Hunting is more special when it becomes part of family tradition. In this episode, Chelsie Wilkey shares her triumph in getting her biggest muzzleloader buck with her husband and grandpa. Telling us where her hunting tradition came from, Chelsie talks about her granddad taking her up to a family camp at Utah Central Mountains at the tender age of five. Since then, things have not changed in 20 plus years. With her skill, she shares how it feels like being in the male-dominated hunting world and talks about the pride of being with Girls with Guns and Vanguard. She shares some real-life experiences on surviving the wilderness and how it can be applied in whitetail hunting
Listen to the podcast here:
Mule Deer Hunting – Nebo Unit
We’re heading out to Utah. Chelsie Wilkey and I had a meetup. We had burgers and we talked about Girls With Guns. We talked about hunting. We talked about her grandfather getting Mr. Wonderful, the dream buck. I wanted to have her share those stories with you. Chelsie, welcome to the show. Once again, you’re an alumni girl.
Thanks. It’s good to be back.
Let’s talk about your muzzleloader buck in 2018 and then tell the story about gramps getting the dream buck.
We had done a lot of scouting in 2018. We had been after this buck we had dubbed dream buck. He was big. All three years we chased him. That was my goal for the muzzleloader season in 2018. We had gone out every single morning, every single night that we could. There were a lot of people up there that we had guessed pushed him out. We were looking and I got lucky the night before, but it was past shooting hours and I spotted this buck with a tall rack. We did not have on camera. We had never seen him before. The only thing we could guess was that someone had pushed him from the pines down into the flat.
The next morning we made a plan, never seen him again, heartbroken. Have your mindset on something and you wake up and you’re heartbroken. We decided to go back out later that night. I had someone cover me for work, went back out and luckily he was feeding in the same spot. No one around, it was perfect. That’s when I ended up shooting my biggest muzzleloader buck. I’m hoping to top that. It was pretty fun. Muzzleloaders do pack a punch and they usually slam them to the ground. It’s a little bit different than hunting long-range with a rifle. It’s a little more intense. Get to be all in camo and be a little bit sneakier. That’s why I’m doing it again.My passion is the outdoors - my work is a first responder Click To Tweet
It’s a little bit more challenging. As for dream buck, I didn’t get him on the muzzleloader hunt, but he frequented our camera all through September. He ended up being on camera, the same canyon we were hunting the next day after I harvested that tall four-point. Heartbreaking there, but I was happy with what I got. We kept watching him and then as soon as they started rubbing their velvet off, he disappeared again. We took a few scouting trips, never seen him, all hopes for last, but we’ll still give it our go. We went to opening morning and it was like a pumpkin patch. There was bright orange everywhere you looked.
We rode around with my grandpa, he was the one that had the tag and we were on four-wheelers. We rode around, getting a feel of where people were at, didn’t see anything that opening morning. I guess we could’ve thrown a rock and maybe poked the eye out of a little two-point right off the side of the road. We were after dream buck. That night we went back out again, the same thing. There was a big old pumpkin patch everywhere we looked. We didn’t put much effort into looking. There were too many people out and about. Usually, that Sunday of the opening weekend fizzles out.
We decided to go opening morning, still didn’t see anything but the orange pumpkin patch was drastically smaller. We decided to check a few of our little canyons we had seen dream buck walking through early in the season. We didn’t see anything too. Spikes that were twins were still hanging with the mom and decided that we’ll ride around until breakfast time and then we can take one quick look and then head back. We headed back to that same canyon with the spikes because that’s the canyon that he would walk down for water. My husband and my grandpa pull up and we’re all looking.
They’re like, “It’s the same two spikes. The mom was bedded down.” I’m like, “I don’t know what you guys are looking at but you should probably get your gun.” My grandpa, he looks at me like, “I’m not shooting a spike on opening weekend.” I go, “You should probably get your gun and look in between the two spikes.” Between the two spikes was a little clump of oak brush and dream buck was standing right in the middle of the oak brush hidden. My grandpa saw him and took an excellent shot on him. The rest was history. We weren’t quite sure it was him at first.
I knew that it was a buck worthy of shooting. I walked through the canyon over to the other side to check it out. My grandpa and my husband drove the four-wheelers around to the other side of the canyon so that we could have an easy drag out for my grandpa. I stood there smiling, waiting for them to walk down because it was him. We knew it was him with the little kicker that he had off the side. My grandpa had always said that he wanted to shoot a buck that would win him a Jeep. We did that in 2018. We got him a buck that would win him a Jeep.
Did he win the Jeep?
No, they don’t end up doing that anymore. They used to when he was younger. They would put in an entry fee and then at the end of hunting season, whoever shot the biggest buck would win the Jeep. They quit doing that a few years ago. He still would always say that he wanted to shoot a buck big enough to win a Jeep. That was our goal and we made that goal for him.
