So a couple weeks ago myself and two buddies headed out to Wyoming for a mule deer hunt. Being from Eastern Kansas, we have tons of whitetail deer but you basically have to go to Colorado to find the mulies. The species are quite different in behavior too. Whitetails are more habitual and can be patterned. Mule deer tend to roam, cover great distances and disappear into their habitat like ghosts. On a previous hunt we made many fundamental mistakes and learned from them. This time we went with the idea to get up high and glass (watch with binoculars or scopes) the area below us.
And so it began this great adventure. My buddy Greg is great with researching hunts. We do pretty much everything on our own instead of hiring guides and outfitting services. This keeps costs down and while we may not get as many chances at huge trophies, anything we successfully harvest is a trophy because of the effort. Anyway, on Greg's advice we applied for a unit in Wyoming that was in the famed Carbon County. This area is widely known for having numerous deer and potentially some monster trophies too.
After communicating with local wildlife workers and biologists, we decided to hunt Battle Mountain. It didn't look that bad on the maps and satellite images so that is where we headed. It is about 20 or so miles east of Baggs, WY on the Colorado border.
After much debate and discussion we decided to go up the west side of the mountain. This was much steeper but the distance was shorter. Since there was some private land and other access issues, the only other real choice for us was a less steep 6 mile hike. We had driven all night to get there so we spend the morning finding the best spot for a base camp. Below is a image that shows some important sites and paths I will reference.
Once we were happy with our location we set up our monster tent and made camp. In the first pic you can see the "Lone Tree" on the slope of the mountain.
We were tired but headed into Baggs to get something to eat. The only restaurant was a Mexican place that also had burgers and stuff. That was fine by us.
Along the way there are plenty of pronghorn (antelope). They just line the roads taunting you.
As the sun set over the mountains to the west, notice how tall they seem. Soon we would be looking down on them.
The next morning we started up the hill on our first trip. The last time we tried a hunt like this we tried to take everything up at once in our frame packs. That was stupid. If it takes two people to help you get your pack on, it is too heavy
. So, the first trip we took water, dehydrated food and MRE's, and basic equipment like a small tent and gear. This was an exploratory trip so it took us almost 3 hours to make it to the top. We headed out, trying to make good time in the shadow of the mountain as the sun rose. It was actually hot up there getting into the upper 70's. I even got a sunburn.
Can you see our base camp?
Find it yet? Remember those mountains we were just looking up at?
Here, my buddy Troy will point it out for you.
Once up, we needed to find a place to camp. Luckily a bear did a great job of trashing a previous camp and that was a great spot for us. We took necessary precautions like keeping our food in a tree and setting up bear alarms. We figured we had enough firepower between 3 rifles and 2 handguns that we were more of a threat to ourselves than a bear was. We did verify that bears do in fact chit in the woods too...big bears...very recently
We hiked the mountain and found the markers for the peak.
We found a grouse creeping under a tree.
All set we headed back down the mountain. This was actually worse than coming up. It is brutal on your knees and I was struggling. I wasn't carrying anything and I was basically side stepping and taking baby steps to keep the pressure off my knees.
The next day my buddies headed back up. I stayed behind because my knees were killing me. About mid-day I headed up and took a different path, not my best decision
. It took me about 3 hours to make it up but I took my time as I was carrying more gear and my rifle. About halfway up is the Lone Tree where I took a good half hour break and just took in the beauty of what truly was the epitome of the term "God's Country"
How many of you have I lost? I apologize for the length that this post is growing to.
I finally made it to the top. It was the single most difficult thing I think I have ever done. I literally had to will my self to take 3 steps at a time just to make it. Once there, though, it felt great.
We spent 4 and a half days on top. We had a limited supply of water and could not find any natural sources for us to filter water from. We did have some little thunderstorms roll through so we set out a tarp to collect water. Unfortunately the storms did not product very much precipitation. Finally on the last day, when we were down to only two bottles of water left, we got enough rain to fill up a few bottles for the hike down. One storm even started a grass fire way off in Colorado.
We hunted every day, spending the mornings and evenings sitting on cliffs glassing for deer.
A couple does. The blend in so easily it is really tough sometimes to find them.
Finally, on the night before we planned to go down the mountain, I had a shot at a decent little buck. It was no monster but like I said originally, the trophy in this hunt was in the effort. I steadied for a 280yd shot and sent it. The deer was standing in the clump of trees in the center of the picture. After I shot, it fell behind a tree and I actually had to go a ways around the mountain until I could spot it and confirm it was indeed down. As you can see in the drawing at the top, the trek from the cliff to the deer was not easy at all so knowing the deer was indeed down, I headed back to camp.
The next morning we broke camp and loaded our frame packs. My buddy Troy already had a deer so he headed down to base camp with his extremely heavy load. My other buddy Greg and I made our way down to my deer. Part way down we dropped our frame packs and cut over to the deer with just a smaller backpack. This "little jaunt" actually took well over an hour as it is not as simple as the images and view from above seemed. Finally there I claimed my prize of a little 4 by 3 mulie. Granted, I say little but it was the biggest on the trip
. Although the rack was small, the animal was still very good size. You can also see in one photo how high up were still actually were.
We boned it out and packed the meat into pillow cases and loaded up my little backpack. Since this was my first mule deer I kept the head for mounting. That little backpack was jammed full and extremely heavy. We took everything we could. Unfortunately the angle of the shot and the bullet particles tore up some of the meat. Shooting a little .243 WSSM packs quite a punch and at 3200ft/second it gets there quick. One pic is looking back up at the cliff I shot from.
Part way back I lost my footing as we were cutting across a 45 degree incline and I slid until I literally got hung up in a tree. Greg thought it was funny enough to stop and take a photo before helping me. Looking back, it was quite funny, once the pain subsided.
Once upright, we made our way back to our frame packs. The meat pack was too heavy and uncomfortable to carry all the way down. So, I had to drop it and head down with my frame pack full of gear. Once to the bottom I took the bag off the frame and headed back up for the meat. Remember how my knees had issues before? Yeah, it sucked but it was one of those power through moments where I had no choice and it was my burden get my "trophy" down.
Anyone still here? Am I actually going to cook something? Fine