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Keith Pullins Takes a Muzzleloader Mule Deer Buck

provided by John Phillips

Mossy Oak Pro Keith Pullins from Rapid City, South Dakota, has been hunting mule deer for 35 years. After high school, he joined the Armed Services and became a radiology tech in the U. S. Air Force. After service, he immediately returned to hunting mule deer and elk. Throughout his career, he’s harvested 30 mule deer bucks and also enjoys hunting elk. 

mule deer buck

I had a CVA muzzleloader and loaded it with 120 grains of Blackhorn powder and a Thompson Center bullet. I hunted the entire month of December and didn’t see a buck I wanted to take. So, on December 31, 2019, I decided I’d have to eat my deer tag for that year. I went home that night, called my buddy Dominique, and told him, “I’m gonna have to eat my blackpowder tag.” He replied, “Actually you’ve got one more day.” I wondered, “How? Today is December 31st.” 

He told me that the tag lasted until the first day of January, which meant that I could hunt the next day. In disbelief, I pulled out my tag and looked at it. Sure enough, it was good until the first day of January. I called Dominique back and said, “You’re right. Would you like to hunt with me tomorrow?” He replied with, “Sure, let’s go.” 

On the following morning, while we were sitting on the top of a ridge glassing for a buck, we spotted a nice one. Most of the time, when a mule deer buck is going to bed, it will bed down for about an hour, get up and then move to another spot to bed down for the rest of the day. After the buck didn’t move for a little over an hour, I told Dominique, “I’m going after him.” 

I belly crawled for about 100 yards and peeked over a hill to make sure the buck was still under the same tree. When the buck got up and started walking up the hill in front of him, I squeezed the trigger and missed him. The buck was only 102 yards away. “I can’t believe that happened,” I told Dominique. “I never miss at 100 yards.” 

After a while, I reloaded and picked out a spot on the hill at about the same distance, but this time my bullet shot about 1-1/2 to 2 feet low. The buck ran over a hill. I was so frustrated. I wanted to see what was wrong with my muzzleloader and was more concerned about my gun than the buck that I’d just missed. The only thing I could think of that might’ve caused my gun to shoot low was that it had been riding in my truck and had bounced around too much. At this point, I was so aggravated that I didn’t reload. I also didn’t have many bullets left. 

On the way back to the truck, we walked into this little ravine. When we were about 3/4 of the way back, we jumped a coyote. I told Dominique, “Maybe I just need to reload because I would’ve shot that coyote if I had reloaded my muzzleloader.” Fortunately I reloaded my gun, because once we got 300 yards closer to the truck, we jumped the buck that I’d just missed. 

We ran up the hill. While Dominique ranged the buck, I laid down, pulled my bipod out and placed it on the front of my rifle. When the buck was about 160 yards away from us, Dominique told me, “Aim about 1-1/2 feet over his shoulder at about the top of his back, and squeeze the trigger.” That’s exactly what I did. After I shot the buck, he did a mule kick and ran about 100 yards over the top of a hill and out of sight. Although I didn’t see the muley fall, I knew I’d hit him solid because I heard the bullet hit him. I told Dominique, “I can’t believe I just shot the same mule deer I missed earlier.” Apparently, the buck had made a big circle. After I shot, and we found him, we field dressed him and loaded him onto the truck. He scored 162 inches.

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