2022 Wyoming Mule Deer

Ladd

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After watching Extreme Outer Limits TV for years and knowing Bob Beck was a friend to long range, I knew I wanted to hunt with Star Valley Outfitters. There was an opening and I signed up. The application was a mere formality with my one-less-than max points.

The camp consists of tents for hunters and staff, a large dining hall next to an 18-wheeler trailer that housed the kitchen and two large tents for the saddles and tack near the large corral full of horses. Each hunter's tent has electrical lighting, power, beds, wood stoves, hangers to hang wet clothes to dry, carpeting on the floor and a table for some personal items and gear. A generator powers everything including outdoor lights around the corral.

I signed up for a 1x1 hunt and was paired with Jimmy. He apparently knows Bob well and helps with teaching the long range classes each year. I figured we would be a good team since I was into long range and had a decent knowledge of mule deer and how to hunt them.

We had a safety meeting that evening over by the horses. Do this, don't do that and stay safe. That sums up what I heard. haha. It was more detailed than that but suffice it to say, listen to the instructions because the mountains around camp are steep and the trails can be slippery.

3:30 am came very early the first morning. Breakfast is at 4 am which is a good hot meal made by Cookie in his gas-fired kitchen. Then you pack your lunch and meet the guides at the horses to mount up and ride. Most of the ride was easy through the trees with creek crossings but at the end we had to steep climb. Grabbing a handful mane and holding the horn we jumped up the slope with #420 putting both rear hooves in the ground for traction. Like I said, we jumped up the hill. We tied up the horses and climbed up another 100 yards.

In our spot, we were supposed to have a 360° view but when light came we could tell the fog would not allow much. At 10am the fog lifted for a second giving time to spot a deer but after getting the spotter pointed, the cloud covered it again. This went on into the early afternoon but we stayed put and waited. there could be deer anywhere when the fog lifts.

The first deer we spotted was a small forky. He was by himself which was weird but we could not see another deer with him so we glassed elsewhere. Then across the canyon about 1240 yards away Jimmy spots a huge bodied dear dwarfing the deer he was feeding with. Our spotters revealed he was a heavy heavy 2x3 with nearly a 30-inch spread. He was tempting and the shot would have been challenging but I chose to pass. He looked like the buck in my Avatar but with only 2 on one side and 3 on the other. He would have made a good trophy though but left him. We glassed up a dozen other bucks but nothing worth getting setup on. Then the forky stood from his second bed and began to feed.

I watched the forky feed through my spotter and step right in front of another buck in his bed. I said to Jimmy, did you see that? We both could not believe that within 10-ft of where the forky left his bed was another buck in his bed. Probably the deer Jimmy first saw hours before but try as we could not, all day, we did not see any other buck over there. But low an behold, there it was. This buck was chewing his breakfast still. Laying his head down toward his rear and falling asleep off and on. His eyes would close until he heard a sound then he would perk up on high alert. Then doze off again when it was nothing to worry about. The little forky feed around him then plopped right down and took another nap next to his bigger brother. All the while Jimmy and I were discussing the quality of the buck we had in front of us.

This buck was in full velvet with deep forks, ok width, and he was as tall as he was wide. In my ffp ATACR I measured him at only 21-22" wide and about the same in height. I debated for the hour we watched this buck whether or not he was the one for me. The kicker was he was in full velvet. The only cons were his width and what if the velvet revealed antlers that were not very heavy. I kept asking Jimmy his opinion which we would give me freely but he would never say shoot or don't shoot. Of course if this buck were a bomber buck he would not hesitate to say shoot but this buck was a fence rider and the cool factor was he was in full velvet. Jimmy seamed to think that was very cool so I told Jimmy I would setup and wait for him to stand.

With a perfect prone setup with my MDT Ckye Pod and LRO rear bags sitting in perfect harmony holding my rifle steady, I watched the buck through the Nightforce ATACR on 25x. I knew he was not wide and most times that is not important to me. He was tall for sure and his forks in both the front and rear were not week or crabby so we figured he would score mid 170s which was ok with me. I am not one for the score. I thought in my mind a few things as I setup. 1) I would not have to get up at 3:30 again, 2) I would not have to ride that horse up here again, 3) I have never killed a buck in full velvet before and lately 4) I may not have said this before but I was diagnosed with Lupus after So. Africa this year. When triggered, inflammation builds in my joints and my muscles fatigue easy. I could tell this was happening so I thought to myself, I better take this buck.

