"Trust Him" OTC Archery Mule Deer Story

180″ OTC Desert Mule Deer in 2005 “Stud”

During the summer of 2005, I found the biggest typical DESERTmule deer I had ever seen.  We were able to locate him several times but the season came to a close without the sweet smell of success.

The following year I was unable to hunt, but by the summer of 2007 I had given him the nickname, “Stud.” The general area he called home was always pressured hard by archery and general deer hunters, so it was not common to find a buck over 170 in this unit.

With less than two weeks until opening day, I found several bucks in other locations, but most of them were out of shape and had under developed antlers due to drought conditions.  On my third scouting trip, I found myself on my favorite hill and after peering through my 15’s for over an hour; I dropped my head down for a short break, when I noticed a 26 inch 4×4 lying right next to me but Stud was still MIA.

After several more scouting trips, I was still unable to locate Stud but I did find a huge two point.  My hopes were now dwindling, as the hunt quickly approached.  On the first afternoon I drove to my parking spot and I began talking to myself, in an effort to keep focused.  I gathered my gear and quickly made my way up to my look-out.  With less than thirty minutes of daylight left, I was able to pick out a big framed buck chasing some green feed.  I decided to get a closer look, as I cut the distance, I immediately found the buck feeding away from me. When he finally raised his head, I was disappointed, it was the big two point.

Stud in 2005

The next morning, I again settled into my favorite spot. After an hour of glassing, I spotted three nice bucks.  Instantly, I knew that Stud was not in the group.  I watched the bucks lay down and the head games began…  It was eight AM and ninety five degrees, the bucks in this desert country hit their beds early, so I knew my chances were slim to find Stud but I decided to give it another hour before I headed out after them.

After a few minutes of torture, I reached for my water bottle.  Just then I caught a glimpse of something.  I scrambled to my chair and swung my glasses in that direction, it was STUD!  I instantly noticed that he wasn’t as big as he was in 2005.  The combination of the drought and old age must have stunted his back end, but make no mistake about it, he was still a great OTC desert mule deer buck!

Stud in 2007, right where I left him in 2005.

I watched him and two other bucks walk across an open flat.  The two other bucks laid down in some cover but Stud continued feeding into a small drainage until he disappeared.  After much deliberation, I headed out after him.  I reached the drainage and found out why he had disappeared, the dang ditch was eight foot deep.  I quickly shed my shoes and crept forward.  As I reached the end of the small drainage, I popped up onto the side of the embankment.  I was able to quickly pick out the other two bucks in their beds but I had no clue where Stud was.  I hunkered down and decided to wait him out.          
A few minutes had gone by and I was intently watching the location of the other two bucks, when I heard some chipmunks playing off to my right.  At first, I paid no attention to the noises but then I heard something that sounded like a deer sneeze.  I quickly glanced to my right and was shocked. Stud was feeding in one of the small drainages nearby.  He was less than thirty yards and I had walked right by him! 

I slowly got to my knees and gripped my bow.  As soon as I clicked my release on the string, he again fed out of sight.  My heart was pounding and I was on the edge of a mental break down.  Stud, a 29” wide, 175 class typical muley was less than thirty yards from me.  I slowly regained what was left of my composer and talked myself into staying on my knees.  After a short wait, I realized the wind was now blowing up my back and it was going to get ugly. I had no choice now. I had to make it happen.  I slowly stood up and came to full draw, unfortunately all I could see were his antlers.  He then stood straight up and was obviously very nervous.  He locked onto me instantly and after a quick stand off, he spun and started to jump out of the drainage.  I squeezed and the arrow hit him a little far back but fortunately he was quartering away.  He covered 200 yards and then hit the dirt.  As I ran towards his rack, I could not believe it!

A 170-180″ Typical Mule Deer is a big mature mule deer for most general areas out west.  With predation, droughtn and shrinking habitat in these areas, these type of bucks are not easy to come by.

Big bucks like Stud are not smarter than us, they are just simpler.  Big bucks survive on PublicLand, because they find country that gives them the security and resources they need to survive.  Animals sense human pressure and mature bucks know when and how to move to avoid this pressure.  In my opinion, if you find a good buck you should stay with him and his country.  He’s there because he feels secure and has the resources he needs to survive.  Unless these factors drastically change or the rut approaches, he is going to stick with what he knows.  My own experiences have taught me that if I TRUST HIM, he won’t let me down.

Craig Steele’s 2007 OTC Archery Mule Deer

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