By: Bears Butt



As big game hunters we all wish we could see a sight like this painting by Rusty Phelps.  Two record book mule deer bucks running past our position on the mountain.  Both well within our shootable range and both equally heavily horned.  But in reality, if you as a hunter spend your lifetime out in the woods as often as is legally possible, you MIGHT get so see a sight like this once and I’ll almost guarantee you the deer of this quality you see will be much farther away from you than you can easily and ethically shoot.  But that doesn’t mean your trophy of a lifetime has to be of the caliber that you see in this painting.

Yesterday I told you about going out hunting with Weasel and Conner on what was Conner’s last day to hunt mule deer this year.  We had no idea what to expect as we have not been hunting during the Utah Any Weapon hunt for about 35 years.  Of course we expected to see quite a few hunters out on the mountain, but still, we didn’t know what to expect in the way of deer.  After a bow hunt, a muzzleloader hunt and seven days of the any weapon hunt, it is quite possible for the deer that are out there to be hidden well back into the remotest and steepest areas of the mountains.  Would we even see so much as a doe?  We didn’t know, but wanted to be out there anyway for one last chance.

I had to dig deep to find my blaze orange hat and vest.  Blaze orange anything for me is not something I desire to be wearing, but it is the law and so we had to have it.  I even dug up some for Conner to wear.  Weasel had to go to town and buy his own.

The alarm went off sharply at 3:30 a.m. and I quickly planted my feet on the floor, knowing full well if I laid there for any amount of time after the alarm went off, I’d fall back to sleep and miss the hunt.  I didn’t want to miss this hunt.

At about 5:05, Weasel and Conner were in my driveway and we quickly tossed my pack and gear into it for the two hour ride to the mountains.  That ride allowed us to see a raccoon and a porcupine and 3 deer all along side the road and luckily nothing tried to cross our path.  Well, the raccoon made the dash, but wasn’t hit, dang  it.  We saw something “orangeish” fleeting into the brush on the side of the road….fox?  Cougar?  We will never know.

At first light we were exactly where we wanted to be and we began our slow crawl up the mountain in four wheel drive looking for deer.  We saw a lot of other hunters camps along the way….many more than we were accustomed to seeing, but as for hunters, they were either still in bed, or were out at their favorite hunting spot as we did not see a hunter anywhere on the mountain.  Having not gone more than a half a mile up the road we saw our first deer of the day…a doe and a fawn.  That was very encouraging.  It wasn’t more than a few hundred yards more and we saw two more of the same type.  Four deer within less than 15 minutes of travel.  This was going to be a great day.

As we continued up the road we saw more deer, soon the count was at 13, but none of them were bucks.  Suddenly as we began a decent down a very rough and rocky dugway, we saw a calf moose.  Where is momma?  It is unusual to see a calf of this size without momma around close by.  Perhaps she was down by a small pond of water ahead of us….we didn’t see her, but the calf turned and ran off down the hill to our left and out of sight.  Continuing ever so slowly over the roughness of the road, we eventually came off the dugway and were on a typical clay based mountain road that showed all the signs of being very ugly and nasty during the last rain storm (recall our muzzleload hunt that just ended).  The road was dry and not any issue for traveling on.  At a fork in the road, we chose to go right and up the bottom of a wide valley.  About a half mile later, Weasel, who was driving, spotted what he thought was a moose about 300 yards ahead.  He tried to point it out to Conner and I so we could see it through our binoculars too, but he wasn’t able to get us pinned onto it before it went behind some cedar trees.  He said it was very dark and as we were trying to pick it up in our binocs, he changed his mind from it being a moose to it definitely was a deer.  He caught a quick glance at it as it moved between two cedars and disappeared again…..”I think I saw horns, but I’m not really sure”….