When the buck stood I looked him over one last time and told Jimmy I will let him know when I go to pull the trigger. I put my ear protection in, dropped a 300 PRC round with the 215 gr Berger through the ejection port and chambered the round as two spare lay on the ground next to my BR4. The Revic BR4 gave me a solution of 10 moa up for the 605 yards shot at about a 20 degree incline with no wind. I took the Terminus Kratos off safety and told Jimmy I was aiming for the near shoulder with the deer quartering towards us a little. With a signal he was in agreement I went through my checks before squeezing the trigger.

At the sound of the gunshot I saw the buck hunch forward reaching with his head toward his rear in a fashion that looked as if, to me, he was wanting to bite whatever just bit him. Jimmy said to him, it almost looked like I hit him toward the rear which totally surprised me because I was pretty sure I saw the impact on his shoulder and when he lunged forward he favored that, but we only saw him for what seamed like a second then he was out of sight behind a bunch of rocks and bushes. We watched the area for 30 minutes not seeing anything move except for the forky and he was feeding as if nothing happened. We looked at the time, 6:40, and thought we should get over there, it would be dark soon. We hiked down to the happy horses that thought we were going back to the corral now but little did they know we would not see camp for another 5-hours.

The horses were ok riding the trail over to below where the buck was. Jimmy wanted to ride up and tie them off as close as possible but the horses were not in agreement. Mine, in his jumping, climbing motion got us close. I thought for sure we were going to die. In the dark we tied them off and tried to climb the rest of the way ourselves. Jimmy made it up there but I could not and watched from about 100 yards off as his headlamp scoured the steep area the buck had spent the entire day. Then the rain came and the hill got slippery and sloppy.

After searching for a good long time, we made our way back to the horses disheartened that the buck was nowhere to be found. The pitch black night and rain made the conditions impossible to find the buck without stepping on him so we called it and headed back to camp. We walked the horses down the slope to the trail and rode them to where the trail dropped into the creek bottom. The first steep decline toward the creek we rode the horses. With Jimmy leading the way and yelling at me to remind me what to do when riding down hill I hung on tight, leaning back in the saddle with my feet as forward as possible in the stirrups while pushing on the horn. I thought I was going to fall off several times and die four more times but somehow the horse and I slid down to the bottom of that muddy trail. I told Jimmy there was no way in hell I was going to ride the rest of the way down to the creek so we walked the horses down. Old #420 felt he was going to be left behind and me with my legs were going too slow so he pushed me down the hill a few times. Each time he did I would call out that horse with some harsh sentence enhancers then Jimmy would turn around as if to say, quit being a baby. I knew he wasn't saying that, but somehow I felt like a woos not riding out of that canyon like the Man from Snowy River.

 
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Ladd

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Camp at 11:30 was a welcome sight. Everyone was asleep as we were the last ones to ride in. A spaghetti dinner with garlic bread was waiting for us on the stove but I was not very hungry. I did eat a little but I was sick the buck was not with us and the thought I had in my head that I do not think I can make it up there again was creeping in my head. I told Jimmy let's discuss options in the morning. He said to plan on sleeping in until 6 or 7 then we can figure something out.

After an all night anxiety driven sleep thinking about missing that buck or shooting it in the rear or us just not being able to find him I woke about the same time everyone else did at 3:30 am but this day was welcomed with a ton of rain falling down heavy. I lay in my rack waiting for 6 am and when it finally did I made my way over to the dining hall and sat there talking with Brian. He has owned and operated this camp for over 20-years before selling the camp to Bob and Christine. Brian said he estimates he has logged over 16k miles on a horse in this county and he assured me the buck would be there.

Hyrum was the young man Brian enlisted to ride up in the rain with Jimmy. He was a healthy young man that could no doubt do a great job. Jimmy too and I knew it as I watched both of them ride off at about 10am in the pouring rain. I thought to myself again, how big of a woos I am, as I gingerly stepped down the dining hall steps not wanting to look like Brandon falling up stairs. I limped back to my tent and lay there all day thinking about everything that took place the night before and blaming myself for not getting it done. How could the 215 gr Berger not have dropped that buck on the spot? How was the buck able to lunge forward? Why did I not wait for the perfect broadside? Why did I shoot that buck? So many questions with zero answers until 5 pm that day.

