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You Can’t Take a Mule Deer without Your Gun


Editor’s Note: Karl Badger of Salt Lake City, Utah, is Mossy Oak’s Big Game Regional Pro Staff Manager for the western states. He primarily hunts and guides for elks, mule deer, antelope and bighorn sheep. He hunts with both a Browning 7mm and a PSE Vendetta. His favorite Mossy Oak camo pattern for western hunting is Mossy Oak Brush, but that may change depending on the season. Badger says, “In the fall, our area has a lot of native grasses and sage, and most of the leaves have fallen off the trees. So, from the waist up, you may be in brown grass that looks just like Mossy Oak Brush. If you’re hunting in the mountains, this pattern also blends in with the rocks and terrain there.”

We’re blessed with a lot of mule deer out here in the West, but coyotes and wolves are starting to make mule deer hunting tough. A mule deer hunt is very popular with families and first-time big-game hunters, as well as residents. Schools in many areas let students out early to hunt opening week of mule deer season. I’ve had many enjoyable mule deer hunts, but one of my most-memorable hunts occurred in a wilderness area in Wyoming about 3-years ago. We packed in on horseback with a pack string to set-up our camp below Tripod Peak. I had set my sights on climbing to the top of Tripod Peak. I thought it would be nice to see a mule deer, but really and truly I wanted to stand on top of that mountain. 

Badger2_llWe tied our horses off at the base of Tripod Peak and started to make the climb. To be honest, I didn’t really believe there would be any living critters once we got to the top. The climb was so tough that I dropped off my backpack, an extra coat and the lunch I had brought. I continued to carry my rifle until the last 100 yards of the climb. The peak is about 11,500 feet above sea level. As I climbed higher, I could see the summit narrowed down like a knife edge. As I pushed on to the top of the peak, there were drop-offs on both sides of the trail. I already had decided my 7-pound gun was weight I wouldn’t need. 

When I reached the summit, I sat down and took a rest. I glanced off to the side of the peak. About 40-yards from me, I saw a really-nice mule deer buck bedded-down. He was so close I probably could have spit on him and I surely could have hit him with a rock. So, I belly-crawled back from the summit, low-crawled and then walked bent-over 100-yards back to my rifle. When I climbed back to the summit, the mule deer was still bedded. I took the shot and put the mule deer down. Because we were hunting off horses and mules, I hadn’t brought my frame pack to carry the meat. I only had a lightweight daypack. So, after field dressing the animal, I dragged him down the mountain where I could get to him with my horses and mules. This hunt was a real adventure, because I made the mistake of leaving my gun behind. I had to climb to the summit again, take the buck and make a long downhill drag to pack-out the mule deer. 

Click the links to see Karl Badger talk about How to Choose an Outfitter and Optics for Big Game Hunts.

When and Elk Hunt is More than an Elk Hunt

Why Mossy Oak’s Karl Badger Chases Antelope and Hunts in the West

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