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My North Dakota Mule Deer Hunt


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Finally have a little free time so I figured I would try and share my ND DIY bowhunt story.

September 1st my buddy(Louis), his dad and I headed across North Dakota to the badlands for our hunt. As we were driving the thermometer reached 100 degrees on the truck. I definately was not looking forward to hike out in that heat. Not to mention the week before I was in the Black Hills on a family vacation. My wife, father-in-law and I hiked up to Harney Peak on that trip. I thought it would be a good way to break in my new boots. Bad idea! This is what I had to deal with on the entire hunt.


When we parked the truck and geared up it had cooled down to 98 degrees. Time to head out.


The first couple hundred yards hurt quite a bit with those blisters. Then eventually my heels went numb. It was like that every day of the hunt. At first I could hardly walk from the pain. Then they would go numb and I would be ok.

On the hike out I had my first encounter with a Horny Toad. They kinda look like baby dinosaurs.


Some scenery from our hike out.


We only went about a mile and half in and then set up camp.


After camp was set we still had about an hour and a half of daylight. So we each picked a different spot to glass to see if we could find any deer. At about sunset I had a tall 3x3 come into the creek bottom I was overlooking. He was about 200 yards away. I was thinking different season, different weapon, I would have my hands wrapped around the antlers of my first mule deer buck.

That first evening I also was astonished on how big the area was. I texted my wife telling her that I thought it would be impossible to get within bow range of a deer out here. This was my first trip out here. Louis and his dad have been out there 3 other times.

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Just a little friendly tip, duct tape! Once the blisters are there you're pretty much hosed, but when breaking in a new pair of boots, at the start of the first few days of a long walk, put two pieces of duct tape on each bare heel. Absolutely no blisters. wink

Great pics! Can't wait for, "The rest of the story".

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Day 2

I woke up to the sound of wind and rain. I decided to go to the same point I glassed the 3x3 the night before. This was my vantage point.


However I didn't last there long. I was facing west and didn't like the wind driven rain in my face. The next ridge over I spotted a nice cedar tree to sit under facing the other direction. So I made my way there. It wasn't long at my new spot and I had 2 does and a fawn come out to feed. They were about 100 yards away.



I didn't spot any more deer. Although it is probably pretty hard to see deer when I was taking a nap. Went back to camp for lunch and heard the story of my buddies dad and the rattle snake he almost stepped on. He got a picture of it but I have yet to get his photos from the trip. At camp my buddies brother stopped in. He came out a day earlier than us and was camping in a different location.

With the heat we were really going through water. So we hiked to a cattle tank we found on the way out to get some much needed water. We brought all our bottles and bladders from our packs to fill up.


That evening I decided to sit down in the creek bed. I found a nice ambush point. Around sunset I heard some noise coming down the trail. I got ready and at five yards out came a cow. I also had a doe come 60 yards away.

Back at camp I finally got to hear my buddies story since he was out all day. He spotted five bucks in the morning. There was a big group of trees where three of them bedded, so he snuck to that group and waited all day. He never did see them again.

Day 3

I went with Louis to his hot spot to see if we could find the bucks again. It wasn't long and we spotted a good 4x4 but he was headed in the wrong direction and went out of site. Here is his backside.


Then we spotted two other bucks. One was a small fork and the other was a good looking buck. They both bedded down in different spots. I told Louis I would go after the small one and he could go after the big guy. We waited awhile and started to make a plan. He glassed my deer and told me that he was still there. Then said "Oh no" My buck heard him talk, got up and trotted off. We were 550 yards away from this deer. They sure have some awesome hearing. After that, I thought the odds of getting one were really stacked against me.

The other deer was still bedded. I was gonna get closer and watch from a different ridge while Louis attempted his ambush. I figured I could give him hand signals if it left or if he needed some directional help. I got to my ridge and after awhile watched my buddy sneak up to the small group of trees the other buck bedded. All of a sudden in a different group of trees the buck bolted out, 30 yards from him. Sometime when we were in the creek bottom the buck moved and bedded back down. The buck was running right toward me so I knocked an arrow hoping to get extremely lucky. He got within 80 yards, caught my scent, then ran directly away from me. I still thought it was pretty exciting.

The afternoon brought another trip to the cattle tank for water. Nothing was spotted this evening.

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After that, I thought the odds of getting one were really stacked against me.

They are!!! However, stick-to-itiveness and a little luck and you can get it done.

Great job on this thread so far! Keep it coming!!!

Oh, and rattle snakes... I hate the dang things! They, however, seem to LOVE me! I like it when they rattle, but man I sure do hate it when they stay quiet- I almost got zapped by three different snakes one day out there when they didn't rattle and almost let me step on them. Then there was the time one took a strike at my leg... Of course I'll NEVER forget the time I peaked up over a cattle trail on a steep slope and had my face less than a foot from a ticked off rattler- that one left a permanent impression on me... The more I think about this the more I like the idea of hunting muleys Oct - Nov...

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Day 4

Louis and I figured we would try a little different area since we walked all around were the other bucks were. On the way, we passed where I saw the two does and fawn on the first morning. I really liked that spot and figured I would sit there again while Louis went a couple of ridges over. I didn't sit in the same spot as the first morning, I went to a different hill where I figured if any deer came out to the spot I saw the other deer, I would maybe get a shot.

I sat down on the rock hill side inbetween two bushes. These bushes were not big and did nothing to break up my outline. I ranged some trees were I saw the other deer at. One was at 60 yards, one at 48 yards, and one at 42 yards. It was just starting to get light out. I was hungry and ate my granola bar right away. Not long after that I looked behind me. I saw a deer a couple hundred yards away, walking toward me! After another look, I saw it was a nice buck! I reached back and grabbed my bow. Having extra time, I took my quiver off and set it behind me. I went to grab the first arrow and for some reason thought to myself that I knocked that arrow yesterday and nothing good happened. So I grabbed the second arrow. I took another look back, the buck was still coming. Then I saw movement behind him. There was another buck. I was worried quite a bit because the wind was going there way and I was sitting in the wide open. If I can see them, they can see me. I sat there motionless as they got closer. Eventually the first buck was right next to the slope I was sitting on! He was so close I couldn't see him, only the tips of his antlers. I glanced back to see where the other deer was. He was behind a tree, so I drew my bow. Up ahead of the first buck was a small depression. I thought once he got there, I would be able to see his body. He got there and stopped. It was an angle of 40 degrees. I already decided to use my 30 yard pin. The pin settled on his body and I touched off the trigger on my release. He started to bound away. He made two bounds and I could see red already where the arrow had entered him. I felt good about the shot. He got behind a small group of cedars and I could no longer see him. I was hoping he bedded down on the backside of the trees. I looked back to the scene of the shot and there stood his buddy broadside at 38 yards. He stood there for quite awhile before he took off to the left.

I told myself to wait 30 minutes. It was along wait, but in that time I got to watch a beautiful sunrise.


Here is a pic of where I shot the deer. Arrow laying on the ground.


I also had a goose come eye level by me at about 30 yards. I took this as a sign that it was ok that I missed the goose opener back home with my dad and brother.

To be continued...

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They walked right to you? Seriously??? In well over a decade of hunting out there, most years three times, I've only had a shooter buck walk to me within bow range once (without me trying to move and intercept them, that is)! Awesome! I'm looking forward to seeing the blood trail and your buck!!!

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After 25 minutes I decided to go and get my arrow. It was covered in blood. I was feeling great. I decided to head to the group of trees I lost sight of him. Hoping he was dead right there.

The little group of trees in the center of the photo is where I was looking.


I got there and he wasn't there. I looked down and saw one tiny speck of blood. There were only two ways he could go. Left was pretty steep and then it dropped off from there. Right was more level and then that dropped off. I decided to go right, figuring I would look over the edge and see him piled up. On my way I looked for blood, found none. Went to the edge, no deer. At this point I started to question my shot. Wondering if I really hit him as good as I thought I did. After a little disussion in my head I decided to head back to the little group of trees. Then I looked left. I saw two areas of blood the size of my fist. I felt a sense of relief. Looked ahead further, another big spot of blood. A little further and there was another big pile of blood right at the edge of the drop off. I hurried to the edge and looked down.

This is what I saw


At the sight of him down, I held my bow in the air and let out the loudest "Woo Hoo" I could. Unknown to me at the time, my buddy could here it. He didn't know what it was but it scared the heck out of a herd of antelope and sent them the other way.

I crawled down to my buck and snapped another photo


Knowing I was going to need some help. I hiked over a couple of ridges to find my buddy. I showed him the photos and high fives were given. Even though he spotted some other bucks that bedded, he was more than willing to give me a hand with my buck.

We went back to my buck for some "hero" shots.



Then went back to camp to grab our packs. It didn't take to long for two guys to get the deer into the carcass bags. Wish the hike out was that short. But it was the first time I ever had the feeling of carrying horns out in my backpack. And what an awesome feeling it was.



This was a pretty good feeling as well. Making it to the truck.


After a break there we each decided to bring a 2.5 gallon jug of water back to camp. I thought I was done carrying stuff for the day. I guess I was wrong.

That night brought a little rain storm and an amazing rainbow.


More to come on the rest of the trip.

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