Grazing mule deer

Mule deer enjoy the warm fall weather as they graze in a field along the North Fork Highway on Thursday.

Kristina Rothery was one of the last customers of the season.

She and friend Jesse Johnstone, both of Ten Sleep, rolled into the Game and Fish check station on West Yellowstone Avenue Thursday afternoon, each recording a mule deer taken in the region.

One difference between Rothery, 24, and others who checked in mule deer, whitetails, and elk during the Nov. 1-10 period the station is open, is that this was not only the first deer harvested in her life, it was also her first hunt.

It was a banner year for mule deer taken in the area with 242 harvested, a significant jump over 2015 when 214 were taken by hunters, and 2014 when the figure was 159. Some 242 were also taken in 2013.

This year equaled the second-most mule deer recorded since 2005, which is as far back as the charts on the wall in the station go.

The busiest such season was 2007 with 287 deer killed.

Also reported to the check station were 18 elk, 21 antelope, and 21 whitetails.

There was some speculation because of warm weather and bright sunshine it would be an off year, but it turned out otherwise. 

Originally from California, Rothery said she was always interested in hunting, but never had the chance to go before.

Rothery and Johnston were on horseback exploring backcountry when they saw two bucks at a distance late in the afternoon of Nov. 7.

They were riding in the Ishawooa Creek area when Johnston spied the deer.

“He shot his first and mine ran up the hill a little bit,” Rothery said.

The deer did not run away and hide, however, which made her shot possible.

Up until then, Rothery’s only live animal hunting practice had been shooting prairie dogs, and never from the kind of range needed to bring down her buck.

“Not from that distance,” Rothery said of her 400-yard deer hit. “That’s my longest shot.”

(Lew Freedman can be reached at lew@codyenterprise.com.)

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