Live Hunt! Follow Colby Mayer’s First Deer Hunt

Many of you may know Patrick Mayer, the man in charge of Public and Media Relations here at KUIU. He’s a pretty popular guy. This week Patrick has the pleasure of taking his 12-year old son Colby on his first deer hunt, an experience they have both been looking forward to for years. Not only is this Colby’s first deer hunt, but it’s also his first out-of-state hunting trip.

Please follow along as we update this post with the latest text and photo reports from Colby’s Mule Deer hunt in Utah!

Meet Colby Mayer:

Colby has done well as a Youth hunter in California, finding success on many waterfowl and turkey hunts. He also took his first two wild hogs this summer just after turning 12. Outside of hunting, Colby plays baseball and is an outstanding 7th grade student in the classroom.

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Colby (left) and hunting partner Zach Ayers on a Northern California waterfowl hunt in 2015.

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LIVE HUNT Day 1: October 21

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Colby, packed and ready to leave Davis, CA.

Patrick and Colby began their drive last night, had a short stay in Austin, Nevada, and completed their trip to the unit early this morning. Tonight they will be staying with well-known sheep guide and friend of KUIU, Randy Johnson. Randy will accompany Pat and Colby for an afternoon hunt today, and possibly a morning hunt tomorrow. Starting tomorrow, Pat and Colby will be staying on the mountain (where they have cell reception to send updates).

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Text from Patrick: “Arrived-9:20 am.  First sight of the unit. Saw corner.  On our way to Randy’s.  Be there in 15 minutes.”

Evening 1 Update:

Colby and Pat met up with Randy, and spent some time admiring his trophy room and listening to stories before hitting the mountain by ATV to get a feel for the area and set camp. After dark, it was time for dinner… Colby’s favorite hunting food is chili dogs.

Text from Patrick on the evening glassing: Saw about 25-30 does and 6 small bucks.  One buck was a 2×4 18-20 wide but real spindly and short. Some rain, but not bad.

A full day of hunting tomorrow!

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Colby and Randy Johnson. Look at that wall of bucks!

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Day 2: October 22

Text from Patrick before daylight: Real cold this morning. Inside of the tent is frozen.

Evening update, as told by Patrick: Morning hunt.  Saw about 30 does and 5 or 6 bucks.  One good buck we tried to kill.  We bumped him, a small fork and 5 does out of a patch of quakies. He was a very respectable 4×4, pushing ear width, and ok height, light colored horns and kind of spindly.  No doubt a shooter!  We saw him 1st at @ 175 yards, but he never stopped.  Walked & trotted and wanted nothing to do with us.  The group went in to a patch of trees about 350 yards away, and we lost them.  Found them again, got in close to the small fork and 3 does, but no big buck.  He gave us the slip.

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Evening: Too much of this! Saw 44 does tonight.

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Camp prep. Colby chopping wood.

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Dinner night 2.  Elk burgers, Mack & cheese, corn, crown & coke.

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Day 3: October 23

Morning Report: Cold this morning. Temp in the truck read 24.  Walked this ridge looking down into this small canyon.  Great looking area, but no deer.  Hunted lower this morning, more in the cedars.  Saw only 7 doe and no bucks. We are going to walk a high ridge tonight to see what happens.  We did see one forked horn buck on the way back to camp.

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Saw some deer working up this draw up to an open flat.  Couldn’t tell what they all were.  Got set up and waited. 5 does!

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We had a camp visit today from Jake and Tina Lundell on the left and Ben and Brittany Lundell on the right.  Tina and Brittany both have deer tags as well.  Hopefully someone is celebrating tonight!

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Evening Hunt: No buck yet, but we’re getting a good feel for the area now. Nice fire tonight. Dinner is deer Back Straps (unfortunately not from a buck killed by Colby), mashed potatoes, corn & crown and coke.

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Day 4: October 24

Update from Pat: Sorry-We’re back.  Lost or should I say misplaced phone then a dead battery meant no communication for the day.  Anyway, it all ended good!

This young buck almost took a bullet at 75 yards first thing this morning.  I talked Colby out of shooting.  He was getting kind of anxious!

Take a step back. 26 degrees this morning. Yesterday we went remote, walked and glassed a lot and saw very few animals.  The plan for today was to hunt an area were we had been seeing a good number of deer when passing in the truck or ATV. We would walk the ridge in hopes of seeing something.  We got out early before shoot time, so we waited until we could see before heading out.  Within a few minutes we saw a heard of elk, probably 50 strong with one beautiful large bull.  If I had to guess, I’d say 350, but maybe 370.  He was nice!

Anyway, proceeded and the first bunch of deer (this picture) had a couple of small bucks.  Colby was getting kind of nervous thinking we may not see any more and wanted to shoot.  It was easy talking him out of it.

