On December 19th, I set out with my smokepole in hand in search of a mature mule deer buck in South Dakota. The week prior I spotted some nice bucks the day before season, but as luck would have it, the opener was a nasty day with gusting winds, blowing snow, and temperatures well below zero. As I returned on the 19th, I had hopes of finding one of the bucks that I had seen the days prior. I was able to find a buck that I had a chance at earlier in the season and quickly began to trudge through the snow in hopes of closing the distance to the buck. Little did I know is that I would come across a much bigger buck in the process......
I first spotted him at close to 500 yards away, actually he spotted me first and he made sure he put some extra terrain between him and I....when I saw him there was no question that he was a shooter. I didn't have to ask myself if he was a buck that I had wanted! There was no question. So the search began; I finally located the buck after following his tracks over numerous ridges and through many draws, trudging through knee deep snow as I went with temperatures hovering around the 0 degree mark. I finally was able to catch up to him and watched him from 300 yards as he and a spike and doe dug through the snow in search of food. They continued over one more ridge and into a draw. I was sure that he would not leave the next draw. He was relaxed again and went about his normal routine.
As I neared the top of the ridge where I last saw the buck, I took off my pack and began crawling through the snow paying careful attention that I didn't fill my barrel with snow in the process! When I neared the crest I spotted the deer feeding, unaware of the audience they acquired. I pulled my range finder to my eye and read 186 yards. I felt comfortable in the prone position as I readied for the shot. I had sighted the muzzleloader in at 150 yards, so I knew I needed to hold a bit high. The fiber optic open sights settled on the buck, but he turned away and was now facing directly away. I watched him for 15 minutes before he finally turned and was broadside. The sights became steady again as I cocked the hammer and began to squeeze the trigger. A puff of smoke obscured my view. When the smoke cleared I could see him laying on the ground! He dropped in his tracks! I quickly gathered my gear and set off to take a look.
I knew he would surpass the 180-inch mark, but didn't truly know how big he was until I got him packed out and back to the truck. After putting the tape on him three times, I kept coming up with numbers over 190 inches! The official scoring will take place in 60 days to come up with the final score. He could quite possibly be the biggest typical mule deer killed with a muzzleloader in South Dakota and be within the top few typical mule deer bucks ever taken in the state of South Dakota!