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Utah Mulies

By Paul Askew

Early last year I decided to add a little extra opportunity to our hunting season and was looking at other Western States for decent deer opportunities. Utah was reasonable and close enough, so with my tax return, I purchased tags for Rob and me back in March.

After killing my bear, my friend Jody Cyr recommended that I contact Creative Taxidermy and I thought if they are good enough for Jody, they will work for me. I called and made arrangements to drop off my bear skull where I met the owner Tim Tuttle.

Tim and I talked for about 4 hours at our first meeting and during our discussion, Utah general season came up. Tim had general Utah Buck tags as well and invited Rob and me to share camp with them, so I jumped on that with quickness.

Rob and I started out Thursday, July 13th after I got off of work. We arrived at a camp ground just outside Burley Idaho around 1:00 a.m. Friday morning, slept until 7:00 a.m. and then hit the road again. When we hit traffic in SLC around 11:00 a.m., I pushed in the clutch in my Geo Tracker and it went straight to the floor, so I had to start power shifting.

The stress of car trouble always stinks, but it really, really stinks when you are going to be 973 miles from home. I didn’t let it get to me and just got back on the road. We made it to our camp site where we met Tim and the crew. There would be 6 of us sharing camp and fortunately, we all got along real well for the entire time we were there.

We sat up camp Friday night and did some visiting before hitting the rack. Saturday morning, Tim recommended a place to check out inside of an aspen patch and we were into deer early. While still hunting the aspens, I spotted a huge fork in horn that was wide and tall downhill about 120 yards. He had apparently been spooked out of another aspen stand in the same canyon. Rob and I started moving along the side hill to try and figure out how to get above that big’ol forked horn when I spotted a bedded spike and a doe. I had planned to take a buck of any size with the recurve, so I started a stalk on the spike. I got to within 60 yards, but an unseen doe spotted me and was staring right at me, so I ended the stalk to not spook the herd too much and we continued on in pursuit of the big fork.

We side hilled for about 75 yards and it got real thick with a mix of aspen and pine trees, so we stayed on a solid trail for another 100 or so yards where we came into a large draw that was wide open. At this point, we gave up on the big fork and just glassed the draw but didn’t see anything, so we dropped down the canyon a hundred yards or so into the pines and aspens hoping to get a shot at something. We ended up bumping some deer and I decided that still hunting was not going to work real well with the both of us, so we went back to the draw and just started to glass. At around 10:30 a.m. I spotted a 3 point with a doe 500 yards away and downhill across the draw. I watched him feed with a doe for an hour, but he disappeared out of sight and I didn’t want to go in after him without knowing exactly where he was, so around 11:30 Rob and I climbed out of the canyon.

At 9000 feet, the elevation was kicking my butt. I had been walking for 4 miles every other day with a pack on my back, but it didn’t even come close to preparing me for this stuff. We headed back to camp and got a game plan for the evening hunt.

Robert had seen a 4 point run out of the aspens 400 yards from where he was setting up our tent on Friday night, so I decided to hunt straight out of camp for Saturday evenings hunt. We didn’t still hunt more than 45 yards up a heavy trail when I spotted a 3x3 and good size fork in horn 125 yards up hill from us. I decided to circle downwind to try and get in the bucks feed path, so we dropped into a small ravine and then went straight up hill. Unfortunately, we went to high and the only thing we saw that night were 3 does that came into 25 yards.

With the clutch problem and having to start the Geo in gear, I didn’t want to drive it any more than necessary, so Sunday morning I decided to hunt straight out of camp again. The wind was blowing downhill, so we still hunted along a great trail at the bottom of a hillside in the same aspen patch as the night before. We ended up bumping a couple of does around 9:30 a.m. and I decided to rethink how I was going to hunt on this trip. I got to really looking at the area and there was deer poop everywhere and trails all over the place, so I decided to not disturb the area anymore and wait until the afternoon when we would set up tree stands for the evening hunt.

