Barnyard Bucks

Today’s blog post comes to us from Bob Lott, Producer of Intrepid Outdoors.  Bob writes about a unique mule deer hunt that will be featured during this week’s airings of Intrepid Outdoors.

There are those who are born with luck and those who are born with a particular skill.

Mike Dickess was born with both. I’ve known Mike Dickess of for more than 20 years and when I heard he had a chance to hunt a mule deer in the state of Utah, I cleared my schedule and made plans to film his hunt.  Mike has an uncanny ability to make friends all over the country, whether they are just normal everyday folks or high profile types like country music singer Craig Morgan or former Governor of Ohio, Ted Strickland.  I knew that a week of hunting with Mike would be time well spent.

While hunting Shiras moose in Utah in 2010, Mike happened upon a couple local brothers named Jay and Brady Woolstenhulme. The brothers, like most folks, immediately took a liking to Mike, and wanted to help him get a nice mule deer with archery gear. Jay and Brady took Mike around and showed him some of the properties they had access to, as well as their parents’ gorgeous ranch. The ranch included about 60 acres of alfalfa that lay at the base of the foothills of Northern Utah. After seeing dozens of deer in the alfalfa, Mike decided that even at the ripe young age of 62, he’d have a pretty good chance at success on a nice mule deer.  Mike and the Woolstenhulmes made plans to go after one of those mulies as soon as they could.

After having record snow falls, and a very wet spring and early summer, the deer in Utah decided to stay high in the mountains, and not show themselves in the lush fields below, like they had every year since the Woolstenhulme brothers could remember. The fields were almost empty all summer, having less than a dozen deer where in the past there were 60 to 70 a night. The brothers were beside themselves, and were struggling in their search for a good representative of a Utah mule deer.

Jay and Brady didn’t give up; they just looked harder and increased their available hunting areas by contacting friends and family members. While driving to work, Jay noticed a group of bucks that were hanging near an old ramshackle barn. He decided to pull over see if there were any good bucks in the bunch, and he spied a nice 4×4 that was perfect for Mike. He quickly realized that he wasn’t just looking at anyone’s property.  The property just happened to be leased by his cousin Eric. Jay’s first thought was to contact Eric to see if he could get Mike in to hunt these deer, possibly from a blind.  While on the phone with his cousin, and still glassing the bucks, Jay watched as they all began to head for the old barn. One by one each buck would jump a short two foot fence to actually get inside the old barn to bed down.  Jay could not believe what he was seeing; these deer were using the shade, and the cool dirt floor of the old barn to get out of the 100 degree hot sun.  After witnessing this, and gaining access for Mike, his next call was to Mike to let him know that things were looking up for his late August hunt.

Barnyard Bucks!

Mike, being the optimist he is, called me immediately to let me know that the Utah boys had stacked the deck about as good as it could be! Neither of us could believe that deer would ever use a barn like cattle to actually bed in, so Mike asked for a little proof in the form of some trail cam pics. The brothers went to work immediately, and within just a few days had several great pictures of the bucks standing inside the barn heading to bed down for the day. Mike and I couldn’t believe what we were seeing.  But the proof was there, and we were pretty pumped about getting out there and sticking the biggest of the group, a 150 class 4×4.

After a good night’s sleep at the beautiful ranch, we all headed out for our hunts. Mike and I were taken in by Jay to a very special blind.  After careful study of the trail cam pics and watching the deer each morning, Jay and Brady had decided to set us up in the old hayloft of the barn that the deer were bedding in each day.  They brushed it in with hay bales and let it be until the season opened and Mike and I arrived in Utah. After getting us settled into the blind, Jay told us not to worry too much about seeing anything till around 9 AM. This gave Mike the perfect excuse to lie down in the loose hay, and take a nap in the blind while I filmed him and took a few pictures for the different social networks Intrepid has pages for.  As if he had some sort of built-in deer alarm, Mike woke up and got back in his chair at about 8:50, precisely 10 minutes before the first buck walked over the sage covered ridge in front of us. It was a non-typical looking buck that Jay & Brady told us they had always seen with the bigger 4X4, the deer Mike was after. As we sat there waiting for the bigger buck to show up, we were surprised to see the non-typical had decided to just lie down in the sage, and not continue down to the barn. Mike and I were both thinking that this was not good, but still had hopes that once the sun got up a little higher and started heating things up, the buck would continue to his bed on the dirt floor below us.

As time passed, the sun did its job and the day grew hotter by the minute.  Finally the buck stood up and began walking down to his summer home. With me filming the non-typical, Mike just stared at the ridge waiting for the big 4×4 to show himself. With the non-typical right below us at 10 yards, we had to be very careful not to spook him. I was completely oblivious to everything but my LCD screen, trying to get the best footage I could of this really unique deer as he walked around below us, grazing on the alfalfa that had apparently been planted there by a few cows in years past.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, three bucks run in from the left of us. Mike quickly saw that one of the bucks was the deer he was looking for, so he readied himself for the shot. You’d think that hunting out of an old hayloft would be an advantage, but it actually worked against both of us. When the deer were so close, at only 10 yards the angle was so steep that Mike couldn’t shoot out of the blind for fear of hitting the blind with his arrow, and I could barely see them in the camera. After a little adjustment, Mike decided to give it a try, and with a very slow draw, Mike pulled, and pulled and pulled at his bow, but he couldn’t get his bow drawn! I, on the other hand, was struggling to get the deer in frame due to the window configuration in the blind and the old wooden braces on the barn itself. We couldn’t believe what was happening!  Here these very kind young men from Utah set us up on this, sure to be great hunt for the show, and we were both coming up short!

After realizing he was going to have to draw his bow like he would shoot at a target, with a little more leverage, Mike held his bow up high, and pulled with all of his might, and was able to break the cams over on his Hoyt bow. Taking aim, he asked me if I was on him, which I quickly responded, “NO!” Mike misheard me, took the shot anyway and put a 2 1/2 inch hole through the blind with his Rage broadhead, and missed the buck completely! The bucks all scattered, but stopped quickly, not knowing what just made that awful noise. Mike quickly reloaded another arrow while the big 4×4 walked over to his other buddies and stopped at 27 yards.

This time Mike was ready, and so was I.  He let the arrow fly, and without fail it smacked the buck perfectly! I followed the deer as he ran off to expire, and quickly turned the camera towards Mike, who was already slumped over in his chair in disbelieve at what had just took place in less than 2 minutes! After calling the brothers, we trailed up Mike’s  beautiful 4×4 mule deer buck, and celebrated with high fives and lots of laughter after telling our story of the barnyard bucks that fell prey to ol’ lucky Mike!

For more about this hunt, watch “Six Feathers Utah Mule Deer” on Intrepid Outdoors, premiering February 4 at 6:30 p.m., on the Sportsman Channel.  Also, check out Intrepid Outdoors on Facebook, Twitter (@IntrepidTV) and YouTube.