The Greatest Mule Deer Hunter-Part 2

Thank you everyone that read the first installment of this many part series on my dad, Rick Anderson. My purpose for writing this is two-fold; to chronicle the amazing hunting career of this everyman hunter, and to teach a little bit about western big game hunting. I am going to jump around a bit and touch on some things that I feel make my dad one of the greatest hunters to ever live. Thank you for reading and I hope you like what you have read so far.


Mule Deer Hunting

When my dad was young, his dad wasn't around much at all and his mom worked as a switchboard operator in the very small town where they lived. There was not really any money for anything but the barest essentials and the boys had to take care of everything around the place including provide meat for the dinner table. He started hunting to keep the family fed and then turned that into a lifelong passion for hunting mule deer. There was never a point in my dad's life where there was extra money to just go buy things and everything he had was at least second hand. In spite of this, he never failed to bring home a mule deer buck every season.


The vehicles that he had were pretty much always a patchwork of parts and would break down often in the worst places possible. At no point in his life has my dad used any sort of scent control products. He never had any camoflauge clothing until Wal-mart started selling it. His gear was always pieced together. His rifles were usually pretty nice but the optics were suspect at best. For most of his hunting career, my dad never even used binoculars, relying on his keen ability to spot deer at unreal distances. All of these things added up make what he has achieved even more unbelievable. He figured out how to hunt mule deer better than anyone else I know. 


After high school, my dad joined the Air Force and eventually became a survival trainer. He was stationed in Reno, Nevada and didn't even have a rifle of his own at that point. The year was 1961 and my dad borrowed a converted Springfield 03A3 .30-06 from a friend but he only had three shells to go with it. He didn't really know where he was going but he drove north to Winnemucca and the turned onto a gravel road heading up into the national forest. He saw a likely spot and parked and started hiking up a big ridge. He was hiking along the ridge and jumped a big mule deer buck off the end of a point, some 300 yards away. He fired his first round, never having fired this gun before, and shot off one of the buck's hind feet. The buck was hobbled up pretty good and my dad snuck around closer and put him down for good with a well placed shot to the neck. The buck was a nice, tall 5×5 mule deer with a cheater point on each side. This is pretty indicative of the success that he had over the years; a borrowed rifle that he didn't have enough ammo to even sight in, an area he had never even been to before, a hunch that he would find a buck somewhere on ridge and then sealing the deal. 


In 1965, my parents were living in Golden, Colorado. His brother Joe Anderson and my mom's brother Jack Miller came down from Montana and my mom's brother Tom Miller came out from San Diego to go on a big mule deer hunt. It was an early season rifle hunt, late August, and they headed up into the West Elk Wilderness just west of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The four of them were in my uncle Tom's Datsun two-wheel drive pickup that could barely haul all of them, and it was rainy and muddy and they couldn't get very far. They made it to the edge of the wilderness area and set up camp. The next morning they got up and started hunting from camp into the wilderness area. My three uncles went different directions from my dad and he was off by himself. He hiked up a trail and was up on top of a big rimrock area overlooking some huge drainages. He was slowly making his way along the edge of the rimrock and spotted this old mule deer buck laying 50 yards from him, but over 100 vertical feet below him. He got a rest and squeezed off a shot, the bullet going right down through the buck's spine and into his vitals, killing him instantly. The rifle was an old Remington model 721 .30-06. Because of where the buck was located it took them a while to get him out, but it ended up being a huge old 3 point mule deer with eyeguards. That deer was the only deer that any of the group saw on the whole trip. The buck was still in velvet at the time, as it was an early hunt. This mule deer buck is one of the few of the big bucks from so long ago that we still have in the family and is one of the more impressive 3 points that you will see. I restored it a year or so ago and mounted the antlers on a reproduction skull and the buck is finally being displayed to his full potential. 


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Matt Anderson

About the Author:

I grew up hunting in Eastern Montana, primarily mule deer. I have a passion for skull mounts and I love spending time in the outdoors. I am located in Wisconsin.
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