The doe flared her nostrils, snorting into the wind. She knew I was close. Maybe she had heard the sharp noise of the twig snapping as I brushed by the desert shrubs. Maybe the swirling wind earlier in the stalk had brought her a whiff of my scent. As she again flared her nostrils, it was clear she was desperately trying to catch my scent to know whether and in which direction she should flee. But now the wind was blowing strongly in my favor. Sitting at seventy yards, hidden behind a shrub, for me things were going swimmingly. For the doe, not so much.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers protects wild lands like these for our enjoyment.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers — one of the leading hunting and fishing conservation organizations — just posted a story of Nick’s on their blog. In the story We Could Be Deer Hunters After All, he recounts the final weekend of last year’s season where he and I find a big buck but leave empty-handed. We took away only the lessons we learned from the experience (some of which I detailed in my last post). In his story Nick talks in detail about the mule deer spot and stalk and — due to some adrenaline-addled choices — the harrowing situation in which he found himself. From that day we came away with one of our most important lessons: we could be deer hunters after all.
It all started at the dinner table. Nick’s aunt and uncle’s dinner table, to be more exact. It was the summer of 2013 and we were in the midst of an epic 3 week road trip. On our travels we had the chance to visit some of Nick’s family members that live in more remote areas of the West.
About a day into our visit we finally got around to explaining to his aunt and uncle the finer details of our food ethics preferences. Offers to pull bighorn sheep and deer meat from the freezer quickly followed. Up to this point, Nick and I had been hunting small game only. Deer hunting had been on our long term to-do list, but when that grilled venison backstrap hit my taste buds deer hunting was suddenly catapulted to high priority status. “We need to learn to do this”, I urged.
As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, we hunt for mule deer out in the desert. It’s very open country. Being still-novice hunters, we probably couldn’t have picked a much more difficult first big game quarry. Mule deer are often called ‘grey ghosts’ for their elusive qualities, and attempting to hunt them in terrain that often has no more than knee-high brush — most often with a bow — makes getting one all the more challenging. You might even think, at first blush, that we’re trying to make it as hard as possible to get deer. That’s certainly not our intention, as we would really like to have the meat to eat. But given that we live in the desert Southwest, and given the seasons available to us, we’re left with a rather trying introduction to deer hunting. Fortunately, however, we aren’t starting from scratch. Last season I happened across a timeless and excellent introduction to hunting mule deer in the open expanses of the American West. Dwight Schuh’s Hunting Open-Country Mule Deer, written almost twenty years ago, contains nearly all the pointers a budding mule deer hunter could want.