By Mike Deming
As I made my 23rd stalk with my bow in hand in just 3 days, I knew that I was experiencing something special. I was on a 10,000 acre private ranch hunting antelope with A Double J Outfitters. I was experiencing exactly what owners Rusty and Chris Bogers said I would when I booked the trip. “You will get 7 to 10 stalks a day at bucks in the 68 to 75 inch range” was the exact comment I remember.
Our job is to travel the world and evaluate outfitters operations. We search for the best the world has to offer for our readers and this is one such place. I was able to put my tag on a great 13” antelope that scored right at 70”. Everyone in camp had similar opportunities and we were 100% success on archery. We had great accommodations and food that rivaled the best cowboy cooking the west can provide.
As we packed our gear to head home, Rusty said that he had a cancellation for some November whitetail hunting if we would be interested in coming back. Wyoming is 100% draw with their tags, but the areas that we could hunt are mostly private and this unit still had plenty of leftover tags. We vowed to swing by the Sportsman’s Warehouse in Casper and pick up a buck tag for the upcoming season. Unfortunately with such a late booking, I would only be able to hunt the last 4 days of the season which meant the rut would be going pretty strong, but the area east of the highway with the best hunting and biggest bucks would be off limits since the season would close November 15th. Rusty assured us that we would still have a great hunt and it would be worth the trip.
We rolled into Buffalo, Wyoming on November 26th with a plan of hunting through the end of the month. Once the camera gear was set up and a game plan for the next day was hatched, we caught up on the season’s success with the A Double J team. The trophy photos revealed a great season for the team and the hunters who had booked with A Double J. A few bulls that topped the 350” Boone and Crocket mark and as always the stories of the misses. I just hoped to add to the trophy photos and not to the stories of misses.
The first morning we hunted to the west on a 6,000 acre private ranch. The terrain consisted of high prairie grassland, rolling foothills, river bottoms choked with aspens and cottonwoods, and tall pines on the Bighorn Mountains. As the darkness gave away to a cold crisp central Wyoming sunrise, we picked the terrain apart from a lookout in the center of the ranch. We immediately picked up bull elk after bull elk. By the time the sun had broken the horizon, I had spotted 39 bull elk and 3 of them were over 350” and one spectacular bull was over 370”. I wanted to trade my buck tag for an elk tag this morning, but the elk season had closed a couple of week’s prior. Since Rusty only harvests 3 bulls on this ranch a year, these big guys find this area to be a safe haven and show up in early October after the rut year after year. Mule deer were everywhere and so were the antelope, but the whitetails must have hit the thick cover early because we only saw 14 total deer and 3 smaller bucks which I wasn’t willing to put my tag on this early in the hunt.
We drove back to camp for lunch and a couple of hours of warmth and relaxation. The evening hunt was more of the same and the quality of the bucks that are usually harvested off of this ranch makes the lower densities of whitetails worth the wait. Several great bucks are taken from this ranch every year and we would just need to be patient.
The second morning was much colder than the first and during this time of year, you never know what is going to trigger the rut to kick in and the cold weather wasn’t going to hurt our cause. Once again, we found large quantities of bull elk with a new addition to the group that was in the 365 range with 55 plus inch main beams. A very unique bull that I nicknamed Squegee due to his wavy main beam configuration. I was pretty sure I was being set up for a future elk hunt, but by this time I didn’t need much pressure.
Rusty made the call to go north for the afternoon hunt. It is a smaller piece of property that has a higher density of deer, but it is hit or miss if the bucks will be on the property. More deer meant more opportunity for there to be a hot doe in the group. As we got out of the truck and started hiking to a vantage point, it was obvious that the deer were on the property today and moving early. It was only two in the afternoon and we could see ten plus deer up on their feet and in the field already. We just needed to find a quality buck.
This area is known for bucks with a lot of mass and medium length tines which carry the mass to the ends and that would be what we were looking for to put our tag on. As we worked up the ridge and looked into every draw, we saw more and more deer, but no mature bucks. It took almost an hour to hike the half-mile to the top of the ridge and the end of the property. We just couldn’t believe that there were this many deer and not a mature buck in sight. We picked a good vantage point and committed to staying until dark.
We had just sat down overlooking a thicket and I caught movement to my right. There had been a deer bedded down on the hill below us and they heard us walk up. I’m sure the pressure of sitting there was too much for them to handle. I saw heavy tines on the head of a mature buck that was sneaking through the bushes. He had fifteen plus does with him and one smaller buck in the group and he was trying to push the ladies down the hill away from us and keep them all in the thick cover. One wayward doe broke for the thick cover of the bottom and crossed thirty yards of open terrain. Every deer followed her lead and I knew it was a matter of time before the big buck followed her line as well. He finally broke cover and he was wasting no time getting to thicker cover. The cameraman had already confirmed that he was on the area where the deer were crossing and the rest would be up to me. I pulled the crosshairs of my NIGHTFORCE scope low in his chest and just out in front to compensate for the 175 yards of distance between the deer and me. With the report of my 300 Ultramag, the big buck piled up nose first just prior to entering the thick cover. Booohyaa! I had successfully harvested a good late season whitetail with Rusty just as he had promised.
As we walked up to the buck, it was obvious that we had made a good decision to shoot this buck. I often pass on shots like this when you need to make a hasty decision to shoot because they look so big when they are going away. There wasn’t any ground shrinkage on this buck. He had super heavy tines and a total of 35” of mass. He was obviously the king of this hill based on the number of does he was controlling. We completed a great photo session and packed the buck back to the truck.
Once again Rusty and Chris had proven why we endorse them as one of our Platinum Approved Outfitters. They had delivered just what they promised as far as the game was concerned and the controlled factors like food, staff, and lodging were even better.
Since we still had extra time due to harvesting early, we took the opportunity to visit the area that Rusty wanted us to hunt if we could have been there in early November. It was nothing short of spectacular. Every field in the area had thirty to sixty deer in them and by the end of the morning of viewing and filming, we had seen over 700 total whitetails and 100 mature bucks. One buck was a whopper 11 point that was in the high 160 range. My next trip with A Double J Outfitters will either be an early November whitetail or late season elk hunt. The mule deer were everywhere and the elk rate as some of the very best that I have experienced. Regardless of what trip you choose, you won’t be disappointed. See everything that Rusty and Chris have to offer at www.ADoubleJOutfitters.com or call them at 307-684-7552 or 307-217-1295