Nevada Backcountry Slug Buck
By Sarah Bullock
After learning in late June 2016 that I had drawn an area in Nevada that was known for big deer, I wanted to know everything about the area. After gathering lots of information and making a list of prospective areas of interest based on all the information that I had gleaned, I spent whatever weekends I could take off work familiarizing myself with the areas, roads, trails, and checking out a few of the prospective areas. During one of my "deer scouting" trips, I spotted a huge bodied buck, along with a younger buddy. The buck had a distinguishing inline on the G3 of his right antler. I had a Phone-Skope and snapped a few long distance photos (1000+ yards).
The first, early October, hunt during rifle season yielded great results, though no "meat on the ground". I had backpacked a couple of miles into the wilderness with my camp and food to spend 4 days in this same area as before. In the end, I saw at least 20+ deer, found 4 shed antlers and gained a solid reassurance that the spot I had found was a good one. As the second, late October, hunt approached, I finalized my camp supplies, menu for each day, water needs, and headed out. I brought my trailered ATV with me, just in case the spot had dried up and I could make it to my plan B/C/D spots that were located out of the wilderness. That first afternoon, I was rewarded by seeing a large bodied/antlered deer in the late afternoon walking over the ridge. The buck was about another half to 3/4 ways down the ridge from where I had seen bucks prior and was too far to tell if it was the one I had seen earlier. Over the next 4 days, I was getting a little down because no matter how hard or long I glassed that east side of the ridge I was having a hard time locating any deer moving during the morning. I later decided with the cooler temps, the deer were sticking on the west side of the ridge and out of view. Day 3 and the morning of the 4th were hindered by rain showers and thick fog. By the end of day 4, thoughts of "big" deer were quickly leaving me and the thought of an empty freezer started the weigh heavier on my mind.
On day 5, I was at my mountain top glassing spot at 6:15am, diligently watching the ridge below for signs of movement. About 8:45am, after quickly getting breakfast, I almost immediately noticed two deer-bodies moving on the ridge far below, fairly close to where I had seen the big bodied buck on the evening of day 1. I could make out that there were two bucks and one was of considerable size. I watched them feed and move along the top of the ridge. After about 30 minutes, the smaller buck moved to a rocky out cropping below the ridge on the east side, while the bigger buck stayed close to the ridge top near some rimrock. I knew I wanted to go after the bigger buck, but did not want to spook the smaller buck, because meat was the real goal and I wanted to keep my options open. I went back to camp and packed some snacks, water, game processing kit (Caribou Carnivore II pack, Havalon Piranta knife w/4 extra blades, 8'x 6' tarp, and 2 pairs of vinyl gloves) in my pack and started the approx. 2 mile hike over to and down the ridge to the west.
The hike down was a little nerve wracking, after I got through the jungle of manzanita and mahogany, or at least to where it thinned out a little, I dipped into the second of three west facing basins. As I made my way up the second basin to the western-running ridge that dipped into the third basin, I was approximately a quarter mile from where I had last seen the larger bedded buck and within 500 yards of the smaller bedded buck (on the other side of the ridge). Instead of going right over the top of the western-running ridge, I chose to follow a game trail to a small saddle on the ridge to help hide my movements and ensure the smaller buck could not see me. I wasn't being especially careful as I topped the ridge and slowly walked about 15 yards on the other side before I decided "hey, you better glass this basin, just in case there may be a deer in here." I leisurely pulled up my binoculars to give it a quick once over, before heading to the next ridge to hopefully line up for a shot at the big buck I had seen earlier. Holy cow, there's a huge buck laying in the direct sun, facing right at me! (At this point, all I knew is that it was a large bodied deer with a tall rack) Immediately, I received another larger dose of adrenaline, as I briefly froze not knowing if he saw me or why he wasn't busting out of there. I looked again and after a few seconds, determined he must be napping. I looked around at my surroundings and decided the best course of action was to just slowly sit down and prepare the shooting sticks, take a range (268 yards), and ready my weapon. I readied my 30.06 on my shooting sticks, took several slow deep breaths, and waited for the wind to dye down before squeezing the trigger. The buck was jolted from the solid hit, but did not move…I spined it! Though in less than a minute the large buck expired in it's bed. It was right after the shot, that the jolted buck turned its head and I could see that distinct inline on his right G3 and I just about lost it! I couldn't believe that I had just harvested that tank I had seen in early September. I put my hands on my face and then looked up to enthusiastically thank the good Lord for allowing me to harvest such a magnificent animal.
After notching my tag and a few pics, the reality of the mid-day heat and the work at hand set in my mind. It was about 1:30pm and my camp was about 2 miles north up the ridge and my truck was another 2 and half miles east of camp. Needless to say, I had my work cut out for myself…though kinda planned that way. It took about an hour and half to completely salvage all meat. I then walked to another rocky outcropping on the top of the ridge and aligned some medium-sized rocks, so I could place the game bags on for the evening. This would keep the bags off the ground, promote airflow, and cooling. I then placed the tarp over them as a deterrent to any predators and shade for the next morning's sun.
I got back to camp right at sunset, had one of my mountain house dinners and was hopefully going to get a full night's rest for the next day's hiking marathon.
At 5am I finally decided it was early enough to start breaking camp and heading back to the truck. There was a slight glimmer of light on the horizon when I started with head lamp on toward the truck. When I got to my truck, I fixed a quick hearty breakfast, unloaded my ATV, took out my external frame from the back of my truck, and organized some snacks and plenty of water for the trip. Luckily for me, there was a road that ran along the foot of the mountain south toward the flats, so there was no need to hike the meat up to camp and then to the truck. I could just ride my ATV to the foot of the mountain, hike up and pack it down. I estimate a one-way trip was about 1 mile. It took 2 trips to hike out all the meat. Yeah, that first trip (80-100#s) was a little bit too heavy and I had to make several rest stops on convenient boulders. The second trip (< 60#s) was much easier to carry out. I loaded and secured my meat bags onto my ATV and high-tailed it back to my truck, loaded the meat into a cooler, secured the ATV on the trailer, and started the trip to the nearest town for some ice. It was approximately 1:30pm. Once in town, I promptly got the meat on ice and called a taxidermist friend to ask her about my cape (I was greatly concerned about since it had been almost 24 hours since harvesting the buck). After chatting with her, I also got some ice, double bagged it, and wrapped the hide around the bags to cool it. She also assured me, by my description of the hide condition, that everything would be fine, just freeze it when I got home.