Congrats on your deer and then your gramp’s deer. Let’s get back to the hunting tradition. I know your grandfather has played a huge role in that for you. When did that all start?
I went on my first hunt when I was five months old and we’ve been going ever since. We go every year for the rifle hunt. It’s a holiday here in Utah. It usually falls on fall break for school, so it ends up being a pretty big deal. It’s the last camping trip for the year for everybody. I was five months old when on my first hunt and I’ve been going ever since with them. He owns property up in Holiday Oaks here and we go camping up there, haul our trailers up the Thursday night before and then we spend all day Friday, all day Saturday and all day Sunday up there. Always cook us some good mountain man breakfast, always have some peach cobbler and always have a good time with family.
How big is your family?Hunting with a muzzleloader is more challenging because you only have one shot to make it happen. Click To Tweet
Our family is pretty big. We’ve got four trailers up there usually. There are probably about 10, 15 of us up there every year.
Does everybody have tags? Is this a family affair?
Usually, it’s me, my husband and my grandpa that hunt. My uncle moved to Hawaii for work so he doesn’t get to hunt anymore. He’s a non-resident. For him to draw a tag now is pretty difficult. It’s usually us three. Once again, it’s my grandpa that has a tag. My husband didn’t draw and I drew a muzzleloader tag. We must be after another buck for him.
Even though you’re a resident, there are no over-the-counter tags for the general season for deer, is that correct?
There is but it’s not for the area that we hunt. We hunt the Central Mountain Nebo Unit. It’s five minutes away from our house.
It’s right up the Canyon from One Man Band, right?
Yes, right up the canyon from where we ate.
That was great. That’s the Wasatch Front, correct?
It’s south of the Wasatch Front. Wasatch Front is up by the Provo area.
It’s south of there. We’re talking about you’ve got flatland and then it goes straight up to sizeable canyons and mountains. It’s interesting terrain now that’s for sure. You can shoot with a rifle, muzzleloader and/or a bow. What do you like best?
I’m usually a rifle girl, but I’m leaning towards muzzleloader. I shot a bow the first time a couple of years ago. We’re not much into archery here because of the terrain. It’s hard to shoot an archery buck when the closest that you can get to it is 100 yards away. The canyon is steep so you could probably get closer, but by the time you got to them, they’d be long gone. We’re usually into the rifle but fell in love with the muzzleloader. It’s a little more challenging. You’ve got one shot to make it happen and a little more difficult.It's really hard to shoot an archery buck when the closest that you can get to it is 100 yards away. Click To Tweet
You love hunting so much. What’s the secret? You’re talking to thousands of ladies. What’s a secret for you as a woman hunting big game?
The biggest secret that I have to say is don’t give up. You might feel like it’s a man dominated world, which it is, but if you don’t give up and you keep trying, you’ll make it happen. Hunting takes a lot of patience and I’ve learned throughout the years that if you don’t give up, it usually ends up working out again.
You have a lot of no quit, basically.
Yeah, a lot of no quit.
How far is your hunting area from your house?
It’s five minutes away.
That makes it convenient because five minutes you can go out for an hour, hit your glassing spots, either there’s something there or not. The sun comes up and you go to work. By the way, thank you for being a First Responder. Chelsie’s an EMT there in Nephi, Utah, thanks for that.
You’re welcome. It’s a fun job. I love it.
It’s important. People don’t understand it’s important until they need them. In the past, I’ve been a First Responder and here I am. Let’s talk about you’ve got yourself in line with a few companies, Girls With Guns. Let’s talk about that relationship.
I got on the team with Girls With Guns in 2018. I love the girls that are on there with me. I couldn’t ask for better people to connect with. It’s been nice because I’m also an instructor for the Ladies Hunting Camp in Oregon and Utah. I get to meet a lot of the ladies are on the team at these camps. It’s good to put a face with the social media profile. They came out with a new lightweight hunting line and I am super excited to try it out for the muzzleloader hunt. They barely released it. It’s been a good thing. I fell into it with a lot of good friends and I’ve made more friends in the process with it.Hunting takes a lot of patient. If you don't give up, it usually ends up working out again. Click To Tweet
Why do you want to be involved with a company such as Girls With Guns?
They’re a company that is specifically for women in the hunting industry. There are a lot of companies out there that cater to both sides, but this is a straight-up women’s company made by women for women. They’re all about promoting women in the outdoors, getting women to go into the outdoors. They do a lot of great things and they stand for everything that I stand for and it’s pretty great.
Who are the gals that own that?
Jen and Norissa, they’re from California. They started it in their garage and here it is. It’s one of the leading women’s camo lines and I’m glad that they started it in their garage.
