by Larry Barnes
Originally Published in the Oct. 2005 Hunting Report
I have been chasing mulies for years, and this hunt is a phenomenal find. It is a first-rate, high-quality experience any way you look at it. I will be going back.”
- Larry Barnes
I hunted with them this past August during an early-season velvet hunt and took a mule deer buck that green scored close to 200 B&C, and I saw but could not get on a buck that would have scored another 15 to 20. That buck was higher, wider and had a 14-inch sword point on one side of his rack. I lost him after an all-morning stalk in the timber. Fifteen minutes later, I spotted the buck I eventually killed. I also saw a third buck that was larger still. In total, I saw 15 bucks in a day and a half.Although their area is public land, the remoteness and difficult access means there is virtually no resident hunting or other pressure. The Sawtooth Mountains are very steep and only hunters who are physically fit should attempt this particular hunt. In fact, he screens all of his hunters to make sure they are able to endure the rigors of this trip. If a hunter doesn’t measure up physically, he will not book him. He is a very good hunting consultant. Although he uses horses, all of the actual hunting is on foot. The hunt starts at elevations of 8,000 feet and hunters must be able to climb up to 2,000 vertical feet in one day.
This Outfitter is the real deal. He is a very capable guide, horseman and outfitter. He goes beyond what you would expect. He even allowed me to go out and scout with him pre-season. It was a tough trip, mind you, without any luxuries and requiring a lot of hard riding and hiking, but he provided all the equipment, and the experience of scouting for your own animal in the area you’re going to hunt is very rewarding.”
- Larry Barnes
This is not a weather-dependent or migration mule deer hunt, as evidenced by the quality of deer found during the early season. Peter and his guides pre-scout the area for trophy resident bucks. Hunts begin with a nine to 15-mile horseback ride from his lodge up into the range where you set up a tent camp. From there, you ride out each day two to three miles to your hunt area, where you dismount and proceed to spot and stalk on foot.
Camps consist of canvas wall tents heated by wood stoves, a cook tent and even showers. A professional full time cook prepares first class meals. Breakfast each morning is to order, and after dinner you can enjoy freshly baked desserts, such as cherry pie and fruit cobblers.
This outfitter offers an early-season hunt in August and a regular mule deer hunt in October. Both are rifle hunts. Archery hunts are available in September. All permits are available over-the-counter, except for the early season hunt, which is controlled hunt and requires applying for the permit. However, [he] receives one outfitter allocated permit each season, which he provides on a first-come, first-served basis.
The early-season hunt has several advantages. First of all, the deer are still in their red summer coats then and are easy to see. Also, this is when the deer are putting on weight and fat for the coming winter, so they spend more time in the oen feeding. That usually gives you more time to see the animals and size them up. Because they have not begun to produce the additional testosterone that causes their antlers to finish hardening, they are also less wary and if spooked they don’t run as far as they do later in the season. Another advantage is that the temperatures are warm in August, running into the upper 80′s. So, those who dislike cold weather hunts will find the mountains more comfortable at this time of year. Lastly, on the early-season hunt, you get to see some very big bucks before anyone else does. Come October, when the regular rifle hunts take place, the weather can range from 10 to 60 degrees, and eight to 15 inches of snow are a possibility.
Their success rate for mule deer hunts is about 50 percent, but that’s because this hunt is geared towards serious mule deer hunters. The shot opportunity for any mule deer buck is about 95 percent, but their clients usually pass on non-trophy animals (thus the 50 percent success rate). Last season, a hunter took a 199 gross velvet buck on the early season hunt. Another hunter recently took a 200-inch buck. These are exceptional trophies. The average buck taken on these hunts scores 180 to 185, and each year two or three hunters take a buck with 28 to 30-inch spread. A few lucky clients have shot bucks with up to 25-inch spreads.
These hunts are eight days and include pickup and return to the Sun Valley airport in Hailey; all transportation during the hunt; lodge and tent camp accommodations; plus meals, guiding and trophy prep. It does not include the nonresident hunting license or deer tag. Should you need to apply for the early-season hunt, [They] will assist you with the paperwork at no additional charge. The application fee charged by Idaho Fish and Game is $19.50. [He] also offers some unguided drop camp hunts, with a minimum of four hunters.
This Outfitter is based at the Trappers Inn, a lodge, restaurant and small general store they operates on a private holding in the national forest where his hunt area is. It’s about 24 miles from the town of Fairfield and is accessed by dirt road. That’s where he keeps a corral and about 50 stock animals for packing into the mountains. All of his livestock, by the way, are excellent.
This Outfitter is the real deal. He is a very capable guide, horseman and outfitter. He goes beyond what you would expect. He even allowed me to go out and scout with him pre-season. It was a tough trip, mind you, without any luxuries and requiring a lot of hard riding and hiking, but he provided all the equipment, and the experience of scouting for your own animal in the area you’re going to hunt is very rewarding.
This Outfitter hires only quality guides. These are not mere ranch hands who have seen deer around. I have hunted enough to recognize competence and experience levels in guides. He takes pains to ensure his guides are first rate. My guide was Cory Glauner (of Outdoors International) , who used hand-held 15×60 Doctor binoculars to spot for deer. Glauner is an experienced and accomplished hunter, having guided his own wife to more than one B&C animal. I was fortunate to have both Cory and George on my hunt, they are both exceptional.
I have been chasing mulies for years, and this hunt is a phenomenal find. It is a first-rate, high-quality experience any way you look at it. I will be going back.
- Larry Barnes.