So, we (myself, and friends Scott and Dave) pulled out of Peoria, IL at 4:00 Saturday the 6th pulling my 26' camper. Starting at DesMoines, Iowa the dreaded 30mph cross wind began. My fuel mileage immediately dropped to 6mpg not to mention the stress of pulling the camper in the wind.
After a not so brief stop at Cabela's in Mitchell SD, we arrived in Rapid City about 9:00 PM mountain time. The next morning it was raining pretty good and spitting snow as we pulled back onto I90 west bound. We got off at Sundance and headed south into quite a snow storm. It was not accumulating but made driving a bit hairy for an hour. By the time we got to Newcastle, WY it was entirely rain. We made a quick stop for fuel and conservation stamps then headed to the ranch. By the time we got there the sun was shining.
My Dad had arrived the night before and was already up on a high bluff scouting antelope when we pulled in at 9:00 AM. We quickly set up the camper then went out to confirm zero on our rifles. By 11:00 we were out chasing antelope. About 3:00 I found a nice 13.5" buck with about 20 does. At 456 yards I got in a good prone position, set the scope, doped the wind, and sent a 168 Berger his way from my 7RM Sendero. When the rifle dropped back down from recoil, I could see him in the scope still on his feet but wobbling. By the time I racked another round he was no where to be seen. I found him down in the sage right where I shot him. While this is not "long range" to most of you guys, it was my longest shot to date and I was very pleased. This is a pretty nice buck for this area.
After pictures and discussion with the rancher, we hung the buck and headed back out to find a mulie. Before we got to the draw we planned to hunt, we spotted a nice antelope buck from the truck. Dad decided to give him a try. After a short stalk, he dropped him with one shot from his .264WM Sendero and a 140 grain Berger. This buck also measured 13.5" inches but had about 3/4" of ivory showing. He was an impressive looking buck with a lot of curl and 5" cutters. His shot was just short of 300 yards. That was the longest one shot kill Dad has recorded.
That evening Scott also shot a nice antelope buck. Three bucks down in six hours of hunting! Early the next morning, Dave shot a nice 14" buck. Less than 24 hours of hunting to get 4 nice bucks.
Monday and Tuesday we walked our tails off still hunting the breaks for mulies but with no luck. In this area still hunting is the only way to find the big bucks. 95% of the time, the mature bucks are bedded by dawn. Occasionally you can find a mature buck out feeding in the river bottom in the early morning or late evening, but not very often. The river bottom was FULL of 1-3 year old bucks but few does. The rancher is very concerned about the deer in his area. The number are steadily declining, especially does. I would guess that 80% of the deer we saw were young bucks. It seems that CWD and lions are taking their toll.
Wednesday morning Dad and I were working a favorite area of mine. Right at dawn, I found a mature 3x3 buck feeding in the bottom of a deep canyon. I had him dead to rights at 300 yards but decided to pass.
Dad and I were still hunting along a deep draw, I was on the north side, he was on the south. The previous year I had introduced Dad to this type of hunting for mulies. He thought the ideal rifle was a 30-30 with the new Hornady plastic tip ammo. His gun grouped extremely well out to 250 yards. I turned out to be a great combination. These shots can be 20 yard jump shots, or 300 yard shots at bedded bucks.
At one point, I lost sight of Dad. After a few minutes, I got concerned and started slowly climbing a bank to get a better view of his side of the canyon. I finally spotted him lying out in the sage. It took about 10 minutes for him to see me and signal that he had a buck spotted. He signalled me to come around behind him. I dropped down and worked my way around. I was very confused because from my vantage point I could not imagine what he was looking at.
I worked up the cut behind him and started creeping up the bank a step at a time trying to spot Dad. Finally I saw him sitting with his back to me looking away across a small cut bank. At the same instant, I spotted a big buck stand from his bed. Dad shot and the buck flipped completely over backwards! This whole thing happened in less than 2 seconds of me stepping over the rise. Turns out Dad had spotted the buck's antlers over a cut bank as he shook his head to shake the flies. The only time Dad could see the antler tips in when the buck shook his head. In the end, Dad spent 30 minutes laying in the same spot waiting for the buck to stand up a mere 50 yards away. Just as he had hoped, the buck heard me come over the ridge and stood to have a look. This was Dad's first mulie and a damn nice one at that!
I was awesome to be there to witness the whole thing! There was a lot of hooting an hollering going on! After a few minutes of celebration and discussion, I took off on the 1 mile hike back for the truck. While I was gone, Dad walked the long way back around the cut to where he shot from to make sure he had not dropped anything. Within 30 yards of where his buck dropped a few minutes earlier, another nice buck jumped from his bedded and bounded away!!!:eek: He had laid there though all the shooting, celebrating and talking only 30 yards away! These mulies are getting more like pheasants every year..........
I ended up passing several 3 x 3 bucks but left with an empty tag. That's OK, it was a great trip. My buddy Dave shot a nice management 3x3 in the river bottom Thursday evening.
We also shot several coyotes and a ton of praire dogs and jackrabbits. Again, it was a great trip. The Bruce family who owns the ranch have become a second family to us over the last 7 years and it is always great to see them. We have already started planning for next year...........;)