Jen has been on the show before and she’s a sweetheart. If somebody says, “I’d like to be on a team.” What are the things that you look for when you’re thinking, “Should I join this team or not? Should I be on this Pro Staff or not?” What are your criteria?
I usually go for something that I already believe in. With Girls with Guns, I already had some of their stuff. I already love some of their stuff. Their stuff worked out for me well. I look for companies that I already know will work with my hunting. As with Vanguard, they have excellent optics. They’re waterproof. They’re fog-proof. It’s something that up here on Nebo, it can be snowing one minute and 90 degrees the next minute. I was looking for something that could go from one extreme to the next and not falter on me. That’s what I look for in companies. I found that signing up for anything and wanting to be with anything, it’s hard to use that in the field if you’re not already using it. I always look for something that I’m using or something similar to what I’m already using.
That would be a recommendation to any ladies that, “I’d like to get on a Pro Staff,” or whatever. One, use the product, fall in love with the product and then reach out and see what your relationship can be. You’ve got Vanguard. You’re in line with Vanguard and Girls with Guns. Any other companies?
I’m on the team for a ReelCamo Girl and it’s an online community that empowers women. We have a great page. We have what we call Brand Champions and it’s a page on Facebook. Anybody can join it. It’s for women that love the outdoors and it’s a place to safely share your hunting, fishing and outdoor pictures without any negative feedback. It’s a great company. I loved being a part of it. The ladies that are on the team are wonderful as well. I’ve met a lot of people through the Facebook page and I’ve met them at the Ladies Hunting Camps and at some of the shows, Western Utah shows up here and stuff. It’s been a good place to share stories, ask questions, and not have any negative feedback like some other places do on Facebook.
When you go to these camps, what are you instructing ladies on?
In the last couple of years, I was a rifle instructor with Sereena Thompson. In 2019, I was a little bit pregnant.Wilderness safety is something that starts with common sense. Click To Tweet
You were a lot pregnant.
I only went up for one day. I was close. I ended up having her a week later. I was close to having a baby. In 2019, I did a demonstration on wilderness, first aid, and how you can use stuff out in the woods to your benefit to help with first aid and whatnot. We did a little bit of first aid training on that. I ended up going home because I was pregnant. I didn’t dare stay because we were out in the middle of nowhere. We were up at the R & K Hunting Lodge and it’s about 1.5 hours from an actual hospital and it’s three hours away from home. We went up and back that day but I did get to see all my friends. I met a bunch of new people, and had a good time and taught a little bit of wilderness and first aid.
Three things right off the bat that any of the audience should know about survival in the wilderness.
Always let someone know where you’re going, number one. Number two, always take an extra bottle of water. Three, know where you’re at. Know the wilderness and the area good. I’ve met a lot of people up on the mountain that I’ve gotten lost ten feet off the road because it gets thick. Make sure that you know the area well. Make sure you tell someone where you’re going and always take that extra bottle of water in case if you do get lost.
Have a super glue with you. How would I use super glue?
You can use superglue for anything. Super glue is the greatest thing ever. You can use it to close a cut. You can use it to do just about anything.
It’s liquid sutures basically, if you go to the ER room and they give you liquid suture, you get super glue.
I have used super-glue and super glued back some shoelaces on my boot before out there. I super glued back a strap on a backpack to get it to make it back to the truck. It’s a good thing to have.
Those are things. The other thing is that I’ve read something and I did it is on your trekking poles, I use trekking poles, you put electrical tape, wind up some of that, one or two feet and then duct tape on the other one. You always got the additional tools that you carry. It weighs something but weighs nothing. It makes a difference. One thing I would echo, more and more people are using digital maps. They’re using apps that tell them where they are and use a GPS and the phone. I was in Utah and the first day I forgot my extra battery. The second day, I had the battery with no cord and the third day I had everything. It adds a little bit of extra weight.
The most important thing to me is knowing where the heck you are. Know that streams flow downhill in the mountains. Sooner or later, you will come to a road. I don’t know how many days, but sooner or later you will in fact come to a road. We’re not in Alaska. We’re talking miles, not days, in actuality. That’s my tip for the wilderness. Know where you are and fly it on Google Earth before you go hunting. Get a topo map to go along with your app. I’m going to do some shows in winter about the importance of topo maps. I’m going to reach out to onX and see if they’ll sponsor that because it’s important. All of these apps are great. If your battery goes dead, you’ve got offline maps. I get that. If your phone’s dead, then you’re screwed. There are some things I was talking to Jeanette Hall. She was hunting mountain goats. She was in the mountain and they were set up right at the tree line, she dropped below treeline to refill her water at the spring. It was dark and she didn’t have her headlamp. She wasn’t 100 yards from her camp.
It is crazy how you can get lost in the dark.
