This #EarnedIt story comes from Scott Thompson. Scott may be one of the best Muley hunters you’ve never heard of. He’s also a Team Member at Muley Freak so expect to see more of him through photos and video. He says, “I’m an avid outdoorsman, born and raised in northern Utah. Hunting is more to me than just a hobby, it’s life, a true passion that burns deep inside that very few will ever understand.”
The Mule Deer Year
My hunting memories date back to when I was a very young boy strapped to a horse, backpack, or the front seat of my dad’s old truck. Even as a boy the anticipation of hunting season was greater than Christmas morning. I harvested my first mule deer at the age of 12 and remember it like it was yesterday. From that day on I have been obsessed with hunting public land mule deer. Never did I think I would have a year like this one!
The first hunt was a Nevada archery tag. A good friend Tyler and I loaded horses up with gear and headed in for a week of hunting. The day before the opener we located two bachelor groups. As we watched the bucks get up from their bedding areas and work through long stretches of ribbon cliffs I knew the location they were in was perfect for stalking and our chances were good. Tyler and I studied and picked out the bucks we wanted to go after. The two groups were in different basins so we decided to hunt each group solo. First thing in the morning I located my bucks at 700 yards. They were slowly feeding up a tight split in the ledges back toward their bedding area. I knew that if I could make the hike fast enough I could position myself ahead of the bucks. As I scaled along the ledges passing my landmarks, I finally reached the final one, I slipped my boots off and slowly closed the last 100 yards to the edge of the rim. Not knowing if I made the hike fast enough, I leaned over the edge to see antler tips feeding below me. I ranged them at 65 yards but knew my position was not good enough to draw. There was a large rock on the edge of the rim 15 yards to the side of me, so I backed out and dropped in a little closer, as I reached the rock the setting was perfect. I crouched up next to the rock and could actually hear the bucks chewing. About 5 minutes later the first buck fed across a small split in the ledge I ranged him at 35 yards. Suddenly the greatest thing I have ever seen, the top half of a 37 inch frame appeared. I took a deep breath slowly drew back, settled my pin, leveled off and let it fly. It hit home! I couldn’t see the buck because of the terrain but knew the shot was good. I contacted Tyler and met up with him. As we worked through the ledges we tracked him for a short distance and found where he dropped off to the lower rim. It was so steep we couldn’t follow so we made a 1/4 mile loop around the end and finally I put my eyes on him. As I wrapped my fingers around his bases and picked his giant frame up from the ground, I looked up at Tyler and not a word was said. It was unreal. We boned him out and headed for home. The buck is a 3×3 with a 37 ½ main frame.
My Utah general season hunt was next. I had spent numerous hours scouting and had found two bucks I really liked. Opening morning of the Muzzleloader I was sitting on a knob looking over a small group of aspens that held a buck we had watched for 3 years. He is 30 wide with 7 on the left and 8 on his right. Not 15 minutes into day light the big old buck fed into a small clearing. I watched him in the spotting scope for a minute then set up for the shot. With all the confidence in the world I steadied the 1x scope behind his shoulder and pulled the trigger. With the large cloud of smoke in the air, I never heard the distinctive thwack I wanted, so I stood up to see the buck standing there as if nothing had happened. I couldn’t believe my eyes. As I quickly reloaded he eased his way back into the trees. I sat there in disbelief of what just happened. Just a few minutes later he stepped back out in another clearing only this time just out of muzzleloader range. I watched him for the next twenty minutes as he fed toward his bedding area. As he dropped out of sight, I was already in pursuit. The plan was to get the wind in my face and ease over the ridge and shoot him in his bed. Just as I crawled over the ridge to start scanning the aspens bellow me I caught a buck moving 100 yards below, I could make out a cheater on the left side and automatically put the legs out on the bipod and fired. This time hearing the thwack. I was so excited to finally harvest this buck. I reloaded and walked over to the buck, soon realizing that I had made a big mistake by shooting the wrong buck. This was a completely different buck that had made his way into the patch as well. The young buck is a 5×5 with double cheaters and 26 wide.
The next day at work I still couldn’t believe what had happened. So I called my friend Tyler who also had a general Utah muzzleloader tag and said “lets go kill you a buck”. We got off work a little early and raced up the canyon. As we hiked out to the knob were I had been seeing the other nice buck. We sat down and started glassing. Thirty minutes later I found him tucked under a small ledge across the canyon, so the stalk was on. As we closed the distance and set up for the shot, he stood up to feed. We couldn’t have asked for a better setup. I got the video camera rolling and Tyler put the heavy 180 in 6×4 down.
