Hunter poses with his downed elk

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Hunting Elk & Mule Deer Day 5: How to Take Big Mule Deer

Mule deer in the rugged Colorado back country.
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Editor’s Note: According to Troy Ruiz, a cameraman and video producer for Primos Hunting ( “We hunt three different states for elk. We hunt New Mexico almost every year, about every second year we hunt a ranch in Montana, and then we have a ranch we hunt in Colorado that’s very, very, very high at 13,200 feet of elevation.”

Large BuckTroy Ruiz had drawn a deer tag for Montana, and in Montana, he could take a whitetail or a mule deer. Since Ruiz had seen some big whitetails, he decided he’d try to take a whitetail. However, then he saw this giant mule deer and decided, “Well, I’ll take him.”

Troy poses with his downed deerAccording to Ruiz, “As we were closing the distance, this herd saw or heard my cameraman and spooked. So, we decided to leave that mule deer alone and go back to whitetail hunting. Suddenly the wind changed, and a bad snow storm came.

Mule deer buck in the forest

“One of the guys said, ‘Well, let’s go drive around, and see what we can see. We even may see One Step.’ We had named the big mule deer One Step because he was always one step ahead of us, and we couldn’t get him to a place where I could shoot him. I even guided a troop of other hunters who tried to take One Step, but he was always one step ahead of those other hunters, too.
We drove over the top of the ridge and spotted One Step with four or five does and a couple of small bucks – all coming up a drainage to bed. This mule deer would score 190. My guide said, ‘You need to go try to take that mule deer.’ I looked at him like he had two heads and said, ‘Are you crazy? Do you know how far it is from where we are to where he is? Plus, it’s snowing sideways.’ But the guide insisted. ‘We need to try to get to him.’ I was watching the buck through my binoculars, and I finally said, ‘If the buck doesn’t come out of the canyon, and beds there, we’ll try to go get him.’ I was almost hoping that the buck wouldn’t come out of the canyon, and I wouldn’t have to make that long walk in a blowing snow. Through my binoculars, I saw One Step rake his horns on a small cedar tree, took one step and bedded-down.

Troy with a big buckWe got out of the truck and made a two-mile stalk to get the wind right and prevent the buck from seeing us. When we finally got around to the back side of this canyon and peeped over the edge, we were only 20 yards from One Step. I stood up with my bow at full draw with the cameraman right behind me, filming over my shoulder. At the same time, a buck stood up, but I instantly could see that that buck wasn’t One Step because he had much-smaller antlers. Then in only about three heartbeats, One Step stood up and was looking, quartering away to me. I released my arrow that hit him right behind the crease of his front shoulder. That buck only went about 40 yards before he fell over and was down for good.

Cover - Elk: Keys to 23 More Hunters' SuccessTo learn more about hunting elk successfully, check out John E. Phillips’ new 2021 book, “Elk: Keys to 23 More Hunters’ Success,” available in a Kindle version at You may have to copy and paste this click into your browser. (When you click on this book, notice on the left where Amazon allows you to read 10% of the book for free).

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