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We continued and probably 20 minutes later spotted a single doe on a ridge. Decided to move around and see if we could see behind her.  Spotted a group of 4 bucks. 3 decent 2×2’s and a better 3×2.  They were probably 450+ yards.  We saw an easy way to cut the distance and began after them. Once we got close, we bumped the doe and several other deer on the ridge.  Not sure if the 4 bucks were with them, we tried to get a look, but couldn’t see.

We decided to work our way closer to where we saw the 4 bucks.  We picked them up at around 175 yards and I don’t think they knew we were there. I took a quick look and the 3×2 was in the lead walking really slowly with the 3 others not far behind.  Well, getting a 12 year old set up on sticks for a shot isn’t ever quick and certainly not quiet!  The bucks heard us and picked up the pace.  With Colby set up, I took a look and got a range (@250) and told him to shoot the first buck.

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I’m watching through the my binos as the shot goes off.  The buck jumps a little (not really a kick, but more if a jump) and keeps going.  When he shot, it was a hard quartering away shot.  I told Colby I thought he missed and he quickly put in another round and shot again as the buck ran over the hill into a timber/quakies patch.   We made note of where the shots were and took off to go and see.

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Colby, obviously dejected thinking he missed was not a lot of help when looking for sign.  The ground was frozen, so you couldn’t see tracks, and we could find no blood.  Finally, I decided to go look over the ridge.  As I walked over, I heard deer busting out about 75 yards below.  I clearly saw 4 deer going out into an open area of sage.  I quickly got Colby’s attention we ran down the hill to look.  3 of the bucks were slowly moving across the open sage towards a patch of cover.

Colby wanted to shoot, but I could not find the buck he shot at and what I assumed was the 4th buck I had seen.  I told him he couldn’t shoot.  The 3 bucks moved into the cover.  Colby and I moved to see if we could see more ground around some trees.  Nothing!  Knowing there were 4 bucks, I started glassine the area.  Finally, I spotted him bedded.  One more shot and he was done!

Colby’s 1st Buck!

1st shot went in the right ham and lodged in the 3 rib on the left.  We can’t believe he was alive after the 1st shot.  2nd shot was at just under 300 and it broke the bucks back.

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Colby had his choice of backstraps or his favorite camping meal!  What do you think he chose?

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Day 5: October 25

A worn out buck hunter headed home.

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Nevada Mule Deer Success

Late last week we concluded our final out-of-state hunt for the year, a successful trip pursuing high country Mule Deer in Nevada. This hunt was in an area that we have some history with: my dad started hunting it in the 1980s, then took me there for my first backpack hunt in 2003 at age 13. My dad and I have now hunted this area four times together, and Ben Britton has been on the hunt the past two trips (2012 and 2015). Over the years we have taken some very nice bucks and made a lot of memories in Nevada, and this year was no different- aside from our bucks being on the small side compared to seasons past.

On the hunt this year was Ben Britton, my dad Mike, our good friend Ken, and myself. Ben and I had just five days to hunt while my dad and Ken allowed themselves nine days in the field.

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As has been the case on most of our hunts this year, we were once again dealing with warm temperatures and a big moon to start out the hunt. For the first three days, Ben and I packed into an area where I took a 31″ wide buck in 2012. The conditions had the animals moving only in the first and last 10 minutes of daylight, and the bucks we did see were not shooters this early in the trip.

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On the third night (second night with the season open) a heavy storm rolled in bringing rain, thick fog, and a dusting of snow to the highest elevations. We got out of the tents momentarily at daylight, but a constant rain and visibility that stretched no more than 50 yards forced us back into our Ultra Stars. We ended up spending 17 hours out of an 18-hour stretch inside our little tents.

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On the bright side, the moisture allowed us to stay on the ridge that night and the following morning, rather than having to hike way down and back up for an over-due water refill. Sucking standing water from the rocks gave us just under 2 liters to filter.

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The ceiling finally lifted that evening, exposing some beautiful sunset lighting on the mountains. Unfortunately, even after a long day of bad weather, we still couldn’t get eyes on a good buck.

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By this time we were ready to see some new country and make a move. We packed out mid-morning, drove a short distance to another trailhead, and hiked in to meet back up with my dad and Ken. We reached their camp about an hour before dark and did some glassing from there. We were pleased to glass over 40 deer that evening- a night and day difference from what we’d seen in the first area.

Before leaving our first camp we made this quick video showing our pack contents:

Just after dark, Ken and my dad showed up in camp and we swapped reports on our hunts thus far. They had passed on many small bucks in the first three days, but like us, had yet to see anything big. Ben and I set our tents with theirs and we enjoyed a Mountain House dinner together.

