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What Were The Odds?

May 2023
Story by Ric Shirrod
Hunters: Garric Shirrod
State: Idaho
Species: Deer - Mule

 For the last five years, my son and I have bought general whitetail tags in Idaho, taking advantage of the lower cost youth prices and the abundance of game. However, after multiple seasons of EHD, the youth price hike, and the new rule for non-residents having to pick and stick with one unit, we decided to just apply for limited-entry mule deer tags. With most of the top units having a draw success of 4% or less, we weren’t very hopeful.
Using my May issue of Huntin’ Fool for research, I found a youth hunt that boasted about 20% draw odds. I put that down as Garric’s second choice and crossed my fingers. A month later, I got the usual emails from Idaho. Deer – Unsuccessful, Antelope – Unsuccessful. Then I opened Garric’s and was pleasantly surprised to see that he drew the youth hunt. Let the planning begin!

The first thing I did was reach out to Huntin’ Fool and request the Previous Tag Holder List of G’s unit. Out of the three names, two of them got back to me right away. Dave and Jason gave me more info than I knew what to do with, including onX pins on where to glass, deer sightings, and camping spots. The biggest tip was that they both said to go as late in the season as possible, so we cleared our schedule for the last week of October.

The summer flew by, and the next thing we knew, we were headed south for the Idaho/Nevada border. Fourteen hours later, we pulled into where we would be spending the next five days. After setting up the wall tent in the glow of the headlights and getting camp and our gear organized, it was off to sleep for a few short hours.

Anticipation was high on morning number one, but zero visibility through the fog quickly squashed that. It wasn’t until about noon that we could finally take a look at the beautiful landscape that these majestic animals called home. This area of Southern Idaho has some of the best mule deer habitat I’ve ever stepped foot in. What we weren’t seeing, though, were deer. We saw a doe or a doe and fawn here and there but definitely not the numbers that we thought we’d see. I convinced Garric that it was probably because of the recent storms and they were still laying low. Now I just had to convince myself of the same thing.

After learning the road system on the southeast side of unit G, we made a great spot on a small 3x3 buck that Garric ultimately passed on. I left the decision completely up to him. Most kids his age probably would have shot this deer based on what we weren’t seeing. The fact that he had never killed a mule deer made it a tough but very adult decision. I was proud but a little nervous that he might not get another opportunity.

The morning of day two, we awoke to 40 mph winds and it was snowing sideways. There would be no hunting again this morning. Garric was a high school junior and enrolled in the Running Start Program at our local college. We decided to run into the closest town so he could do a little schoolwork until this last storm moved through. While we were eating breakfast burritos and he was on Zoom, I got a call from my good friend, Beau Olson. He owns Wilderness Expeditions LLC, a top-notch elk and deer outfitter in Southeast Washington. He is also one of the best mule deer hunters I know. He informed us that he was on his way down to help and was about four hours out. Despite the lack of animals, morale was now at an all-time high. Beau pulled into camp with about an hour of daylight left, so we transferred some gear into my truck and off we went to do some last-minute glassing. With the storm now passed and no wind, we were seeing deer everywhere. Tomorrow was going to be a great day.

Thursday morning came quick, and we were eager to get going. There was one particular drainage we wanted to hit first thing as that’s where we were seeing the most sign. It was also a funnel straight into Nevada and the higher elevation peaks that these deer were migrating from. Right off the bat, we were seeing does and fawns and a small herd of bull elk. We were all out of the truck with our binos and tripods when Beau said, “I think I got a buck.” I looked over, and Beau was looking 3,000 yards away and up the draw. He had spotted a small white patch that was a different color white than the snow. I told you this guy was good. I still wasn’t sure until I set up the spotter and zeroed in on the spot. What I found was a nice main-framed buck bedded in the sage, and he definitely warranted a closer look. I pulled up onX and found a road that looped around behind him and would put us in position for about a 500-yard stalk.

After a few hundred yards, we hit a scattered boulder field that was providing great cover. The problem was that the wind was swirling, and after three different approaches, we decided to just go straight at him. We soon popped up over the rise. I was looking to my right and slowly scanning left when I saw the buck now standing in his bed 101 yards away and staring right at us. I got down and whispered to G that he was right out front. Beau called out the yardage, and I said, “He’s a nice buck, G. Take him if you want him,” and then plugged my ears. No sooner did I get those words out than I heard the bark of his .270 Winchester.

I looked up and asked, “Where is he?”

G said, “Right there. I dropped him in his tracks!”

At that point, I could see his antlers lying in the snow. Just like that, my boy had his first mule deer. We instantly started hootin’ and hollerin’. I looked over at Beau, and he had tears running down his cheeks and that got me going. Then G looked at his watch. It was 10:27 a.m. on 10/27/2022. What were the odds of that?

After tons of pictures and more celebrating, I was able to get my truck to within about 50 yards of the buck via a two-track to a fence corner gate. Back at camp skinning the buck, the real celebration began and went well into the night. It was one of those evenings that the three of us will never forget.

There are a bunch of people who made this hunt happen. Thank you to Huntin’ Fool for their invaluable service and to David Baker and Jason Fenhaus for the great info and shared enthusiasm for this hunt. Thanks to Beau Olson for always being there when I need him the most. And thanks to my wife and Garric’s mom, Julie, who keeps things running at home while we’re off chasing dreams and making memories.