Dream hunt yields dream mule buck
Growing up in Minnesota, we always had great whitetail deer hunting. I moved to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, to open a hotel nearly 20 years ago. Still, a season never goes by without a trip up North to "Deer Camp" with friends and family. As much as all of this means to me, I have always had huge mule deer bucks on my mind.
I went on a Gould's turkey hunt two years ago with Ubaldo Lopez from El Rodeo Hunting in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. He took me to his taxidermy office and showed me the quality of his mule deer. I could not believe my eyes! I booked a hunt for 2010. I honestly could not imagine seeing one of those monster muleys in the field.
I got my chance to see one on the second day of my hunt. I arrived in Hermosillo mid-day on a late January afternoon. With a 15-minute stop to get licenses, I was on my way to the "Rancho." We threw everything out of the truck and changed clothes and were hunting within two hours of my landing in town!
A huge low-pressure system was moving in that day. That evening brought 30 mph winds and rain. The next morning brought even more wind and steady pouring rain. For a desert, this was certainly not normal, but my guide wanted to go anyway. We did our best in horrible weather. We did see a smaller buck and some does, but we came in for lunch to put on dry clothes and check the weather. By that afternoon it began to clear, and we got on a fresh track of three does and a buck. We followed them until dark. If we would have had 15 more minutes of shooting light, we would have been on them. It simply got too late. The guide hung a small piece of paper in a tree to mark our last location, and we backed out quietly.
That night, my guide kept telling me that we would get back on them in the morning. Honestly I did not believe him. I kept thinking that those deer could be anywhere by morning. We were in the prime rut and who knows where they could be by morning, right?
He really believed in his plan. The next morning dawned perfectly clear and calm. We were on our tracks from the night before by shooting time. We took a drive around that entire part of the ranch before tracking to make sure the deer had not exited the area.
Our driver, Juan, was born and raised there. He knows every inch of the 130,000 plus acre Rancho. He and my guide were certain that the buck was still in that area. They knew every possible draw or funnel that the deer could have exited through. No sign of any exit. I sort of began to believe in this crazy plan!
We stayed on the tracks. It became difficult at times, as it has rained again the night before, and we were a pretty good distance from the truck when the hunt ended the night before. My guide kept his nose to the ground and followed the tracks into a large stand of Mesquite trees.
Not wanting to make any more noise than necessary, and hoping to spot the deer ahead of us, I skirted around the trees very slowly. Sure enough, there they were! The big buck was walking directly towards me about 160 yards away. He had the three does around him keeping vigilance, but they had not seen me. I froze and I whispered to Rafael my guide to "bring the shooting sticks." I was watching the monster muley through my scope. I almost shot free hand, but was shaking too bad. I even took the time to move my scope up to 10X, and almost shot free hand again, but was shaking like a leaf. I tried to kneel down for a more stable shot and saw only brush in the scope!
I brought the gun down. I have never been so desperate. Rafael saw the look of sheer terror on my face. He knew I was serious (I had seen many "tree deer" and "cactus deer" the day before). He crawled the shooting sticks over to me very quickly. I grabbed them, put my gun on them, saw the monster in the scope, exhaled half a breath, and squeezed immediately.
I saw the big buck drop in his tracks, but completely out of sight. I saw the does run away. Rafael had just got his binoculars up at the moment I shot. He did not get to see the bullet placement, or the antlers. Being a professional guide, he was very worried that I shot a doe or a smaller buck. I laughed and shook violently for a while, but assured him that I had just dropped the monster muley we had been tracking.
He wanted to wait for a while, and although I was 100 percent sure of my shot, doubt began to creep in. I could not wait any longer. We took off over there, and not even halfway there we saw antlers sticking up! It was my monster muley with a 34-inch spread, 18-inch G2's, 30-inch main beams and a 203 gross score. I was in shock to see that beautiful muley laying there. The pictures that we took were just exactly like what I had seen in magazines for all these years, but this one was mine.
The most amazing thing of all was yet to come. I hugged my guide, and thanked him from the bottom of my heart. I apologized for not having faith in his plan from the night before. He just smiled broadly. He had noticed something I had not seen yet. The paper that he had hung in the tree the night before was no more than ten yards away! I thought it was a set-up. I examined the paper and saw our tracks there from the night before. Talk about a plan coming together! Wow.
I know there are bigger muleys out there (they shot a 226 score the day before I arrived). I know there are other incredible areas to hunt muleys from Mexico to Alberta. I also know that there is nothing like the "Rancho" lifestyle that this hunt offers. Cooking over Mesquite wood each night and hanging out with the wonderful local rancheros that have spent their entire lives out in this beautiful High Sierra country was as much fun as the hunt itself. Combine this with the opportunity to see an average of one of these monster muleys nearly each day, makes for a hunt that is truly second to none. Dreams fulfilled.
I'll be back next year with even bigger dreams.
(Erickson was born and raised in Detroit Lakes. His dad, the late Chuck Erickson, and his grandfather, the late Shado Wagner, were instrumental in giving Chris his love for hunting and fishing. Chris lives in Cabo San Lucas with his wife and two children, Diego and Renata. He and his two brothers, Steve and Jed Erickson, started Cabo Villas Beach Resort and Spa ten years ago.)