Ken (far right in the photo below) has plenty of experience in hunting by horseback, but this was his first real backpack hunt. We had some hard laughs when he asked us to go through his pack and point out the things that he didn’t need… a process that had to have put at least 5 years life back onto his back and knees. Ken’s attitude was perfect for this kind of hunt and he learned a lot in short time. No doubt he has what it takes.

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The next morning we were once again socked in with fog, which would lift or open for a few minutes of glassing about every 30 minutes. Late in the morning we caught a glimpse of a few nice bucks up high about a mile and a half away and feeling the time crunch, Ben and I took off after them. A couple hours later we were in position for a shot if any of them were to feed out of the last aspen patch they were seen going into. We could see the does they were with feeding in the brush, so we had a good feeling that the bucks were close by.

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I continued glassing our surroundings while Ben laid in wait for the bucks to come out. After four hours of nothing, I located a small group of bucks on a slope back over toward camp where we came from. These new bucks were in a very stalkable location and we had time to make a move on them. It was either keep waiting for bucks that we “think” are there, or make another big move on bucks that we know are there. We chose the latter.

Close to an hour of hiking as fast as we could later, we found ourselves within 350 yards of the now bedded bucks. A dense stand of pines below and across the bowl from the bucks hid our movement as we set up for a shot. The best two bucks in the group were a 4×4 and a 4×3, while the others were small forks. Ben adjusted the turret for a 340 yard shot, settled on the 4×4, and squeezed. He never left his bed.

Amidst the excitement I decided that I would be happy taking the 4×3 if presented a good shot. The remaining bucks banded together for their escape, but actually started running toward us. To make a short story even shorter, I settled when they stopped and squeezed the trigger. The fork buck fell in a case of confused identity, and the nice 4×3 and his only remaining running mate continued on with their evening.

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My buck was smaller than the coastal Blacktail I took two weeks prior, but to my surprise I really wasn’t disappointed. As a matter of fact this deer helped me refresh my perspective on what I personally value in a harvest: memories, stories, hard work, and getting to care for quality meat. Field dressing with great care and packing heavy loads of clean meat are events that I enjoy immensely- and they have nothing to do with the size of the antlers. This isn’t to say that I won’t continue trying to take above-average animals on each outing, but for one hunt filling my tag on a small buck was surprisingly gratifying.

We got our bucks back to camp around midnight, hung the quarters and loose meat in the cool night breeze, and hit the sacks for some much needed sleep.

The following morning after glassing with my dad and Ken, we enjoyed our coffee while boning out the quarters and packing up camp for our last-day hike out to the truck.

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Meat care is something that we take a lot of pride in, and we have no problem sharing the condition of our meat and cleanliness of bones after de-boning. The hind quarters and shoulders were taken off the bone in single pieces to minimize meat loss. We prefer to take slabs of neck meat even when not required by law as it grinds up great for burger and sausage.

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SCARPA Charmoz Pro GTX x2

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Dad and Ken needed to re-stock food at the trailhead for the rest of their hunt, so they were generous enough to help us pack meat off the mountain.

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My camp and pack (Ultra 6000)

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Ben’s pack (Icon Pro 7200)

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The evening after Ben and I headed home, my dad took this nice 4×4. He spent the off-season putting together and new rifle, scope, and loads to extend his effective range. It paid off big time when he made a perfect 616 yard broadside shot on his buck. “I couldn’t have hit him better from 100″ he told me over the phone the following morning.

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Upon arriving home we like to jump straight into processing any meat that we plan to grind. By not letting the meat age further and build a hard outer crust, we’re able to get a higher yield on the product with minimal trimming.

For long drives (8 hours in this case) we mix 30 pounds of wet ice with 10 pounds of dry ice in the bottom of a large ice chest. The dry ice keeps all moisture frozen. Half way home we rotate the meat, so by the time we arrive most is beginning to harden. This makes it really easy to cut into chunks for grinding.

This meat came out exceptionally clean for being skinned and processed on the ground, hung on trees, carried in packs twice, and driven a long distance.

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On the to-make list was burger, bratwurst, spicy Italian sausage, sweet Italian sausage, regular breakfast sausage, and maple breakfast sausage. We did both links and bulk/patty in all sausages. Ground bacon ends were added to reach a 20% fat content.

 

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Natural hog casings.

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Finally, we made 3 lbs of Jerky with the leftover lean grind that was left once we ran out of fat for burger/sausage.

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As always, thanks for reading and don’t hesitate to post questions or comments below if you have them. Or, email me at toddh@kuiu.com. Ben Britton can be reached at benb@kuiu.com.

-Todd Harney