Mule Deer, Elk and Western Big Game Hunting -

NOVEMBER 13 x 13B = 13 BUCKS

A Trophy Mule Deer Formula
Mohave County in northwest Arizona is well known to Western sportsmen. The state's largest concentrations of desert bighorn sheep are found here, and each year about 30 lucky hunters go afield in search of trophy rams. But Mohave County is also famous for the huge mule deer that are found in the northern part known as the Arizona Strip.

Last November, California resident Rick Haller found out firsthand why the 70 or so mule deer tags that are issued annually to lucky sportsmen by the Arizona Game & Fish Department are such a prize. For eight days Rick endured every kind of weather that Mother Nature could throw at him and his hunting party as they searched unit 13B literally from the top to the bottom for a mule deer of a lifetime.

Rick's dream hunt started off in August when he learned that he had beaten some incredible odds (40 to 1) and had drawn one of the 70 tags that were being issued in 1998. Rick was amazed to learn that he had drawn tag number one.

Rick had never been to the area, and wasn't going to have a lot of time to do some preseason scouting, so he decided to get some professional help. I got the call from Rick and plans were made for me to assist him on his ten-day hunt.

I met Rick and his friend Charlie Fox three days before the hunt started in Mesquite, Nevada. From there, we headed for St. George, Utah where I met with some friends who work for various government agencies in the area. I got some last-minute tips on where we might find some big bucks, and then we were off to set up camp.

That night, I outlined my plans to Rick and Charlie. We had another hunter coming on Thursday, and two more of Rick's friends were coming in to help out with some preseason scouting on Wednesday. We would split up, with Rick, Charlie and I hunting the north, while fellow guide Dan Reed and his hunter would be in the south.

Deer densities here are low, but the age classes of the bucks are extremely good, and big bucks are always a possibility. Finding a big one though is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. To demonstrate how this area can be frustrating to the average hunter, in 1998 only 68% of the hunters bagged a buck, and the number who harvested trophy-quality bucks could be counted on one hand.

The preseason work resulted in us seeing several decent bucks, but nothing we really were interested in. On opening day Rick passed on three bucks, the largest being a 27-inch three point.

As the hunt continued, the weather took a turn for the worse, and we endured a series of storms that brought high winds, rain, hail and then snow plus freezing nighttime temperatures. The weather was so bad that two days during the hunt we didn't even see a deer!

A Trophy Mule Deer Formula
A few days into the hunt we were joined by my good friend and hunting partner, Jay Chan. Chan had some vacation time to burn, and he had never been to the Strip before, but he agreed to come up and help out with the glassing duties. Jay has a great set of eyes and his glassing skills are legendary. Jay is always a big help on our hunts.

When you see a buck on the Strip, it is usually a good one. You don't see spikes and small forkies. Rick passed on a big, heavy 29-inch wide 4x4 and several 27- and 28-inch bucks during the first week of the hunt. But Rick's goal was to take a buck that was at least 30 inches wide and he was willing to hunt the entire ten days if necessary to accomplish this feat.

Finally, after a big midweek storm dumped about six inches of snow in the area, we got lucky. I found a huge set of tracks on an old burn in the southern part of the unit, over 65 miles from our camp.

The next morning before daylight, Rick and I were back at the same spot. It wasn't long before I spotted the old buck lying in the grass. When he stood up and started sniffing around the does in his herd, I told Rick there was no doubt that this was the buck he was looking for. After a few anxious moments, Rick did his job and the old monarch went down.

The buck sported antlers that were 33 3/4 inches wide with eight scoreable points on each side. The buck weighed on our scales 240 pounds. Fellow guide and scorer Hub Grounds rough-scored him at over 210 Boone & Crockett points. This was indeed the buck of a lifetime!

It is ironic that Rick bagged his buck in unit 13B on November 13th, and this was the 13th buck he had seen on his hunt! For Rick, 13 was indeed his lucky number in 1998!

By Don Martin

Click-a-Pic ... Details & Bigger Photos

Click-a-Pic ... Details & Bigger Photos

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