Bowhunting For Mule Deer On The Arizona Strip

By Chris Waters

An arizona bowhunter poses with a mule deer trophy, along with a future bowhunter
Chris Waters with a Fine Arizona Mule Deer, and a Future Bow Huntress of America

The infamous Arizona Strip is home to world class mule deer hunting, and I happened to be lucky enough to draw an archery tag. My wife and our thirteen-month-old daughter came with me and dropped me off so I could take a quick two-mile hike and meet up with them right at dark.

I had an hour and a half of light as I headed away from the road into a wilderness area with only my bow and radio. The area was nothing but thick pines and lots of fallen trees, with old two-acre spot burns every quarter mile. As I came to the last open area, I only had about forty-five minutes of shooting light left.

It was a large meadow with nothing but fallen trees and six-foot jack pines every so often. I could see a small mound directly in front of me about 20 yards away that would give me a view of the entire area, so I slowly walked to the top of it and began to scan the meadow.

As soon as I looked to my left I saw a doe staring right at me on the far side of the clearing. I froze every muscle in my body and watched her for five seconds before I saw a buck pick up its head while chewing some grass giving me the opportunity to see how big he was. I could tell he was a four-point with what looked like tall deep forks in the back. This was the buck that fits exactly what I wanted.  

To his right, I then saw three or four other smaller bucks and all were still feeding. I could tell that the doe was the only one who knew I was there. I slowly grabbed my rangefinder and brought it up to my right eye.

I couldn’t get an accurate reading on her or the buck since the buck fever kicked in and I was shaking so bad. My rangefinder read 28, 238, 100, 15, 73. I took a deep breath and then ranged a big pine tree off to her left and it read 102 yards.  

Since I was in full camouflage and had a very soft breeze blowing on my face, I knew the doe wasn’t too spooked as she didn’t know what I was. I stayed frozen for 10 minutes until she turned her head to the right and I slowly ducked down so that a big fallen tree hid me from her line of sight. I then belly crawled to my left about 5 feet to a tree to block myself from her view.    

I could still see the bucks feeding and facing away from me. I crawled straight towards the doe making sure to keep the tree directly between us. After crawling as slow as I could for 15 minutes, I finally made it to the tree. I slowly stood up and took one step past the tree and a small buck looked up right at me.

I knew I couldn’t go any further. I grabbed my rangefinder and ranged the bigger buck, he was sixty-five yards from me. He was still feeding and stepped broadside. I attached my release and drew my bow, putting my seventy-yard pin just below the base of his belly.  

At full draw, I realized that I had a six-inch gap between two small pine trees just forty yards away. I knew if I could get just the arrow between those trees the flight path to the buck would be clear. I looked back at the buck and a smaller buck had stepped out in front of him. I decided to wait at full draw to see if he would move out of the way.  

After about 30 seconds he took several slow steps and he was out of the way but now the bigger buck was facing directly away from me. After roughly 5 seconds, he took one small step to his left giving me a steep quartering away shot. I moved my pins from his heart to about three-quarters of the way back on his body and I softly squeezed the trigger on my release and held my finish.

I then watched the glowing red knock fly perfectly through the six-inch window until the shaft of the arrow disappeared as it penetrated deep inside the deer’s innards only leaving the fletching of a twenty-eight-inch arrow sticking out of the buck. As he ran off the 6 smaller bucks followed.  

I marked the location on my radio and then met up with my wife and daughter before it got too dark. Then after an hour wait, and a slow thirty-minute tracking, we found my buck only a few hundred yards from where I shot him. These moments are why I bow hunt, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect outcome with my family.

By Chris Waters

From One Bowhunter to Another – Congratulations Chris!

Michael Patrick McCarty

*Story provided by Outdoor Empire. See their website here for more information on outdoor recreation and sports gear.

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