BOWHUNTING THE MIGHTY AMERICAN MULEDEER by Ted Nugent
September 10, 1975, and young Ted was stalking a steep and slippery slope of the seemingly endless Umcompadre National Forest on the Western range of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. And John Denver was right; I was indeed Colorado Rocky Mountain “high”. Like 10,000 feet high and huffing for oxygen. Gripping my trusty Bear take-down recurve bow, I did my best to thoroughly scan the wilderness terrain around me as I cautiously tiptoed my way from quakie stand to oakbrush clump. It was heaven on earth.
I don’t know how a bowhunter, specifically hunting for muledeer in the heart of muledeer habitat, can possibly be caught off guard when muledeer show up, but with a bouncing boing boing boing catapulted three enormous muledeer bucks, jolting me into momentary shock.
Three very wide velvety racks came bounding from above and to my left just 20 yards before me. An immediate, pure primal scream ignited the rawest of predator instincts deep in my guts as my bow swung up, arrow drawn back, and I burned a hole into the crease behind the leg of the last and largest buck all in about one second. The vision is branded onto my psyche to this very day, (if only I could shoot like this everytime) as my turkey fletched aluminum arrow vanished into the very hair I was looking at, and the buck ran pell mell for forty yards and piled up.
This tall, wide, handsome 28 inch 5×5 beast literally took my breath away. It was not only my first antlered bowkilled muledeer, it was my first antlered bowkilled any deer, and I about came unglued.
That moment in time, many, many years ago, at the tender age of 27, was beyond my Michiganiac whitetail bowhunting dreams. The bigness of Colorado, the exoticness of the mountains and our remote deercamp, the lessons from Ron Chamberlain and Jerry Byrum and the guys, the thrill of pursuing what Fred Bear had inspired in me, manifested in the dynamo that is big, fat heavy horned muledeer in the great American wilderness. Yowza!
Surely, there is no replacement for the mighty whitetail deer in my life. In fact, like all my hunting buddies, I admit that my life would be nothing without this amazing wild beast. But like the whitetail, the uniquely American muledeer embodies allthings wild and free, and he turns me on like a house afire.
Here we are in 2009, and I am still at it, but well into the extreme. I am fanatical. Radical. Over the top. Obsessed. Possessed. Loony. Backstrap addicted. And damn proud of it.
Having just bagged two dandy mulies in the gorgeous sand dunes of West Texas with Gary Sitton, Fred Wight and John Bermea, I now headed to the wilds of the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico’s Sacramento Mountains. Hunting with Harry Woods Guides and Outfitting on the mountaintop lands of Viet Nam vet hero BloodBrother Jerry Dollins, I hunkered down in a Double Bull blind on a burned out slope in the freezing cold of January, bow still in hand.
A gaggle of muledeer does had cautiously made their way towards the old livestock water tank, and were skirting some old fencing when their heads went erect and they all gazed into the thick oakbrush scrub uphill. Another large doe effortlessly leapt over the barbwire fence with a mature 3×3 buck right on her tail. Then another smaller 3×3 joined in and the show was on.
Though smack dab in the wilderness across the mountain from the famed Mescalero Indian reservation,. Jerry has a private homestead where livestock and wild horses graze and water. Joining the domestic and feral critters at the remote water tank are flocks of wild Merriam turkey, Rocky Mountain elk, muledeer, Mearns, Montezuma and blue quail, coyotes and bobcats, a whirlwind of songbirds and birds of prey, plus the occasional mountain lion and wild pig. A true animal lover’s spectacle if ever there was one, and my Double Bull blind provided a ringside seat.
Attempting the near impossible, I had frustrated myself no end time after time trying to operate the HD vidcam on my Bogg Gear tripod so as to capture the moment of truth for our Spirit of the Wild TV show on Outdoor Channel. Whenever a shooter buck would approach a broadside moment, I missed out in the brief moment it took me to settle the vidcam and try to prepare for the shot. I was going nuts. But good nuts, moved by the beauty of muledeer all around me.
After much torture and fun grief, my #2 favorite buck approached from the tank nosing a big mature doe. I pushed the record button and swung the vidcam lens in his general direction without zooming, snapped my Scott release on the string loop and made my predator ballet move. It was working!
THUMP! At about 20 yards, the pretty zebra arrow centershot the bruiser as he high kicked and scrambled out of there pronto. I liked it, but as always, we ask ourselves, “too far back?”
I made my adrenalin charged emotional statement on film, then snuck back to the bunkhouse to inform Harry Wood and Jerry what had happened. Harry had seen the shot from the window and watched the buck lay down above camp. Four does were standing and looking at the bedded buck, so we decided to vamoose and head down to Cloudcroft for some Texas Pit BBQ chow to kill some time before recovering my prize.
Lunch was great, and after a brief search, bloodhound bird dog Jerry Dollins found the buck stone cold dead just a few yards from where he had bedded, obviously dead shortly after being hit with the razorsharp Magnus BuzzCut broadhead.
Just like nearly forty years before, BloodBrothers erupted into joyous celebration on a wilderness mountain slope, admiring, praising and fondling a handsome muledeer beast that fortified our souls. The dandy, old, tall 3×3 was a real trophy for this old bowhunter.
Uncle Ted used his trusty Martin Firecat, GoldTip Nuge arrows, Magnus head, Lumenok, Scott release, Sims accessories, MossyOak ScentLok, Code Blue scents, Bushnell optics, Double Bull blind, Magnus RackPack chair, Knight & Hale calls, Outdoor Edge knives, Glenn’s DeerHandle,
For details about the amazing muledeer and elk hunting opportunities in NM, contact HarryWoodoutfitting.com or Sunrize Safaris at TedNugent.com. The adventure will cleanse the soul.