2017 – Utah Public Land Archery Mule Deer hunt
Finally with my general southern Utah archery public land deer tag I was hoping this year would be the year!
For the general season hunt in Utah I have been hunting the same area most of my life. There is a canyon high up at the top of one of the mountains in our unit that is a tough hike, but I have always seen great sign and many deer there. I have stories and stories of solo hunts I have been on from ” mushroom deer” to a stampede of deer almost running me over… twice! But that is for another day 😀
Opening day- Krystal’s Canyon
I have not hunted in my canyon for six years, a result of drawing out rifle the previous year, having a baby, and relocating for my husband’s job, life certainly got in the way! I was a little rusty but had an idea on where to go from hunting here in my youth. This summer was quite hectic and we had only gotten up to the mountain a few times for scouting.
I had my flashlight out as it was very early in the morning, 4:30-5:00 AM when I parked my ATV at the trail head. I got on one of the game trails and hiked in, head down so I could see my way with the headlamp. I spooked a few deer in the dark along the way. I had an idea about the area of an aspen stand in the middle of the canyon where I felt confident the deer would be moving through. As I hiked, due to my lack of recent familiarity with the canyon in the dark, I ended up side-hilling a bit higher than expected, ending up near the top of the canyon. I could see deer beds everywhere and another canyon from the top and thought this was as good of place as any, and heading down slope now might be too late for movement. Just a few minutes later I heard a four-wheeler up above me, surprisingly close, too close for hunting. I decided to hike down back to the middle of the aspen stand as originally planned, but I knew it was getting a bit too light and I felt I already messed up by not getting into my position before the light came out. I was just going to hurry and find a spot to settle down before I spooked any more deer.
As I was walking down I did what every hunter dreads, I ran into a guy with his young son! I felt awful and so discouraged! I told them sorry and I hiked down even further to find a place near some trails. To my surprise I kept hearing deer as close as 10 yards from me in the oak trees, but the wind must not have been in my favor as they spooked before I even saw them. I glassed across the canyon to see what action was going on over there.
Across my canyon down below me, above some aspen trees, I saw a decent sized buck with a few doe. They were eating but kept looking down into the bottom of the ravine as either a hunter or predator was down below. They could hear something but didn’t quite feel they were in danger yet as they kept eating and then occasionally paused to look below. Eventually the buck made his way into the thick oak and aspen trees and I couldn’t see him anymore. I snapped a picture through my binos using the phone.
Suddenly the canyon filled with rumbling across from me. I knew there were deer that were spooked and running like hell! I looked up and right in front of me across the canyon, about 300 or so yards out, I had a front row seat to a chain of about 10-15 nice mature bucks! You could hear branches breaking and the hooves pounding on the ground.
They stopped in a slot canyon full of oak and manzanita brush for a few minutes and then rushed off again to the north, slowly spreading out and disappearing in thick oak and juniper trees. I saw a hunter running in the distance near where they last were. I could tell he was the one who spooked them the second time, but as we all know you can’t chase spooked deer during the archery hunt.
At that point the cautious buck I saw from earlier in the morning heard all of the commotion and spooked even though he was far below them. He and the doe decided to run across the canyon the opposite direction of the large bachelor group and headed down into the aspens.
The rest of the morning the action really slowed down. It was about noon and felt it was time to start heading back to camp, but first I wanted to wander and figure out where I was to find some good spots to hunt the next day. I spooked some deer along the way, of course keeping my arrow nocked just in case. I went down and found a beautiful lush grassy area in the aspen stand with thick fresh trails and sign. I just had a good feeling about it and decided to mark it with tape. I found a decent trail to head back on and marked it throughout so I knew where to go tomorrow morning in the dark.
That evening we hiked in from another angle, about a mile northwest of where the bachelor group ran, hoping to come across one of them. Unfortunately the evening hunt was uneventful with only a few doe crossing my path.
