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.
I took my three biggest mule deer in 2019. The smallest buck scored 162 Pope &Young, and my biggest buck scored 175. After drawing tags, I shot each buck with a different weapon: one with a bow, one with a rifle and the third with a muzzleloader. After bringing home that last buck, when my wife saw my taxidermy bill, she said, “We can’t afford for you to have another season like this.” I guess the only weapons that I didn’t take a mule deer buck with was a knife and a spear!
The first mule deer buck was in velvet, and I was bowhunting in South Dakota. A mule deer buck tag isn’t generally hard to get in South Dakota, but I think the rules have changed because so many out-of-state hunters have learned that South Dakota has some really nice mule deer. Therefore, a limit has been put on the number of out-of-state hunters who can get tags. The tag I drew was called a West River tag, and it allowed me to hunt the whole western side of public land in South Dakota. I took my family out to this area one weekend, and we drove around in an ATV, which enabled me to get pictures of a mule deer buck I later hunted. However, at the time, I didn’t think too much about those pictures because the season didn’t open for several weeks.
On opening morning, my buddy Dominique Hein set up on a big bluff, and we were glassing all morning, looking for a big buck. We saw this buck go down in a small bottom, and I asked Dominique if he’d go down there. He started at one end of the bottom and walked all the way through without spooking the buck. I’m not sure if the buck let him walk past, or if the buck snuck out the other side of the bottom without us seeing him. But suddenly, he disappeared. We didn’t have any luck that day.
The next morning, Dominique called me as I headed out to the spot where we were supposed to meet and said, “Hey, I can’t go with you this morning.” After a while, I saw the same mule deer buck we’d tried to hunt the previous day go into the same drainage. I decided to go after him. However, because there was a bad wind, I had to sneak around the drainage and come in from a different direction than Dominique had used the day before. Finally, I saw the buck down in the bottom feeding about 80 yards from where I was.
As I watched him from the ridge, he bedded-down in the bottom. After about a 30-minute nap, the buck came toward me but never stopped. I couldn’t get comfortable enough to take a shot at him. Soon he walked out of the bottom and bedded-down under the only tree I could see. The weather was really hot that day, and this time the buck bedded-down for about an hour. After this, he got back up and came down the same trail he’d gone up, before stopping in a place that I had ranged earlier at 55 yards. Although I was still on the little hill I’d been sitting on when I first saw him, this time I was on my knees at full draw. I was just about to draw my bow and release, when the buck looked straight at me.
I thought to myself, “It’s now or never.” I released my bow, and in a matter of seconds, I heard a loud “Pop!” When the buck took the arrow, he ran up the hill just across from me. As soon as he reached the top, he stopped and started running down the hill, made a big circle and finally stopped when he reached the spot almost exactly where I’d shot him. I watched him for a few minutes before walking down to check and see if he was down for good. Once I got to him, I took a picture and sent it to Dominique, who immediately replied, “What are you doing shooting my deer?” I texted him back, “This is what happens when you sleep in instead of going hunting.” Eventually, he came to help me drag the deer out and shoot some pictures. That mule deer buck scored 163 in the velvet.