Snow Storm Muley

By Gary Ferguson

October 19, 2019

I never had a clue that the first day of my scheduled mule deer hunt would coincide with the arrival of an early Wyoming snow storm. But the blowing snow and icy cold wind that greeted us as we arrived in Gillette confirmed this was indeed the case.

We had driven 1,800 miles from Georgia to film an episode for The Challenge, a hunting show that airs weekly on one of the outdoor networks. Joining me on my hunt was Brad Frost, a good friend and co-founder of the Columbus, Georgia-based show. He would film what I was hoping would be a successful attempt to take my first muley.

By the time we pulled into the hotel parking lot to meet with Brant Hillman, our outfitter from Rangeland Hunting Adventures, weather conditions were anything but ideal. The forecast called for several inches of snow and wind gusts up to 40 mph. While this type of weather seemed like a potential problem for me and Brad, it was just another day at work for Brant, and another opportunity to create great memories for a client.

The 30-minute drive to the ranch gave us time to talk with Brant about the bucks we would pursue. He told us about two large bucks he had seen that carried great head gear – one rack was wide and the other was tall. We saw several bucks that afternoon, but strong winds appeared to keep most of the deer down in the deep ravines that cut through our ranch.

The next morning greeted us with a 2-degree wind chill and blowing snow. And while we continued to spot deer throughout the day, it wasn’t until dusk that we finally laid eyes on our wide-racked trophy. He was 600 yards away and slipping down the side of a rocky sage-choked hillside toward a small alfalfa field. One look through the spotting scope confirmed our guide's suspicion. "That's him," Brant said with a satisfied grin. "He’s between 26 and 28 inches wide…a good deer. It’s almost dark, so we'll come back in the morning to find him.”

It was still dark the next morning as Brant inched up to the top of the ridge and turned off his old Ford truck. “We should see him from here if he’s in the area,” he said. As cold greyness gave way to the revealing light of the sun, we were greeted with a spectacular white landscape that stretched for miles in every direction. To our east, we could just make out the image of Devil’s Tower on the horizon. We scanned the rocky ravines and hillsides with our binoculars, but it appeared that our wide muley had evaded us. The only movement came from antelope that appeared to skip across distant snow-covered ridges. "Let's drive down to the spot where we saw that buck last night," Brant said with a determined tone.

We reached the wide turn where we had seen the buck the previous evening. As Brant put his truck in park and turned off the ignition, we each raised our binoculars and scanned the hillside. "Do you see anything?" I asked. Brant paused, looking intently at the hillside through his binoculars. "No, but that doesn’t mean he’s not here. He could be in one of these draws, or just bedded down behind a big sage bush and we’d never know. Maybe this sunlight will get him up and moving.” After scanning the area for several more minutes, Brant started his truck and we eased up the hill along the fence line.

As we crested the top of the hill, the old frozen road leveled off and a shallow ravine dropped off to our left. Brant hit the brakes. A small 2-point buck climbed up out of the ravine 200 yards away. We had seen the same velvet buck the previous day, so I didn’t understand why Brant was staring at him so intently through his binoculars. “There’s another buck with him,” Brant said excitedly. I raised my binoculars and scanned the top edge of the ravine. It was then that I saw the tan tips of a wide rack. Brant looked over at me and grinned, “That’s our buck. He’s coming up out of the ravine. Get ready.” I reached in my pack and felt around for my folded bi-pod. Brad was in the backseat sending a text message on his phone. I was still wrestling with my pack when Brant turned to us and said with a serious tone, “Are you guys going to get that buck, or do you just want to sit here and fumble around in the truck all morning?”

Moments later, we were out of the truck and the video camera was rolling. I quietly opened the door, then eased a cartridge into the chamber of my Browning A-Bolt .270 Win. I was shooting 145-grain ELD-X Precision Hunter ammunition since it had shot so accurately in my rifle at the range. As I crept toward the flat spot where Brad was filming, I quickly opened the bi-pod and placed my rifle in the V. I pulled out my range finder to measure the distance to my target: 213 yards. The wide-racked buck was alarmed and slowly walking away when I found him in my scope. I looked over at Brad. “I’m on him; shoot when you’re ready,” Brad whispered. With the big buck quartering away from us, I placed my crosshairs a little further back on his rib cage, knowing that the bullet would need to drive in at a sharper angle to reach the lungs and heart. At the crack of the shot, the big muley hunkered up and lunged forward. “Great hit!” Brant exclaimed. The buck staggered just a few steps before he fell over in the deep snow. I felt a rush of relief and excitement. Turning to Brad, I let out a holler. I had finally taken my first mule deer, and he was a dandy.

After a few minutes of high-fives and camera time, we ambled through the deep snow to our trophy. After collecting more footage and photos, we loaded the big-bodied buck onto the truck bed. Brant measured the rack. It was right at 27-inches wide, just what he had estimated the previous night. When we cleaned the big buck, it was obvious that the bullet had performed flawlessly, entering at the back of the rib cage, clipping the liver, then penetrating up through the lungs and heart, and ultimately lodging under the skin in front of the left shoulder. The ELD-X bullet had exceeded my expectations, mushrooming perfectly and retaining more than 80 grains of its original weight. Thanks, Hornady, for making a great round that played a big part in helping me achieve a life-long dream.

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