We headed out of camp at 3:00 p.m. with our stands strapped to our backs. We went to where we had bumped the does earlier, and climbed up hill about 100 yards where we decided to set up the tree stands on what appeared to be the same trail as we saw the bucks on the evening before. Due to the law, Robert had to be within easy earshot of me, so I set him up 35 yards away where we could do a loud whisper when the wind wasn’t howling.

We were set up and in stand by 5:00 p.m. Around 7:20 I gave Rob a little whistle to get his attention, pointed to my watch hand, and then gave him the keep your eyes out signal and a thumbs up to indicate this was a good time to really start paying attention.

I went back to glassing through the aspens in front of me and over my right shoulder and then looked back to my left to see if Robert was holding still and paying attention. When I looked at Rob, he had his bow resting on his left thigh; arrow nocked, and was range finding. This was about 7:25 p.m. and only 5 minutes from when I gave him the high sign to keep an eye out. I didn’t know whether he had deer in front of him or not, so I just watched him for a few minutes. He was moving really slow and deliberate. He pivoted his head over his right shoulder and looked at me with a very serious look and then looked back to his left.

Still not sure if he had deer there or not I went back to looking over the area I could see and then looked back toward Rob only to see velvet wading through the aspens under brush. I grabbed my recurve and nocked an arrow. I ranged the closest buck which was the fork in horn at 68 yards. The bucks were just outside of Robert’s max range of 30 yards.

The 3 point came to within what I thought was close enough range but Robert wasn’t drawing his bow. The bucks fed in front of Robert in kind of a zigzag fashion. After watching the bucks for about 40 minutes, I heard the flutter of several grouse heading to roost on a tree between Rob and me. The fork in horn looked up and stared for a couple of minutes and I thought he was going to bale, but he went back to feeding.

A few more minutes passed and the fork in horn went straight up hill toward Robert and hit the trail we were set up on. When the fork in horn passed behind a tree at 15 yards Robert drew his bow. The buck walked straight into Robert and presented a shot at 7 yards. Keep in mind Robert was on a hill side and only 12 feet from the ground. The buck was only about 4 feet lower and in front of Rob at 7 yards.

Robert showed the patience and skill of a seasoned bow hunter when faced with the challenges of moving slow and knowing when to draw. As the buck walked in, Robert followed the buck from left to right, took careful aim when the buck stopped, and squeezed the trigger of the release.

Robert was did this all on his own so I couldn’t say a word or move a muscle. It was pretty cool to watch him make the kind of decisions that he had to make during this entire sequence. Robert made the hit and the buck whirled and ran down hill. I watched the buck for about 75 yards and it looked like his back legs were a little unstable, then I heard a couple of sticks break and a big thud, which sounded like someone took a baseball bat and hit the buck in the ribs.

I was sure the buck was down. I whispered to Rob to wait a few minutes and then we would climb down. We waited about 15 minutes until last light and slowly climbed down. I crept over to Rob’s stand and told him I thought I heard the buck go down. Robert said he thought he hit a little far back and thought we should wait until the morning. I debated with him for a couple of minutes but then thought to myself that this is his buck and he was the last one to see the hit, so we went back to camp where spirits were high for Robert.

Robert told his story to everyone and they were giving him high fives and telling him great job. Robert said the 3 point went broadside at 30 yards a couple of times, but he always managed to be behind a tree broadside and would then turn straight away and flicker his tail to say hah, hah.

Robert also figured that the grouse going to roost and the noise they made is what the fork in horn was going to check out when he ran into Robert’s arrow.

The next morning, Monday, found us up at sunrise and back to the tree stand within a half hour of first light. Robert picked up the blood trail almost immediately. We tracked down hill for about 100 yards and I figured we were close to where I heard the thud. We tracked over a big log, which I stepped up on and thought I could see the summer coated buck. I told Robert to go ahead and check to see if it was his buck. It was. The buck had piled up hard and his head was tucked up under his chest. He died while at a full run.

As it turns out, the buck was taking a step when Robert released and he hit the buck a little far back but it got the off side femoral bone and artery. Although it was a quick clean kill, I think Robert made the right choice to wait overnight. The temperatures were in the thirties at night and a couple of mornings there was frost on the ground. After deboning, we found that the 100 grain Thunderhead had busted the bone into about 12 pieces at the point of impact. We took a bunch of pics, did the gutless method skinning and quartering, and cut out the heart and made the 0.4 mile hike back to camp. Yes, that is zero point four miles back to camp. I could see the wall tent from where Rob’s buck piled up. Talk about a great area to hunt.

