In the summer of 2017 I made plans to go to Canada later in October on a musky fishing trip. In September, I learned that my fishing buddy was unable to go due to family obligations. Therefore, my fishing trip was not to be. I was lamenting my bad luck when I received an email from Steve West of Steve’s Outdoor Adventures informing me of a cancellation Utah mule deer hunt in October. I immediately gave Steve a call to get the details as I had always dreamed of going on a quality mule deer hunt.
I learned that the hunt was on a private ranch enrolled in Utah’s CWMU program. The hunt became available to me because the hunter who had originally signed up had to cancel because he was adversely affected by Hurricane Harvey. After discussing the hunt further with Steve, I decided to book it. One hunter’s bad luck turned into my good luck.
Steve’s Outdoor Adventures put me in contact with R&K Hunting Company, which was going to conduct the hunt. R&K would provide a fully-guided and outfitted hunt. In mid-October, I was notified by them that I had the option to switch my hunting dates from the end of October to the first part of November. I immediately accepted the option since this would be closer to the rut. My luck was getting better, and I was getting even more excited about the opportunity.
On November 3rd, I started my drive from Wisconsin and headed west by myself. Except for some high wind gusts in Wyoming, the drive was uneventful and I arrived in Utah the next day and got settled in. The accommodations were excellent. I met my guide, Blake Price, and we discussed the details of the hunt. We would get up before daylight, have breakfast, and then drive in his pickup to the hunting area. From there, we would travel in his UTV on the mountain roads and we would spot and stalk.
The ranch was 17,000 mountainous acres, and it turned out that I would be the only one hunting mule deer on the property as another hunter that was supposed to be there never showed up. The elevation varied from about 7,000 to 9,000 feet, and there were a couple inches of snow at the higher elevations. The cover consisted mainly of sage, oak, and snowberry brush with enough openings that made glassing ideal. There had not been any livestock on the property for many years, which meant there was ample food for the wildlife.
I was greeted on opening morning by a light rain in the lower elevations, and it was snowing higher up. That really did not bother me too much as I had hunted in adverse weather conditions many times in the past, plus, I was pretty hyped up. On the drive to the ranch in the early morning light, I could see many deer in the fields along the road. I thought that this was going to be fun. When we started up the mountain in the UTV, we immediately began to see deer. We would stop and look them over with the telescope and then move on to the next spot. I was amazed at Blake’s keen eyes and his ability to spot deer in the brush a long way off. The first morning, I saw over 50 deer. There were at least a dozen or so bucks with a couple of nice 4x4 deer but not quite the size I was looking for, especially on the first day. We spent midday having lunch and telling stories of previous hunts.
The afternoon hunt of the first day and the morning of the second day were pretty much the same as the first morning. We saw a lot of deer and two impressive mature bucks that were tempting to me, but again, I decided to pass. I soon realized that it was going to be very difficult trying to decide on which buck I should take.
While we were having lunch on the second day, Blake received a call from Paul, his friend and fellow guide. After hanging up the phone, Blake excitedly said, “Get your boots on.”
I quickly got ready and jumped in the truck. On the drive to the ranch, he explained to me that Paul was guiding some cow elk hunters on the property and he had spotted a big 4x6 buck that he thought we should come and take a look at. We arrived at the ranch and found Paul. It was snowing pretty hard, but when we spotted the buck, I knew this was the one. He was tending some does and trying to keep a smaller buck at bay. We hiked up the mountain to get downwind and find a good shooting position. With the snow coming down and the deer moving in and out of the brush, it was a little difficult to get a clear shot. Finally, the opportunity presented itself. Blake set up the shooting sticks, and with one shot from my 7mm Mag, the deer was down.
I would like to thank Steve West and the crew at Steve’s Outdoor Adventures and Brett Baum and Blake Price of R&K Hunting Co. for their excellent service and for making the hunt fun and exciting. Most importantly, I need to thank my wife, Jane, for encouraging and supporting me in my passions – hunting and fishing.