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Kelly Hicks’ One-Hour Mule Deer Hunt


The mountains behind Salt Lake City in Utah are called the Wasatch Mountains. If you get an archery season tag, the State of Utah offers what is called a Wasatch front extended deer hunt. The extended season is because these mountains are so close to Salt Lake City and home a large mule deer population. The deer during the winter month, go down to the suburbs around Salt Lake City, get hit by cars and create hazards for the people who live close to the mountains. This extended deer season helps to reduce the herd. Our normal archery season ends in September, but due to the extended season, we can hunt mule deer and elk until December 15th during the mule deer rut. If you’re hunting the Wasatch Mountains during the regular archery season, you probably won’t see really big bucks. However, during the extended season, there will be plenty of big bucks chasing does everywhere.

I took my wife hunting during the early season, but I never could locate a nice buck for her to take. The bucks usually rut from the first of November until mid-November. I planned to hunt after work on November 11, that year, but I had to work late. I arrived home at 5:00 pm, jumped in my truck where I had left my bag and my bow and drove to the mountains. This area had had snowstorms 2 days earlier, making deer easy to see. I parked my truck, walked 200 yards up a trail and began to see deer movement, primarily does. I only had about 1/2-hour of legal shooting time left. I looked further up the trail and saw more deer looking at me. I hugged the tree line and reached the top of the ridge where I spotted a 4-point and a 6-point eastern count mule deer. In the West, we would call these deer a 2 point and a 3 point.

KHicks_day3I brought my crossbow to my shoulders, and all of the sudden the deer took off. I looked back to an area where I usually saw bucks and spotted about 25 turkeys under a big tree, probably preparing to fly up to roost. Then I spotted a lone doe, and next I saw a monster buck, and told myself, “That’s a shooter.” The buck and the doe turned and walked parallel to me. I knew where the deer trail was that those two mule deer probably would walk on, so I ran to that deer trail, and I spotted the doe at about 100 yards. I stalked closer and closer to the doe, until I ran out of cover. Then I saw the big buck. The doe turned and walked away from me, before turning around and walking straight back toward me. The buck stepped out at 60 yards, I put the crosshairs of the scope on my crossbow right on the buck’s shoulder, and I squeezed the trigger. Instantly I heard that sweet music that a broadhead makes when it hits a deer. “I nailed that deer,” I told myself. But to my surprise, the buck walked 20 yards away from me, and then turned and started walking back to me.

Immediately I got my rope cocker out to cock my crossbow, but it fell on the ground. I had to pick it up and put it on my string. I was kneeling down behind a tree, so the deer couldn’t see me, trying to prepare for the second shoot. When I stood up to take the shoot, I couldn’t see the buck. My cell phone rang, and I answered it and heard, “Did you just shoot?” I recognized the voice of my neighbor, Rush Sutherland. I said, “Yes, I did, and I hit a giant buck.” When I saw where Rush was, I told him, “Stay where you are. Don’t move.” Rush wasn’t even hunting - he was just hiking. When I reached the place where Rush was, he was standing about 10 yards in front of where I had shot. I walked over and found my arrow covered in blood. I knew I’d made a good hit. I followed the deer’s tracks from the point where he’d taken the arrow. Tracking was easy because 3 inches of the snow were on the ground. Although I saw where the deer had tried to run in different directions, I never saw any blood. Rush walked beside me, and we only went 40 yards before I spotted my buck. The buck only scored about 150 Boone & Crockett, but his rack was tall, and his antlers were flat-bladed and heavy like a knife. He was a great mule deer for a one-hour hunt.

Day 2: Kelly Hicks Didn't Know What a Whitetail Deer Looked Like

Tomorrow: Kelly Hicks’ Backyard Mule Deer Buck

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