After a full nine-hour drive in winter conditions from Bozeman to Draper, I arrived late yesterday evening to Clayton Miller’s lodge … wow, what a trip!

First thing this morning we headed into Pierre to purchase my non-resident archery only “any deer” license. South Dakota is a pretty great place to hunt deer, this is my first adventure here, and considering the $195 tag combined with the big bucks on Clayton’s walls, it won’t be my last.

We didn’t waste any time today and with a freshly printed license we hit the hills. It was pretty balmy afternoon actually, with a low of 21 degrees, and it was a great day to be outside. Clayton and I watched at least 40 four-point mule deer and probably more than 500 does.

Spot and stalk in this country, this late, is going to be tough, but I’m thankful for the opportunity and challenge. We found three good deer, all in the 150-inch to 165-inch class and decided to put a stalk on them. I’ve never harvested a mule deer buck with my bow. I’m going to take as many opportunities to make a stalk as I can during my week-long hunt. The bucks ended up blowing out when we reached 45 yards, with no opportunity for a shot … but for the evening of day one, I was pretty stoked.

This place, this country, is so much like Eastern Montana … one of my favorite places in the world. Clayton has lived here his whole life, and the deer that hang on this walls have all come from this country. All the bucks are monsters, and I can only hope one will be making the journey home with me. We found a couple really big bucks at last light … Clayton estimated one to be almost 33 inches wide. We also found some bucks in country we couldn’t hunt, but they looked as if they would come our way in the next few days. It’s going to be a great trip.

Check out more on Clayton’s outfitting business at the sheer numbers of deer alone, the constant presence of pheasants, and the desolate, yet gorgeous landscape alone are worth the journey here … regardless of success, I’ll be coming back.

This is the final Live Hunt of the season in 2010, I’me hopping we can end just like we started … on a high note.