Just as I was thinking it was taking Jimmy and Hyrum a long time, they rode into camp. They had the quarters in bags stretched over the sides of each horse and Jimmy carried the bucks head, cape and other cuts of meat on his backpack. Thanks to those two gentlemen I was relieved of my burden as if I was confessing my sins.

They jumped the horses up the steep slope above the creek bottom. Hyrum confirmed to me that that is how #420 climbs. He walked #420 down to the creek on the way back btw. He is a way more experience horseman than I but he knew that muddy steep trail could be a rodeo. Anyway, they were able to hike up to where the buck was as the rain let up and the skies cleared. They split up and searched all around and could not find any sign. From Jimmy's vantage point he used his binos to glass around then came up with the thought that what if the buck slid down the slope. As he glassed below he spotted a peculiar white rock 50 yards above the horse trail. Looking closer and studying the rock he realized it was a deer's belly, my deer, the deer we shot the night before. With an emphatic high five the two rock stars slid down the slope and confirmed it was indeed the buck.

Turns out my shot was right on the shoulder and maybe a touch high as Jimmy put it. I was so happy my long range shooting ability did not suck, but still right on and I let Jimmy know it. We fist bumped and laughed. When the buck lunged forward after the shot he must have died that instant then tumbled head over heels toward the bottom and out of site from our view because of the chute he was in. The velvet that helped make the decision to take him was all but gone and the tumble down the slope was enough to break the antlers on his left side where it forks off the main beam almost breaking off at the main beam but rather cracking the main beam toward the eye guard. Tough luck but that is a possibility hunting mule deer in steep country.
 
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Ladd

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Sitting here writing this, the question still remains about Lupus. I have an appointment with a specialist on the 29th to start searching for causes and solutions but I know I will figure it out because I love hunting so much, I love the mountains in the west so much and I love to hunt elk and deer in these mountains so much. Life cannot be a full life without being able to do that which I love.

Thanks to Chris and Bob Beck for the great camp and making my first guided hunt outside South Africa something to remember. Chris said they have been in many camps and knew what they wanted to make it good and I believe they nailed it. The camp, the people, the mountains, all equate to an experience of a lifetime. A long range hunters dream, really. They do need to make a better 100 yard range for prone shooters though...my only complaint. I told Chris I will be thinking about booking an elk hunt with them if I can get solutions to my health. She was gracious enough to say, we will take care of you either way and would be glad to have you back.
 
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Gillettehunter

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I hunted with the Becks in that camp a few years ago. Had a great time. Congrats on your deer. Good shooting. So sorry to hear about the Lupis. I have friends with it. Hope you come up with some solutions that will allow you to continue to hunt as you want to. As you say the Becks are quite personable and run a good operation.
Bruce
 

RBanta66

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Pretty awesome hunt and your story articulated it perfectly. Hope you and your doctor get things figured with your health as you have to many hunts to go on in your future! I'm sure you have plenty of volunteers to give you a hand if you need it on a pack out. Good luck with the rest of your tags and thanks for sharing your hunt with all of us.
 

DEW

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Ladd thanks for sharing your hunt with us. Sounds like a great camp and good folks to be there with. Congrats on your Buck. Please keep us posted on your Lupus. I’ll throw some prayers your way.
 

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Great story - the things fantastic memories are made of. Every mount I have tells a story and you have a great one. Sorry the velvet was destroyed but that is hunting. The Lupus sucks but do not give up - my favorite expression is a quote from Clint Eastwood - "Do not let the old man in." and my personal thought "we all have something." Most of my friends have gotten older and no longer can do the long hikes. I just hit 70 and have an acoustic neuroma that was treated with Gamma Knife six months ago. This tumor causes dizziness and hearing loss but I am still moving on. Hunting Antelope, Mule Deer and Elk in Montana and Colorado this year. This is all unguided and will require some serious hiking and, I hope, packing out. Did not mean to "overshare" but your story hits a nerve with me right now because I am wondering how many more years I can hike the mountain and enjoy all that God has given us. I know one thing - I will not go down easy. Thanks again for sharing Ladd. This is a good group!
 

Magnett

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Ladd, thank you for sharing. Congrats on the buck, he is a nice one. Very nice camp.
Good luck with the Lupus. Don't let it get you down. Will say some prayers as well.
 

Masterdunbar

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Great story Ladd. It takes courage to share all the aspects. Most people just want to tell the glory side and boost their ego. A quality taxidermy can repair and replace that rack and velvet if you so choose (I think it adds to the memory to leave it as is JMO)

I can tell you are a stubborn enough man (I say that respectfully and in a positive fashion) that this Lupus isn’t gonna get you down buddy. Where there is a will there is a way and you do not lack in that department.
 

Ladd

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Great story Ladd. It takes courage to share all the aspects. Most people just want to tell the glory side and boost their ego. A quality taxidermy can repair and replace that rack and velvet if you so choose (I think it adds to the memory to leave it as is JMO)

I can tell you are a stubborn enough man (I say that respectfully and in a positive fashion) that this Lupus isn’t gonna get you down buddy. Where there is a will there is a way and you do not lack in that department.
Thank you. I appreciate that. My legs are back to 75% but my right elbow still kills. Cannot even start the lawn mower or buckle my seatbelt. Strange feeling but I will get it worked out.

I took the buck to my taxidermist yesterday. He only does deer and will have it taken care of. I chose to have it re-velveted. That will be a cool look since I do not have one like that now.
 

Greyfox

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Congratulations!
Enjoyed your detailed account, particularly the honest thought process that occurs when all doesn’t go as expected. Wish you well with your medical issues.
 

Tsgman

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Thanks for letting us tag along! I hope all goes well with recovery and making headway on meds to feel better. I bet you can find more people than just the guides willing to come help you pack meat if ever needed.

Sent from my SM-G996U using Tapatalk
 

DRUSS

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Ladd,
Thanks for sharing this detailed story with all of us. I attended one of Bob's shooting classes a couple years ago and was quite intrigued about how he talked about the star valley camp they had. Sounds like it was just as much fun as he spoke of it.
 

OSOK - Crash

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Ladd, thanks for sharing such a well written story. I want to believe all of us at some point have had some self doubt after taking a shot while hunting. Rather gun or bow hunting. Your whole story was a good one. I felt like I was there with you on the hunt and back at camp.

I want to tell you to keep your head down and keep up the fight. Get the medical advice you need and stay up on your appointments. I can't imagine for the life of me seeing you give this part of your life up. It's apart of you. The value you bring to us here at LRO is irreplaceable. You're a great dude Ladd. I know from personal experience with you. Just remember to keep up the fight and embrace the suck. Each time you push yourself, the harder you and your mind will get. As one dueche bag on TV once said "the come back is always greater than the set back". This is a mere bump in the road for you brother. Learn how you can go over it and keep hunting those great animals you keep tagging.
 

Bamban

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@Ladd Congratulations on great hunt. Thank you for sharing.

On Lupus, our daughter was diagnosed with it on 2005. At first they weren't sure what hit her. She landed at George Washington U hospital. It turned out Lupus was attacking her kidney. Thank God, with the meds she was prescribed and still taking, she never had any flareups since.

Till the plandemic hit, yearly, we flew up to DC for the annual Lupus Find the Cure Walkathon. Our friends and family contributed to that fundraising.

Hang in there, bud. Looking forward to hear more yearly hunt expeditions from you.
 

Ladd

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wow congrant great hunt thanks for sharing
Welcome to LRO. Wyoming is rugged and beautiful. Have you hunted there before? Whereabout? You should post in the new member forum so you can introduce yourself.
 

The Coach

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Congratulations on a great hunt Ladd
Hang tough and fight the good fight
 

No Off Season

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I hunted Star Valley a couple of years ago. Your story and photos brought the whole adventure back! (I even imagine that I know the area in which you shot your buck.) Also, adding prayers for your healing. God is bigger than Lupus. Hang in there!
 

Ladd

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Thanks for all the well wishes everyone. I met with the specialist yesterday and started with blood work today. 14 vials of blood should yield something. Results and 2nd visit on 10/12. I am hoping to go chase elk soon today or tomorrow, whenever I can get away and drop my chores the wife keeps springing on me. If hiking triggers inflammation, we will need to figure a way around that.
 
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Spreedizzle

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Thanks for all the well wished everyone. I met with the specialist yesterday and started with blood work today. 14 vials of blood should yield something. Results and 2nd visit on 10/12. I am hoping to go chase elk soon today or tomorrow, whenever I can get away and drop my chores the wife keeps springing on me. If hiking triggers inflammation, we will need to figure a way around that.
That much blood out of ya......you may want to read Lance Armstrong's book so you can learn about EPO and then you can chase anything in the mountains like you want to. ;)

 

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