Summit Treestands
Once a year
Mule Deer
Contributors to this thread:
rjlefty3 05-Jan-20
rjlefty3 05-Jan-20
rjlefty3 05-Jan-20
rjlefty3 05-Jan-20
t-roy 05-Jan-20
rjlefty3 05-Jan-20
Stoneman 05-Jan-20
rjlefty3 05-Jan-20
Paul@thefort 05-Jan-20
drycreek 05-Jan-20
rjlefty3 05-Jan-20
rjlefty3 05-Jan-20
rjlefty3 05-Jan-20
rjlefty3 05-Jan-20
Outdoordan 05-Jan-20
rjlefty3 05-Jan-20
rjlefty3 05-Jan-20
rjlefty3 05-Jan-20
rjlefty3 05-Jan-20
rjlefty3 05-Jan-20
rjlefty3 05-Jan-20
rjlefty3 05-Jan-20
rjlefty3 05-Jan-20
Stoneman 05-Jan-20
Missouribreaks 05-Jan-20
sitO 05-Jan-20
t-roy 05-Jan-20
HUNT MAN 05-Jan-20
Inshart 05-Jan-20
Bowhunt3138 05-Jan-20
Jaquomo 05-Jan-20
Whocares 05-Jan-20
Bowboy 05-Jan-20
Brotsky 05-Jan-20
Mule Power 05-Jan-20
INbowdude 05-Jan-20
Zackman 05-Jan-20
ground hunter 05-Jan-20
Marty 05-Jan-20
Paul@thefort 05-Jan-20
Predeter 05-Jan-20
hobbes 05-Jan-20
otcWill 05-Jan-20
SteveB 05-Jan-20
drycreek 05-Jan-20
elkmtngear 05-Jan-20
midwest 06-Jan-20
Shiras42 06-Jan-20
Surfbow 06-Jan-20
Nogutsnostory 06-Jan-20
BOWNBIRDHNTR 06-Jan-20
rjlefty3 06-Jan-20
elkstabber 07-Jan-20
Percy 07-Jan-20
Outdoordan 07-Jan-20
canepole 07-Jan-20
Russ Koon 07-Jan-20
BC 07-Jan-20
From: rjlefty3
05-Jan-20
I'm finally getting caught up after the holidays, enough so to at least share my deer hunt in SD last year. I don't post much but I think I finally have a story worth telling!

A little about me - I grew up in Maine and have lived here my whole life. After I graduated college, I took a job in Rapid City for a year. I had always wanted to hunt out west, especially spot and stalk mulies on the prairie. And this was an awesome opportunity to get to do it. Unfortunately, due to work commitments (I worked a lot that year!) I was never able to get out with my bow, but did manage a couple rifle hunts and I was hooked.

After my contract was over, my wife and I moved back to Maine (against my will, I'll add), but I try to make it out west every year. She's at least very understanding and gives me a week or 2 per year to head back west. Last year I rifle hunted SD with a good friend and we each got our first mulies.

I had planned on finally getting my chance to hunt on the prairie this year and aimed for September. Of course this year SD decided to change their public land laws for NR, so I was stuck until October. I already had vacation planned in November so decided to wait until then to go. I also invited a new buddy of mine to come. He also had never been out west before. Despite the short notice, he was able to work it out. I knew he would love it. We got all our gear set and soon enough we were on our way.

From: rjlefty3
05-Jan-20

rjlefty3's embedded Photo
rjlefty3's embedded Photo
Day 1

We flew into Rapid City without any issues. We were both relieved to see our bows and bags show up. We got into our rental car and headed into town for some food and gear. We were amped up to get going and headed over to our intended area – were I had been last year. We slept in the car that night and first light had us looking over a few drainages, but we never saw anything on public.

We drove around for the rest of the morning exploring what land was available to hunt on and eventually made our way back to our starting point. I know SD isn’t a pack in hunt, but the area I wanted to focus on was a pretty good hike. It’s easy (like most of SD is), but just takes time so we packed out tents and hiked in rather than trekking back and forth each time.

With our tents set up, we started glassing. Last year when we did this, we never turned up much at night. There are so many draws and places we couldn’t quite see into that I knew deer were around, it was just difficult to see them. Well, same story this year. We saw 2 does feeding but that was it.

