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4 days in muley country- story and a few pics

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I recently had a four day trip planned in muley country with my buddy, Slevy. We headed out this past Wed night for Western ND. I left from Fargo on Wed afternoon and he left Minot in the early evening. We got in to his aunt and uncles place at around 11:00 or so. After planning the next day's attack, we had a short night's sleep and were up getting ready to chase muleys with our bows and arrows.

Our choice for Day 1 was to go to an area where farmland whitetail country meets up with some classic Western ND muley country. Slevy chose to hit the Western end of the area for some of the classic muley ground, so I took the other end, the Eastern side, where whitetail country meets muley haunts. My morning started out pretty slow- I didn't see a living creature for about an hour after legal shooting light. Just when I was about to leave my cosey little spot on the hillside to start poking around the hills looking for muleys, a doe appeared over the horizon. She was about 400 yards away and she tipped over a hillside that silhoutted her for a few seconds.


She came over the hill in the snowy spot, just to the left of the bush in the middle-right side of the pic above. Behind her were triplet fawns. A minute later, a little scrapper buck appeared and followed down into the grassy area below. Behind him was a small 8 pointer. Behind him... nothing. I waited for a couple minutes hoping to see a big bruiser behind the second buck when suddenly, a nice rack appeared. He was NICE! I first looked and thought it was a whitetail. Then, I thought it was a muley. Finally, I couldn't decide what it was- it was a whitetail body and face, but half of the rack was classic muley (18" long G2 that didn't split, stubby browtine, forked G3 and G4) and the other half was a classic looking whitetail 5 point rack. Although he could have been hybrid, he likely was just a goofy racked whitetail. Regardless, he was a buck with a ton of character and he was really nice. I watched him for 20 minutes until he beaded down near the area where I first saw him. All the other deer kept filtering through, with some of them coming to my left:


... and the smaller 8 pointer coming to my right:


Once all the deer got past me and were out of that area, I decided that since the buck was staying put in his bed, I'd have to try a sneak on him. He was in a perfect spot to sneak. All of the other deer, minus one unaccounted for doe, had left the area and wouldn't be a problem for me. I figured the other doe was with the buck, but I'd have to deal with that as I get near him. I took careful note of where the buck was- he's about 15 yards to the right of the biggest tree in this pic:


Here you can see him if you look carefully:


The wind was blowing from him to me and if I could get close to the brush below him, he'd never be able to see me. The snow had a slight crunch in the top 1/8 inch, but was very quiet below that. Not perfect, but doable.

I covered the first 250 yards in about five minutes. I got to 100 yards soon after. I glassed him when I was at 100 yards and he was still in his bed, completely unaware of me. I tried to take pics along the way, but my camera battery crapped out on me due to the really cold weather (it was fully charged, but doesn't work worth a darn when it's too cold). The next 65 yards took over one hour. I ended up on my knees because the sound of my boot hitting the snow was too loud, no matter how slowly and carefully I placed each step. My method of moving was not very efficient, but it was pretty quiet- I simply slowly walked on my knees each time a gust of wind blew. Sometimes I'd wait five minutes before I'd move a muscle. Sometimes I'd take four or five steps (actually, knees) at a time. I got to 20 yards from the tree and the buck had no idea I was there. However, I had underestimated the height of the brush below him- most of it was six to eight feet tall- no way to get a shot at the buck without backing up 50 yards! However, 10 yards ahead there was an opening and I'd have a clear shot at the buck once I reached it.

Then, IT happened... I heard a few sticks snap and bang around in the thick brush 10 yards away. I put my release on my string and got ready- the buck was up and moving and I hadn't seen him move because of the thick brush. I watched... waited... got ready to draw my bow. First I saw hooves, then legs, then the form of a deer through the very thick brush. Next, I could see the beedy eyes of, not the buck, but a doe who was looking directly at me. How she spotted me through that thick, nasty brush I'll never know- I hadn't so much as blinked while she was close enough to see me. However, she turned and headed off quickly through the brush. I thought maybe she'd trot past the buck and I'd get a shot at him from the 35 yards that separated him from me. However, that's not exactly how it happened-- she snorted, I drew my bow knowing he'd be up and moving very quickly. Instead of standing up out of his bed, this guy left it like a sprinter leaves the blocks in the 100 yard dash! He sped out to 60 yards in a heartbeat. I let my draw down and put the range finder on him- a couple sticks in the way, but I finally got a reading of 58 yards (I was totally prepared to shoot out to 60). I slid my sliding sight to 58, waited for him to look away at the doe, settled my pin on him, and let 'er rip! My pin was EXACTLY where I wanted it when I let go of the arrow- it looked perfect. I watched the arrow sail, listened, and heard ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. I missed! He bounded off no worse for the wear. I ran up over the hill to watch him and a dozen other deer run out of that country like I'd been firing mortar shots at them. Dang! I had a great opportunity, but that dang beedy eyed doe busted me and saved the buck's life.

