The Greatest Mule Deer Hunter-Part 3

Lee Dunning 1959 Mule Deer

This is the story of Rick Anderson, and if you have read parts 1 and 2 you already know a little about him. I want to start by saying that my dad is the most humble person you could ever imagine, especially when it comes to his mule deer hunting success. When you hear him tell some of these stories that sound so outlandish he tends to play it off as though it was nothing, no big deal. I think it comes from growing up in that time period and also the conditions in which he grew up in Montana. To his way of thinking, it wasn't really any big deal, it was just something that you did. You hunted to feed your family and if you happened to get a big buck mule deer out of the deal, so much the better. Hunting was really about surviving. In this age of commercialism and globalism, we often get away from that. It is easy to go down to the store and buy your food because you don't have the stress of knowing that if you don't successfully hunt you family will go hungry. This is the point that I am making, hunting started as a way to keep the family fed and developed into a passion, bordering on obsession.


Mule Deer Hunter


When Rick was 11 years old his uncle, Bronson Moulton, had a 1936 Chevy Pickup with a flatbed and a four-speed transmission. This was long before four-wheel drive existed but that truck would go just about anywhere. Often, when they went out into the hills, my dad, his cousin Thomas, aunt Georgie, and his mom Edna, would all sit on the back of the pickup so that the wheels would have the most traction. One time they were out in the forest and my dad and his cousin Thomas decided that they would go on a hunt. This was before my dad could legally hunt, but he was carrying a rifle all the same. They were slow-hunting down a big ridge and jumped two big old mule deer bucks off the end of a point. Thomas shot one and killed it and my dadmissed the second one. They ended up dragging the buck about a half-mile back up the ridge to where the pickup was parked. As they were loading up the buck, this old rancher/outfitter came along the road and stopped and started yelling at them. He said that they were on his land and that they needed to get the hell out of there. What maps were available at the time weren't really very accurate and nobody could say for sure so they didn't argue and took off back to town. Looking back now, my dad knows that they were on National Forest land and the rancher was just trying to keep them out for his own interests. 


Rick Anderson Montana baby mule deer

A few years later, my dad talked his uncle Bronson into driving him way up into the head of this big drainage and drop him off and my dad would hunt down to the bottom and get picked up. The hunt was not an easy one and was through some really rough country. The day before the hunt, my dad got in a bit of a scuffle at school in the gymnasium and ended up breaking his glasses. He knew that he would have to be very close to a deer in order to tell just what it was. His uncle Bronson dropped him off at the top of the big divide and my dad started hunting. He was slow hunting his way down through this area and about halfway down the divide he shot and killed a two-point mule deer buck, as it was close enough that he could tell it was a buck. He dragged the buck quite a ways by himself and then left it in a fairly accessible spot. He hiked down to the bottom and went to a nearby ranch and borrowed the phone to call his uncle to come pick him up. Bronson showed up and the drove up into the area where my dad left the buck and got him loaded up and went on into town. 


To reiterate, my dad and his brothers and their friends were a pretty wild bunch. In their teens, it was not uncommon to drive a long way to go to a dance, as they were the big social entertainment events of the time period. They did a lot of crazy things in those days and generally had a great time doing them. My dad, Rick, and my mom's brother Tom Miller were good friends from way back. My uncle Tom had a 1953 Chevy Pickup with a stock rack on it. One of the things that the boys liked to do was chase antelope with the pickup. One day they were hunting sharptailed grouse. My dad and another guy were in the back of the pickup and a couple guys were in the cab and they would drive along and scare up some grouse and the guys in the back would try to shoot them. This was a great game, and they were really going through the ammo. Tom was driving on this big wide open flat and they spotted a big old antelope buck in the distance. My dad yelled at Tom to go after the buck and the chase was on! They were driving flat out at about 40 miles per hour and got up alongside the buck and my dad stuck the shotgun out and when they were about 10 feet from the buck he pulled the trigger. He hit him right behind the shoulder and buck ran about 10 more feet and fell over dead. It was not exactly legal but not unheard of in the time and place. They loaded him up and headed back to town. 


Rick Anderson Montana

The year was 1959 and my  dad was working for a rancher by the name of Sid Dunning. Sid's son Lee was a rancher/outfitter and he and my dad a bet between them to see who could shoot the biggest buck. They had a huge, for that time, bet of $25 on the line. My dad was out one day with Sid checking cows and water and they came around a bend in the road and scared up a big buck mule deer. So my dad just stepped out and shot him. He was a really big old gnarly 4 point that was just a touch over 30 inches wide. He was pretty excited and felt sure that he would win the bet as hunting season was coming to a close. About the week later, just as the season was ending, Lee was hunting an area not on the ranch and ended up shooting an absolute monster of a mule deer buck. The buck scored 231 6/8" and was one of the biggest mule deer killed in Montana. He had over 10 points on each side and was over 36 inches wide with huge cheater points. Needless to say, my dad lost the bet.


Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more!


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Posted in: Featured, Pro Staff Blog
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.