Harsh Winter Takes Its Toll

This year was the 4th year in a row where I was unsuccessful in drawing a general season deer tag in my home state, very frustrating. Apparently, difficulty in obtaining a deer tag is the new normal. However, here in our household we were fortunate to have obtained some out-of-state deer permits. While drawing a nonresident deer tag can be down right difficult, at times taking a dozen years or more, there are a few states where a tag can be drawn with zero points or sometimes over-the-counter deer tag purchases are available. So if it hadn’t been for those options just mentioned, I would not have had the opportunity to hunt deer this past fall. And since my son and I both picked up nonresident tags, we’d now get another chance to go deer hunting together!

 RZR stuck in mud while hunting 

             Took a short cut, luckily we could winch out

Hunting out of state can be quite the adventure, but it can also be quite difficult when no time’s spent scouting with boots on the ground. My son and I had the best of intentions to go scouting several times during this past summer, but everyday life got in the way. We instead had to rely on the next best thing and that was to e-scout using online maps.

 deer hunting in the fog  spider web with frost

             Fogged in - visibility was almost zero                                        A very frosty spider web

To make matters worse, the heavy winterkill of 2023 absolutely wreaked havoc on the deer populations across the west, including the areas where we planned to hunt. But even with the grim outlook we were determined to make the best of it. To make a long story short the hunt was challenging. In fact, we didn’t see a single buck on opening day and there were other days where we never saw a single buck. But each day we were determined to keep plugging away and covered lots of ground in hopes of turning up some bucks and kept at it for a total of 9 days. The fewest number of miles we trekked in a single day was 6, with the most being 17, we were motivated.

 17 mile trek through the rugged mountains 

         Still a long way to go to reach the far peaks but we will

On one particular evening we spotted 3 deer across the way as we glassed a hillside. None were bucks, but it was encouraging to see deer materialize from the thick timber as they fed out into the open. Moments later a small 2 point buck appeared nearby. We continued to glass intently. Not five minutes later we spotted another small buck, we were becoming more excited by the minute. Especially since there had been those days where we failed to see a buck but now we had two bucks in sight. Suddenly Dallas spotted a bigger buck – it was a 4 point! This particular deer definitely had our attention. We spent several minutes looking him over as we scrutinized and videoed him through the spotting scope. Coming into this hunt it could be argued that we had slightly unrealistic expectations of finding truly big buck. This is probably what accounted for the extended period of time (12 minutes of video) spent looking at the deer and not shooting.

 shiras bull moose  6 point bull elk

        Just one of the bull moose we saw                                Saw a few bull elk as well

For quite some time we debated back and forth as to whether or not we considered this buck a shooter. Finally I whispered to Dallas that I’d be happy with the buck and wanted to attempt a shot. As for Dallas, he was more than willing to pass and to let me take a crack at the buck standing 413 yards away. Lying prone I steadied the crosshairs of the 7 PRC on his vitals and squeezed the trigger. There was a noticeable delay before the 175 grain Hornady ELD-X ultimately reached the other side of the canyon. But when the bullet did hit its mark, the buck dropped in his tracks!

 packing out mule deer buck 

      Late night pack out, got back to camp about 2:00 a.m.

We spent several more days searching for a mature buck for Dallas but never did find that buck. So on the very last day of his out-of-state hunt, Dallas did fill his deer tag but more importantly for him, his freezer.

 mule deer buck 

         Lots of miles put on the boots for this buck

Our memorable hunt truly was an adventure! Not only did we get to explore a new hunting territory, but we were fortunate to see lots of wildlife (deer, grouse, bear, elk, moose, coyotes) and experienced a couple of up-close-and-personal animal encounters. You can bet that we’ll be trying for out-of-state permits again next year!