My friends over at Heartland Bowhunter TV always seem to kick off the season with a bang, and this year has been no different. Today we’ve got the story of Shawn Luchtel’s early season success on a gorgeous North Dakota whitetail, and as a bonus, the story of his highcountry Utah mule deer adventure. Enjoy and please join me in giving Shawn a big congrats! – MK 

By Shawn Luchtel

Utah

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I would like to start with my muley.  The past two years I have put in for public land units in Utah to hunt high country mule deer.  Last year was a good taste of how tough it really was and I was unsuccessful at even getting a shot a buck.  This year would be different.  Nate Flynn would be with me and also had a tag.  He was there to hunt and also help glass for deer.

After little success hunting low on the mountain range and dealing with high hunting pressure we decided we had no other choice but to hike to the top of the mountain to hunt in steep country for mule deer.  We hiked in for 7 hours one afternoon, set-up camp by 11:30 PM and were up the following morning at 6:00 AM to begin glassing.  After glassing for about an hour I spotted a group of deer working around a bowl feeding in the sunlight.  There were 4 bucks (one of which was very nice) and one doe.  I watched them split off from the bigger deer as he fed up the mountain towards me and bedded in some jack pines at 195 yards.  After letting him settle in his bed I slowly made my way down the steep, rocky terrain to his bed.  After 2 hours of climbing down to him I closed into his bed at 16 yards.  Once I spotted the tips of his antlers behind a giant log I waited until the wind blew to draw my bow and step out for my shot.  As soon as I stepped out he immediately locked onto me, stood up quickly and bolted out of his bed.

The second he stood up I knew it was my only chance to get an arrow in him.  In this process I had a quick quartering away shot that exited right behind his offset shoulder.  He ran 100 yards before falling over and rolling down the mountain another couple hundred feet.  There lied my first ever velvet mule deer in a log jam about 400-500 feet below me.  This was a HUGE team effort between Nate, Joel, Trent and myself.  Without their help I would have never been able to kill such a beautiful, DIY, public land, 168” mule deer in the high country of Central Utah.  This was by far the toughest hunt mentally and physically I have ever been on.  It was test on how much each of us could really handle as hunters and I cannot wait to do it again!

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Key To Success: My key to success on this hunt was persistence.  Training physically beforehand, mentally preparing for what I knew was to come and grinding through a tough hunt was how we came out on top.  Not only in the hunting world but in life I have always been preached to “never give up” and that was our motto on this hunt.

North Dakota

Next is my North Dakota whitetail.  From Utah, we headed straight to North Dakota to check our trail cameras that Nate had put out 2 weeks prior to our Utah hunt.  After checking cameras we had numerous good bucks showing up.  This week we would have the Bowtech guys in camp to hunt with us too.  We look forward to this hunt not only for the beautiful scenery, good hunting and awesome food but mainly for the camaraderie that comes along with it!  This is our all-time favorite group hunt we have each fall.

Just like any other year in North Dakota we draw numbers from a hat to choose what stand we will hunt in the evenings.  The first two evening hunts were fairly slow with little deer movement in daylight.  Upon checking cameras on day 3 there were numerous stands that had a good opportunity to kill mature deer.  My choice was to hunt a stand where a 6 year old deer nicknamed “Rusty” had shown up earlier that morning and looked to be bedded close based off of trail camera photos.  There was little deer movement this evening as well.  I had a doe and fawn come in down wind and actually spook off at sunset.  With 5 minutes of light left I shook my head in disappointment thinking the hunt was over.  A few seconds later I look to my right and there Rusty is standing at 20 yards!  He slowly worked his way down the fence line to walk by at 14 yards and stop (quartering away) at 14 yards!

My arrow placement was back based off the steep angle, entering his liver, going through lungs, heart and exiting out behind his offset shoulder.  He bolted out and ran about 200 yards before falling over!  It has been an extremely fun week sharing camp with Jeff and Nick from Bowtech along with my family, girlfriend and most of the HB guys!

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Key To Success: My key to success on this hunt was using our Reconyx trail cameras.  Trail cameras are key to patterning early season whitetails and help tremendously by showing you exactly what the deer are doing without you having to access the property very frequently.  Rather than physically scouting the animals we use trail cameras to find out where the deer are and what times they’re showing up.

For more from the Heartland Bowhunter team, visit HeartlandBowhunter.com