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Rack Room: Nevada Archery Mule Deer

To find success with limited time, in a low density unit, take advantage of every opportunity.

Rack Room: Nevada Archery Mule Deer

Chris Auch Photography

As the sun rose on the day before the opener, my optimism was peaking and hopes were high. I had a full day to learn and survey the area, find a good buck and make a plan for the morning. Easy, right? As the sun got higher and temperatures rose, I realized that just finding a buck on public land may be the biggest challenge. Hunting in a low-density unit in Nevada with tall junipers and thick sage made spotting deer hard, but I didn’t quite understand how difficult it would be. Temps were projected to reach mid 90’s, and deer movement was minimal. My scouting day had ended with zero deer spotted. Now with only three days to hunt, I knew that I would have to take any potential opportunity that came along and make the best of it.

Opening morning, I decided to go back to the canyon I had glassed the previous day. It had everything a deer needed: water, large sage bowls and plenty of shaded bedding areas. No deer were spotted that morning. As the sun crested the ridge, the blinding light hit my spotting scope and made it almost impossible to glass into the shade.

On early season hunts, always make sure to watch your step during the stalk!

A couple hours passed with nothing much to speak of. I threw my pack on, cinched it up and started back towards the truck when something caught my eye. The sun unmistakably glistened off a velvet rack as two bucks crested over the far ridge and dropped into the canyon I had been watching.

I ripped my pack off and grabbed my spotter, just hoping to get eyes on the bucks before they disappeared into the junipers. As the bucks hit the shade from the ridge they slowed down and started feeding into the bottom. I watched, semi-patiently, as a great 5x5 and young 3x3 worked their way onto a fairly open hillside where they eventually bedded at the base of a tree. This was my opportunity, and I had to make the most of it. I picked my landmarks, and determined my route. Go time!

Using your glass as you make your stalk is critical to ensure that your target buck hasn't moved as you make your final approach.

Insert cuss words here. To make a long stalk short, after about 45 minutes I ended up just 50 yards from the two bucks in their beds. With my camera set up, I ranged spots around the buck the best I could—and then waited for two hours. As he stood, I hit the record button and drew my bow behind a tree. I stood up at full draw, anchored and released.

After watching the video, between me shooting a little high and him jumping the string, it was a clean miss. I made my way back up to where I first spotted the bucks and glassed around, hoping to find another opportunity. With not being able to turn anything up, the only thing left to do was take the walk of shame back to my truck.

Later that afternoon I returned to that same spot and glassed until dark. Nothing. The next morning was much like the previous evening with nothing spotted. Realization started to kick in, “Had I possibly screwed up my only opportunity?”

With only a day and a half left to hunt, I made the decision to check a different part of the unit that had some higher-elevation peaks and a decent amount of water. By the time I drove around to this part of the unit, it was mid-morning. Sage bowls, juniper stands and aspen groves, this place had it all. I glassed what I suspected to be premiere bedding areas over and over, and then over again—looking for anything that stood out. The deer had to be here, it was just a waiting game to catch one switching beds.

This lone buck gave the author the perfect opportunity to move to within archery range.

All of a sudden, in the middle of an area I had just thoroughly glassed, was a lone buck feeding on some thick vegetation. Another opportunity. Time to make a loop around and get the wind in my favor. A large juniper stood perfectly in line between him and I. I kept thinking that if I could just get to that tree, the buck should be no more than 40 yards on the backside. Methodically, with every step around the branches of the tree, I would pull my binos up and glass. I cleared the tree and couldn’t find the buck.

Knowing he must have bedded close by, I kept inching forward, glassing with every step. At 30 yards, I caught movement on the backside of this smaller juniper. This was it, the wind was good, and I was in a good spot. I just had to sit it out and wait for him to get up and walk out on either side of the tree. Thirty minutes into waiting, I felt the wind shift and hit the back of my neck for just a brief second. That was all it took and he blew out of his bed. Then the odd part happened. The buck stopped at 60 yards.

Chris' Nevada buck on a quick three day hunt.

I could just see his rack above the vegetation as he looked around trying to figure out what happened. Then, for some reason, he decided to turn around and walk back to the bed he just blew out of. Once he cleared the vegetation, I drew back as he stopped, looking in my direction. This time, I didn’t shoot high and he didn’t have time to duck. I felt extremely fortunate to have everything work out the way it did to harvest my first, and hopefully not my last, Nevada buck.

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