WILTZ: Roger, did you see anything unusual during you East River deer hunt?When it comes to what should be a very ordinary hunt, I’ve had the great fortune over the years to stumble over a number of unusual circumstances.
By: Roger Wiltz, The Daily Republic
When it comes to what should be a very ordinary hunt, I’ve had the great fortune over the years to stumble over a number of unusual circumstances. This year’s East River deer hunt was no exception.
On opening day, Nov. 17th, and again on Nov. 19th, I hunted South Dakota East River deer in Brule County with long-time partner Doug Koupal. Saturday’s hunt included his son and grandson. Doug Jr. also hunted on Monday. We found that deer numbers were drastically down, presumably from the recent EHD, Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, outbreak. For this reason, we chose not to kill any does, and because I already had a West River deer, I would only take a Brule County buck if it was exceptional. I never fired a shot.
It was late Monday afternoon around sunset when Doug and I climbed the ridge that led up to the stubble field where I parked my pickup. As we approached the fence, we could see two muley does and a fawn about two hundred yards north of us on the stubble. A stiff, north wind blew into our faces. With his binoculars, Doug, who was directly in front of me, glassed the deer. As he examined the deer, I told him to look to the right where another deer had just jumped the east fence line and entered the field.
“It’s a buck!” whispered Doug. I whispered back that we could crawl to the fence and use a post to steady his rifle if he was interested in the animal. Doug answered that we could walk closely together so that we might appear to be a four-legged creature. His strategy worked perfectly. Doug loaded his Ruger No. 1 single-shot and snugged his rifle against a post, while I held my ears. Moments later his .308 roared. The buck was down. We loaded up the Dodge and headed for the deer.
For a five-by-five mule deer, the antlers were rather ho-hum. We commented that it usually takes a much larger muley rack to sport such strong brow tines. I positioned the truck headlights, so we could field-dress the deer as efficiently as possible. As I held the legs and Doug began his knife work, we could hear another pickup approaching. It proved to be Doug Jr. and our rancher host. Four guys dressing one deer was overkill. I decided to become a supervisor which gave me time to actually study the deer.
My eyes went back to the antlers. The exterior curves formed a basket-like circle, like a whitetail.
“Hey guys, Doug has just killed the best example of a whitetail-mule deer hybrid that I have ever seen. This deer is definitely a mule-tail!” I said.
Further examination revealed the ears of a whitetail. The hair on the rump and tail was long and brilliant white like a whitetail, not short and yellowish like a mule deer.
What about mule deer characteristics? The tail was tipped in black. The antler points were forked much like a mule deer. Doug had an amazing trophy.
To get very specific, whitetails have main beams, and lesser subordinate points grow from the main beams. The whitetail buck typically has brow tines above his eyes that are also called eye guards. The main beams of a mule deer fork equally. These fork beams fork again equally. Typically a mule deer buck has two equal forks on each side. He may or may not have brow tines like a whitetail.
On Doug’s buck, there are definite main beams like a whitetail. The inside points are brow tines. Now, instead of the typical mule deer fork, a fork grows from the main beam, but one side of the fork is heavier than the other. This fork is then followed by a single point and then an antler tip which appears like somewhat of a fork.
The area we hunted has a good balance between whitetails and mule deer. Because whitetail bucks are more aggressive than mule deer bucks, the whitetail buck is usually the father of the hybrid cross. At this time I do not know what Doug is going to do with his unusual trophy. I have encouraged him to have both the head and rump mounted. I plan to show you some photos in a future column.
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Late Saturday afternoon, I looked out over the Missouri River from where I was hunting. I had a difficult time believing my eyes. I saw a narrow, curved land bridge span the Missouri from east to west. I knew there were siltation problems below the White River, but I didn’t realize how bad it was. I immediately planned to return to this vantage point on Monday with my camera, and I did, but the bridge was submerged.
Before writing about it, I wanted to verify that I wasn’t seeing an illusion. On Tuesday I called the Army Corp of Engineers office at Pickstown. Yes, I did see a land bridge downstream from the Elm Creek area. Because the Big Bend powerhouse generally slows the discharge of water on weekends, I saw the land bridge during a low water phase. The “land” I saw was a buildup of silt, or a delta, from the White River. What’s happening to our great river is sad indeed.
Next week, I plan to tell you about my New Mexico cow elk hunt.