When you ask local deer hunters about the best place to bag a bragging-size mule deer in Mohave County south of "The Ditch" (Grand Canyon), I'd bet that few would ever say "The Black Mountains." But that is exactly where local sportsman John Beauchamp bagged one heck of a buck on a recent muzzleloader hunt.
John has lived in Kingman for many years. Though bow hunting is his passion, this year he and his brother Eddie decided to apply for a pair of the 200 tags that were offered in game management units 15A, 15B, 15C and 15D. With tags in hand, it was time to plan the hunt.
The first order of business for the pair was to order one of the new inline muzzleloaders that are the rage today. Retiring their caplock rifles wasn't easy, but it had been over 10 years since the brothers had hunted with them and they wanted to buy new charcoal burners.
John decided on a CVA Accura 50-caliber rifle, topped with a Leupold 3 X 9 Ultimate Slam muzzleloader scope. His load would be 120 grains of Blackhorn 209 powder that pushed out a Hornady 44-caliber, sabot-cased, hollow-point bullet.
The hunt started off slowly for the pair of hunters. Not wanting to run into a lot of hunters, the pair opted to try the Music Mountains first.
The first day of the hunt saw the hunters get soaked as a fast-moving rainstorm moved through the area. The next two days the pair spent a lot of time glassing the Musics, but much to their dismay, very little deer sign was found and only two does were seen.
Beauchamp said they did see a dead coyote and a dead javelina near a water tank, and thought that the low deer populations may be the result of illegal poaching activities in the area.
So on the fourth day of the hunt, they decided to head for the nearby Black Mountains. "We knew there wasn't a lot of deer there, but we also knew that there would be few hunters, too," John said.
Beauchamp noted that in the past he and members of his family had seen some good bucks in this arid mountain range, which is located on the west side of Golden Valley.
At daylight, John began glassing with his 15-power Swarovski binoculars, and sure enough, he found a pair of small bucks under a rocky peak. John didn't want to make a stalk on them as they were too small for him, and when he asked his brother if he wanted to go after them, he too declined. John was just about ready to pack it up when he saw another buck, but this one wasn't small. It was a true Black Mountain monster.
"I asked Eddie if he wanted to try for him and he said 'no,' so I decided to make a stalk," John said.
It turned out to be a grueling hike that meant climbing almost vertical over rocks and cactus for more than 1,600 feet.
When Beauchamp reached the peak about where the bucks were bedded, he waited until he had caught his breath before he looked over for the big buck.
"The stalk worked perfectly," Beauchamp said. "I was 142 yards above the buck, who was bedded and didn't even know I was there."
While Beauchamp got his rifle set up on his backpack, he had to wait until the buck stood up to give him a shot.
"He got up after about 10 minutes and all I had was a quartering shot as he started to walk away."
When Beauchamp lit the charcoal, the buck crumpled but then got back up. Beauchamp was furiously trying to reload his rifle when he saw the buck go about 10 yards and then lay down.
The buck expired and John's hunt was over!
When Beauchamp reached the buck, there was no "ground shrinkage" that is so often the case when hunters find out that the rack on the buck they just bagged was smaller than they thought. "I knew he was wide and high, and I could see four points on each side, so I knew he was a mature buck," John said.
What John didn't see when he had glassed him up from 568 yards was that the buck had six scorable points on one side, and five on the other.
Turned out that the buck's antler spread was just under 30 inches wide, which makes this buck a true trophy no matter where he was taken.
But this hunt wasn't over. It took the hunters a long time to pack this deer, which Beauchamp estimated weighed about 190 pounds, down to their vehicle.
"It was a lot of hard work, but it was worth it," Beauchamp said.
Eddie saw some more bucks on his hunt, but he never was able to get within muzzleloader range and ended up not taking a buck on this hunt. But it didn't really matter. He was there and got to watch as his brother took a true Black Mountain trophy.