SLEEP WITH THE GI­ANTS

Spend a night on the moun­tain for a chance at a tro­phy mu­ley at first light

Outdoor Life - - WILD AMERICA - By Aram von Benedikt

Big mu­ley bucks fed in the val­ley be­low, dark­ness shroud­ing them from dan­ger. Far from any road and safe from the av­er­age hunter, they would likely feed past my ridgetop po­si­tion in the morn­ing. I snug­gled deeper into my sleep­ing bag, took one last look at the stars, and fell asleep. To­mor­row would be open­ing day, and I was right on top of the big­gest, hard­est-toac­cess bucks in the ter­ri­tory. In to­day’s era of dwin­dling mule deer num­bers, bur­geon­ing habi­tat loss, and re­stricted ac­cess, a ma­ture pub­lic-land mule deer buck is one of the hard­est-won big-game tro­phies in North Amer­ica. Bivy hunting is my ace-inthe-hole tech­nique for pur­su­ing old mule deer bucks be­fore the rut gets crank­ing and bucks be­come un­pre­dictable. Sim­ply put, I sleep on the moun­tain with the deer, camp­ing as close as I can to an old buck with­out bump­ing him. This game plan saves me miles of hik­ing back and forth, dis­turbs the area less, and al­lows me to hunt deeper, smarter, and harder. Here’s how to do it.

Gear Up

Bivy­ing isn’t hard, but it takes prac­tice and light­weight gear. You’ll need a one-man tent, a 4,500-cu­bic-inch pack, a sleep­ing pad and bag, a back­pack­ing stove, and some freeze-dried meals. Plus, all your hunting gear. Be­fore you hit the back­coun­try, prac­tice us­ing your gear in the back­yard. Then make some overnight trips into lo­cal publi­cland ar­eas (th­ese can be used for pre­sea­son scout­ing if you live close to your hunting area). You should be able to spend three or four nights in the bush com­fort­ably.

Wait Him Out

Mon­ster mu­ley bucks can be found from the high alpine basins of Colorado to the flat Sono­ran deserts of Ari­zona and New Mex­ico. The key to find­ing them is to lo­cate an area that’s undis­turbed. Think trail­less moun­tain­top basins, road­less desert waste­lands, or a re­mote patch of al­falfa field that’s a long walk from any pub­lic road. Find th­ese and you’ll find ma­ture mule deer bucks—you will usu­ally glass them in the dis­tance, at sun­set. That’s where bivy hunting comes in. It en­ables you to camp where night­fall finds you and stay on that old buck un­til he makes a mis­take. Camp down­wind of where you ex­pect deer to bed, and be clan­des­tine. No sound, no fire, only stealthy move­ment. If you have to re­lo­cate to glass, do so dur­ing mid­day, while the bucks are nap­ping. Park be­hind your op­tics and wait for deer to ap­pear. On this kind of hunt, time is on your side.

A stud mule deer buck makes his way across a flat.

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