The weather was turning to snow tomorrow and then a significant temperature drop the next couple days after. I really felt the deer would be on their feet the next few days.

From: rjlefty3
05-Jan-20

rjlefty3's embedded Photo
rjlefty3's embedded Photo
Day 2 First light came and we were back at our ‘perch’ glassing. It was a beautiful, calm morning. All was perfect except the deer that didn’t read the script. We sat glassing the hillsides for a couple hours and didn’t pick out a single deer. I couldn’t believe it. Eventually it started snowing so I figured we’d take a walk and see if we could find sign or even bump deer. I knew it wasn’t a great plan, but I was ready to move to plan B already anyway.

There wasn’t much sign in the usual places. We made a big loop around the area much promise. We worked our way to the back side of a hill that is typically secluded from the wind and I’ve seen a few deer there before.

As we walked over, I caught sight of a deer. Finally! As I looked through my binos I saw a decent buck and doe bedded in a great spot. Bad news was they had caught our movement and were onto us. We hunkered down, but they eventually grew weary and trotted off. They ended up bumping another group of does and a small forked buck. We tried to track them down but never caught up with them.

Although we saw some deer, I was not encouraged by the sign and we decided to head out to our plan B spot. The snow really started to fall as this point. It made travel difficult but we reached our new spot safely by dark.

From: rjlefty3
05-Jan-20
Day 3 The snow finally stopped, and the temps had dropped into the single digits as predicted. I had never hunted this area before, so we decided to spend the early part of the morning exploring.

We drove around and eventually found a road where we could see into the backside of a peak (I use the term peak loosely, here). I glassed around and saw a pocket of deer. The more I looked, the more deer I saw. They were too far away to see what exactly they were, but I figured there had to be a couple of bucks around this time of year. Not long after I thought this, a couple deer starting sparring – game on!

We packed up and headed in that direction. Considering the terrain, coming from the bottom was off the table. We had to go up and over the top and there was a possibility we’d skyline ourselves at some point.

We took it slow and when we reached the top, I crawled to as far as I dared and glassed. I immediately saw deer. There were 3 nice mule deer bucks bedded down 120 yards in front of us. The does were plentiful and they fed contently on the grasses. In the next draw over, there was a decent whitetail buck that had 3 does with him. Down the draw a bit further were a handful more does – mixed between whitetail and mulies.

From: t-roy
05-Jan-20
Keep it coming. It’s getting better!

From: rjlefty3
05-Jan-20

rjlefty3's embedded Photo
rjlefty3's embedded Photo
We sat and watched them for a while to see what they’d do but it was clear they weren’t moving from this spot. The terrain we were in was decent for stalking, but there were a lot of eyes to avoid. After discussing our options, my buddy set off after the group of mule deer while I circled around to the back side of the next draw to make a play on the whitetails.

We both surprisingly had good wind, and it was enough to conceal our noise and movement. Unfortunately, the snowy background made us stand out but assuming we could stay hidden we had other things going in our favor.

As I was getting into position on my group, I noticed another deer walking onto the property. It was a bomber 10-point whitetail. I came on this trip for mule deer - but this deer would get an arrow from me any day of any season. Without hesitating, my plan changed. He eventually bedded on the backside of a smaller draw a bit further down. It was a great set. I had good wind, no other deer around, and he was in a good spot to get close.

I got to about 80 yards when the group of deer from above started running down the draw. I was just out of position and couldn’t cut them off as the moved onto private, taking my whitetail with them. I figured my buddy got busted - we both knew that one of us would likely mess up the other on our set-up.

From: Stoneman
05-Jan-20
Good read so far, well written.

From: rjlefty3
05-Jan-20
I just sat down while they all mingled around 100 yards from me on private. There were 3 nice mulie bucks (including one great buck) and the whitetail buck I had been after. It was awesome to watch them interact that close. I don’t get many opportunities like that back in Maine, so I really enjoyed it.

The mule deer walked off, but I could tell the whitetail wanted to come back. He knew something was up but couldn’t quite tell what it was. He slowly worked his way over. When he went out of sight in the draw, I hurried down near his old bed, knocked an arrow, and ranged the surroundings. Not long after, he came right in to where I had expected, only I didn’t have much cover and he noticed something wasn’t right. He took two bounds, I came to full draw, and he turned broadside for me. It was perfect.

