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2019 Mule Buck

Every mule deer hunt I have been on, stealth and silence was the name of the game. The 2019 Mule Buck hunt that was hardly the case. I intentionally made noise stalking a mule deer. Well, okay I didn’t, but my wife did! Spoiler alert…. It worked! 

After the elk hunt opening week in 2019 I got super busy with work, it was nearly a month later when I got to head out and chase some mule deer. I had the weekend off so I headed out first thing on Friday and my wife was going to join me after she was done work.

Not having been out to the area much since spring shed hunting I spent much of the day creeping up to the coulees and glassing up and down trying to locate some bucks. I say some, because I am usually tight for time to hunt, and prefer to eat wild game, so I will go after almost any buck.

Later that afternoon I spotted a buck, decent size as far as I could tell but not a lot of points that was bedded about 70 yards into some canola. Perfect, I could approach the canola through a coulee and stay out of sight the whole time. With my position I could tell that he would take one of two routes out later that evening, based on wind I chose the one that would suit me best, but give me access to move around the edge should he start moving the opposite direction. 

2019 Mule Buck
Shot using PhoneSkope and Vortex Viper binos

So far, so good. I crept into the coulee and got up to the other side, I could just see an antler tip. Still bedded. Now it was a waiting game. About an hour later my wife got out to where I parked my truck, she too dropped into the coulee, after confirming for me that the buck was still bedded, and made it over to me. We had about an hour left of light, she took some wicked photos. Half of why I bring her along haha. 

Finally with about 45 minutes of light remaining the buck stood up, he chose option 2. Shoot, that would mean I would have to creep around  the edge of the canola. I left my wife sitting in the original spot and went on my cruise. I had to stop and take a photo of the buck in the light as it was too perfect! 

Once I got around I could tell I had the deer, he was walking on perfect line, I had the wind and was sitting 30 yards up the crop line, with a good 15 foot shot window before he would enter the trees of the draw. 

Then about a kilometre down the coulee, a gun shot. I assume from a farmer dealing with a coyote. The deer froze. I now had about 30 minutes of light left and the deer still had to cover the last 60 yards. Heres where we got creative. I needed a sound from behind the deer to get him to continue moving the way he was (where he ultimately wanted to go). Cue my wife!

I signalled for her to make some noise, so she started to move around, walking back and forth out of sight. Nothing! 

Okay, ramp it up. She began to snap small branches, still nothing.

So finally I signalled make a racket! I found out later that she had pulled a branch of a small tree and was beating the bushes with it, much like you’d see guys elk hunting do. It worked. The deer resumed his normal line and came walking out of the canola. He stopped broadside and I made a great shot, it was a couple inches higher based on a few yards of yardage but but it was a great double lung shot! The deer took off at a dead run. 

With light fading I moved up quickly to try to see around the draw as I knew we would be tracking in the dark very soon. It was too late, he was out of sight. No worry however, I knew I made a clean shot.

This was awesome, not only was I successful I got to include my wife on another hunt, and without her there, I may not have gotten the deer!

Now came the hard part, finding this buck in the dark.

We both moved up to the shot location to search for blood or my arrow. No luck finding either, I knew the arrow would have gone clear through as I was back off the shoulder. It was now nestled into some very thick canola. Switching to the micro diameter Gold Tip Pierce arrows gave me a super hard hitting 500 grain arrow but I did not use lighted nocks. So finding this tiny arrow in the dark was a lost cause. 

Back to trying to find blood, we scoured the area, using our phones for light along with my headlamp, we turned up nothing. So I crossed back across the coulee to my truck, I could get pretty close on the other side and had a better light in my truck. 

In the coulee areas of Alberta, leaving a deer overnight is a risky business, there are plenty of coyotes. I was going to stay with the search until I found him or daylight hit, at least that way our scent would be all over the area hopefully keeping the coyotes at bay.

There is a fence line about 30 yards from where I shot my deer and I assumed based on his direction that he would have crossed the fence. I started working my way up and down the fence searching for signs of blood. Still no luck.

As a last ditch effort without straight grid-ding out I began using a magnate held under my binos, I scanned the coulee bottom and tree edges looking for the buck. Finally! 

2019 Mule Buck
Showing the shot location

I got a  glimpse of his tine in the beam of light, he made it about 40 yards past the fence and only about 10 yards from reaching another draw and diving into the coulee. Huge win, flat ground to field dress and no hills to climb to get the buck back to the truck. Oh and my biggest deer yet! Not that I am a stickler for finding big deer, as shown by my first whitetail buck, but it is pretty cool. This deer was bigger than I thought and he had a nice big body, which means lots of good meat!

It seems field dressing deer in the dark has become my go to haha. Over the 5 years of hunting this makes the 5th animal out of 9 where I was field dressing in the dark, two I hung in my garage. Working by headlamp and a flashlight held my my wife you get into a groove. Its like you are encased in a weird sort of bubble. All that exists is you, your animal and the sounds of knife work. Well that and the incessant buzzing of mosquitos. 

About an hour later I had the deer all quartered up and strapped in the pack, the second time I have loaded an entire deer into my Stone Glacier 5900. While it is heavy, it is manageable. 

2019 Mule Buck
Loading up my SG Sky Archer 5900

A cold beer to celebrate and some much needed sleep, we went back in the morning to try to figure out what happened. Why was there no blood?

A photo of the shot placement helps reveal some of the mystery, it was just above centre body (and not by very much) straight across through both lungs. This left the chest cavity with a considerable amount of room to fill with blood before reaching either the entrance or exit hole.

After retracing the steps from where we found the buck, we found that the final 10-20 yards was a very solid blood trail, 2-3 feet wide and thick. Once we hit the 30 yard mark it was faint drops of blood and about 5 yards apart. There was only 2-3 drops of blood where the deer crossed the fence and none in the first 30 yards of his run. 

I feel like it’s super valuable to be able to return and retrace steps, and put all the little bits of information together. I still very much consider myself a new hunter, and while I have had decent successes over the last 4 seasons bow hunting, I want to learn something from each hunt. That way next years hunts, or track jobs, or shots are better.  We were both tired from lack of sleep and the process of field dressing an animal and it would have been too easy to head home with a cooler full of meat, and a set of velvet antlers that needed to get to the taxidermist. Take the time to soak up as much information as you can it will only lead to more success in the future.

As for me 2019 brought a lot of lessons learned. Needing to practice and shoot more leading into season, as shown by my elk hunt. Understanding tendencies for blood trails as shown in this hunt.

This was the first season where I hadn’t seen my deer (or elk) fall. So it was also the first time I needed to follow a blood trail. A great learning experience.

As I dropped of the skull and antlers at the taxidermist the next day, I relayed the shot and lack of blood trail followed with the information learned that morning while retracing steps. Over the past three years I have found that he has been super helpful, see he has 40+ years of hunting experience, compared to my 5. Not to mention he has the privilege of hearing more hunting stories than I can dream of! It was encouraging to hear his thoughts, which confirmed what I felt, that the chest cavity held all of the blood for the first seconds as the deer bolted off. 

Taking advantage of more knowledgeable people whenever possible has allowed me to understand more after each hunt! I plan to keep doing the same!

Hope you guys have enjoyed following along with a newbies experiences, and hopefully I can help pass some helpful advice along!

2019 Mule Buck



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