I’ve hunted this unit several times. Its lowland sage country that holds a lot of deer but limited trophy class animals. In early July I located two very nice deer, one of which was well over 30 but very poor forks the other was the complete opposite, high, narrow, matching in lines and deep forks. I knew I wanted to focus on the inline buck. I made the long drive multiple weekends to study their patterns. I hunted the bucks during the archery season in September but they would only feed out in the 2 foot sage or bed down on small bluffs out in the open making stocks impossible. I decided to wait for rifle season. The day before opener I found the two bucks not a ½ mile from where they spent the summer. Opening morning came and went, I had hiked to my little glassing knob in the dark and never saw a deer all morning. Knowing that the bucks were somewhere close, I backed out and moved to the opposite side of the valley so I could use the sun to my advantage. At about 2:30 I caught a break and spotted the white throat patch of a buck laying in a small sage draw. As I put the spotting scope into focus I could see it was the wide buck and just behind him I could see the tines of the inline buck. I dropped into a wash just behind me and closed the distance. I crawled out on a small knob and ranged the bucks at 518 yards. I have been using my dad’s Thompson Long Range shooting system for the last 12 years and I was 110% confident that my 30-378 would hit its mark. For 90 minutes I laid waiting and finally the bucks stood. As the inline buck turned broadside I touched it off and watched as the bullet buckled the 190 inch 5×5.
I apply in Idaho every year but can never draw any limited tags. Lucky enough, Idaho has a large amount of general hunting. So like every year, I purchased a couple OTC general deer tags. The last few years have been spent trying to harvest a couple bucks in particular. After scouting and archery hunting the area I knew the location I wanted to be for the rifle hunt. The day before the opener I loaded a few days worth of gear in my backpack and headed in. On opening morning as the sun started to spread light over the basin I started picking it apart with my binoculars. In the first 15 minutes I found 6 different groups of hunters so I shifted my attention to the basin behind me. As I scanned the edges of the thick pine pockets I found a buck feeding out of one pocket and heading into the next. As I put the spotting scope on him I noticed right away it was a buck that I knew, with his distinct 4 point frame and dipping right main beam. I knew he was a solid mature buck so I set up for the shot as he stood on the edge of the trees. With the bipod out and my backpack tucked under the rear of the rifle for support I let the Weatherby roar. As I walked up on the buck I was all smiles knowing that this old monarch had out smarted not just me through his prime but many other hunters too. His heavy 27 inch 4×4 frame gross scored 182 inches.
The following weekend I set out for the same general area. This time I decided to take my horse and sit on the opposite side of the basin and glass at a little different angle. I loaded my gear and left the trailer at 3 am. Three hours later I tied the horse up and walked out to the glassing point. As I started glassing the area I picked up on some does below me. As I watched them I noticed a large bodied buck come strutting out and knew right away this was a shooter. I quickly grabbed the rifle, extended the bipod legs all the way out, and settled the crosshairs. The loud thwack confirmed that he was down were he stood. I gathered my gear and my horse and made my way down to the buck. As I lifted his antlers from the ground I sat back in disbelief. Another old warrior was down. This buck was blind in one eye, had a heavy 4×5 frame, 30 wide and taped out right at 180.
Thinking that my year was complete and that it couldn’t get any better, I headed for Colorado with my dad and brother. For years we have hunted a unit that is probably one of the least favorites in the state. A few friends that have come along with us couldn’t agree more. They choose never to return. As for the three of us, we are happy to go year after year. After 6 days of hard hunting we had seen very few deer and zero mature bucks. On the morning of the 7th day I was sitting high on a knob overlooking a thick draw that had a few small openings. After 2 hours of scanning the terrain I hooked my binoculars on my tripod to slow it down and really pick it apart. As I opened my eyes to look through the Geovids I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. There across the draw cautiously working his way through the shadows along a migration trail was the most impressive typical I have ever seen. This buck had the “wow” factor and only took one look. In order to get a shot I had to make a move. I dropped into the same draw so I could close the distance and have a better view. Once I made it to a small rim, I scanned across to his location and he was still moving in my direction. So I ranged a small tree on the trail in front of him and set up. As I got comfortable behind the gun I waited 10 minutes for him to get to the tree, as he walked past it he stopped, turned broadside, and my Weatherby 30-378 hammered the giant. As I picked up my gear and walked over to the buck I had an unexplainable amount of emotion brewing. I didn’t think anything like this was ever possible. After we got him back to camp we measured him out at 29 wide and 193 inches.
I can’t begin to express how grateful I am to my wife and parents for always putting up with and supporting my passion. I am truly blessed to have the time and ability to pursue such a magnificent animal. After a season like this, I now have a lifelong goal to try and better it. Good Luck!