Except he was too far – about 90 yards. He took off but I knew he wanted to bed down. I followed him for a while and when I caught up to him, he had bedded down – again in a good spot.

At that time my buddy came down the hill towards me in plain view. I motioned for him to get down, but it was too late. The buck was up and away he went. We never did see that deer again.

From: Paul@thefort
05-Jan-20
what great looking county to spot and stalk/ambush a deer.

From: drycreek
05-Jan-20
Damn, I hate to come into this story at this point. Maybe it will get better ! :-)

From: rjlefty3
05-Jan-20

rjlefty3's embedded Photo
rjlefty3's embedded Photo
I was a bit frustrated at my misfortune but that changed quickly as I heard his side of the story. Somehow in all the chaos, he had somehow managed to sneak in and got a shot off. It ended up being a good buck that had a couple busted up tines and split ear. A cool character buck. I didn’t realize this, but it was his first archery deer too. Not bad for a dude from Maine!

I don't have all the details from his side of the story as I was doing my own thing, but apparently he had just enough grass to cover his movement. The bucks were really at ease and never really noticed him. He got picked off by a lone doe at 60 yards and after an intense staredown he lucked out when a fawn came by and distracted her. It was enough for him to get up and draw and the rest is history.

After all that, we packed it up and headed back for the truck. We drove around, mainly to celebrate while warming up. Without anything else really happening, we ended up going back there at last light to see if the deer filtered back. Sure enough, quite a few deer were back and just before sunset a group of mule deer showed up, including a beautiful buck.

With an awesome sunset in the background, we watched him scent check his does and could see the steam from his breath as he worked them. It was an awesome sight that will be forever etched in my mind. This was why I had come in November!

From: rjlefty3
05-Jan-20

rjlefty3's embedded Photo
rjlefty3's embedded Photo
Day 4 Considering the success we had the day before, we decided to head back to ‘Tower 1’ – the name we dedicated to this spot. Sure enough, the deer were back. Right when we reached the top, we had a small basket racked whitetail come through at 60 yards that had no idea we were there. It was shaping up to be another good day.

After a bit of searching, we found the group of mule deer from the day prior. The biggest of the group, a beautiful, thick 5x5 with deep forks was feeding in a good spot. The only issue was with the wind direction. I’d have to circle upwind on the backside of the peak. It was a bit risky, but I decided to make a bigger circle and hopefully the wind would blow around the peak rather than over it.

I made it over without any of the deer blowing out. As I was almost in position, I noticed the group leaving out the bottom of the draw. There were 2 bucks there, but neither was the bigger buck I had seen. I knew he was still close.

I peaked over the edge and sure enough he was there, although I was just a few seconds too late. I got to 100 yards of him but all I could do was watch as he worked his way out as well. He was a great deer. I’m not much for scores, but he had to have been a solid 180” deer.

Although they never busted out, I think they caught enough of my wind to get nervous and that's why they were on their way out when I got there. We stayed for a while hoping the group would feed back towards us, but it never happened. The rest of the day was uneventful as we eventually checked out some new spots around the area.

From: rjlefty3
05-Jan-20

rjlefty3's embedded Photo
rjlefty3's embedded Photo
Day 5 We were heading back to Tower 1 but knew that our deer sightings were gradually getting less and less as we hunted. We weren’t feeling very optimistic. Other than this spot, our chances had been few and far between. Although on this day, at first light we noticed a group of deer in a draw and made a play on them.

As I was on my way, a lone doe came up over the top of the draw. She never noticed me and walked towards the other deer. The buck eventually came around to get her, but at this point they were too far away. I followed them until I was able to see them through the grass. They also caught my movement and I froze as they went on alert. The does got curious and started to walk my way. I ranged them as they crossed in front of me at 40 yards. For whatever reason they paid little attention to me and started to walk away, putting me in between the does and the buck. I knew he’d follow and got ready.

I got that feeling when you just know things are going to work out. Everything that happened had been perfect, there was no way he wasn’t coming. It was just a matter of when.

