Silver State units 16 and 17 could prove to be just the right place at just the right time for filling your 2006 deer tag. (July 2006)
Mark Thune (left) and guide Tim Strasdin show off Mark's Unit 17 buck.
Photo courtesy of Tim Strasdin
"There he is," Tim Strasdin whispered to 18-year-old Jace Kelly, who was holding a buck tag for Nevada's Unit 17. They and Mark Thune had watched the buck and six others that had been hanging around a small herd of does in a grove of quaking aspens.
Strasdin, of Sage and Pine Outfitters, suggested they move closer to look him over a little more carefully. Understanding the country and the bucks' habits, Strasdin moved Kelly to a vantage point within 250 yards of the big deer. They watched him re-emerge from the grove almost in the same location where he had first come out, hours earlier. Mark, watching from a distance and holding the horses' leads, signaled Kelly with a thumb's up for taking the shot.
The day was like most fall days in the desert -- cold in the morning, hot by afternoon. By midday Kelly, Thune and Strasdin had to strip down to avoid sweating. It was their second day of a five-day hunt on horseback in the Arc Dome Wilderness, where spot-and-stalk tactics are on the menu all day, every day. Strasdin typically stops to glass from vantage points, and if a good buck isn't spotted, he directs his hunters to another high point to glass.
"The country is perfect and exactly what you'd think big-buck country should look like," Thune said. High ridges and rolling hills with drainages just beg to be checked out for their great mule deer hunting. The country is somewhat open in places, and the shots can be long.
Kelly laid down his pack and the coat he had peeled off earlier to make a cushioned rifle rest. The hardest part, he said, was waiting for the buck to move away from the does and present a broadside shot.
As the does cleared away and left the buck alone, Kelly finally squeezed the trigger. Thune saw the hit before the report of the shot reached his ears. Uncertain of his shot, Kelly chambered another round and shot again. This time, the buck went down.
In just a blink of an eye, the buck Jace Kelly had watched all day was down, with only its rack appearing above the sage. The buck turned out to be as nice as Kelly had hoped for. Wide and heavy, the buck's rack was 25 inches wide.
UNITS 16 & 17
In 2005, the Nevada Department of Wildlife issued 295 resident tags and 35 non-resident tags for Unit 16's rifle season, says Paul Strasdin of Sage and Pine Outfitters. There were 76 resident archery and 12 non-resident tags available. And for muzzleloaders, there were 31 resident and five non-resident tags issued.
Unit 17's tags were allocated quite similarly: For rifle hunters, there were 548 resident to 70 non-resident tags in 2005. Archers had a chance at 204 resident and 33 non-resident chances, and there were a whopping 82 resident and six non-resident muzzleloader tags.
As part of the package when you book with Paul, he will put in your application and make sure it is filled out correctly and that you're applying for the unit where you have the best chance to take the trophy of a lifetime. Mark Thune has hunted with Paul three times and has booked a fourth trip, contingent on whether he draws the tag.
"During his hunts in the past, it is not uncommon to glass at least a dozen 26-inch (width) and better bucks," Thune says. "When you can look at that many bucks of that size in a five-day hunt, it's obvious that Nevada is managing its deer herd for quality."
Thune looks for bucks with deep forks over spread. One year, Mark teamed up with Jace Kelly's father, Jon Kelly, on a hunt with Paul Strasdin. Jon killed a buck with antlers two feet tall and two feet wide -- and that was among the smaller bucks they have taken in either Unit 16 or 17. Typically, trophy bucks need a combination of spread, deep forks and mass. "Bucks in these units have it all," Thune says. "Come with an idea of what you want and hold out for just that."
I know what you're thinking: What about that magical buck with a 30-inch inside spread? Paul Strasdin reports that last year, a buck with main beams separated by 34 inches of daylight gave him the slip on more than one occasion. Knowing the area and the amount of hunting pressure it receives, Paul assured me that buck is still up there and that he will find it. Bucks that have 22- and 24-inch spreads are the norm here. Yet Paul says he has to work extra-hard to keep his clients from shooting them and instead holding out for a bigger buck.
HIRING AN OUTFITTER
In both of these units, the best buck hunting falls within the confines of public land -- Toiyabe Mountain Range, Table Mountain Wilderness and Arc Dome Wilderness. But hunters will up their odds of killing a trophy buck by hiring the services of an outfitter. Consider it a bonus to ride pack stock to these hunting grounds.
If you plan to hunt in either Unit 16 or Unit 17 on your own, there are a few things you must know. First, your success is directly related to the amount of work you put in before you draw a tag. That's right: You must be willing to make the commitment before you draw a tag. Scouting a year or more before a potential hunt pays huge dividends.
By doing it yourself, you have to assume control and be prepared for this specialized type of hunting, especially if you'll be accompanied by hunting partners. Your success (or failure) is in your hands. For example, if you plan to bring pack stock from out of state, be sure to check the regulations for moving riding stock across state lines. Veterinarian certificates and other equine paperwork must be fully in order to avoid bureaucratic hassles or worse -- such as not being permitted to use your stock.
You'll also need to be in excellent physical shape. Elevations here range from 7,000 to 10,000 feet.
Finally, check the current hunting regulations on the Nevada DOW's Web site at http://www.ndow.org.
The rewards of DIY hunts, of course, are incredibly satisfying. Left undone, these details could spoil a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Hiring an outfitter sure does take off a lot of the pressure.
BACK TO THE HUNT
With Kelly's buck down on the second day of their hunt, it was Thune's turn to find a buck. He wanted one with a rack to exceed the deeply forked antlers with a 28-inch spread on the buck he'd killed a year earlier.
Days three and four passed uneventfully. On the last day of their hunt, Thun
e and Tim Strasdin left the horses behind They drove to the end of a Forest Service road and headed in to hike into a spot just five miles inside the wilderness boundary. Thune had looked over several bucks in the 27-inch category and one that was definitely 28. But he was holding out for something even bigger.
Thanks to Strasdin's knowledge of the area, they didn't have to climb to the top of each hill or ridge to see what they needed. As luck would have it, as they worked toward a vantage point, they spotted a good buck. He was bedded in the sun and had no idea of the hunters' presence. Thune, however, was having trouble deciding whether to pursue the buck.
The pair watched the buck for about four hours and even worked to different vantage points to look closely at its antlers. "No matter how much glassing we did, we couldn't stretch his antlers." Thune said. But with the sun dropping and a long hike back out ahead of them, he had to make a decision: either shoot the buck or glass their way back toward Strasdin's rig.
Mark had come to Nevada specifically to kill a bigger buck than he had killed the previous year. And this wasn't it. He passed and has re-booked with Sage and Pine Outfitters, hoping to return this year to find that elusive 34-incher or another trophy buck.
FOR YOUR INFORMATION
You can contact Paul and Tim Strasdin of Sage and Pine Outfitters in Fallon, Nev., at (775) 423-6171. Two other outfitters serving Units 16 and 17 are Jim Stahl of Mustang Outfitters in Round Mountain, Nev., at (775) 964 2145, and Todd Schwandt of Nevada High Country Outfitters in Lamville, Nev., at (775) 777-3277.
To reach the Nevada Department of Wildlife, call (775) 423-3171 or visit http://www.ndow.org.