In 2015, I drew a rifle tag for mule deer in Unit 12B - the Strip hunt on the north side of the Kaibab Plateau in Utah. I only had three bonus points for mule deer before the draw. I knew this area was a very difficult region to draw, because it’s so popular and known to have some very good mule deer in it. Two other really good units are to the west of this unit – 13A and 13B – and have been producing some giant mule deer for the last two years. I knew I had a chance to take a really nice trophy mule deer on this hunt.
Tom Smith, another friend I hunt with, also had drawn this same unit. We planned to hunt together. Unfortunately, he had a tree stand accident at the first of November, and our hunt was scheduled for mid-November. The hunt that Tom had been on was a bucket-list hunt.
Tom’s dad had taken the first archery buck ever taken in Iowa with a bow. Back in the 1950s, the family moved to Arizona. Then Tom’s dad passed away in a scuba diving accident when Tom was only 13. Tom always wanted to return to Iowa and take a buck with his bow like his dad did. In 2015, he drew a tag for Iowa. He got with an outfitter, made the hunt, shot a buck and a few days later shot a doe. Then he called the outfitter to come pick him up. When the outfitter arrived, Tom stepped out of his tree stand onto the climbing steps to come down the tree. Just as he got on the climbing steps, the top step broke, and Tom fell 16 feet and landed on his back. He spent five days in a trauma center. Obviously, he wasn’t able to go on his Utah mule deer hunt.
The hunt started on a Friday. By noon, I was on top of a mountain where I had cell service, and I got a call from my wife. She was sick, and I knew I needed to go home. So, I told myself, “Okay, if I see a halfway decent mule deer buck, I'll shoot him and head home.”
Just as the sun was starting to go down in the evening, I had 14 mule deer below me, including two, small 4-pointers and one bigger buck with heavy horns. I shot the 3x5 with my bow. The time was late when I got him out of the mountains and back to camp.
In Unit 12A - the area next to where I was hunting - you have to check in your deer. I wasn’t sure whether I needed to check my deer in or not in Unit 12B. But since I had to drive by the check-in station on the way home anyway, I stopped to make sure I was doing everything legally. The officer at the check-in station said I didn’t have to check in my deer, but he’d go ahead and measure it. He said the buck was 7-1/2 to 8-1/2 years old, and the spread of his main beams was 24 inches.
Day 3: An Elk for Henry
Tomorrow: Mark Hanson’s Best Coues Deer