Written by Guy Miner.
A father and a son, a 6mm Remington and a 30-06, and two mule deer taken! That’s what you call a successful deer hunt. To find out more about how things went down, read on!
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Why choose a guided hunt?
My son John and I chose to treat ourselves with a guided mule deer hunt this year. We’re veteran do-it-yourself hunters, but decided to enjoy the advantages of a guided hunt. Advantages include:
- The guide’s knowledge of the area and of the deer, including their habits, particularly a good idea of when and where a buck might be found.
- This last couple of years has been hard on many of us, John and I decided to treat ourselves to this guided hunt. It’s a bit of a luxury compared to a DIY hunt. The logistics are largely handled by the guide service.
- I’d long looked at this area as a place I’d like to hunt, but knew that most of it was privately owned land which I couldn’t access.
- The private land would likely have far fewer hunters on it, allowing more of a quality hunting experience.
- With fewer hunters in an area, and careful hunters, safety can be enhanced.
Physical preparation is important. The area where we were hunting can be steep, rocky, brushy and difficult to traverse. Since this was to be a spot and stalk type hunt, I knew a fair bit of hiking would be involved. All year I kept up my near daily walks, and included a fair number of hikes involving steep climbing.
Marksmanship practice started early in the year, mostly with our 22 rimfire rifles. John and I both had Mondays available, so we instituted “Monday Gun Day” for our weekly training. As the hunting seasons approached we shifted more and more to our centerfire rifles. Once our zeros were established, we got away from the shooting benches and most of our shooting took place from standing, sitting and kneeling positions.
6mm Remington 700 BDL
I love this old rifle! Dad gave it to me brand new in 1974 as a combo birthday & high school graduation gift. I used it primarily for varmint hunting for years. When John was 12 years old I put it in a youth stock and he took his first mule deer with it, at about 280 yards. It’s been his ever since. This rifle is topped with a 3.5-10x Leupold. For about 20 years I’ve handloaded the 95 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip hunting bullet. This light-recoiling rifle has proven to be accurate and lethal. It averages 3113 fps from the 22” barrel when loaded with a max charge of Ramshot Hunter and CCI 200 primers. That load produced a .73” three-shot, 100 yard group. John sighted it in at 200 yards. Like the 243 Winchester and the 6mm Creedmoor, it’s easy to shoot well.
30-06 Remington 700 CDL
The rifle is slightly enhanced by being pillar bedded, the barrel free floated and the original trigger was replaced by a Timney. I’ve got a 6x Leupold with “LR” dots mounted and it’s zeroed at 200 yards. It has become my favorite all-around hunting rifle. This 30-06 has taken mule deer, pronghorn antelope, elk, black bear, wolf and grizzly. This was my first hunt using the 180 grain Berger Elite Hunter bullet. I loaded it over 58 grains of Ramshot Hunter and CCI 200 primers for 2730 fps. It produced a .84” 3-shot group at 100 yards.
About Okanogan Valley Guide Service
First off, my son John and I paid full price for this hunt. I simply felt that I wanted to share with our readers what a good operation this is and how well it worked for us. Besides, good hard-working business owners like Jerrod deserve a pat on the back for a job well done.
I’d heard about Okanogan Valley Guide Service before, and researched them online. They operated in an area of northern Washington where I’d happily camped, fished and hunted before, all do-it-yourself trips. I asked around the hunting & fishing community about the owner, Jerrod Gibbons and heard only favorable things so I contacted him, we chatted and my son and I booked our hunts.
A favorable first impression with me was that before we even got to camp, every hunter shot their rifle in front of Jerrod and other guides. This ensured that all the rifles were sighted in and provided a chance to observe the gun handling and gun safety skills of everyone.
At camp I found that we had quite a mix of hunters from a teenager to an older man who must have been well into his 70’s. One fellow had even driven all the way from Texas for his second hunt with OVGS! We spent the next couple of hours meeting our fellow hunters, meeting the guides, getting settled into our spacious and clean heated tents, then enjoying the evening meal and starting a roaring campfire. Jerrod explained safety procedures to all, and assigned hunters to their guides. I was glad that John and I would be hunting with Jerrod so I could learn more about his operation. It turns out that this is a family business. Jerrod’s wife Mindy does the cooking, no easy chore as breakfast is on the table at 4:45 AM! His father and an uncle work there as guides. Several other guides are old friends, and well acquainted with the area. After enjoying some time around the campfire we all retired to our comfortable cots and got some sleep.
Our first day started quite early, leaving camp in darkness. We watched a wonderful sunrise and eventually I spotted two bucks well below us on the edge of an orchard. Jerrod ranged them at 860 yards, and told us that unfortunately we couldn’t hunt that particular property, but that we could hunt right up to the edge of it. We never saw those bucks again, despite hours of glassing and a couple of hours of hiking rough terrain to try to relocate them. It rained long and hard that night and into the next morning, making some of the dirt roads nearly impassable even with a good 4wd truck. The second day of our hunt involved a lot of glassing as well, and some hiking. Again, no legal bucks were seen at anywhere near a reasonable range. I did have four whitetail does within 100 yards of me, blissfully unaware of my presence late in the afternoon.
The third day of our four-day hunt was challenging, interesting and rewarding. We managed to hike a bit over 11 miles of rough terrain. We glassed for hours and found a large 4×3 buck, with dark, heavy antlers and ivory tips. He was at 451 yards, in the brush, and I wasn’t comfortable with that range as I’d not practiced to that distance with this particular 30-06 load. A stalk was made to close the distance, yet the buck slipped away and we came up empty handed on that as well.
The high point of our third day though was when my son John spotted a 2×3 buck and stalked close for a shot. Just before he shot, Jerrod ranged the buck at 137 yards. The first shot was a good one, but the buck moved towards the edge of a steep ridge, so John popped him in the shoulder and the buck dropped instantly. Once again the little 95 grain Nosler Ballistic Tips performed superbly. Both bullets were recovered, weighing 43 and 50 grains well expanded.
On the morning of our fourth and last day, Jerrod and I were high on a bluff, looking down towards where we’d seen the big 4×3 and also another buck, a 2×2. As the sun rose, we located them in about the same area we’d seen them the day before, and there was a third buck with them, a 3×3! We settled in to watch and wait, and see where they might go, hoping that they’d move closer to us, as they were still hanging about 450 yards from us, too far for me to shoot with this rifle, scope and load. As they began moving, the big buck and his 2×2 companion dropped behind a low ridge and vanished from our sight, however the 3×3 kept walking steadily from right to left, at about 350 yards.
My rifle was resting on a Bog Death Grip tripod and from sitting I was able to keep the crosshairs of my 6x Leupold steady on the buck. When he stopped, I relaxed, let out a breath and gently squeezed that Timney trigger. Jerrod was right next to me, watching through his spotting scope. He saw the bullet trace arc, and saw the impact of the 180 grain Berger bullet. The buck was down instantly with a high shoulder shot! I was happy, but also noticed that the buck wasn’t quite dead, so I walked over to him alone and finished him with another shot. Jerrod showed up moments later with the pickup truck and we field dressed the buck, then returned to camp to hang and skin the carcass.
The hunt was a success, John and I each brought down a legal buck, which is all that we’d hoped for ahead of time. We have two deer for the freezer. This is important to me as I thoroughly enjoy cooking and serving venison that we take. There had been an opportunity to take a very nice 4×3 buck, and we worked towards that, but it just didn’t happen. What was at least as important is that my son and I spent five days together, hunting. It’s a special thing, hunting with family and friends. Jerrod and I started out as outfitter-client, and became friends while working together for several days. I have a very positive impression not only of Okanogan Valley Guide Service but also of Jerrod, his family, and the guides he uses. You may well prefer do-it-yourself hunts, and they certainly have their attractions. However if you’re considering a guided mule deer hunt in Washington, I can heartily recommend Jerrod Gibbons and his guide service.
John’s 6mm Remington and the 95 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip performed as it has many times before, dropping yet another deer for him. The change to this year’s handloaded ammunition was the switch to Ramshot Hunter, a powder which produced good accuracy, good velocity, and flowed so easily through the Lyman powder measure.
My 30-06 Remington was effective again, though I had changed my hunting load only days before the hunt, to the 180 grain Berger Elite Hunter. Some hunters don’t like the Bergers because they are fragmenting bullets. They have a well deserved reputation for accuracy, instant drops and fast kills. This is my fourth mule deer with Berger bullets, the others were all with the 115 grain Berger VLD from my 25-06 at 175, 230 and 400 yards. I’ve never had to track a buck shot with a Berger, they all just collapsed where they were standing when hit. This load was put together just a few days before the hunt, with no tinkering or adjusting. I knew that it was accurate enough after one range trip but I’m sure that it can be improved by adjusting the seating depth and the powder charge.
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