My unit freaking sucks.
It’s in a mountainous, rocky countryside with steep grades and sometimes very thick brush. The muley population (what I got drawn for) is low, and from what I’ve heard from other hunters and read online, it’s hard to even spot a buck, let alone get a shot at one. However I continue to choose this unit because it’s a beautiful area close to home, it’s easier to get drawn for (remember the craptastic reputation) but most importantly, for some reason, I usually seem to luck out and get something! Plus I’m the kind of hunter that just wants to bring home the bacon (or venison); I’m not too worried about scoring a big trophy into the bargain.
I like to move and scout when I hunt, so usually I can cover a lot of ground over the course of the day. I can see where the fresh sign is, where they’ve been bedding, and check out watering holes. I enjoy this method simply because I love nature and being in it, you never know what you might see around the bend.
I went hunting opening weekend with my buddy Tim, who wanted to get back into hunting after a hiatus. The following weekend I was lucky enough to have my dad visiting from Vermont, and it was also my oldest daughter’s first hunt. I was excited to have some company this year, it can get lonely wandering the woods myself.
We stalked all day the first day, and it was warm enough that we slept out under the stars at night. We were blessed with beautiful weather. I slept pretty well; there’s something really rejuvenating for me about being out in nature like that. I don’t think Tim did as well though -- he kept dozing off while we sat and watched for muleys during our breaks.
After seeing some promising sign and a few small herds the first weekend out with Tim, I was chafing at the bit to get back out there with my dad and little girl. Once again we tromped all over, saw some sign, but didn’t see any deer at all this time. Not one. I was a little discouraged, but still hopeful we’d be successful yet.
The last weekend rolls around, and I take my wife out with me. It’s a running joke in our family, my wife is a delayed lucky charm. Whenever I take her out, I end up getting something as soon as she goes home! As usual, the two of us see a good amount of sign but nothing else.
The next day is the last day of hunting for us, and once again I take my little girl out. I am really hoping for something, but so far it’s not looking good. At the end of the day we are headed back to the truck and decide to take a rest by the side of a path through the woods to rest my aching knees. She asks me, “Daddy, what if a deer walked right in front of us right now?” I smiled and opened my mouth to tell her it was still OK to take it, since it was still inside the hunting unit and not a marked path or road, when I spotted something. Moving just beyond in the woods was my buck! I told Sera to stay behind me, slid my rifle off my shoulder and let loose a shot. The deer went down almost immediately, as I was able to get a pretty clear shot. It was just a little four pointer, but I was happy to have the meat.
I showed Sera how to gut, quarter and field dress the deer. She was pretty impressive, and helped with the whole thing. We used my Field Guide knife and the Huntsman, my two go-to knives for field dressing. We brought home the meat packed in coolers, and Lynn (my wife) was pretty happy to have it. Venison is lean, clean meat without any of the crud that’s in a lot of farm raised meat, so she is always thrilled to have a freezer full of healthy protein after hunting season.
We processed the deer in our kitchen, using a variety of Dawson knives and a handy dandy meat grinder. For fun we did a little test on the different blade finishes by leaving the blood and fat on them overnight. I DID NOT forget to clean them, this was a thoroughly planned out test. For science. You can check out how it affected different finishes here.
I used a couple different recipes my family really enjoys for breakfast sausage and Italian sausage. You can check out the recipes I used here. I usually will buy a pork roast and grind some up with the venison, which adds some fat content so the sausage isn’t dry. We also cut the back strap into fillets and made some stew meat packets. Even though this was a little deer, we ended up getting about 60 lbs of meat from him.
All in all I was tickled that my hunt was fruitful, as we all know that’s not always the case in hunts. Let me know what you think in the comment section below and be sure to check us out on FB and Instagram!
Elbow deep in deer meat,
Dennis Cook is a professional custom knife and sword maker, one of three generations at Dawson Knives. He's an avid outdoorsman and hunter and lives in Arizona with his beautiful wife Lynn and their four little rednecks.