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Stay on Target

My First Western Hunt in the Books

Wed, September 10, 2014

In a normal year for me, Labor Day weekend is filled with an outside bbq, maybe checking a couple trail cameras and possibly a birthday party.  This year it found me traversing the mountains of Wyoming chasing mule deer. 

After a couple years of intense planning, my brother Travis and I managed to secure our mule deer tags for an area in Southern Wyoming.  The tag was good for the October rifle season or the September archery season, and we chose to take our bows.  Our plan was to camp in the National Forest and to hunt both the forest and some BLM ground nearby.  This was a “do-it-yourself” hunt, so we would be on our own.

The day we arrived, we were greeted with numerous hail storms and our first night in the tent was miserable.  We had camped between 10,000 and 11,000 feet and we were getting punished.  After that, we selected a new campsite and we spent our remaining days there. 

The second day, it rained almost all day, but late in the afternoon it cleared out and we went to do some scouting.  We jumped up the buck in the video below, right before we started descending down the mountain late in the evening.

Season opened the following day.  After an uneventful morning hunt, we got into some bucks in the evening.  We saw 2 big bucks (150” class?), and I tried unsuccessfully to stalk them.  Late in the evening, we came across a real giant.  It was in a real tough spot to stalk.  Travis tried anyway, and the buck won (as I’m sure he has done so many times in his life).  Here is some video of the giant.

During our second day, we again got into some deer.  Travis had a long stalk on the buck below, but it ended when the buck saw him draw his bow back.  It exploded deep into the mountain.

Later that evening, we saw a nice looking forkie, and I decided to put a stalk on it.  After initially spooking it, the buck ran to to top of a big hill and gave me a 55 yard uphill shot.  My brother and I had been practicing out to 70 for months, so I felt pretty comfortable with this one.  I hit the buck in his last rib and the arrow was angled forward toward his opposite shoulder.  He ran about 125-150 yards before piling up.  I had shot my first muley and I was elated!

Next up, Travis needed to get his buck. 

After a late night dealing with my buck, we did not get out to hunt until a few minutes after daylight the next day.  The morning yielded only a few doe sightings (this was a buck only unit).  During the afternoon and early evening, we still hunted and spotted, but to no avail.  Once the sun started getting low in the sky, the deer started moving.  Travis spotted a fork horn and decided to make a stalk.  When he got there, the deer was no longer there, but a 3x2 arrived.  Travis ranged it at 52.5 yards and put a perfect, double-lung shot on the buck.  After a brief blood trail, his tag was punched too!

The following day was Trav’s birthday, and I think he felt like getting his first mule deer was quite a present.  We both had cow elk tags, but during the 5 days we had been there, we only saw 3 elk.  We did not seem to be into them, and with the weather about to turn bad again, we decided to pack up and head home a day earlier than we had planned to.  We had both met our goal of shooting a buck and we were as happy as possible. 

Below are a few pics from our hunt.  I also have a video (27 minutes long).  It does not have any harvest shots on it, but it might give you an idea of what our hunt was like if you are interested.  If nothing else, go to the last 5-6 minutes and watch the slide show of pictures that is at the end of the video.

The full video is in the link below:


That is outstanding!  Congrats to both of you on a successful DIY hunt.

Posted by Treehugger on September 10

The medicine bow NF is amazing.  I’ve had the opportunity to antelope hunt between there and Laramie and its fantastic country.  Congrats on your sucess!

Posted by buckbull on September 10

GREAT hunt in some awesome country!  Congrats Guys! That Pic’s over the lake are just Magnificent!

Posted by walmsley on September 10

I’m totally jealous!  Congrats on a great hunt.  Great pics too by the way

Posted by Andy Meador on September 10

Just spent a week out in Wyoming - no hunting - just hiking and camping, unbelievable country and wildlife, hunting like you guys did would have been a super bonus - Congrats!

Posted by BIGPOND on September 10

Just playing Devil’s advocate here….but I expect the majority of Wyoming residents feel the same way as most members here do about non-resident hunters. Yet the same one’s screaming about the non-res. hunters in Illinois are the one’s congratulating you on your success hunting in another State. Hmmm!

Posted by non-res.hunter on September 12

Congrats to the two of you by the way! Great hunt!

Posted by non-res.hunter on September 12

There certainly are residents who do not like nonresidents hunting in their state (I’ve ran into a few), however your comparison of Wyoming to Illinois is apples and oranges.

1. The majority of non resident hunters take advantage of hunting national forests and grasslands.  These public lands are managed by the federal USFS or BLM.  These agencies are funded by tax payers like you and me. That’s a little different than non-residents leasing hunting rights throughout Illinois.  These lands are maintained by all and are intended to have recreational use by all.

2. The Wyoming Game and Fish department is funded through permit sales.  Between 70% and 80% of their budget comes from non-resident license fees.  Without the non-resident revenue; Wyoming residents would have to pick up that additional funding source.

3. Wyoming ranchers, outfitters, restaurants, processors, and hotels love nonresidents due to all the money brought into the state.  It makes up a much larger portion of GDP compared to non residents hunting in Illinois.

I don’t mind non-residents coming to Illinois.  They help support landowners financially and bring tourism dollars into the state.

Posted by buckbull on September 13

I think the sour attitude about NR hunters (at least for me) comes from the fact that IL has a never ending supply of tags for them.  It isn’t like hunting western states at all.  The antelope unit we want to hunt takes approximately 4 years to draw a tag for.  And that isn’t unlike ANY big game tag in ANY western state.

How long does it take to draw a NR IL whitetail tag for either gun or bow?  About as long as it takes for the server to process your credit card info.

Great pictures Darin.  And congrats on a successful adventure!!

Posted by bw on September 14

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