I went back and re-ranged the distance I had shot. I put my pack on his tracks and stood in the prints where I had shot from- 63 yards. I'm not sure, but I think the sticks gave me a false reading that was off a bit. I'm also not sure if that's why I missed- maybe I just missed. wink No matter why or how, I'd missed. Bummer.

I didn't see any more deer that morning and teamed up with Slevy at about 11:00. He'd seen six muley does and a small muley buck. All had been 15 yards from him, but nothing he wanted to shoot.

That afternoon we moved to a new area and tried our luck in more classic muley country.


We saw 23 muleys that afternoon, but none were the buck we were looking for. Also, the snow was so cruncy and loud in that area we would have never been able to sneak up on anything...

The next morning we headed to some really rugged country we'd hunted once before. It was a pretty neat area and we wanted to spend a little more time there. Here's a shot of what greeted us that morning...


... nothing better than a sunrise in the Badlands!

Here's a few shots of the area we were hunting, starting with Slevy on the walk in.




People might not think there's rugged country in ND, but I can definitely tell you that this area is more than enough to kick my sorry butt!!! It was really fun. We saw a dozen or so muley does and fawns while in the rugged area. We also saw a 160" whitetail about 1/2 mile away, but again, the snow was so incredibly crunchy that we really had little chance of getting anywhere close to a deer.

That evening we went back to the area we'd started the previous day. We saw 23 (me) and 24 (Slevy) deer that evening, but nothing that got our blood boiling. We had some good ideas about the next morning.

Sadly, the next morning didn't come together like we'd hoped- with a major storm moving in and both of us with a wife and kids at home, we decided our four day muley trip would have to be cut to a two day trip. We packed up at 5:30 the next morning and headed home.

Sorry, no happy ending to this story... We sure had a good time for those two days though. I can't wait to do it again next year!

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Scoot, were you anywhere near the Logging Camp Ranch south of Bowman? That muley country looks a lot like the Burning Coal Vein public ground we used to hunt quite a bit back in the 90's. Great story and great pics, thanks for sharing.

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We were North of that area, propster. However, not by that terribly far...

I almost forgot, on Day 2 we saw something pretty cool that I got a few pics of. While driving between two areas we spotted these dudes below. I put a little sneak on them to get closer for some better pics. It was fun to be that close to them.




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now that is something i want to do hunt bighorns, but its so expensive doesnt matter where you go

That would be soooooo cool to do. However, I'm sure I'll never, ever be able to do it- way too much kaaching for this middle classer. It's always fun to dream though...

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Cool pics that just reminded me of the picture i took while in WY trout fishing.

We were driving on a real winding, mtn. road and off to the side there was a little picnic area. To our suprize this guy was standing right in the middle of the pavment. there was another one in the building thing there but i couldn't find the pic of that one. They never ran or anything we just snapped a few pics and left and they went about there buisness.


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That is some great looking land to hunt. Where I hunt in SD I think there are three trees about every three miles. Good luck next year with the size and numbers of deer you are seeing it is just a matter of time.

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Good luck next year with the size and numbers of deer you are seeing it is just a matter of time.

Funny you say that, this is my 25th year of bowhunting and I have yet to seal the deal on a really big buck. I've shot a number of bucks around 120-130, but never managed to get one in the class above that. However, the places I've been able to hunt in the past few years are FAR better then where I grew up hunting, in terms of quality and quantity. Hopefully you're right and it is just a matter of time...

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First of all I think 120-130 class deer are great, I have a number of them and have not got past the point of passing them up yet. That being said I have a few that are bigger but only because they came along first.

You hit the nail on the head though when you said the places you are hunting now are better than where you used to or usually hunt. Where you hunt more often than not is more important than how you hunt. I know we all like to think we are great hunters but where we hunt is important. I have several friends that hunt the same property year after year with no real luck on big bucks, and they are good hunters. I took one of the guys with me to SD (public) this year and he scored on a good representative, his biggest, after four days and a few misses. Most places you will not get that kind of oppurtunity.

I can't wait to get back out west and looking at your pictures makes me realize I need to expand my horizons and try to find some trees.

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Cool story and great pics Scoot. That big one will come in time. Its hard waiting that long for Mr BIG but it will be worth it the day its down.

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...but it will be worth it the day its down.

Yeah, it's funny how I can sit in a tree stand for hours on end, yet somehow patients isn't my strength! I've been sooooo close sooooo many times it almost hurts! But you're right, my day will come if I stay patient.

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