Since moving to Arizona, I had yet to bag a big game animal. Hunting in the open desert and hills of Arizona is much different than the well worn game trails of Pennsylvania and New York. I had been able to buy over the counter archery tags to get out on the weekends in late August and early September, but have been unsuccessful with a bow and arrow. This last weekend was the first opportunity that I had to venture out with a rifle and chase around desert mule deer.

I was accompanied by my good friends Austin and Travis. Travis and I both had a tag for a unit about an hour and a half outside of the city near the town of Yarnell. This would be my first time out with a rifle in Arizona and a first time for Travis to ever be hunting deer. Waking up early for opening morning, the sun found us hiking up a hillside to begin glassing the surrounding canyons. We jumped several different deer, of which a couple sported smaller racks, but no shots were had the first day. All three of us headed back into town for the evening to spend with our respective wives or fiance (in my case). On our way out of our hunting area, we spotted a heard of 30 deer moving through a stretch of private property which naturally raised our blood pressure more than a little.

The next morning (Saturday), we decided to hunt the same area and while we made our way silently up the hillside, one of our party spotted movement across the valley. After glassing the herd for several minutes, we confirmed that there was a small buck in the group. The first shot of the day was mine and even though we could tell the buck was not a monster, I ventured out with the mindset of “bird in hand.” I hiked about a mile around and up to keep the wind in my face. As I topped the opposite hill I could see several hunters moving adjescent from me. Fearing they would spook the herd they could not see, I moved into position quicker than was advisable. I found myself looking at a gathering of deer all attentive to my every move. I made an offhand shot at roughly 100 yards and lost sight of my buck. Austin and Travis on the other hillside watched the scene unfold and saw the male deer drop 50 yards from the shot. Excitement and adrenaline coursed through my veins as I found my fork horn deer, downed with a decent shot through the shoulder. I sat down and drank my celebratory coffee as I watched my good friends struggle through an impenatrable maze of cat claw to my position.

The day was not over. After field dressing and butchering the deer, we ran into town and put him on ice and were back in the field by 3. By 5:30 Travis too had a deer on the ground that could have been a twin of the one taken earlier in the day. Saturday was a success with a double deer day. My first Arizona mule deer, with many more to come…