Teen Tags Monster Mule Deer, Finds Its Sheds 50 Yards from Where It Fell

“When we started walking up on him, he just kept getting bigger and bigger”
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A teen with her giant blackpowder buck.

Lopez killed the buck with an open-sight muzzleloader while hunting with her dad. Courtesy Richard Lopez

Esparanza Lopez might only be 15 years old, but she’s gained plenty of experience hunting the New Mexico backcountry with her dad, Richard. They spend most of their weekends in the fall chasing big game on horseback, and Richard is constantly passing down the same lessons he learned from his own father. But on Sunday, after Esparanza shot a jaw-dropping, 28-point mule deer buck with her muzzleloader, a few of those lessons went right out the window.  

“My dad, he’s always told me to wait like an hour or two to make sure they die,” Esparanza says. “But no. He ran right over there.”

The two found the buck lying dead where Esparanza had shot it through the heart. To top it all off, they also found the buck’s matching sheds from the year before. The shed antlers were lying only 50 yards away from where the two recovered the buck.

teen hunter monster muley buck sheds nearby
After recovering the buck of a lifetime, they found the buck's sheds from last year lying nearby. Courtesy Richard Lopez

The 15-year-old hunter tells Outdoor Life that she and her dad rode their horses into the public land unit and hunted the Saturday opener of the youth muzzleloader season. They hunted through the rain on Sunday morning and then took a midday break to tend to their horses and mules and build a fire.   

In the afternoon, the two rode up a nearby ridge, where they tied off their horses near the mouth of a canyon. They slowly worked their way up the draw while Richard glassed both sides.

“I had my spurs on still, so I was walking super, super slow because I didn’t want to make any noise. My dad had just finished glassing on one side [of the canyon] and he’d switched over to the other side,” Esparanza says. “That’s when I saw [the buck] pop up from his bed to eat on some oak brush. I just saw the body and some horns, but I didn’t think he was as big as he was.”

When Richard looked at the buck through his binoculars, he was stunned. He never even told Esperanza what they were looking at as he helped her set up a roughly 100-yard shot with her open-sight muzzleloader. Thinking she was aiming at a decent 5×5, Esparanza shot once and dumped the deer in its tracks.

After rushing up to see the once-in-a-lifetime buck, Richard started looking for a route to bring their mules in so they could pack it out.

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“He looked behind me and saw [the buck’s] two sheds not even 50 yards from where I’d killed him,” Esparanza says. “When we started walking up on him, he just kept getting bigger and bigger.”

Lopez with sheds and a giant deer.
The buck's sheds were 50 yards away. Courtesy Richard Lopez

The buck’s nontypical rack has 28 points and an outside spread of around 32 inches. Richard says that although they won’t get the buck officially scored until after the 60-day drying period is up, he’s had friends throw out estimates over 200 inches. He says they’re planning to do a combined, side-by-side euro mount with last year’s sheds.

“I hunt with some guys who really know deer, and if they had to guess, they said 230,” Richard says. “I just don’t know enough about scoring nontypicals. We kill a lot of deer, but we’ve never killed anything like this.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify the day of the week the season opened.