It all started back in December when my cousin, and long time hunting partner had started discussions with a business associate who had a pretty good size ranch up in Wyoming with plenty of antelope and mule deer. We kept discussing details and it was decided that we would pay a land access fee and we could get on the ranch and hunt it ourselves, no guides, just directions. We eventually decided to put in for a couple deer tags and try our luck. Rhett & I have hunted together enough that we trust each others opinions and decision making and thought we could handle the 'big country' out west.
Fast forward 9 months. We had been trying to do as much research as we could on how to field judge mulies, looking at the terrain we would be in, and doing a little working out in the evenings to try and get in better shape to head to the mountains. A business deal came into place for Rhett and he couldn't make the drive up with me, but he could find a flight into Denver and I ended up picking him up Sunday morning to head further north. We arrived at the ranch, which is about 30 miles south of Lusk, about 4:00 Sunday evening and got in the truck w/ the owner and was showed around a bit. We saw a few bucks that evening from the pickup and since all we're used to looking is Oklahoma whitetails, even some small 3X3's looked absolutely huge to us! It took some discipline and close judgement to figure out the size of the bucks we were looking at.
We started out Monday morning by going up on top of the mountain and glassing down into some fingers that funneled up onto the ridge. We saw several bucks but nothing to tag out on the first morning. We figured that we could probably come back to the general vicinity we had seen them later in the week and maybe get on those deer again if we had to.
After a long hike and a sandwich it was time to go check some spots for the evening hunt. Rhett talked me into to going to a spot he had found that morning where a big canyon led to a spring in the bottom and thought we would be see lots of movement.
Now, when we hunt together on such a type of hunt, we have a deal that whoever spots the game first, gets the oppurtunity first to pass or shoot. We had walked about 20 yards over the edge when I spot movement so we hit the dirt. A little forky up feeding and 40 yards to the left are some horns behind a rock. After about 15 minutes, he stands up and gets our blood pumping. Good deep forks in front and back, 'boxy' appearance, and some mass. After sitting there trying to decide if he really was what we were looking for, and him feeding, bedding, feeding, etc. for about an hour, we decided that when he stood up again, I would let him have it. He did stand up at 240 yds, looked right up at us and the 140 grain accubond from my 7 STW sent him in a back flip and he never moved again. Finally, after years of dreaming of a big Mulie, I had one on the ground! Now the work started. I got him field dressed and caped him out. Ended up getting the head and cape out about 1 1/2 hours after dark and left the meat for the next morning.
View from where I shot him
And a couple views of my buck
Day 2 started out fairly slow. Still seeing bucks, but nothing of any size. After packing all my meat out after the morning hunt, (which wore me smooth out!!) Rhett made about a 4 mile hike up top glassing down into more fingers while I stayed down low trying to find another shooter for him. About the most exciting part of day two was that evening when we were walking along a ridge and Rhett damn near stepped on a 3 foot rattlesnake (it got down to 27 degrees the night before). We both jumped about 5 foot sideways, realized he wasn't bit, and by the time I got my 45 off my hip, he had slithered back into a hole. We damn sure were a little more careful crawling around all the rock piles that we were glassing from. (we also need to change out shorts out!!) We did sneak up on a decent buck that evening. He was about 300 yds out looking straight at us and Rhett had him dead center in his scope before I could even get sit down. I got the spotting scope on him about the time he clicked the safety off and told him to wait. He was cussing me pretty good but I just didn't see a whole lot to this buck. He was decent, but just wasnt all it looked like the more I zoomed in. After I let Rhett look through the spotter, he agreed with me and we let him walk. We still dont know why he looked so damn good through binoculars and a 14 power rifle scope, but when you got up to 35 power on the spotter, he wasn't anything special. Just the way he was standing I suppose?
Day 3 started early and I could tell Rhett was nerved up a little bit. He had passed up some decent bucks and we only one full day left. Not to mention we were wore out and very sore. We were going to a ridge we hadn't been to since the first day. Right when we got there, we saw one buck that was a 4X4 with a pretty good kicker off of his G2. We kept going down the bottom of the ridge and saw 4 more bucks but no shooters so we went back to check out the kicker buck. We then spotted another buck that we hadn't seen on the way through. I got the spotter on him and thought that he was the one. He was 415 yds straight up hill and I told him to get ready. He had good forks, one kicker, we couldn't get a good judge on the spread, but decided to shoot. Of course, the buck wouldn't cooperate. The only time he turned broadside, there was a top of a cedar covering his vitals, then we lost him. Where did he go?? I still don't know how they can dissapear so easy. Finally, after about 15 minutes, we spotted an antler. It was him. Now all we had to do was wait him out. He stood up at 380 yards, I told him to send it. About 3 inches high (shooting straight uphill), the buck trotted off toward the bed he had just rose from, but not spooked. I told him to aim at the bottom of his shoulder and he told me I was nuts, that it was 380 *$&#ing yards! I said trust me, it's straight up. 2nd shot was money, broke shoulder and he was trying to run. "Good hit, chamber another one, and get on him" Right when he got on him again, he was pretty much done. We stayed on him and he wasn't moving. Awesome feeling!! Then, I guess gravity took a hold, and he rolled violently downhill about 100 yards. We sure hoped he didn't brake any antlers!! It took us 2 hours to get up to him and get him to the bottom of the mountain. Turned out, he was bigger than we thought! Had 2 kickers and looked wider than we had thought. We had been using 22 inches as a base line for tip to tip of the ears, but this bucks ears were 25 inches from tip to tip. What's up with that?
View to where his buck was hiding
View from where he was, down to where we were
(we weren't hunting from the pickup, we went to get it before we hiked up to him)
And his buck
May be a long story, but we are still on cloud nine and I wanted to share.
His is a 6X6 that grossed 185 with his 4 1/2" of kickers. Mine was a 5X5 that green scored 177. Both rifles used were Sako SS topped w/ Leupold's 4.5X14 VXIII LR. His in 300 win, mine in 7 STW, handloads of 140 grain Accubonds and 180 Accubonds in the 300.
Lots and lots of hiking and walking, busting our asses getting our deer off the mountain, and absolutely awesome country. 954 miles back home.
I had no idea you guys had freakin rattlesnakes in Wyoming!!!