.
We caught the horses, got them saddled, and were ready to go!

Matt and his Tic horse

After loading the horses and driving to our chosen hunting spot, we glassed the mountains watching for any antlers.

We saw quite a few deer, at least 20 does, but no confirmed bucks.
Then, a buck or two were spotted far away, but were too far away to actually count their points.
We had to go on our instinct and hope they were shooters.

We quickly mounted up ...(which really isnt quickly when you have a pack on your back, binoculars around your neck, shooting sticks in hand, and a rifle swung over your shoulder)
and headed towards the last spot we saw the bucks.  A herd of does seemed to have gone in the same direction as the bucks, so we followed them hoping they were being led into the canyons by their bucks.
Once in the hills, we saw TONS of does.

But nothing with antlers.
We wanted to see them so bad, sage brush even looked surprisingly like antlers.

Where are all the bucks?!

Matt had been out scouting the previous morning and had spotted a couple shooters a few canyons over, so off we went.
When we reached the top of the ridge, we glassed.
Matt saw what he thought was a buck or two, and so did i.
My group had about 3 in it, but only one confirmed buck.
They were still 2 canyons over, so we needed to make some tracks!

Matt glassing for those big muley ears!

We sidehilled until we reached the ridge that joined all the canyons and rode over to the one where we thought the bucks were.

As soon as we reached the top, Matt spotted one of the bucks from the group i saw from the ridge.

on top of the ridge

the view from the top!

We dismounted, i held the horses, and he got ready for his shot.
Except, he didnt take it!
This buck was standing very still watching us about 200 yards away on the sidehill across from us.
Matt wanted me to take it, but this being my first hunt, i didnt want to miss the buck and ruin the hunt.
By this time, dear Matthew was less than thrilled with my stalling and in the most stern hunting voice demanded that i take the shot.
I do need to add that he was very supportive and had all the confidence in the world in me.
He kept telling me i could hit him, that i could do it.

The deer was pretty quartered away and i wasnt too comfortable with the shot, so matt told me just to wait, wait until he turned broadside.

Well, he didnt turn broadside, he just started walking away.
He walked 5 yards, then 10, then 15 when Matt made the cutest little Doe sound you ever did hear and stopped that buck cold in his tracks.
He stopped, was perfectly broadside for me, and matt gave me the go!

I pulled the trigger, and watched him run through my scope about 20 yards downhill, then drop!
I had done it!
I was so amazed i had actually got him!!

my trusty steed and my first buck!

I let out a very excited and particularly loud "Did i get him?!" and probably a "Oh my gosh!!" and there was also a "I GOT HIM!!"
Matt nicely told me to shut the heck up and watch where he dropped just in case he popped back up.
So i steadied my sights on the bushes that he went down in while Matt mounted up to ride across the canyon to find him.
Its never fun to "know" where your game went down only to get over to that spot and not find him, so this made it easier for us to make sure he was harvested asap.

When Matt had reached the spot where i had shot my buck, he let out a "LINDSAAAAAY" and then let one go.
Instantly i thought that my buck had gotten up without me seeing it and was rimming below me.
Not so.
Matt had spotted 3 other bucks just 50 yards below me running for their little bambi lives.
He took a running shot and dropped one!

Hubbys first muley

so handsome! Matt not the buck :)

There we were, second day of the season, first time out and had both tagged out before 10am!!

Matt went and found my buck so i mounted up and went down the hill below me and found his.

It was amazing.
My first hunt! A clean kill, and a 3x3 by that!
Our first hunt as husband and wife! Both tagged out within minutes of each other!
Matts first muley hunt! And he hit one on the move!!!

We couldnt have asked for more!

We got them down as far out of the canyon as we could, took some photos, and then loaded them on our friends flatbed for the drive home.

It was one of the best days of my life.

Ive been asked a couple of times if I was sad about my kill.
True, it was my first buck, first big game, first kill ever really (besides the mice i trap in my laundry room), but ive been around hunting for the past 3 years.
Matt used to guide hunts for Bitterwater Outfitters and i had the extreme pleasure of accompanying him on many a hunt.
Ive seen the whole hunting process, the scouting, the glassing, the spotting, the chasing, the waiting, the shooting, the missing, the hitting, the wounding, the gutting, the skinning, the de-boning, everything.
Although, i will admit it is MUCH different being behind the rifle.
If i would have wounded my little friend instead of getting a good clean kill shot, i might have different feelings.
But since i did wait for the best possible shot and somehow (thank you Jesus!!!) got a clean kill, i have no sadness for the passing of little bambi's long lost cousin.
He is a memory, an adventure, an experience, a mount for my wall and even more than that, he is 50lbs of meat in my freezer and bones for my dog pack.
Although we arent as resourceful as the native americans, we will use every scrap of meat and will not let this hunt go to waste.
In fact, we ate some of matts buck just 2 nights ago, and he was DELISH!!!
I made Bacon Wrapped Venison , minus the bacon because i was plum out, but oh it was melt-in-your-mouth good.

Hunting for me isnt about taking the biggest rack.
Its not about passing up anything that isnt a trophy.
Its about the hunt, the trip, the memories that ill have of the ride, the shot, and the prize.
Its about spending a day in the wilderness with my best friend.
I mean, how many people can say they shot their very first muley with their spouse who also shot their very first muley just minutes later!
I am one very blessed gal!

 Matt and I with our Muleys!!

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