The Last November: Hunting the Kaibab 12AW Late Rifle Mule Deer
Updated: Jan 1
Left to Right Andrew Currie, Kristin Currie, Richard Currie, Chance Currie, Alyssa McGuire, Cole McGuire, Dillon Currie.
Hunting the Kaibab Plateau of northern Arizona Is like no other place is the state. From the thick Ponderosa Pine forests that cover most of the higher elevations to the juniper and sage flats that hold tight to the edges of the west side canyons overlooking Kanab creek, the Kaibab is awe inspiring. The area has become a legacy for our family. My great grandfather Alvin Currie and grandfather Milton Currie hunted the area in the 1950’s through the 1970’s bringing home many impressive trophies over the years. In more recent years my family and I have been extremely blessed in drawing tags for the 12 A West late hunt. My older Sister Alyssa McGuire has held three tags, my mom Kristin Currie two, and my dad Richard Currie along with myself have each held the tag once respectively. 2013 was my younger brother Chance’s lucky year drawing his first 12 A West late Mule Deer tag.
Left to Right Chuck Currie, Alvin Currie, Milton Currie, Howard Currie circa 1965.
Right, Doug Currie 1972 in House Rock Valley.
At the time Chance was 14 years old, the youngest in our family of dedicated hunters he held high expectations going into such a renowned hunt. His goal was to kill something worthy of being mounted and added to our so-call “Kaibab collection.” Additionally, he wanted to find a big non-typical with a drop tine. This goal was going to be no easy task. We have seen many great bucks over our experience with the area but the real difficulty was going to be finding a big non-typical.
The late hunt falls over the week of Thanksgiving. I can’t remember the last time we actually celebrated the holiday on the right day because every year we have been sitting behind the glass combing the hills and canyons for those illusive giant mule deer that call the canyon lands home.
The hunt started out as many others had with weather. A cold front moved in and the heavens began falling all across the state. Low cloud ceiling blanketed the high country and covered the upper elevation of the unit with snow. Snow is to be expected hunting the Kaibab and the hunting is always better when the weather conditions are miserably cold. 2013 was a different year than most. The weather dictates the migration of deer in the area and the first few days of the hunt are spent figuring out in what area have the highest deer densities.
We found ourselves along the western edge of the unit, a vast expanse of sage and juniper flats and ridges that seem to run right up to the sheer faces of the canyons, the vegetation in sharp contrast to the tan and crimson rock walls falling off towards Kanab creek and looking westward towards the Arizona Strip. Deer were everywhere. Each ridgeline held a new heard to be examined through the glass while fighting the cold. Each day of the hunt we saw somewhere between 30-40 bucks and countless does. The rut was not quite in full swing yet. Most of the bucks that were pushing were in the 2-3 year old range, occasionally seeing bigger more mature 160” class bucks with does.
This year was unique in the number of truly non-typical deer we saw. One buck my brother passed up on was a 24-25” wide mainframe heavy 2x2 with deep forks and triple kickers on both the left and right sides about 3” each. One of the kickers off of the bucks left antler was a 6” hook coming out and then paralleling the back main point. This wasn’t the only strange buck we saw on the hunt. Another deer we called the “elk buck.” Was unlike any I had ever seen. As a normal mule deer frame would appear this buck has no main beam, double eye guards on its right, one of which was 6-7” the other about 4” straight forward. The back points swept back much like a bull elk each side having several other small bits of trash and extras.
Chance’s determination to kill a trophy class Mule Deer buck was outstanding for any hunter let alone a 14-year-old kid on his first Mule Deer hunt. One opportunity on a 190” 5x4 just didn’t work out. The wind was wrong and as soon as we saw the buck he was on the move. We continued to try and relocate this buck for the next couple of days but were never able to find him again. Hours of driving, hiking, and glassing turned up more and more deer but just not one big enough.
