Here is my story from the 2012 archery season. I moved up to South Dakota in 2009 and ever since then, my buddy and have been trying to get together on an archery mule deer hunt (trying to get his first mule deer), but work always seemed to get in the way for one of us. This year, we made it happen. He works in the oil field and works 2 weeks on and 1 week off which would make one of his weeks off the first full week in November. I work in agriculture and have to get the crops out before my hunting season typically begins. With the massive drought we experienced this year, the crops were coming out about a month ahead of time. This means the first week of November would work for me as well.
He headed up and drove the 16 hour drive from Texas to South Dakota in one sitting so we could head out the next morning to hunt. We were hunting 3 hours away from my place, so we got up and headed out around 3 AM. We got to the hunting grounds, made sure both of our bows were still sighted in after the trip, and hit it hard.
We didn’t see much that first day, a couple does and small bucks. Nothing really worth a double-look. My buddy, sadly, wasn’t really ready for the hunt as he had knee surgery about 10 months prior. It’s a good thing we are at a low elevation or he would have died! After a “warm up” of 8 miles the first day, it was tough telling him that the next day would be even harder with all of the areas we would be hunting designated as Walk-In Areas only.
The next morning was very crisp and around the low 20’s with a light south wind. Perfect for where I wanted to hunt. Shortly after sitting down to glass some of the big draws, I picked out a doe and a fawn in the very bottom about ¾ of a mile away. About a minute or two later a nice buck came up out of the wash (dried creek bed with steep banks). I immediately showed him to my buddy, to which he replied I’d shoot him all day long! That’s good, I told him, because if he didn’t want to I sure would have! It took us 3 hours to get to 200 from the buck due to the terrain after he bedded down and at 200 yards, we were stuck. No real way to get closer.
The bucks had just started to become interested in does, so we knew the doe and fawn were our key. As we watched the buck falling asleep trying to make a game plan of how to get within archery range, I noticed the buck wake up suddenly and start to get antsy. I told my buddy to get ready to get to a curve in the wash (we were down in the wash trying to get closer to the buck who had bedded on a side-hill above the wash) when he dropped off the side hill and towards the wash. My buddy sprinted towards the curve and started to go up a trail leading closer to where the buck had bedded. I slowly crept up the side of the wash where I could see the bucks head, and he was heading right towards the trail my buddy was on with the doe and fawn in front of him. At his point, they were no more than 20 yards from my buddy who had not gotten out of the wash yet. He looked over at me, and I motioned him to come back around the side and draw back! The doe came into the wash, followed by the buck about 20 seconds later. At this point, the deer were only about 5 yards from my buddy (he didn’t draw back when I told him or he could have shot him there).
I’m not completely sure what happened next because I was trying to get an arrow knocked on my bow and get my release ready just in case, but this is what he told me. The buck nosed the doe, who then started walking up the wash, past my buddy, and towards me (I was about 40 yards up the wash from my buddy). Once the deer walked just past my buddy at 17 feet (we measured after the shot) he drew back for a quartering shot. When he drew back, the buck got startled and hopped off to 17 yards (weird coincidence right). My buddy smoked him right in the shoulder and the buck tore off right by me at around 20 yards. He did it, smoked his first mule deer buck on a spot and stalk bow hunt on the 2nd day!
Now is when the real work began. We ended up being about 4 miles from the truck, straight up hill, but I knew of a spot I could drive the truck where we were about 3 miles from the truck, but on more or less level ground. We hiked up the hill, had a celebratory Dr. Pepper and went to get the deer. It was roughly 12 hours from the time we spotted the deer to when we got him to the truck, but I must say it was a blast! We got the deer packed out and drove the 30 minutes back to the cabin we were staying at in one of the SD parks in complete silence, enjoying the memories made in the field and being able to rest our feet! After it was all said and done, we had put almost 15 miles on our boots that day.
Here are some of the pictures from the hunt. He also had the deer shoulder mounted, not because of the size (though he is decent), but more to remember the hunt and the times we had (blazinggunstaxidermy.com). To make it even better, another buddy we grew up with did the taxidermy work on him. I never did get a buck this past year with my bow. We ended up spooking some unseen does bedded by a very big 5x5 when I was going in for the stalk and never saw another shooter the rest of the trip, but my dad and I were able to land some great public land deer in rifle season. Perhaps I’ll save those stories another time.
Sorry for the lengthy story, hopefully it’s a good read!