From: rjlefty3
05-Jan-20
I waited – yardage ready, arrow knocked, and tension on the string. He didn’t show as quickly as I expected, so I forced myself to be patient and not blow it but getting up too early. After a few minutes I knew something wasn’t right. I snuck forward and saw him working his way out. For whatever reason he went the other way. This one hurt a bit!

We decided to head back over to 'Tower 1' but there were no deer there. We had about 2 days of hunting left so decided to pack up and head out to another area.

We arrived at our new area a couple hours later and eventually glassed up a buck with 4 does. A couple hours later I had snuck in to 50 yards. He was big forky buck with a couple of small kickers. He had 2 does bedded 40 yards above me, but a small sage brush was just enough to conceal my movement. He was bedded in a draw just out of sight with a doe, while another doe fed on the adjacent hillside.

I waited for him to get up, expecting him to work his way to the bedded does above me. When he got up, it's like he read the script and worked his way to the bedded does. I could see his antler tips and got ready. As he was just about the clear the bank, he turned and went the other way towards the other does. I had no play with the does bedded above me, so I just watched and tried to figure out a plan for the morning.

From: Outdoordan
05-Jan-20
Good grief! What happened! lol.

From: rjlefty3
05-Jan-20

rjlefty3's embedded Photo
rjlefty3's embedded Photo
Day 6 We glassed at first light and quickly found a nice buck with 10 does. From the night before, I knew this area had a lot of draws where we could easily lose sight of the group, so I decided to shadow them for the morning until things worked out better. On this day, it was dead calm with bright skies. I waited most of the morning hoping the wind would pick up, but it never did. As the day progressed and the shadows shortened, and I started to creep in on the group.

As hard as I tried, I eventually lost sight of them as they walked across a bank at 250 yards. I knew they wouldn’t be far, so I crept down the draw hoping to catch sight of them. Luckily, I had a great cut bank to walk along. But with no wind, it was louder than I would’ve like. The grass was manageable, but any type of vegetation made things tricky.

As I walked down the draw, I caught an ear. Unfortunately, that deer had apparently heard me walking and the little movement they saw was enough to bust out of the draw. The group was only 50 yards away at that point. Another close call!

From: rjlefty3
05-Jan-20
They weren’t too spooked and some of the does even started feeding again, while most the group moved over the next draw out of sight. I worked my way over but couldn’t find that group again.

Luckily, I picked out another group of deer a few hundred yards from me. It was the group from the night before. They were bedded on the backside of a slight draw – one that was just big enough to hide me. The buck was bedded highest and in the best position to stalk. They were all bedded facing the same direction. To add to my luck, they were upwind of me (what little wind there was) and would be for my entire route. I figured this was going to be my best chance and really took my time analyzing the situation. I grabbed lunch and called my buddy, who had stayed at the truck for him to come to help with hand signals.

As my buddy showed, I looked back at the group and saw the deer were up on full alert. A few seconds later they took off onto private. I figured a coyote was coming but as I glasses the draws it turns out someone else had seen the deer and was making the stalk in. I was annoyed – not by the fact someone else was going after those deer – I get that’s what public land hunting is. He had no clue we were there either, so it’s not like he did it intentionally. But he busted them out from well over 400 yards. Who knows what his story was, but I felt like my best chances were over.

From: rjlefty3
05-Jan-20
Day 7 Last day – do or die here! We set up at our usual glassing perch and waited for the sun to brighten things up. Previously it hadn’t taken too long to see some here, but this day started out slow. We glassed for a while and after seeing nothing, I really debating leaving, thinking we pushed all the deer out the previous couple of days. I just couldn’t believe that to be true, so I forced myself to be patient.

Finally, I spotted some deer way off in the distance. They were 2 bucks – one I never got a good look at and a big fork – possibly the deer we had been after the previous 2 days. They were about the drop into a draw which would’ve been a good set for a stalk.

We continued to glass, and soon another doe showed up, and another, and so on. It was the group of 10 from the day prior.

Way off in the distance a good buck was moving on public. Things were looking up. I had 3 potential stalks for today at this point, so I was feeling pretty good.

However, as time passed that lone buck and the first group of 2 bucks we saw all fed onto private. The group of 10 had fed out of sight and we lost track of them.

