The Greatest Mule Deer Hunter-Part 5

Matt anderson deer 12yoIn Montana, the legal hunting age is 12 years old and I can tell you that I looked forward to that day more than any other in my entire life to that point. Since I had gone hunting with my dad, Rick Anderson, from the time I was five years old, you can imagine how difficult this wait was to a kid that had very little patience to begin with. My dad just took this in his usual calm stride, teaching me that patience does pay off and that when the time was right I would be ready. My family had a Remington model 788 in 6mm Remington that was usually the rifle that people started hunting with. The 6mm was big enough to kill a deer but not so powerful that it was painful to shoot. For a starter rifle, this gun was a tack driver and I could always shoot with the best of them. 

Mule Deer and Antelope Hunting

Matt-First- mule deer BuckDay 1 of my first hunting season started with antelope in the rough open country of Eastern Montana. It was the first part of October and on the very first morning that I was legally able to harvest a big game animal I was ready to take the first animal that we came across. As I have said, I had very little patience and was ready to get started with my hunting career. We drove up into a good antelope area and parked before daylight and took off on foot to a high point where we could glass and see if we could spot a herd to try to make a stalk on. The 6mm had a detachable magazine that held 3 shells and in my youthful exuberance, I didn't bring any more with me than those three. This would come into play shortly. As the sky started to lighten and we could start to pick out objects, my dad spotted a doe and fawn antelope in a little basin about 500 yards away. We made a nice stalk an got to within about 200 yards of them and were waiting to see if any other antelope were going to show up. Finally, I had had enough and whispered to my dad that I was going to take the doe with my either sex tag. He chuckled and shook his head, knowing that I was just too excited and needed to get this first animal off my chest. I was laying down and had a nice solid rest and when I was ready I squeezed off a shot. Miss! I couldn't believe it, I had so much confidence that I couldn't believe than when the time came I would actually miss. I jacked another shell in the chamber and the doe and fawn were milling about not sure of what had just happened. I squeezed off another shot. Miss! Are you kidding me! All of a sudden, my dad points to the left and here comes a buck antelope running right up to the doe and fawn. I jacked another shell in the chamber and when the buck came to a stop, I touched it off. Hit! I hit him hard and he took off running, like antelope do. We saw him pile up a couple hundred yards from where I had shot him. I can't tell you how excited I was and how excited my dad was for me! I was shaking and he hugged me and was pounding me on the back! We picked up the spent shell casing, as we always reloaded our own ammo, and went to get my buck. What a thrill, minutes into my first big game hunt I had a nice buck down! When we got over to the buck, he still alive and my dad told me to finish him off. I went to put another shell in the chamber and realized that I didn't have any more with me. My dad gave me his .25-06 and I put him down for good. As we were field dressing the buck, I happened to look up and there not 150 yards away another bigger buck antelope was just standing there looking at us, wondering what was going on. My dad wiped his bloody hands off on his pants and grabbed his rifle from where it was propped up and nonchalantly shot that buck, literally right over my buck. His buck went down and my dad handed me his rifle and told me to go over and finish him off if need be and he would be right over as soon as he finished field dressing my buck. What a morning!

First Mule Deer Buck

Matt anderson 1994 Mule deer buck with familyMy first mule deer buck was also a pretty exceptional hunt. It was early November and a nice cold morning in Eastern Montana. We were hunting an area of block management, which is where a rancher will allow people to hunt his ranch in a very regulated way. You went to a sign up station the night before you wanted to hunt and waited in line and the ranch was divided up into areas and you were able to pick one area and your party were the only people allowed to hunt that area for the day. This was the first year that this ranch was open for block management and it was chock full of mule deer, antelope, and some whitetail deer as well along the creeks and river. My dad and I headed out and drove up into this area and parked near the very highest point. We would hunt over the top and down the other side to try to catch the deer coming up from the creek into their bedding areas in the hills. We started down this big ridge, slow hunting and glassing as we went. All of a sudden, my dad stopped and pointed and there across this big wide open draw there was a really nice buck standing there. He had no idea we were around and was just feeding his way up into the higher areas. When we first spotted him, he was probably a 1/2 mile away so my dad took a look at the country and came with a plan to make a stalk on him to get a better look at him. My blood was pumping and I was so excited. Finally here was my chance at a big mule deer buck and I was not going to waste it! We got behind a stand of trees and made our way down to a point that allowed us to drop off the ridge and cut into the distance to the buck. We crawled into the creek bed and down to the last stand of trees and this was as close as we could get to the buck without him knowing we were around. I had the 6mm and got a good solid rest and waited until the buck turned completely broadside to us and then squeezed off a shot. My dad jumped and didn't know what had happened as we was not expecting me to shoot. The buck took about 7 steps and just fell over, stone dead. My dad was speechless! Later, after everything calmed down and we we making our way over to the buck he told me that he wasn't sure if the buck was good enough to take and he was glassing him to see if he was big enough. I was under the impression that it was a done deal, we get close enough and I shoot the buck. We paced it off and we were 325 yards from the buck when I shot and I hit him right in the vitals and the buck didn't even know what hit him. We went back to town and got my brother and brother-in-law and took a bunch of good pictures and then dragged him out to the truck. He was 23" wide and a perfect 4×4, as symmetrical as you could ever hope for. A great first buck!

Hunting Montana's Wise River

Montana-2009About five years ago, my dad was hunting with his buddy Mike from Wise River, Montana was down hunting, trying to get a big mule deer buck or an antelope buck. It was a really rainy, wet day and just not very nice. Eastern Montana is not pretty when the roads are wet. They turn into a muddy gumbo clay mess that is just terrible to get around in, walking or driving. The roads were too nasty to go anywhere off of the main gravel county roads and so they made a plan to park one vehicle and drive around to another area and hunt down to the first vehicle. This is a pretty common practice as it saves a lot of time and energy. Mike and my dad started walking and popped over a little ridge to glass and spotted a very skittish herd of antelope who took off running as soon as they saw the hunters. My dad spotted an old road that was closed to driving and they started following it as it was headed in the right direction and made for easier walking than through the sage brush. As they got closer to the bottom where the vehicle was parked my dad glanced up on the ridge and spotted a mule deer bedded down right in a juniper tree, backed in so he was tough to spot. They stood there glassing the buck and weren't really sure how big the buck was but could tell from his chalk white face that he was an old mature buck with a big roman nose. My dad asked Mike if he wanted to take him, but as they couldn't really tell how big he was, Mike declined. My Matt Anderson and family Mule deer mountsdad, being the opportunist that he is, decided to take him. At the first shot, the mule deer buck stood up and looked around, confused. The second shot missed him as well and then with the third shot, my dad double-lunged him and put him down. They got all excited and started to walk over to where the buck lay and they started seeing all sorts of extra points sticking up. The closer they got the better he looked! His head was down in the cedar tree and when my dad grabbed his antler to pull him out, they noticed the huge 10" drop-tine, what a buck! He was just a touch over 30" wide outside with huge cheater points on each side and that very awesome 10" drop-tine. With 7 points on each side, this was a buck of a lifetime for most hunters. Mike was sick from passing up on the buck but very happy to be a part of this hunt with my dad. The biologist at the check station aged the buck at between 10 and 12 years old, he only had a couple broken teeth left and probably wouldn't have made it through the winter. He weighed over 300 pounds dressed and took four old guys to load him in the pickup. As my dad always says, I'd rather be lucky than good! This is the only Mule Deer buck in 61 years of hunting that my dad has ever killed that had a drop-tine. 

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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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