You can read on Jeanette’s book a Life Behind the Crosshairs. Read it, but we don’t think enough about that. Your thoughts on being wilderness smart, that’s the thing. Let’s talk about that for a little bit.
Being wilderness smart is being wilderness smart. You’ve got to think of all aspects of the hunt. You’ve got to be smart about hunting, but you also need to be smart about your safety. Safety comes before the harvest. A lot of people forget about that in the wilderness. I don’t want to have to come and pick you up at the bottom of a canyon because that is my job. It’s sad to see that people forget that safety should always come first. There are a lot of pictures that I’ve seen on Instagram of pictures that people have been taking. It’s one of those things that if you’re going to do it for the likes then don’t do it. You should think about your safety first and then take a picture.
There have been some close calls with some of my friends up on the mountains with some stuff that is common sense. They wore short socks with boots. That calls for some shredded ankles when you get back. Wilderness safety is something that starts with what we call common sense in the EMS world. It’s not as common as it used to be, but if you apply your common sense before you go out on a hunt, you should be okay. Don’t do anything dangerous. Don’t do stuff for the likes. We’re all out there for the same reason. That’s to harvest an animal and to have a good time. I don’t know about you, but I like to be safe so that I can harvest an animal. I can get home. I like my own bed.
The biggest thing in the whitetail world is safety lines, safety straps, forget the wooden stands and people are getting better and better, but still every year people fall from treestands, slip from their icy treestands. There are a gazillion things and there are ways to negate that to minimize that. I have a friend, Joseph Byler, who’s got a great story about how his climber let go and he hung upside down almost to where he expired. Hanging upside down and your legs are at an angle and stuff, it will cut off circulation. Certainly you’re going to die but he didn’t. He tells a story.
Things can happen when you least expect and especially when we get comfortable. I’ve been in that stand and all that. I’ve been up that trail. I’ve gone to that point. I’ve gone down that chute or whatever. Especially when you get in downfalls. I climbed up a trail that turned into the creek and the creek was dry. I’m climbing up, I’m going uphill on the dry creek bed and I go, “What’s going to happen if I hurt my ankle, break my ankle?” Worst case scenario, break my ankle. I can get back out to the main trail and then somebody at some time, a mountain biker or somebody will run over me at some time.
You play these scenarios and that’s the only thing I would say to anybody being willing to save is run the scenario. Say, “What’s the worst-case scenario?” If I tripped and got impaled on a burnt branch, I’m dead because I’m going to bleed out pretty much. I don’t want to do that. You go around obstacles rather than over obstacles. It’s that thinking, the common sense we were talking about, it will save your life and you’ll never get in that situation. That’s the thing to mitigate any of those high-risk situations. I guess that’s my two cents. What are your thoughts on that?
Think it through. Accidents do happen. Sometimes you can’t help it, but sometimes stuff can be prevented if you think it through.
Do you have any last thoughts?
Good luck to everybody hunting. Archery season started here in Utah and have fun out there.
Chelsie, I can’t wait until we meet up again. I’ll be up at the Sportsmen’s Expo in Salt Lake City in the middle of February. My plan is to be with Michael T. Merrill there and who I hunted with in Utah. Connect with you and some of my older friends and we’ll try to sponsor a little meetup during the show so we can have some fun, have some pizza and hang out.
It sounds like a plan to me.
If anybody’s reading this in December, mark your calendar to be at the Sportsmen’s Expo, Salt Lake City, and then tune in and I’ll have a signup or meetup announcement. If you read, you can come. If you don’t read, too bad. That’s the way it goes. It’s been a pleasure. By the way, let’s give props to Chelsie and her husband on their new baby. Good on you. I can’t wait to see some pictures of Mr. Wonderful.
- Chelsie Wilkey
- Girls With Guns
- Ladies Hunting Camp
- Jen O’Hara – previous episode
- ReelCamo Girl
- Life Behind the Crosshairs
- Sportsmen’s Expo
About Chelsie Wilkey
Chelsie lives in a small town in Central Utah where she learned to love the outdoors. She was taught how to clean her first deer at the age of six and today she teaches and helps others out in the field. Her love for the outdoors never went away as she grew older and that is what brought her and her husband together. Today they do everything together from fly fishing to elk hunting and everything in between.
She and her husband just welcomed their first baby, Railee, and they are looking forward to passing the hunting traditions on to her this fall. Chelsie is also a Doggy Mom to two awesome pups, Remi and Maizy, who have been trained to hunt waterfowl and upland game by her and her husband.
Chelsie also enjoys ice fishing, shed hunting, and riding horses with her Grampa. Her love for the mountains keeps her going back for more adventures each week. You can follow her adventures on her Facebook: Chelsie Wilkey, Instagram @central.mtn.euros and, on Twitter @cntrl_mtn_euros