On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving we split up to cover a wider expanse. I took Chance on hike into the area of the 190” buck. My older brother Andrew took off solo to cover new canyons and my parents went to yet another area. Every opportunity I had with Chance I got him set up, even on smaller bucks, simply to help him out with the familiarity of hiking and quick setups. We were in the process of getting in on some “practice deer” when my older brother Andrew came through on the radio. He had located what appeared to be a shooter buck and was on his way to us to get the better glass. We rendezvoused at the nearest road, got in, and drove like crazy racing the fading sun as it fell into the canyons.
We made it to the spot with very little glassable light. I couldn’t locate the big wide buck Drew had picked up in the 8’s but found several other nice typicals. Nevertheless we were going be there at first light.
We left camp earlier than normal Thanksgiving morning and began the long drive to the glassing point. Getting there well under the cover of darkness we parked and waited. As soon as there was enough glassing light we picked up deer. At least a half dozen bucks in the first minute. No big wide buck. We moved further down the ridgeline and seconds after coming around the corner I glassed him up. There he was working up the opposite side of the canyon with a couple other deer and a small 4x5. It was no question the same deer Drew had got a glimpse of the night before on his own. From where we were and how quickly the deer was moving there was no making a move. We watched as he worked to the skyline and disappeared over the western edge of the canyon.
After watching the buck’s direction we got in the truck and took off to get to the area we suspected he had gone. A couple forks in the road later, a bit of intuition, and some geographic reference points and it was time to hike. Andrew, Chance, my brother-in-law Cole McGuire, and myself began to hike in search of the buck. Chance and I took the lead as Drew and Cole stayed a bit behind watching the thick cover. We worked up the first gradual escarpment and immediately located the small 4x5 that was seen with our target buck. After a few minutes of glassing and many more bucks found running does there was no monster. Then the radio call, dad had him glassed up. Just out of site from us he had gone further down the ridge, walked to the edge and pick up the deer in the binos. A short walk later and we had line of sight with my dad up above us. I talked with him to figure out the deer’s location. Keeping Chance up front right off to my side as we methodically walked. Each tree we went around stopping and glassing. Working through the sage and juniper I poked my head around the next tree, raised up my 15’s and all I saw was one heavy horn and the deer bedded. It took a little bit to get Chance good and set up sitting behind the bipod. He got behind the Winchester Model 70, 30-06 as I got the 15’s set up on the tripod and the camera on the buck. From our vantage point the deer was bedded with his head on the left side, broadside with a narrow shooting lane. You could only see one antler. A juniper tree blocked his face and the other trees in the foreground formed a V on the body of the buck that sat perfectly on the kill zone. I ranged the Mule deer at 337 yards, hit record, and told Chance shoot when you’re ready, Hold just off the left edge of the V formed by the bushes. Cole was sitting just behind Chance to the right, Drew to the left with me, and my parents and sister watching from the bluffs above. He touched off the shot… Drilled him! He had squeezed off a picture perfect shot. The all copper bullet breaking the front leg and dead centering the heart as the old monarch was rocked out of his bed the buck jumped to his feet and went about 30 yards before falling over.
Left, Chance's 2013 West side buck.
Below, Milton's 1960s East side buck.
Talk about an excited little brother. Not only had he shot a unique, monster, non-typical, 30” wide Muley but it also had a 6” drop off the backside. Each person in the family got to play an important roll in getting this deer on the ground, everyone got to watch the shot, and his persistence paid off. The kill on this buck could not have been scripted better. This was they oldest buck checked in at the Jacob Lake check station for 2013 according to the people working at the time at 9+ years old. It has 9 scoreable points on the right side and 6 on the left. I was incredibly proud to be a part of this hunt and to help him in taking this monarch. There is lucky, good, and persistent and my younger brother Chance showed how to demonstrated all of those on this hunt.
This story is dedicated to Andrew Richard Currie, his last hunt with the family. See you in Heaven brother. You are loved and missed. October 3rd 1988 - January 16th 2014.
This story was also featured in ORG Hunt.
Left to Right Cole McGuire, Andrew Currie, Chance Currie, Dillon Currie.