2009 Nevada Late Season Mule Deer Hunt

It’s interesting how every deer hunt takes on a new look. No two hunts are ever alike and this year’s Nevada mule deer hunt was nothing like last years.

We arrived to very cold temps and snow on the mountains. The first night it was difficult to sleep in the bitter cold. However, each day of the hunt warmed and several times I hunted in just a t-shirt.

Caption: We did see quite a few antelope in open areas.buck antelope cropped and resized

I believe the changing weather caused the deer to transition into lower elevations at the start of the hunt and then move back up the mountain by the end. On two days I didn’t see a single deer while on other days my partner and I observed between 50 and 100.

I didn’t see many big bucks, but I didn’t count. I believe my hunting partner spotted significantly more than I, including a couple bucks I would have shot, but he didn’t shoot, because he’s looking for a larger-horned animal than I.

One thing that hadn’t changed was the number of wild horses.

wild horses cropped and resized

I did see one very large buck and here’s the story.

I was out of gas, and on top of the mountain a long ways from anybody, but my gas tank gage said the tank was nearly full and I knew that to be the truth because I’d just filled it from my two-gallon plastic gas can.

Trying to stay calm – the thought of walking out was not appealing – I tried to figure out why the ATV would not start.

“Maybe there was something wrong with the gas I’d just added to the tank.” I thought to myself.

“It’s downhill all the way, maybe I can coast down in neutral.” My second thought.

“Maybe I should try the reserve tank.” My third thought.

That’s what I acted on and sure enough the ATV started.

“Hope I can make it out of here and find somebody to consult with.” My next thought.  When I’m along in a remote spot the first thing I look for is company.

I knew where some gold mining was taking place and maybe somebody there would help me figure this out.

Using the reserve tank, I drove about four or five miles to where the mining operation was ongoing. I climbed a fence and explained my plight and asked if anybody knew something about ATVs. A young man offered to help.

I told him that I may have contaminated the gas in my tank and that was the only thing I could imagine had happened. He knew how to drain the tank and told me he give me some replacement gas.

He was my hero and I was very relieved.

By the time we finished I realized that the reason for the entire calamity was that I’d inadvertantly turned the fuel selection knob to off. There had been nothing wrong the whole time, but he had saved me from myself.

This gentleman also added a new twist to my hunt. He suggested I try a spot where I had not hunted before. It wasn’t long before I was climbing the mountain roads with a vigor. It was the next to the last day of the season and I had yet to see a deer  this day – even though I’d checked out a spot where there had been many mule deer a few days back.

Another five or six miles of ATV riding and I was overlooking new country.

I stopped the bike and walked out on a ridge to look around. The area was pretty well stripped of sage by a fire that had taken place a few years back. Deer would be quite visible.

As I turned to look up at a rocky knob, a buck’s head popped out of the rocks and the sun hit his antlers.

I hustled back to the ATV and broke out my spotting scope.

The wind was blowing about 25 MPH and I had to work to steady the scope. The first buck was medium sized, but the one that was coming over the skyline above him was huge.

In about two seconds I knew I had to go after this one.

It turned out that there were about 25 does and several bucks on the knob. The longer I looked, the more deer I saw. After watching them for 15 or 20 minutes, the biggest buck and the next to the biggest bucks walked back around the knob to the mountain’s north slope.  I concluded that I needed to reverse course and drive the ATV to the top of the hill to re-spot the bucks.

At my next stop, I could see the second largest buck, but not the largest. I was about to change location again to attempt to spot the larger buck when I heard the rumble of ATV engines. Not wanting to share my information with others, I wrapped up my gear and headed down the mountain. In a few moments I realized it was my hunting partner and a couple of his buddies coming up the road.

I told them I’d spotted a big buck on the knob and that I was gong for it. With that, I took off.

The climb would be about 1300 feet in elevation from a drainage at the bottom heading into the wind, up a hidden draw and over a secondary  knob just below the top of the hill. It was a good plan. Here’s a photo of the mountain.

the stalk route cropped and resized

It took about an hour and a half the climb the hill. I was both exhausted and exhilarated when I reached the top. When the rock pile at the top of the hill came into view I ranged it at 138 yards. The deer were somewhere in between.

As I approached the knob, I realized that I would soon be very close to the bedded deer. I glassed for doe’s ears and it wasn’t long before a feeding doe came into view. I stayed low so, at most, they could only see the top of my head.

Within moments other deer’s ears came into view and then antlers. They were very close. I later ranged it at 60 yards.

The deer did not know I was there and they were relaxed and nibbling around. The buck that came into view was not the largest buck but his buddy. He looked pretty big through my four-power rifle scope.

What I should have done was back down the mountain and come up again from a different angle in an attempt to spot the largest buck.

However, when a doe began to stare me down and the buck in front of me turned giving me an easy neck shot, I broke down and dropped the buck.

The deer stood and stared at me in shock. Not one of them ran. I was standing with an audience of about twenty deer including another smaller 3×3 buck, but the big one was not in sight.

Finally I broke the standoff and walked up to my buck. I was thrilled by the experience, but later realized that I’d failed to achieve what I set out to do. It was bitter-sweet and surreal.

Here’s the buck I shot.

IMG_0028 Rich with buck angle view cropped and resized

One thought on “2009 Nevada Late Season Mule Deer Hunt

  1. Still a respectable deer, and if you’re like me, venison in the freezer is better than horns on the wall… maybe you didn’t do quite what you set out for, but you did tag out. Pushing a little harder may well have blown out all the deer, and you’d have gone home empty handed.

    Good stuff.

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