John's Journal...

You Won’t Strike Out When Hunting With Central Montana Outfitters

The Final Decision About Mule Deer

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: I love to do any type of hunting. I’ve learned many years ago that some of the biggest white-tailed deer in the nation live in the Northwest. And, although I love to hunt mule deer, I truly enjoy hunting big whitetails.

I’d had a great hunt with Central Montana Outfitters. I’d seen two monster whitetails and several really-big, trophy-class mule deer and hunted partridges, pheasants and coyotes. I figured I easily could go home with my deer tag in my pocket, if I failed to get on this last day the big whitetail I’d seen in the draw the afternoon of the day before. That was what I told Schearer. But Schearer said, “That scenario isn’t going to happen. If you don’t get that big whitetail by 10:00 am, I’m going to send Dale Yonkin, our chief guide, with you since you’re my only hunter left in camp to get a nice mule deer, I agreed. By 10:00 the last day, no white-tailed buck had appeared. Yonkin brought the .270 barrel with a Bushnell scope on it to me, and we replaced the .45 caliber on my Optima Elite with the .270. Chad Adams, Yonkin and I then scouted for mule deer bucks. We looked at several mule deer bucks before Yonkin said, “There he is. He’s a monster. Let’s go and get him.” Adams decided to remain with the truck, while Yonkin and I climbed a mountain higher than I wanted to climb. Once I regained my breath at the top of that mountain, I watched this monster mulie with a doe for about 30 minutes. The mulie almost got to within 250 yards of us, but not quite. When the mulie dropped over the next ridge line, Yonkin said, “Let’s go. We can get that buck before dark.” When we arrived at the next ridge line, we could see the mule deer’s antlers just above the ridge line. We belly crawled to the mulie and came to within less than 30 yards of the buck. However, all I could see was the mulie’s antlers.

Yonkin told me,”John, lay still. That mulie is moving to our left.” Yonkin crawled back to where I was, laid down sideways in front of me and told me to, “Aim off my back, John. The buck should pop up in front of us. I’ll hold my ears.” But instead of popping up in front of us as Yonkin had predicted, the mule deer Click to enlargebuck stood over us, 30 yards to our left, looking straight down on us. I couldn’t move without spooking that buck. When the buck backed away, I stood up to take the shot. But the mule deer buck and the doe were gone. Neither Yonkin nor I could decide where they’d gone. The only conclusion we could come up with was that the buck and doe got raptured. We had a great stalk that lasted about 2-1/2-hours. However, the light was fading as we walked back to our car. Although I realized I’d go home without a buck, I knew I’d go home with memories of a great hunt. As we walked along the rim of the canyon, Yonkin whispered urgently, “Get down, John. There’s a good buck right across the canyon.” Both of us glassed the buck. Yonkin ranged him at 259 yards, and I prepared to make the shot. The first shot missed. “John, you shot over him,” Yonkin told me. “Aim a little lower.” As I squeezed off the second round, I watched the buck buckle. Quickly and easily I reloaded and took a third shot, and the buck tumbled into some deep brush. When Yonkin and I climbed down the steep mountain, crossed over the narrow valley with a creek running through it and climbed and crawled through heavy brush to finally find my buck, we realized we had a problem. “We were in such a hurry to go after that big buck, John, that I left my pack, my knives and my light back at the truck,” Yonkin explained. “You stay here with the deer. I’ll go get Chad Adams and bring him and my gear up here. Then we all three can drag out the deer.”

When Adams and Yonkin returned to where I was waiting with the mulie, Yonkin made another decision that I couldn’t believe. “You two guys are suppose to go into town tonight, eat dinner and stay at a motel so you can catch your flights out early in the morning,” Yonkin said. ”Y’all haven’t even packed up your geaClick to enlarger. So, here’s what we’re going to do. John, you and Chad need to go back to the truck, drive the 12 miles back to camp, pack up your stuff, put it in the truck and then come back and get me. In the meantime, I’ll cut this mule deer in half, put him on the frame pack and carry him out. By the time I get through carrying these two halves of this mulie out of the mountains, you’ll be back with the truck, and I’ll take you and the mulie to town.” “Dale, there’s not any way that you can cut that deer in half and carry both halves out by yourself,” I told Yonkin.

”Let us help you.” But Yonkin interrupted and said, “I can get this mule deer out by myself, if you and Chad will get back to camp.” Then Adams admitted that he wasn’t certain exactly how to get back to camp. Yonkin explained that if we weren’t back with the truck by the time he had the two halves of the mule deer at the place where we had left the truck while hunting, then, “I’ll come find you two.” Adams and I both insisted that we help Yonkin drag out the deer, but he kept arguing that we’d be too late to get into town to order something to eat. Too, he figured we‘d be too worn-out for our trip home. “Look, all you’ve got to do is take the truck back to camp, get your stuff and come back here,” Yonkin told us once more. “I’ll handle everything else.”

As we walked, climbed, stumbled and fell out of that steep canyon, Adams and I bothClick to enlarge agreed that there was no way Yonkin could make two trips and carry two halves of a 275-pound mule deer in less than 2-3 hours out, if he could do it all. So, we took our time getting back to camp, got all our gear packed-up and drove back the 12 miles to pick up Yonkin. About half-way to where we were suppose to meet Yonkin, we spotted a flashlight on the side of the road, moving toward us. “That must be the rancher or his daughter,” I told Adams. However, when the lights of the truck illuminated the person carrying the flash light, I couldn’t believe what I saw. Walking straight toward us was Yonkin. “Did you decide to give up?” I asked Yonkin. “I thought that was too much mule deer for you to get out of the woods by yourself.” But Yonkin answered me,”What are you talking about? After waiting 10 minutes for you two, I figured you were lost. So, I was coming to find you.” Yonkin climbed into the back of the truck. When we arrived at the spot where we should have met Yonkin, there sat the two halves of my deer. Dale Yonkin wasn’t a big guy, and although he was an outdoorsman, I never imagined that he was as strong as he was, and more importantly, as strong and as tough as he was to carry those two halves of that mulie out of that rough terrain on his back in that short a time.

I’ve been on many, many hunts, and I’ve taken many great trophies. I’ve also seen some wonders in the outdoors that will amaze and astound most men. However, I never in my wildest dreams would have dreamed that the three of us ever could have gotten that deer out of the mountains, even in twice as long a time as Yonkin needed to do it himself. The trophy of this Montana wilderness hunt wasn’t the big mule deer buck I took or the two large whitetails I saw or the birds I shot. The real trophy of this hunt was meeting Dale Yonkin, one of the strongest, toughest men I’ve ever met. Yes, he had an unbelievable personality to go with his immense strength. Just getting to hang out with folks like Dale Yonkin, Chad Schearer and the other men in camp with me would be worth going back to hunt with or not even carry a gun with Central Montana Outfitters.

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For more information on Central Montana Outfitters, call or email Chad Schearer,;; (406) 727-4478

Check back each day this week for more about "You Won’t Strike Out When Hunting With Central Montana Outfitters"

Day 1: I Found a Couple of Them
Day 2: Tomorrow: The Adventure Begins
Day 3: Take a Break And Hunt Pheasants And Partridges
Day 4: Change Terrain, and Hunt Another Big White-Tailed Buck
Day 5: The Final Decision About Mule Deer



Entry 385, Day 5