We hung the buck's meat at night and it got real cold and then kept it in the shade all day. With temperatures in the 30's at night the meat was in great shape when we got home.

Rob’s Buck

Monday night, I wanted to hunt away from where Robert had just harvested his buck, so our fellow camp mate Michael offered us to hunt a couple of his stands. Robert and I climbed into Michael’s stands and sat for the evening. A single doe came in and that was it.

Tuesday morning, I hunted the saddle that Robert and I had hunted opening morning to no avail.

I returned to Robert’s stand for my Tuesday evening hunt. I got in stand around 4:00 p.m. I had been focusing on the area where Rob’s buck and the 3 point had appeared. I was spending too much time concentrating on that spot, because when I barely pivoted my head from left to right a big fork in horn buck bounced in front of me at 22 yards and eye level. I went maaahhh and the buck stopped behind a tree at 30 yards. I got an arrow nocked and the buck bounced again, so I stopped him again with a maaahhhh. I got a range of 44 yards and the buck took off before I could do anything.

Wednesday morning I asked Tim and Michael if I could join them for their morning glass session and they obliged. I had been getting a little cabin fever staying so close to camp with a broken vehicle and wanted to see some of the bucks the guys had been telling me about. While up on the big ridge above camp, we spotted several bucks. The buck that had my interest the most was a very large fork in horn that went into the aspens about 150 yards from Robert’s tree stand.

Wednesday afternoon, I had a plan. I went up and pulled the climber from Rob’s tree and went to where that big fork in horn and entered the aspens that morning. I found a tree that was more or less straight and climbed up, but the trunk was so much bigger than the upper part of the tree that I had a major slant to my platform, so down I went and found another tree about 15 yards lower on the hill.

Sweaty and having made more noise than I wanted too, I tried to stay optimistic about the rest of the evening. I was settled in by 5:00 and it was fairly warm. However, by 6:30 I slipped my long sleeve shirts and 2 coats on as well as put 2 hand warmers in my pockets where I position them on my inner thigh. When the sun decides to start dipping and the wind is blowing it cools off quickly.

Around 8:00 p.m. I heard deer bouncing and thought maybe they winded me or saw me move, but then thought dang I haven’t moved at all and the wind is perfect. About that time 4 does came through a little spooked but not overly. They walked down a trail from my right to left. They were at 30 yards when I first saw them and then filtered out of sight at around 60 yards.

A few minutes later, I heard another deer bounce and heading toward me. I looked down and thought it was a spike. It turned out to be a small fork. With the car troubles and the concern of Rob’s meat spoiling, I had switched from recurve to compound and was in the “grocery shopping mode”. The buck was moving pretty quick, so I did a maaahhh and got him to stop. I had done some prearranging and thought I had it right but the downhill angle threw me and I shot high and grazed the buck. Fortunately, he bounced up towards me and then back in the direction he came from. I went maaahhh again, shot the range at 35 yards, put my 30 yard pin high behind the shoulder shaving off 5 yards and hit right where I was aiming.

The hit was good and the buck took off. I didn’t hear him crash, but I knew he wasn’t going far. I sat in the stand to unwind and the does that had passed before him came back. They were scent trailing where he had walked and even scent trailed over to where he ran after the shot.

After 20 minutes, I climbed down and disassembled my stand. I walked over to where the buck was standing when I made the shot and started down the trail he took into the draw. I lifted my glass and scanned the area and picked up the buck piled up about 80 yards away across the draw. I went over to my quarry and checked him out then went back up and strapped the stand to my pack and headed back to camp.

When I got back to camp Robert greeted me and asked if I got anything, so I told him I got a small fork and he congratulated me for that.

My forky

As it turns out; our fellow camp mate Justin was one of the guys I met on this trip. He scored on what he considers a dink. To me it looked like a nice buck to me.