Mule Deer Hunting at Horse Creek Ridge, Wyoming
At 7am my shift ended and a long weekend began. With a can of red bull in my hand, I hit the road and drove back home to pick up my roommate, Ryan, for his first ever deer hunt. Needless to say he was very excited. Ryan is an avid bird hunter and I often join him on his family farm during goose season in Northern Colorado but nothing can compare to your first big game hunt. I finished packing my odds and ends, loaded up the truck, topped off the tank, and headed up towards Sheridan, Wyoming.
Our planned hunting spot was a beautiful stretch of BLM tucked beneath the Horse Creek Ridge at the base of the Bighorn Mountains. We spent the last few dwindling hours of daylight setting up camp and getting in a bit of scouting. We sat in the bed of my truck staring at fat does and monster bucks until there wasn't even enough light to see through my binoculars. After easily spotting what seemed like one hundred deer inside of an hour we knew we had found the right spot and would be back in the morning.
The energy in our two-man deer camp was very high with the prospect of a big doe sitting in the back of our minds. It was only further intensified by the realization that we were finally back to our basics. I fish often, sometimes four or five times a week when the weather is permitting, and I like to get out and camp at least once or twice a month. None of that can compare to the feeling of being in deer camp. This is a feeling that rings true for any avid deer hunter. Despite being exhausted from the long drive and the busy night before I was bright eyed and bushy tailed and having a great time sitting around the fire telling stories and joking around.
The next morning, despite being up late the night before, we both popped right up at about five in the morning. We arrived to our chosen location just ten minutes later and started hiking into the backcountry. We chose a spot up on a hill, overlooking the valley, to stop and wait for the sun to come up and glass for a while. We both sat and watched two or three-dozen mule deer meander around on private land for about an hour before giving up hope of them ever crossing the fence. We decided to get up and cover some more terrain.
We dropped our packs just inside of the tree line and headed around the backside of the hill, stopping to glass every few hundred yards. We eventually spotted one young buck probably 1200 yards up the opposite slope. Both of us had non-antlered deer tags but nonetheless I took a bit of time to simply stop and watch the buck. Then we heading up through a saddle back to the side of the hill where we started. Once we broke the tree line, we spotted a yearling about 400 yards down from the base of the hill. We decided to just sit and watch and if he got within comfortable shooting range then Ryan would take a shot.Â About ten minutes later, the yearling had moved in to about 250 yards. We stalked up around him and closed the gap to 180 yards. Ryan lifted up his 6mm, steadied on a rock, and shot. Ryan made a clean shot and dropped the deer in its tracks. We hurried back up to our packs to get our field dressing supplies and went back down to the deer. I walked him through skinning and quartering the deer.
After getting back to the truck and throwing the deer in the cooler. We regrouped for a bit and refueled on some oatmeal cream pies and headed back out to fill my tag. We had walked about 300 yards from the gate when I spotted a group of about a half dozen mule deer does. We worked our way downwind to get a bit closer to the group.
They eventually spotted us as we got closer. I decided follow a path up a nearby hill to use the elevation and the tree line to get out of their sight. As we neared the top of the hill we split up and I crept the last fifty yards up the hill. I peeked my head up over the crest and spotted one good-sized doe just inside 300 yards. I knelt down, propped my bipod on some rocks, steadied the crosshairs on her chest, and let one fly, she dropped.
All in all it was a fantastic trip. Not only did we fill 2 tags within a couple hours of each other but I also got to help a good friend experience the thrill and satisfaction of big game hunting for the first time. Needless to say, this one trip will provide us with enough meat to fill the freezer and make it through the winter.
Article and photo courtesy of Harvesting Nature. Click here to subscribe to the quarterly Harvesting Nature magazine, And Click here to enjoy the latest episode of the wild fish and game podcast.