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This Elk & Mule Deer Outfit Is A Real Find
(posted March - 2010)
 

Iron Mountain Outfitters is a small operation offering elk, mule deer and antelope hunts on the Horse Creek Ranch. This property is located in the middle of the Laramie Range, about 45 miles northwest of Cheyenne. I hunted there for elk and mule deer with guide/outfitter Dennis Magnusson this past October and took a 350-class bull elk and 177 B & C mule deer.

 Horse Creek Ranch (one of several by that name in Wyoming) is one the most beautiful properties I’ve seen out West. It is one contiguous block with limited access and lots of wildlife, including elk, mule deer, whitetail deer, antelope and cougars, plus, of course, coyotes. There is also lots of bird life and some great trout fishing in stream-fed lakes and ponds.

 The property sprawls the Laramie Range, running over the summits and dropping onto the Laramie Plains. It encompasses about 100,000 acres, of which Magnusson hunts exclusively on about 75,000. There is no public land inside or around the ranch, so there are no public hunters pressuring the game or competing with Magnusson’s hunters.

 The ranch owner, Dave Berry, is an intriguing man from an old Wyoming ranching family and is very interested in the quality of the hunting and the success of the hunting operation. He keeps an excellent balance between cattle ranching and wildlife. Everything on the Horse Creek Ranch is done right. Fences are straight, roads are good, lakes and waterways clean and no junk piles anywhere.

 The ranch features mostly open country, with lots of high rolling plains and rocky outcroppings. In some areas, the land is broken up with deep canyons and patches of aspen. For the most part, you can see out for five miles. The hill country holds good numbers of elk, and there are large resident herds that wander around here. It’s possible to see 350 to 400 elk in one herd.

 The elk I shot was with a group of about 500 - an awesome sight. That doesn’t mean, however, that you will always find them on this huge property. In order to cover so much land, Magnusson does not use ATVs or horses. There are numerous two-track roads that allow him to cover lots of ground and access hunting areas by truck. The secret is to get up high and glass where Magnusson has seen trophy animals hang out. Hunters walk up to a rock outcrop and glass the open miles of country. If they spot something that looks worth checking out, Mag- nusson may drive to a better position, but the stalking is done on foot. Sometimes you may have to walk a mile to get into position. It’s not extraordinarily difficult or physically demanding, though. There may be some steep areas, but they are not very rugged. Elevations are perhaps 7,000 to 8,000 feet. Obviously, the better shape you are in, the better you will be able to climb the higher ridges.

 Be prepared for the possibility of long shots. After quite a bit of stalking for my elk, we figured we couldn’t get closer. I didn’t want to use my rifle over 350 yards so Magnusson loaned me his Rifle- Werks 1,000 yard rifle in 7mm Rem. Mag. with a Huskemaw 5-20 scope. I made a 508-yard one-shot kill on my bull elk.

 The game on this property is not pressured at all. One day while we were driving the ranch road, there were two mule deer bucks standing about 70 yards from the road just staring at us. That said, you won’t see big trophies from the road. You will have to hunt to take a good animal.

 I have hunted with Magnusson several times and have always had a good experience. The elk and mule deer I took this last time are admittedly above average, but the good ones are there. The three hunters before me each got a 6 x 6 elk and a 4 x 4 mule deer. Other times I have taken antelope scoring in the mid-70s.

 There are always elk around, with plenty in the 300- to 350-class, although larger ones are there. Last year, one of Magnusson’s clients took a 371 bull. You can hold out for a 6 x 6 for sure. I have seen lots of mule deer, although the big trophies are not all over. Most are 150 to 160 inches. Magnusson was taking bucks in the 170- to 200-inch class every year. Recently, mountain lions have taken out some of the older bucks, so trophy quality has been in the 170-range. I was lucky to get a really good mule deer.

 There are quite a few antelope too. Due to the higher elevations and tougher winters, however, they don’t get as big as in other areas of Wyoming. While you likely won’t find many Boone & Crockett bucks, you will see good ones that will score between 70 and 77. Magnuson has taken a few in the 80-class. For sure you can expect to take a 14-plus-inch antelope.

 Magnusson charges $5,000 for five-day elk hunts, $4,000 for four-day mule deer hunts and $2,000 for three-day antelope hunts. All include lodging, meals and guiding. The accommodations are great. There are two choices: The Stone House, built in 1893, is the main ranch house. It was restored and converted into a five-bedroom guesthouse complete with huge trophy room and a cook. The trophy room features 27-foot peak ceilings with 14-foot walls and an eight-foot fireplace. All of the trophies there are from the property. The second choice of lodging is a more remote cabin located by a good brown trout lake. It’s a modern 2,500-square-foot structure with three bedrooms and two baths. While it is more of a do-it-yourself situation, you can start hunting elk right out the door.

 Iron Mountain Outfitters is a small operation of just Magnusson and one other guide. He only takes eight to 10 elk hunters a year. The season runs from early October to late November, and he spreads hunters across that period allowing a rest between each group so the elk don’t get pounded. Mule deer hunts run from mid-October to the end of the month, and he takes only eight. And antelope hunts take place in early October, with four to six hunters for the season. Drawing a mule deer and antelope tag here is practically guaranteed. An elk tag usually takes accumulating two to three points.

 Magnusson previously worked for Berry on the Horse Creek Ranch for 10 years and personally hunted it throughout that time. So, he knows the property very well. I like to think he knows all the coyotes by name. He lives on and manages the adjoining Iron Mountain Ranch, so he is in the area year round and knows what is happening. He has an eagle eye for game and is a good trophy judge.

 He is not only an excellent guide but a really personable young man who is enjoyable to hunt with, has a cheerful disposition and is very considerate. He adjusts his hunting style to suit the client’s ability and does not try to out-macho you like other young guides. I would rate Magnusson as one of the two best guides I’ve hunted with during all my hunts in North America, South America, Africa, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. I could not recommend him more highly. Contact him at 307-634-9748 or on his cell at 307-640-6431. – Embry Rucker.

(Postscript: In a follow-up call to Magnusson, he said that he also offers some limited hunting opportunities on the Iron Mountain Ranch. The property encompasses about 30,000 acres of very rough country with few roads and lots of trees. Magnusson describes it as a “discouraging” place to hunt. That said, a very fit and patient hunter will find excellent trophy bucks there. Magusson produced a 197½ B & C mule deer there last season, but says it took three solid days of hunting and passing on about 15 deer. The area also holds good elk. Hunts on the Iron Mountain are for archery only.)


  


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