Close Search

Opening Day Success

April 2020
Story by Tyson Nelson
State: Nevada
Species: Deer - Mule

My 2019 hunt started with more anticipation and excitement than any other tag I have had in my life. Southern Nevada, and all of the southwest U.S. for that matter, had an extremely wet winter followed up with the wettest spring in many places on record. I knew with all this moisture and the amount of feed that was out in the hills that this year would be one for the record books, and I just prayed I would get a tag. When the results were finally posted, I almost couldn’t believe it. I had drawn my number one tag. Scouting started almost immediately as my brother, Taylor Price, and I hit the hills hard, setting trail cameras and glassing.

The first few trips of pulling cards, we were a little discouraged by the number of deer on them. With the amount of feed and water, the deer were very spread out. Luckily, we had found several great bucks behind the glass, and with each passing week and the summer getting hotter and drier, more and more bucks started hitting our cameras as well. By the time we had to have cameras pulled on July 31st, between what we had on camera and what we had just glassed up, we had a solid list of giant deer to go after.

As the hunt drew closer, I narrowed my list of potential bucks down to a couple that I was going to put all my efforts into. As luck would have it, just days before the hunt, Taylor was able to glass up and film the number one buck on that list. With only a few days until the opener, we would focus all our time on trying to keep tabs on him, seeing him almost every time we looked. Of course, the only day we didn’t see him was the day before the opener. We glassed up another 200" type 5x4 but could not locate the giant buck we were looking for. I was also lucky enough to talk my cousin, Kyler Carrizosa, to come hunt with me and also our good buddy, Aaron Cheeney, who had just gotten home from a 21-day fire assignment just in time to make the hunt.

The night before the opener, we put together a plan for the next morning. I had also just gotten word that my brother was going to be able to hunt with me, at least for the morning hunt. He had a client booked for the first week of the hunt, but when he arrived at camp, he had forgotten his tag back home and was scrambling to get it there. There were a few other hunters and outfitters that were after this particular buck as well, so we knew we had to try and be aggressive with our approach. We decided I would be in the general vicinity of where we had seen the buck, so hopefully I would be in place for a stalk if we glassed him up. The night was filled with anticipation, and we could hardly sleep.

Finally, it was opening morning and everyone was in place waiting for first light. It wasn’t much after first daylight when Kyler called me and said he had a big buck and was pretty sure it was him. After a little bit of explaining to me where he was, I was able to pick him up just as he fed down out of sight from Kyler. I couldn’t believe it. I was only about 600 yards from the buck already as he was almost right under me across the canyon. I called Taylor, who had his hunter with him, glassing, still waiting for his tag, and then I called Aaron so they could come to where I was to get all eyes on the buck before I started stalking him. The buck kept feeding down and eventually out of sight, so I decided to make a move and hope the boys would be there soon.

When they finally got there, I explained where the buck was. At this time, I was only about 200 yards from the buck. I inched my way closer as quietly as I could, which wasn’t easy as the amount of cured, crunchy cheat grass and tumbleweeds we had this year made it nearly impossible to stay silent. At about the 150-yard mark, Taylor signaled for me to back out. The buck was heading the other way towards some trees. By the time I would have seen him, I would not have had a shot.

That was not what I wanted to hear, especially because the wind was perfect, which is rarely the case on archery stalks, but we also didn’t want to blow the deer out, so I slowly backed out. Once I got back, Taylor, Aaron, and Kyler had put together another path for me to possibly get within range. They told me the path to take, and one slow step at a time, I once again inched my way toward the buck. Once I rounded the corner to where they had last seen the buck, I was only 120 yards from him. I had a perfect chute to sneak up and out of sight from him and the wind was still ideal. After about an hour of one step every minute, I was in the perfect spot. I still could not see the buck, but I knew the cluster of trees he was bedded in, which were only 60 yards from me at this point.

Waiting for the buck to get up and rebed seemed like an eternity. In all reality, it was forever, about four hours to be exact of sitting here, heart pounding, standing in the 100+ degree sun, waiting for the deer to get up and move. I ranged every avenue he could get up and move to, so I felt good about the distances. The thoughts going through my head in this moment kept me disciplined as I had been in this same scenario on giant mulies countless times, and the end result was usually a blown stalk. I knew everything still had to work out perfectly. Finally, at about noon, the buck was finally all the way in the sun and got up. I drew my bow back, ready for him to give me the perfect shot. He was in no hurry to do so, so I sat there at full draw for God only knows how long. He finally turned and gave me a good look, which was good because I was almost at the point where I couldn’t hold back anymore. I let one fly, and it hit its mark. The buck ran out of sight, but I knew he was hit good, so I wasn’t too worried.

After a little bit of time, I tracked him down to the bottom of the canyon and found him piled up. The excitement burst out then. I let out a celebratory scream, and the boys came running down. We could not believe how big he truly was once we actually got to put our hands on him. I was simply in shock that the plan on day one had worked. In all my life of hunting, I had never had opening day success. I almost couldn’t believe it was real, other than we had the biggest framed typical deer to ever be taken in the state of Nevada right in front of us as proof. The moment was so surreal, and the excitement of being there with all my best hunting buddies, holding this particular buck, is a moment that I will forever cherish.

In the end, my deer had a score of 227" gross with a 221" 4-point frame in velvet. The decision was made to strip the velvet and after the 60-day drying period, he was officially scored at 224 2/8" with a 218 1/8" frame and an official net score of 210 1/8", making him the new Nevada State Record Typical Mule Deer.

I want to give thanks to all involved – my brother and best friend, Taylor Price, my cousin, Kyler Carrizosa, another great friend, Aaron Cheeney, and my dad, Bruce Price, who arrived late to the party (picking up the client’s tag and his friend from the airport) but still made it in time to celebrate. Last but very most important, thanks to my beautiful wife, April, who continually allows me to pursue my love of big game hunting. 

More on Nevada Mule Deer Hunting