Things were looking down when a lone buck showed up. He was in a decent spot and I didn’t hesitate. Off we went.

From: rjlefty3
05-Jan-20
Again, the wind didn’t exist today so I figured it would be a long shot. Things would have to go well for me to sneak in, but it was the bottom of the 9th and I wasn’t going down swinging.

We worked down an adjacent draw and when we got close I climbed up over and there he was, 90 yards away feeding away from us. He fed for about 30 seconds, then bedded down. He was covered up pretty good in some sage. I figured a minute later and I probably would’ve missed seeing him.

We let him settle in and I figured out a plan. The wind was good for our position, and there was a good size draw I could sneak in. At some point I’d have to be exposed, but I’d figure that out later.

I started sneaking in with my buddy spotting for me. I got to about 100 yards away, looked up at my buddy who motioned that the buck was onto me. No doubt he heard me, so I knew I’d have to move slower. At this point I wasn’t very encouraged by the situation.

I got the go ahead to continue and slowed down. I made it as far as I could with the terrain cover but ran out. I didn’t really have great options, but I had a good size bush in front of the deer. I was able to make out his antlers and could keep tabs on him. I really slowed my pace and eased each step down. I took a step only when a car or a plane passed. Anything to muffle my noise. Somehow this was working, and I was able to get to 40 yards.

From: rjlefty3
05-Jan-20
I decided to wait him out. As I analyzed my situation, I realized if he stood that same bush that was my saving grace would cover his vitals. I had nothing else to hide behind, it was in the bottom of the draw, tucked into the bank as close as I could. A bit in front of me I had a bit of shadow and figured I’d have a better angle. The problem was it had brush.

I felt I had no other play, so I decided to push my luck and just take it slow. I had made it just a few steps when I crunched a branch. His head whipped over and he stood up. I drew but I only saw his neck and hind quarter. I had no shot and watched as he took off.

I met up with my buddy and all we could do was laugh. I don’t have many opportunities for stalking, but hands down it was the best stalk of my life. And he had front row seats to it. It was awesome.

From: rjlefty3
05-Jan-20
At this point my trip was made, but I knew that group of 10 was around. I had plenty of time before the flight out the next day, so decided to see if I could track them down. I went in the general direction the deer were down the same draw I got busted in the day prior. As we walked down I saw an ear. I swung up my binoculars and it was a doe, but we could see antlers right next to her. The wind was right at our backs, so we backed out and found another way to get close.

At this point I was very familiar with this area considering the previous days events. I knew on that there was a cut bank on the opposite of the draw the deer were. I was surprised at how far our cover went. When we were close I ranged the far bank – 60 yards. I knocked an arrow and peaked through a small gap in the bank. There he was, bedded in the only spot I could see well.

I did what I could to see how he was bedded and try to make some sort of plan. He caught some movement and stood up. I was out of cover – this was it.

I drew, settled in, and stepped onto the bank. The buck was standing broadside. I found the shoulder, made it halfway up the body, found a spot, and let it go.

From: rjlefty3
05-Jan-20

rjlefty3's embedded Photo
rjlefty3's embedded Photo
As I let go, he took a step forward and I hit him back. My shot was also high (turns out he was 55 yards instead), but I got luck, hit the spine, and he dropped there. A quick follow up shot and I had my first spot and stalk mulie!

He was a nice deer. Nothing huge but I’m thrilled with him. By far my favorite deer I’ve taken so far.

Things worked out well for us. We got him packed out and back at the truck pretty quickly. We had bought an extra cooler for his deer and since we were able to freeze it previously, I took a cooler and my meat on ice right away. We headed back to town, finished up cleaning and packing the meat (luckily we had ziplocs from his deer too), shipped some gear home, and got all set up for the flight home.

As with most hunting scenerios, so much needs to go right and it always seemed like something went wrong for me right until the buzzer. Luckily, I had a great partner and we had a great time. It’s always nice to have someone to ‘embrace the suck’ with - as some would say!

From: rjlefty3
05-Jan-20

rjlefty3's embedded Photo
rjlefty3's embedded Photo
Luckily it was a pretty easy pack out!

From: Stoneman
05-Jan-20
Congratulations, well done! Enjoyed the story.

05-Jan-20
Very nice read, congratulations.

From: sitO
05-Jan-20
Good stuff man, congrats and thanks for sharing!

From: t-roy
05-Jan-20
Very nice story and results as well. Congrats on a fun adventure for you and your buddy!

From: HUNT MAN
05-Jan-20
Great story and even better buck. Thanks for taking the time to post !!! Hunt

From: Inshart
05-Jan-20
Great story, well done.

From: Bowhunt3138
05-Jan-20
Awesome story and beautiful Buck. Congratulations.

From: Jaquomo
05-Jan-20
Great story and a great hunt! Next time you go in November take your rattling antlers, a soft doe bleat, and a mobile doe decoy like Heads Up or Stalker. It will totally change your hunt..

From: Whocares
05-Jan-20
Congrats! You obviously have what it takes. Fun story, and I liked how you said it was your "favorite" buck. The right attitude.

From: Bowboy
05-Jan-20
Congrats and nice buck! Thanks for posting!

From: Brotsky
05-Jan-20
Great recap Riley! Congrats again on the buck! Thanks for writing it up and sharing it with us!

From: Mule Power
05-Jan-20
Great write ip man! I was right beside you. Nice buck for sure.

Lesson learned... it ain’t over til it’s over!

From: INbowdude
05-Jan-20
Congrats!

From: Zackman
05-Jan-20
Congrats!

05-Jan-20
Nice POst

From: Marty
05-Jan-20
Well done! Thanks for the recap!

From: Paul@thefort
05-Jan-20
Nicely done Riley and friend. I enjoyed your story a lot. I lived in SD in the early 1970s and only residents at that time, could hunt deer in that state.

From: Predeter
05-Jan-20
Great post man and great deer! Congrats!

From: hobbes
05-Jan-20
Great story. Congrats on the buck

From: otcWill
05-Jan-20
Really enjoyed that. Well done! That's how hunting should be. Public land, you get what you give. Thanks for posting!

From: SteveB
05-Jan-20
Great story thanks for sharing. Too much fun! Congratulations!!!

From: drycreek
05-Jan-20
Great story and even better ending ! Kudos to you for sticking it out and not giving up.

From: elkmtngear
05-Jan-20
Great story, you guys did great !

Congrats on that successful spot and stalk!

From: midwest
06-Jan-20
Great hunt and recap...congrats!

From: Shiras42
06-Jan-20
Congrats and thanks for sharing the story. We needed one of those around here. Its been kind of quiet.

From: Surfbow
06-Jan-20
Great story and great buck!

06-Jan-20
Very nice!!

From: BOWNBIRDHNTR
06-Jan-20
Great write up! Thanks for sharing with us.

From: rjlefty3
06-Jan-20
Thanks guys! Appreciate the kind words. The recaps are my favorite part of bowsite so I'm glad you enjoyed my contribution.

Jaq - I'll have to keep that in mind! I almost got a heads up decoy but decided against it for bulk. Would've come in handy many times, though!

From: elkstabber
07-Jan-20
I admire your enthusiasm. Thanks for sharing with us.

From: Percy
07-Jan-20
Real nice bucks, great story and great pictures. Thanks for sharing. Percy

From: Outdoordan
07-Jan-20
Loved the story, nothing better than a last minute buck! Thanks!

From: canepole
07-Jan-20
Wow, one of the top two or three stories I've had the pleasure to read in 12 years here on Bowsite. Your dedication should be an inspiration for many.

From: Russ Koon
07-Jan-20
Great write up. I hunted similar terrain in ND for about fifteen years and enjoyed several stalks that had the same or very similar beginning and difficulties, the same heart-pounding hopes and usually the same letdowns that that disappoint but don't completely discourage us, just prepare us for the next opportunity.

I loved that territory in the badlands of western ND, and even after seeing more spectacular scenery in four trips to higher elevations in CO and a successful hunt in AZ for cow elk, I'd take another trip to the badlands as my first choice,

I'm 75 now, and realistically will not likely make another trip west, but it was good to enjoy your hunt through your writing and pictures and feel that same excitement again. Thank You.

From: BC
07-Jan-20
Very good. Thanks

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