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"Nick's Lucky Year"

Nick's Buck
Nick's buck is a 4x4 with a 26-inch spread.
2000 was definitely my lucky year. My name is Nicholas Brunson. I'm a 19 year old subguide for Timberline Outfitters Guide Service in eastern Nevada and a freshman at the University of Nevada, Reno. Having been born and raised in McGill, Nevada, my entertainment has always been in the mountains. Spring and summer months are spent hunting shed horns, bugling elk, and filming wildlife, such as mule deer, elk, and antelope. Late summer, fall, and winter are spent hunting.

In June of 2000, after not drawing any tags for three straight years, I opened my mail from the Nevada Division of Wildlife to find that I had finally been lucky. And to my surprise, I had drawn both a late muzzleloader mule deer tag and a muzzleloader bull elk tag. Two awesome tags!

Excitement doesn't begin to describe my emotions, this was going to be my lucky year! The only draw back to all of this, was that August found me leaving for school in Reno, which is 335 miles west of McGill. I decided that I would just have to work it out, so a made a plan to attend school through the week and then return home every weekend to hunt. It was going to be tough with lots of driving, but when you have two great tags, you do what you have to do.

My muzzleloader deer season was Nov. 4th through Nov. 19th. I was a little impatient early on, because I didn't see many real trophy deer, mostly just young bucks. Eventually I settled on a respectable 26-inch wide 4x4, certainly a buck I was proud to harvest.
Nick's Trophy Bull Elk
Nick and Ray showing off Nick's book bull.
Next up was the hunt I was anticipating the most and most excited about, it was going to be "A Hunt of a Lifetime." Nevada's 2000 bull elk muzzleloader hunt was a real challenge. The season dates had been moved to Dec. 9th through the 24th, making it the last big game hunt of the 2000 season in White Pine county. That meant I would be hunting the elk out of the rut and after they had been chased around all fall. Don't get me wrong, I was thrilled to have the tag, but I knew it was going to be a challenge finding and harvesting a big bull.

My hunt began shortly after the rifle elk hunt in the area closed, and the elk had seen a lot of pressure and were as wild as they come. They were all pushed up into the thick high country trying to get some much-needed nourishment and hoping to avoid us hunters.
The morning of Dec. 9th found me sneaking in on a couple super nice bulls in the thick high country. There was just a skim of snow and it was crusted over, making it near impossible to be quite enough to get within muzzleloader range. My brother and subguide, Thomas, packed the video camera. While a good friend, Ray Sawyer, and I tried to stalk into a position where we might get a shot. Unfortunately, we couldn't get close enough.
My dad, Kent, who is the masterguide, and two other friends, Ron Niman and Chris Crookshanks, went into another draw nearby and spent the day spotting. They located some good bulls, but they had been pushed high into the type of country that was tough to stalk into. The bulls they spotted were the kind that make your mouth water, and they didn't get that big by being easy targets. We didn't think we could get to the bulls that day and didn't want to run them out of the country, so we left them and returned the next morning.

The next morning it was windy, cold, foggy and snowing in the high country. We spotted the same bulls, they were still hanging out in their high-country hideout, but we were again unable to get close enough for a shot.
Later that afternoon, we moved into another area where Thomas and Ray had scouted some good bulls, which were in an area where we had a better chance of getting within muzzleloader range.
We quickly spotted a good 7x7 and a heavy 8x7. The 8x7 got me excited, but before I could get to him, I ran out of daylight.

I had to return to school during the week for finals, and boy was that a long week! But by the end of the week I was again making the 335 mile drive back to White Pine county, hoping I would find those big bulls on Saturday morning.

I had my sights set on finding that heavy 8x7 we had seen the previous weekend. There was no new snow and I knew that my chances of getting within muzzleloader range in that thick country was slim to none, but that's what makes hunting fun!

Nick's Trophy Bull Elk
What a great trophy!
The next morning found myself, dad, brother, and a few of our hunting buddies heading into the area where we had last seen the big boy. My dad and our hunting buddies did the spotting while my brother had video duty. The spotters found the 7x7, but he spooked and headed into the thick timber before I caught glimpse of him. Shortly thereafter, they spotted the 8x7 and gave us directions on how to head him off.
We moved quickly, then took a stand and waited. The big boy was with a smaller bull and they were heading for the water below. When they appeared and I laser read them at 157 yards, he was within range!

I found a rest, aimed my .50 caliber Knight Inline and squeezed off a 250 grain Nosler. The bull rocked, but didn't go down. I knew he was hit in the lungs, so I reloaded and quickly moved in for another shot.
The second shot found his shoulder, but again, he didn't go down. He took two more steps, so I moved in closer and shot again, this time missing. I reloaded and fired a fourth shot hitting him in the hindquarter. I couldn't believe it when he still didn't go down!
Again, I reloaded and moved into position. Finally, I knocked him down with my fifth shot!

Up to that point had been fairly calm and composed, but when he hit the ground and I knew I had him, the excitement set in. I began jumping up and down, yelling, and then eventually began shaking with excitement. My brother, Thomas, was also very excited. He had captured it all on video and hurried down the hill to walk up to the bull with me.
As we approached the downed bull, he gave us a surprise, jumping up and trying to get away. It took two more shots before he was down for good.
Those big bulls are tough!

The hunt was a dream come true, the hunt of a lifetime! What a great trophy and memory that hunt has given me. This was truly, my luck year!

Written by Nicholas Brunson