Mike with a cigar standing over my California mule deer buck

Mike standing where the buck had peaked over the crest
Mike standing ~250-yards away, where the buck had peaked over the crest

Success on a Public Land Hunt

I shoot and scope the hell out of myself. My glasses are bent and hanging off of my face and my eye is tearing up from being kicked by the recoil of a 30-06. “Where’d he go?!”

“It jumped… I think it ran away? I’m not sure…” Mike jumped at the sound of my rifle crashing through the silence like a fart from Zeus and lost the deer. Mike runs up the side of the hill we’re on to see if he can find a better vantage point while I’m rubbing my eye and trying to bend my glasses back onto my face. “Do you see it?”

Mike shrugs.

I see a bush moving unlike the other bushes around it and postulate that the deer is the one doing the moving.

Mike walks down across the canyons while I guide him to where I saw the now-still bush.

Mike with a cigar standing over my California mule deer buck
Mike with a cigar standing over my California mule deer buck

This California mule deer buck must have jumped when it felt something pass through it like a pencil. My “expanding” bullet went clean through with both wounds looking identical. It would have bailed had it not been hit in a lethal spot.

Downhill Decision Making

Field dressing my California Mule Deer Buck
Field dressing my California Mule Deer Buck with a F&S Folder

Here’s where poor decisions started being made and things started getting hard. We’re now stuck with a deer on a steep hill away from any trails. We’re not far “as the crow flies”, but it’s gonna be awhile before we are able to haul out. We think that going down to the ravine looks like the way to go. We can find a big stick and tie it up like a Hawaiian pig and just march this dude out to the truck. NO PROBLEM.

I started field dressing the buck, using bottled drinking water to wash blood out of the body cavity. I used bottled drinking water to wash off my arms after field dressing it. Cleaning the blood off of my arms felt great at the time.

After field dressing, we both take a handle on an antler and start dragging the mule deer downhill towards the ravine. The 125-lb animal being dragged over bushes isn’t easy, but would seem like cake once we got down to the ravine. After getting it to the ravine and finding a stick, I start hog-tying the deer onto a stick with 550 paracord.

Hog Tying a Mule Deer with 550 Paracord
Hog Tying a Mule Deer with 550 Paracord

We hoisted the buck on our shoulders and started our march out of the canyon, quickly realizing we made a poor choice. The ravine looked so clear from the uphill perspective, but was dense with obstacles when we were in it. As we’re walking in tandem over boulders, fallen logs, through thorns, and over really poor terrain; we keep having to stop every 10-20 yards to assess our next obstacle. We also have half a bottle of water left between us – a mouthful each.

Walking through the ravine with my buck
Walking through the ravine with my buck. Note that the hills have become walls.

After a bit of frustration between the two of us, we finally hit a dead end and there’s absolutely no where to go. We’re forced to either double back and out another way, or quarter it. Mike has never done this and I’ve only watched the episode of Meat Eater where Steve Rinella butchers an entire deer. I make the call and we get to work (again).

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