Unfortunately it takes until the last 2 days for things to get interesting! Part one of this represents a lot work for not a lot of reward in the way of game animals. The views were amazing but we weren’t there to sight see, we were there to kill some deer. . . .
Saturday morning we head back up to the Northern section and we all head to the west side of the property with Josh and I headed just North of Bobby and Sam. We set up on a small draw that led to the farm land and some grassy areas below. I nestled myself into the hillside among some brush and made a make shift blind out of one of my jackets since I was somewhat exposed anything that would help hide me trying to draw would be great. After an hour or so of sitting I hear stuff walking to the west, just to the point of the ridge I was sitting on. After a while I brushed it off as nothing, but I was wrong. I caught a glimpse of antler out of the corner of my eye, I look and see more and big antlers go by it was two nice whitetail bucks and three whitetail does. They had gone right where I had expected but instead of turning up the trail that led right to me they continued up the opposite ridge. Being our last day I decided to get aggressive. We quickly tried to circle our way in front of them, but it would prove to be unsuccessful. We did, however, get a better idea of the property.
After a quick break and a snack we walked back to meet Bobby and Sam to see how they did. They had spotted two large Mule Deer bucks and had run into some other hunters which I believe are what spooked the whitetails that passed by me as they were moving through quickly with their heads down. After catching up on the events of the morning we headed back to camp for some lunch and to take some photos.
Riding fat bikes around tends to draw attention and this was no different. I’ve had this issue riding local mountain bike trails. When people see those big tires they want to look at it and ask questions. As we made our way through the camp ground we ran into Steve and David, who had just arrived to try to fill their Mule Deer tags and we talked a bit about the bikes and gear.
After chatting, taking photos and getting some lunch we made our way back North. Bobby and Sam were headed to the same area while Josh and I headed to basically the same area but we dropped down further west into the valley. I set up high on a ridge to glass for deer coming from the North and Josh headed southwest of me to keep an eye on anything coming from the west. About the time I got my pack off and settled in a little I pulled up the binoculars as I saw two Mule Deer headed right for me but they were a couple hundred yards out. As soon as they went behind the hill in front of me I dropped the binoculars, grabbed the bow and started running down the very steep rocky hill in front of me. I stopped abruptly after about 20 yards just in time for them pop over the hill right in front of me. I slowly grabbed the range finder they were at 65 yards facing me but covered partially by a tree. The turned to come up the basin in front of me so I ranged the spot just on the other side of the tree at 47 yards, set my sight and waited. At this point I’m somewhat kneeling on the side of a very steep hill that leads to a white sandy basin. They turn to come up the basin and are 50 yards away. It’s a doe and small fork-horn buck. The doe is leading the way as she gets to the edge of the tree I get ready to draw but she hangs up. The wind that was strong has died down and has started to shift. The wind changed and they took off. It didn’t change a ton I think Josh’s wind swirled around the point in front of them. They didn’t freak out or blow they just turned and left. As they left I quickly adjusted my site incase they gave me a 60 yard shot in their retreat as they got to the hill crest I drew but instead of turning they walked straight away from me never offering a shot.
That was the first time I’ve ever had a close encounter with a deer on the ground while bowhunting. That encounter alone made the trip totally worth it. This is the first time I’ve ever even attempted spot and stalk hunting and it was amazing. Determined to be prepared for any deer that may take that same route I made my way down the steep hill and laid down on the backside of a small hill about 55 yards from the main creek bottom and 30 yards form where the deer had just crested the hill to the north.
By now light was starting to fade and I heard something walking in the creek bottom but it was cows. After they exited I could hear more stuff walking and two mule deer popped out at 55 yards. I was losing light fast and it’s possible it was the same two deer but they were again headed my way. As I attempted to crawl into position I hear something to my right, I assumed it was the wind and kept creeping slowing as the Mule Deer approached. Then I heard a stomp. Two whitetail does were on the cliff above me watching me crawl around and their stomps had alerted the Mule Deer in front of me. Now I have 4 sets of eyes dialed in on my position. Again the wind shifted and it swirled around in the basin giving all 4 deer a good whiff and making sure they came no closer. With all four deer blowing at me and running away my South Dakota Mule Deer hunt was over.
We met back and the truck, all four of us having close encounters with deer but unable to kill. While the first few days were long, hard and often uncomfortable we had finally really gotten into some deer. That night we headed to town for some real food hitting up the only bar in town. We celebrated a good week out chasing deer.
As you can imagine I learned a lot about spot and stalk hunting Mule Deer in this trips as well as a lot about my gear. I’ll have several follow up posts that discuss the gear I selected for the trip, how it performed as well as some lessons learned. I managed to get back over to South Dakota! Check out Part III.