By J. Clint Savoini
Clint and Jim Savoini pose with the desert muleys they shot during the same hour on different portions of the Sonora, Mexico, ranch.
Photo courtesy of: J. Clint Savoini
January 2005 was the second time we'd traveled to Sonora, Mexico, to hunt mule deer with Del Pitic Outfitters. Four of us went, including my father and friends Jim Geiler and Billy Freeman. One of the owners, Billy Darnell, was our outfitter, along with jack-of-all-trades Emitt Mundy and some locals.
If there is one piece of advice I can offer those going south of the border to hunt "muy grande burros," it's to be very patient. In 2004, we all filled our tags early. We harvested some nice bucks, but we saw even bigger ones later during the hunt. In '05, we were all determined to be patient.
Shortly after we landed in Hermosillo and made it through inspections and immigration, we were off to the hunting camp. After enjoying a great meal and some fellowship, it was time to start dreaming of the big mule deer that were awaiting us.
The first day of the hunt started off with a bang, literally, with Billy Freeman harvesting a buck grossing 195 inches. In all, we saw at least 15 bucks that day - three of them that would've topped 180.
The next few days were filled with lots of action as we chased these rascals across the desert. One thing about hunting desert muleys is that you don't have an abundance of time to make a decision on whether to shoot. The bucks are in the heat of the rut in January, and they have breeding on the brain!
When the does move, their suitors follow.
When hunting down there, one can use either the classic spot-and-stalk technique or track them. The does often spoil the stalk. Therefore, if you see a good buck, you have to make a quick decision.
During six days, I personally saw more than 20 bucks, at least five of them in the 180s or better. I passed up a few bucks; some never presented a clean shot; and others escaped due to my mistakes.
The fourth morning, the temperature was cool. We headed out of camp early, and immediately spotted a nice 33-inch-plus-wide 3x3. It was moving fast, too, never offering a good shot.
Soon after we moved up the arroyo, we spotted two more - a 24-inch-wide 4x4 and a 27-inch 4x5. They both looked nervous, but it wasn't due to our presence. The duo kept looking to the right, and we followed their gaze to a group of deer standing in the thick brush about 150 yards distant.
It did not take us long to locate the dominant buck. It appeared as if it had just whipped the two smaller ones.
We all froze, not wanting to spook the deer, and I quickly decided that was the buck I wanted. I whispered to Billy Darnell, seeking his sage advice. Because of the angle, I could not see the entire rack.
Billy looked me square in the eyes and said, "SHOOT THAT BUCK!"
After that look and what I could see of the deer, I found a position, focused on the buck's vitals (trying not to look at the massive lumber on its head) and gently squeezed the .270's trigger. When the bullet smacked it, the buck kicked the air. A short time later, I was standing over the biggest mule deer I'd ever seen outside of photographs.
After we had taken care of my trophy, we received a call on the radio that my father had harvested a big buck on the other side of the ranch. When we arrived at the place they were loading his trophy, we discovered that my father had also harvested his biggest buck ever - within the same hour I'd taken mine!
My father's buck grossed 187 5⁄8 inches. Mine measured 203 3⁄8, thanks to 16 scoreable points. Another had been broken off during a fight - perhaps when it took on the pair of young bucks we'd first spotted that morning. This old monarch's head resembled a prizefighter's, complete with a split ear and lots of facial scars.
Having mine and my dad's picture taken with our great bucks was a thrill. The exceptional hunt and camaraderie is a memory that I'll forever cherish.
-- Reprinted from the July 2006 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine