Thursday, November 29, 2012

Henry Mountain Trip

It's the most coveted tag in the state of Utah, if not in the entire US when it comes to mule deer.  Southern Utah's Henry Mountains, located in some of the most remote and  isolated country in the lower 48 has become a legendary destination for big game hunters seeking trophy mule deer.  The mountain range is made up of several high peaks (near 11,000 feet) that are surrounded by vast expanses of red rock canyons, white and yellow ledges and mesas, and desolate blue clay plains, truly an mountain island oasis in the southern Utah desert country.  At first glance, it would be hard to imaging that a thriving deer herd, and additionally the largest free roaming bison herd in the US could be supported in such a harsh environment.

The high peaks of Mount Ellen, Mount Pennell, and Mount Hiller, as well as the rugged peaks of the "Little Rockies" to the south stand out high above the desert mesas and plains below, creating a site that can be seen for hundreds of miles in any direction.  Over looking Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon, our view even on a hazy day allowed us to see the red spires of Monument Valley in northern Arizona, the La Sal and Abajo mountains of eastern Utah, San Rafael Swell to the north, and the pink cliffs of Powell Point and the Aquarius Plateau to the west.  The Henry Mountains are also rich with history.  Legends abound of Spanish soldiers and gold miners that were among the first Europeans to visit the country.  Frequented by Native Americans, today you will find remnants of their lost culture, the signs of the old Spanish mines, and tales of prospectors, cowboys, and outlaws.  It is truly wild, untamed country, and quite honestly I found myself almost more wrapped up in the history and adventure of the remote peaks than focused on the mission of finding bucks to film.  Almost anyway.  Still, I don't know how many times I mentioned returning with a gold pan to give prospecting a shot, and who knows, maybe even stumbling on to the Lost Josephine Mine, a legendary Spanish gold mine lost ages ago.

Henry Mountains at sunrise

My day's travel started out at 4:30 AM, rolling out of bed and heading down to pick up my grandpa, Marvin Porter who would be spending the day with me.  Daylight brought us to the Sandy Ranch at the foot of the west side of the mountain, where light touched the desert we had no trouble finding dozens of deer, and several good bucks.  Anxious to get to the mountain itself to check out the trophies we see and hear about s much, we pointed the truck east, across another 30 minutes or more of desert, before we started the rocky climb up the foot of the mountain.

Things started out pretty discouraging, but no worries, we were more like tourists having a good time through country we had not been through before, as we decided to try an area neither of us had ventured into before.  The sign was more than we imagined, but nothing was out and about, either hid up in canyons from wind, maybe we were just to late in the day, or perhaps it was the full moon.  We pressed on, into the heads of several canyons where we finally had a change of luck and found several small herds of deer.

An old jeep near the ruins of an old mining mill
Well, we didn't find one of those legendary Henry's bucks over 30 or 40 inches wide, but we did find several decent bucks, and a couple of toads.  The Henrys genetic is alive and well still, as every buck we saw, even bucks ranging from 22-24 inches wide had incredible mass!  What a great day, and even better, I think we have a solid plan for our next trip, hopefully in 2 weeks.  I am hoping for snow!  The deer are extremely scattered right now with very little snow.

All total, we covered between 240 and 250 miles for the day.  It sounds like a lot, but we by no means took the most direct paths!  I wouldn't trade it for anything.  There's nothing better than spending time with family in the outdoors, and I had a great time with my grandpa exploring new country, telling stories, and having some good laughs!

Now, the depressing part.  Unless you are extremely lucky, or rich, I wouldn't get antsy to hunt the Henry Mountain unit.  Being one of the most sought after mule deer tags in the nation, it is taking individuals around 20 years or more to draw a tag!  In fact, some believe that if you were to start applying today with no bonus points, you will never draw before you die.  However, there's always chance, and it would be no doubt, the hunt of a lifetime!

Looking down the Burr Trail (Capitol Reef N.P.) and our route to the Henry Mtns.
I've put together some of our clips and photos for you to enjoy of our trip.  Before you play the video, let me say, we really need to teach our camera man a thing or two about filming!  You know what they say about excuses, but I'm going to give them anyway.  The wind was howling, the tripod was giving me fits trying to adjust it, and I just need more practice!  Please forgive the unsteady shots!  Once again, I was extremely impressed with my Vortex Razor HD spotter!  What a valuable tool to find the deer in thick oak!  I paired this up with my Tines Up video camera scope adapter to get the digiscoped video you will see.  Most of the bucks ended up being so close that the spotter was overkill, and I left all the work to my Sony Handycam.  I tell you, I am sold on this camera for the price and quality!  What a great zoom and steady shot!  A few of these bucks were at 300-350 yards and the camera did an outstanding job on it's own!

I hope you enjoy the video and pictures, and I encourage you to get out while the getting is good over the next couple of weeks to see big muleys while they are still in the rut.  Just FYI, this will be my last post for a week, as the wife and I are heading out on a cruise to celebrate our 10 year anniversary.  So, for those that entered the "Bucks, Bulls, and Fins" contest over on our Facebook page, be patient, although the contest closes on the 30th judging will not begin until we get home on the 7th.  I know, I know, everyone is anxious, it's just making for a great Christmas surprise! 

Monday is deep sea fishing in Cozumel!  I can't wait to bring some stories back!  I hope you all can get out and enjoy the outdoors as well with this amazing weather!