RG’s 2020 mule deer – 7mm DAKOTA/160gr BIB BT.

Locating Matt’s buck was a miraculous convergence of intuition, time, and space . . . as was – the early morning prior – finding mine. We had decided, the evening before, to go directly to a specific location, and arrive there no later than sun up, to glass for still foraging bucks sporting, “shooting sized” racks . . . well – “that was the plan.”

However, nine days since the opening gun, as we sped past a branch/gate, off the [main] two-track – and not a vehicle had been down the seldom used path, my brain adopted a “new’ plan – open the gate! Roughly a mile “in”, we stopped to glass. Before the binocular came to eyes, four ELK materialized on the open prairie, headed for Rough Creek . . . Just as quickly as they had sprung into view, the elk shrank to mule deer size: two of them, to the naked eye, showing off decent antlers! When the bino made eye-socket contact, the better of the pair proved to be a 4×4, featuring deep forks, and, we guessed about a 22” inside spread – good enough, on a tough hunt, for a fat old man, who wanted to “test” the 7mm DAKOTA/160gr BIB BT combination, “one more time” . . . perhaps we could score a double, as the second buck was, if narrow, heavy and tall, with very good forks.

We watched the foursome (two were ultra-dinks, barely forked-horns) until they passed through a saddle, over the divide and into the head of a deep and wide cut on the North/NW face: a locale I know well. Luck was on our side – this day, the incessant wind favored our position. We drove the quads, through a saddle, and, staying low, motored along the divide, toward where we last observed the deer. A good 1/2 mile short of where we wanted to position ourselves, we parked, un-assed the quads, donned the day-packs, grabbed rifles, ammo, etc., and began discussing options. After comparing several scenarios, we decided to deploy per Matt’s best plan, with good potential to produce a double: a solid plan.

Together, we crouched and crawled, headed to vantage point 1. Well short, I rose enough to take a peek – perfect – “there they are!” Surprisingly, for a ‘has been’ with fake knees and pinned back, I was quickly belly down! Not 200 yards to our N/NE, antlers were visible! We off-loaded the day packs and other, “excess” gear, and continued our approach to the divide, where we could position our bi-pod equipped rifles for action, and sure-fire clearance ahead of the muzzles . . . upon settling in, the bucks were GONE! We looked and glassed “everywhere” – not an antler tip, nor ear – how, during the minute or two we were crawling blind, wind, “on our side”, did we, “blow them out”?!? We sat up and glassed . . . and watched . . . and glassed . . .

I whispered to Matt that I was going to back-out, get comfortably out of sight, and go all the way to the point of the spur we occupied – perhaps viewing up the deepest cut off the opposite ridge would prove possible. The point revealed a panorama of just more empty coulees and bare aprons. I looked back at Matt, now, about 150yd to my south – he, too, was stumped. As a last resort, and running low on patience, I got out a predator-call and was going to sound an alarm, when, once again, antler tips were exposed above the nearest ridge! The bucks were still feeding on a shady North face, where, now, I expected them to lie down. Instead, a handsome, but narrow 4×4 walked out the mouth and into the bright sun – range,197 yards! Decision time!. Through the scope, at 8x, the tines were all long enough – the inside-spread, only just to the ear-tips. “It’s the smaller of the two, but pretty good – “OK, shoot him, and when the BIG one pops out, Matt will complete our double!” BOOM, WHOP, and a 75 yard sprint later, the 4×4 was a pile of meat, awaiting pics & tagging.

The other three bucks complied with the outline, pogo-hopping to about another 50-60 yards from where my buck had stood for the shot! Damn, I had shot the BIG one – “there’s going to be some ground shrinkage!” Matt opted to pass up the other, which did provide plenty of opportunity, but proved to be a heavy, high, & narrow 4×3! Another great hunt. A few pics, some discussion, telling and re-tellings, and the field-dressing completed and the buck secured to the quad . . . heading for the locker. Ground-shrinkage aside, a decent prairie mule deer buck.

Nice tine lengths make up for lack of spread (20&1/2″ inside), shorter than expected beams
(22″ and 20″) , and mediocre mass the quick gross was 155″ – another great hunt. The switch to the Gabby Hays hat is to keep the hat ON and the eyes shaded from the prairie sun while speeding across the open range!

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