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Cedar Break Outfitting for Mule Deer Hunting

Denny

When planning for the 2004 hunting season began, mule deer was an animal I wanted to focus on. I have hunted many of the western states for various animals but I had never been on a high quality mule deer hunt. Having hosted the Cedar Breaks website for the past few years I knew it definitely had the potential to meet the standards that I was interested in. I decided to give Dan Hovermale a call to further investigate hunting with them.

Every hunter should first layout the parameters of what they are looking for in a hunt. My priorities included wanting to see a good number of deer, a camp that demonstrated a high success rate on mature mule deer bucks, knowledgeable and courteous guides along with a full service lodge. As Dan fully explained what Cedar Breaks had to offer it was quickly very apparent that his outfitting business met everything I was looking for.

The Cedar Breaks Outfitting business has been in operation for 23 years. Dan has been the owner for the past 5 seasons. Its location is nestled in the Powder River Region of southeastern Montana. His lodge is 18 miles outside of Broadus. This region has one of the highest mule deer populations per square mile you will find anywhere in the United States. The hunting area is made up of 8 leases spread across 130,000 acres of prime hunting area. Dan is constantly monitoring the availability of new leases and adding new ground to his already productive hunting area.

The guides average 10 years of guiding experience. They all know the terrain extremely well and have that special knack of being able to pick out an ear, a nose, or a piece of antler at several hundred yards. They will customize the hunt to meet your hunting needs. Accommodations include comfortable 2 man cabins and hot showers. Beginning in 2005 the main lodge will feature a beautiful mountain stone fireplace, a great room with satellite television and a dining area that comfortably seats all the hunters and guides. I can personally attest to the food being delicious. A hot breakfast, a boxed lunch and a 3 course home cooked dinner every evening will make sure you won’t lose any weight while hunting at Cedar Breaks.

Cedar Breaks can accommodate up to 8 hunters at a time. The mule deer season is broken into five hunts, each five days in length. Guiding is 2 on 1. Success rates on mature mule deer bucks over the past several years are at an amazing 100%. All the guides are very good at judging and aging these mule deer bucks. The bucks harvested each year average 6 – 7 years old with an average antler spread of 23 – 26 inches. To me the most important statistic to look at when considering booking a hunting trip is the percentage of repeat clients. Dan averages between 70 and 75% repeat business every hunting season! There are many other hunts Dan offers including antelope, turkey, whitetail, varmint, and predator hunts. Check out his website on the link below for more detailed information on these hunts.

Hearing all of this information on the telephone is one thing but experiencing it first hand is quite another. My hunting partner Matt Wilbert and myself were excited when the airplane finally touched down in Gillette, Wyoming. As we made the 115-mile drive to the Cedar Breaks lodge we saw several mule deer and antelope. By the time we arrived it was very apparent that the stories of an abundant deer population in the Powder River region was certainly not a myth. After we arrived we met Dan’s wife Karen along with the rest of the hunters. We sited in our rifles then had dinner. After a few hours of hunting stories and paging through picture catalogs of previous years both Matt and I couldn’t wait to get started in the morning.

Finally that first morning came. The lease we would be hunting that day was about a 40 mile drive from the lodge. As we made the drive Mike our hunting guide gave us the details about the property and how we would spend our day. It didn’t take long for the action to start. Within 15 minutes of entering the lease we spotted 12 mule deer feeding in a grassy field. One of them a mule deer buck. After about 20 minutes of hiking and crawling Mike had us positioned within 200 yards of the animals. We decided Matt would have the first shot. Both Matt & Mike looked over the animal carefully. It was a mature 3 x 3mule deer buck. It had good antler height and mass with about a 23 inch spread. Since it was the first day Matt decided to pass. The rest of the day turned out to be a little slow thanks to our old friend and foe, Mother Nature. Temperatures climbed to near 70 degrees resulting in deer movement being kept to a minimum. We were able to see more deer feeding late afternoon but no shooter bucks were around.

The second day started as fast as the first day but with a different result. The lease we hunted the second day was a shorter 10 mile drive. Once again within 15 minutes of entering the hunting lease we spotted several does and a mature buck feeding. After glassing the animal for a few minutes Mike and Matt decided he was definitely a shooter. Taking the wind direction into account, it took a 30 minute hike to get into position on the feeding animals. The wind direction shifted slightly causing the deer to get nervous and start to move. Mike still had Matt positioned at the perfect spot. As the buck trotted to within 100 yards of Matt finally he hesitated giving Matt an opportunity. Matt made it count with a good shot that put the buck down. As we walked over to the buck Matt, Tom and I were all very happy. The buck was a mature 4 x 4 with a 22 inch spread. As you can see by the photo it will make a great mount for Matt’s living room!

Within a few hours we were back to hunting. Since temperatures once again reached the upper 60’s we spent the afternoon hunting the hills. I learned a great deal about mule deer hunting from Mike. He approached every draw as though there was a 26 inch mule deer buck bedded safely among the brush. We would get to within 10 yards of the peak of a hill. Crawl on our knees until we got a few feet away, then belly crawl the remaining few feet and glass the entire draw. Mike was very experienced and a lot of fun to hunt with. We stalked into position on several mule deer bucks that day as well as glassing several other bucks from the truck. No other shooter bucks showed themselves that day.