That evening at camp, I told Brady I wanted to go back to the same spot. He didn’t really want to go there again, but we agreed, because I’m the boss. 😉
Day 2 – Harvest day
This time we hiked in together and even earlier than the day before, and got to where I thought was my spot. It was dark enough I couldn’t see my orange markings reliably. Brady took off lower, about 200-250 yards from me and across the other side of the canyon to the north slightly. As I started to find a good spot to sit I heard a a chilling noise, in my mind a growl that could have been from a cougar or bobcat. I was actually scared for my life and I called out for Brady on our radio, not caring if I spooked deer. I had no hand gun on me and it was still too dark hard to see. After I called out, this thing, whatever it was, ran up the mountain in front me as I could hear it run through the oak understory. It made me feel a little at ease knowing it scuttled away, but I didn’t hear it run off very far. The running was completely different of that of a deer being spooked. I hurried and picked a trail and sat all my stuff down and nocked an arrow and got my knife out.
It started transitioning to dawn and I never turned my back to the direction of the strange noise out of worry that this creature might try to sneak up on me. Around this time I must have sat near a hummingbird nest because the most annoying hummingbird kept flying over my head making distress noises. That darn bird nearly gave me a headache, making a unique constant whistling sound!
As the light started to pour into the canyon, it started to rain and I moved and took shelter under a pine tree. The sun still hadn’t peeked over the ridge yet. The rain got the deer moving as I heard deer behind me but couldn’t see well enough, and couldn’t move without spooking them because I was not in a quiet enough spot. After the deer left the area I felt better about the predator being gone, so I moved back onto the trail and moved to another spot about 20 yards down trying not to move too much as i didn’t want to spook deer.
I heard a deer coming up from the base of the canyon and it was a doe. She came right through the spot I was previously sitting in and around the pine tree I took cover under during the rain. I stood against a dead snag aspen tree as it matched my camo better. With my arrow nocked I stood dead still as I heard more deer coming from my right side on the same trail I was on. I was a little nervous the deer would walk right to me.
Unfortunately was just another doe and fawn. She got about 5-10 feet from me and looked at me and thought something was odd. I held perfectly still trying my best to not spook her, hoping a buck would be coming in soon after.
Her fawn knew something was wrong, as her mother stared at me. The cute young fawn with spots on it also stared at me cautiously. The doe circled around me and once she got behind me she caught my scent. She spooked and both took off! I looked up the mountain to the east as this canyon was a long stretch heading north to south. I decided to head up slope slightly to position myself under a nice scrub oak. While walking up I noticed my orange tape from the day earlier up further, about 15 yards away! I was happy to be in the area that I was looking for originally. I got into position under the oak and cleared all leaves and moved dirt around so I was only walking on clean soil and I could move around in different directions silently.
I sat for a while and heard deer all around me. Some would blow, not knowing where I was and eventually left. I was feeling like, yep… great… I kept hanging in there though. There was a doe right behind me with two fawns. They were playing and that helped pass the time. My husband called in over radio and asked if I wanted to head out, and I said “no, not yet, I want to stay longer.” It was only 10:00, but he wasn’t getting any action and was ready to move.
So another hour went by with deer walking through and deer blowing and Brady called in again at 11:00 and asked if I wanted to pack up. He said he will walk further north and down the canyon and head back south up the base of the canyon and hopefully scare something to me. We agreed that would be a good plan. I decided to get up and pick a bunch of wild flowers as I had basically wrapped up mentally, the sun was getting high in the sky and prime time was over. While picking my flowers, I thought, “I should probably hurry and get back into position in case my husband really does scare something up.” This seems to happen to me in the past, when I let my guard down a buck comes and I miss the opportunity. So I hurried back to my spot and sat down and made a flower bouquet and set it on my pack.
So about 5 minutes later, I heard a couple of deer coming up from the wash in a hurry. Not on a trail, they were just moving loudly straight up slope through the thicket. I stood up with my bow and I saw antlers, two nice bucks were heading my way! I was freaking out, heart pounding, buck fever setting in! They were literally walking right towards me. I kept somewhat lifting my bow and lowering it thinking “what am I going to do, are they going to see me lift it?” They kept coming closer. I thought they would walk into me before I even got a shot! At this point they were only 15 yards from me. I was just waiting for the right opportunity.
They caught my smell and spooked and jumped to the side moving horizontally to the north, about 5-10 yards further way. They presented a perfect broadside shot for me at about 20 yards. They stopped right in front of that pine tree, the same pine tree I huddled under when it rained that morning.