Again, with binocs down, he was able to tell us which cedars the animal went behind.  It was more than the 300 yards ahead where I was looking and so we decided to drive closer and keep our eyes peeled on the spot.  The group of cedars were only about 4 or 5 trees in size, all very close to one another, but there was plenty of space around them that if there was a deer trying to escape we would be able to see it.  When we were straight across from the small grove of trees, we stopped the truck, got out and began glassing.  Did the animal lay down in that grove?  I instructed Conner to take his rifle off his shoulder, as he had placed the sling over it when he got out.  I also told him to get his shooting sticks ready to place the rifle on it should the deer come out and indeed be a buck.  At that moment, the deer came out and there was no need to place binoculars on it to see the antlers!

Conner has not been afforded the opportunity to shoot this rifle much and was having quite a difficult time getting the bolt back in order to put a shell in the chamber.  After a bit of frustration he realized he was not pulling the bolt high enough before trying to slide it back, and it didn’t take him long to have a shell properly placed in its firing position.  He was already sitting on his backside and had the rifle on the shooting sticks when he slid the safety off.  He went immediately to the scope and picked up the moving deer through it.  The deer was nearly 180 yards out when Weasel and I both let out a whistle!  The buck stopped and looked down at us!  That was all the time Conner needed, as he placed the cross hairs on the deers shoulder and touched off the round!

At the report of the rifle, there was an almost immediate POP, as the bullet slammed home and the buck fell in its tracks, dieing almost instantly!

As Conner’s Grandpa, I was astonished to think my 13 year old Grandson had just put his first buck on the ground!  And not just any buck, a very respectable buck!

Conner put another round in the chamber and the rifle on safe, as Weasel and I studied the now still body of the deer laying on the mountain side.  We continued to view it through our binoculars for over a minute and the body did not move.  We knew then the deer had for certain expired and there would be no need for a follow up shot.  High fives were flying around as the three of us were very excited about what had just happened.  Conner was experiencing a little bit of “after the shot jitters” and his legs were sort of, let’s say, “wobbly”.  After a couple minutes to gather the items we knew we would need to get the animal cleaned out and back down to the truck, we started our slow climb up to it.  We had to remain cautious, as it may not be as dead as we thought it was.  Conner took the lead, as he had the rifle.  We went slowly toward it with full intent of coming either down onto the animal or at the very least across the hill to it.  A wounded animal will most certainly take a man out if it is approached from below.

SlowMoveTowardDownedBuck copyAs an old guy (65) and out of shape, the steepness of the hill (as can be seen in this photo) made me very glad we were going slow.  We kept a vigilant eye on the animal as we climbed.

Soon, we found ourselves above it and Weasel slowly went up to it and touched it with his foot.

IsItDead copyYep!  Dead!

Conner made a perfect shot and the animal did not know what hit it.  The bullet did everything a bullet is designed to do, penetrate, cause damage and kill as quickly as possible!  You can see from the blood on the ground it did just that!

LotsOfBlood copyLooking at the antlers on this buck, we were all a bit surprised to see the size of them when we got up to the animal.  From nearly 200 yards away we could see the antlers without binoculars, but there is almost always “ground shrinkage” when you walk up to your downed animal….this time it was quite the opposite!

Weasel decided that we should drag the animal down the hill to an area with a bit less slope to it before he removed the entrails.

MovingDownHill copyWhen we got to a better, less sloping spot, we decided to take some photos to record the event.

VeryNiceFirstBuck copy

ProudDad copy

As Weasel went to cleaning the animal, Conner and I watched and held onto a leg or two.  When that was done, Conner had to do one last thing before we moved the buck….notch his tag!

ConnerCuttingHisTag copy

When the work of cleaning was all done and the tag attached, the drag down to the truck was a pretty easy one and of course more pictures had to be taken when we were back to the truck.

ProudHunterProudDad copyWhat a great day for all of us!

On the ride home, we decided to take the time and process it and get it into the freezer, there would be no better time.  We were finished with the cutting, wrapping and grinding of the burger and all cleaned up by 6:30….just in time for the big world series game!

Way to go Conner!  Congratulations on a very fine first buck!

Bears Butt

October 26, 2014







Written on October 26th, 2014 , Hunting Stories

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Just some of my old stories, new stories, and in general what is going on in my life.