As we got back to the lodge it turned out that we weren’t the only hunters in camp to experience good luck. Two other bucks were taken. The largest being a heavy horned 4 by 4 that scored 190 (pictured in the article). The other hunters all reported seeing more deer than the first day. The results were very positive considering the temperatures were still 25 degrees above normal. Seeing those 3 mule deer bucks hanging back at camp made me really anxious for day 3. As Matt and I turned in we laughed as we spent some quality time pulling the cactus needles out of our knee caps with tweezers. It’s funny how the excitement of a mule deer buck can make you ignore the obvious when you are crawling up for a better look. Trust me however, the sorer your knees get the more attention you will pay to the ground when stalking those bucks!

Matt

Matt Wilbert

The third day of the hunt began very much the same as the first two. Within minutes of entering the hunting lease we spotted a good mule deer buck with 7 doe. As we began our stalk Mike told me the buck was definitely a shooter. We got to the draw where we thought the buck would be located. I crawled out to the edge, slid my gun into position looking for the deer. Apparently the deer had worked there way out of that section of the draw. Mike motioned for me to get into position about 75 yards higher which would give me a clear view of the entire draw. I eased into position at first not seeing the deer. For the untrained mule deer eye it is amazing how they can blend perfectly into the sagebrush background. Suddenly I caught movement down the canyon but that was only because they spotted me before I spotted them. As they trotted away the buck was about 150 yards away but all I had was a backend of the deer. A free hand shot at that angle and distance was not something I was comfortable with. At about 500 yards the deer stopped and once again started to feed. With the wind direction not in our favor we just watched them for another 30 minutes. Mike didn’t think we would be able to get any closer so we decided to let them go.

Later that morning I would experience another close encounter with a big mule deer buck. With the temperatures once again on the rise Mike decided our best tactic would be to hunt the draws on foot trying to catch a buck bedded in the sagebrush. What makes hunting this terrain very enjoyable is that you don’t have to be Lance Armstrong to be able to hunt on foot. Mike was always able to take the wind direction into account and slip us quietly in and out of the draws without having to handle any extreme terrain.

We approached the next draw the exact same way Mike approached every draw. As we lay there glassing the draw all was quiet with no deer, at least that is what we thought. There was one tiny section of the draw that we could not see from our vantage point due to a large boulder. When we finished glassing Matt, Mike and I stood up and began to walk around the boulder on our way to the next draw. As we made the turn, THERE HE STOOD. A monster mule deer buck standing just 75 yards away staring at all 3 of us. I chambered a shell and got into a shooting position. By the time I was able to get the cross hairs on him once again all I had was his tail as we bounded straight away from us. Wounding a magnificent animal like that would be a crime in itself so I decided not to shoot. Mike estimated the mule deer buck to have a 30-inch antler spread. Its funny how you can be so very careful hunting but yet the one moment when you least expect it everything happens. We watched and stalked up on several mule deer bucks the remainder of that day but no other shooter bucks showed up.

The weather for the fourth day was forecasted to be the same as the first three, sunny and warm with highs in the mid 60’s. Once again within minutes of entering the lease at first light we saw several deer. Doe and a few small bucks dotted the grain field we were viewing. Suddenly as we came around a small hillside we saw 5 doe along with a small buck. As we moved further around the hillside we saw a big mule deer buck. Mike and I whispered briefly back and forth to each other. It didn’t take long to determine that this was a good buck. Since we were so close getting into position only took a few seconds. One shot immediately dropped the buck. The closer I got the better he looked. He was a mature 4 x 4 with a 25 inch spread. Mike aged him at 7 years. It was nice to have everything work out in our favor on this day.

Deer processing is very convenient with Cedar Breaks. Matt and I took both of our animals to the local deer processing plant in Broadus. It is a very efficient operation. They guarantee your deer will be ready the morning after you drop it off. You are also assured of getting all the venison from the deer you harvested.

Another nice thing about hunting with Dan & Cedar Breaks is their attitude after you kill your animal. There is no rush to get you out of camp for the next hunters. There are still some things to keep you busy for the remainder of your stay. I decided to purchase an over the counter doe tag. Even though I had no interest in taking any more venison home they have a donation process that allows for the distribution of the venison to needy families in the area. That evening I took a mature whitetail doe.

Gross Scored at 188

On our last day Matt and I were on our way to a place that Dan refers to as “ Dog Town”. This was one of his hunting leases that contained 1400 acres of “wall to wall” prairie dogs. Literally thousands of prairie dogs inhabit this area. They are a nuisance to the landowner so he encourages hunters to shoot all they can. Since Matt and I only brought mule deer rifles Mike loaned us his 223-caliber rifle for the day. A quick trip to the local Sporting Goods store to purchase some shells and we were all set. We spent the afternoon fine tuning our shooting skills on the varmints. Neither Matt nor I had done it before so it made for a very fun afternoon.

As Matt and I made the return trip home we talked about the trip. We both agreed that Cedar Breaks was a place that we wanted to return to. Even with Mother Nature against us all the hunters in camp harvested a nice buck and saw plenty of deer. The guides are all friendly. The entire lodge facility is well kept and clean. The dedication that Dan and his entire staff display towards your hunt is something you will not find with many outfitters. They treat you as family not merely as a client. If you are looking for a high quality, reasonably priced mule deer hunt book your hunt with Cedar Breaks. I am confident you will personally experience one of your most memorable hunts ever!

 

Visit their web site at Cedar Breaks Outfitting

 

If you have any detailed questions about this hunt feel free to drop me an email at dlatsha@aol.com . Or feel free to call me as a reference.

Denny Latsha
Huntguide.Com
717-651-9088