MonsterMuleys.com

"Super Smokepole Experience"
Written by Andrew Cooper

Super Smokepole Experience
For over twenty years I have been hunting the area of Monte Cristo in northern Utah. The first 15 years, with my step brother Matt, who passed away in an auto accident. The memories and beauty brought me back each year, not the deer, but this year it was about all of these things.

My long time friend, Erik Storheim, and I have spent many hours chasing big game together with little success, but I promised him this year would be different. After missing a large deer in this same drainage last year with my bow and muzzleloader, waiting for this coming season was not easy.
Being new to muzzleloading, it took most of last season to figure out that this weapon combined features of both archery and rifle hunting, making it my weapon of choice.

Opening morning was brisk and the weather was perfect. After discovering the bedding and feeding patterns last year, I returned to the same hill where I had taken the smallest of eight four points I had seen last year knowing the big ones remained. Even with the opportunity to hunt a private ranch with known record muleys, I had to return to finish the hunt I started last year.

With little patience (20 min. into the hunt) Erik downed his first muley with a muzzleloader. The deer was impressive, but I knew there were much bigger deer to be had. Shortly after Erik got his deer I jumped a large bodied buck, but he disappeared as quickly as he appeared, the wind and my inattention didn't help matters. Lesson learned.

After dressing and hauling out Erik's deer, we returned to camp for lunch. My experience from last year showed me they will bed down back in the area, and if everything goes right you should get that opportunity. I returned to the same drainage later that evening. Twenty minutes into my hike I was overcome by the angry bugling of a bull elk. After 30 minutes of us talking back and forth I decided to continue with the hunt at hand.

Super Smokepole Experience
As I approached the same aspen grove as earlier in the morning, I found myself with the wind in my face and my gun almost to my shoulder in anticipation. Before I could take another step, horns with a deer body attached exploded from under foot. The width was amazing and I knew there was no time to count points and a decision had to be made quickly as he disappeared, shoot or regret.

With my gun already to my shoulder I placed the cross hairs on his chest with him running at full speed 70 yards away and pulled the trigger. To my amazement as the smoke cleared the horns had stopped running. I reloaded my gun as fast as possible which takes 1 minute at the shooting range, but five when you have a deer in your sights. I called Erik on the radio to let him know I had hit and dropped a big deer and would call again to let him know the finer details.

As I approached the downed buck, I became overwhelmed by his width, but more so by the fact our eyes met and he proceeded to rise to his feet and charge….again, horns followed by a deer body!

Instinctively I put the gun to my waist and pulled the trigger and the deer fell at my feet. The emotions then began to run through me as I looked to the heavens and Matt….20 years of walking these hills, the many missed opportunities, the death of my brother, the fulfillment of a child hood dream, and the charging of a wounded set of horns. It was an incredible moment!

There are bigger more impressive mule deer, but none that can be more of a true trophy. The big 4x4 later measured 34" wide, with 25" main beams and a 22" inside spread. I have yet to score him, but with his weak front most likely he will not score high in the books. What do the books know about the trophies of life anyway?