Colorado Mule Deer Hunt: You Must See Them First!

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Rifle, Colorado, has always produced big bucks from backcountry pockets; the tough part is getting them out of that pocket. When hunters come to town, the first question they ask locals is, "Where did Rifle get its name?" Although no one knows for sure, the consensus is the name originated with an old cowboy that had left his rifle leaning against a tree near a local creek. Once he realized the gun was missing he always referred to the area as "Rifle" and the name stuck.

Ron Adkins, and his group from California, came to the area 20-years ago for the big mule deer and they had learned the secret of picking those pockets. The secret was to make the one-hour climb before daylight so they were above the deer as they returned from feeding in the river bottoms. Once in position they would glass to locate a monster. The procedure has kept them successful and makes the arduous climb worthwhile.

Ron's advice is," You must see them first. If they see you first, you will never see them again." The deer are more sensitive to danger from below making the high country lookout very productive. Once spotted the group will watch where they bed, then slip up on them staying out of sight and wait for them to stand. During the late season the bucks will get up to check each of the does in his harem and more bucks seem to show up every day. The does are the bait and the rut makes the bucks risk everything.

Scott and Ron had watched a large buck late Sunday evening, just after legal hours. The next morning they were up the mountain early trying to catch him headed to his bedding area. Just as the sun peeked over the ridge on a clear, cold morning, they spotted the big guy on the opposite hillside working his way up to a cedar-covered bench. The rangefinder showed him to be 425-yards out so they just watched him mingle with a few does and smaller bucks. It seemed the rut was starting to make the bigger bucks less wary so they decided to be patient and watch.

A few minutes later, movement and noise coming from the hillside above them caught their attention. They soon spotted a good buck working his way through the cedars and boulders. After patiently glassing the buck, Scott decided he was a dandy and his .270 Remington 700, put the buck down at 244-yards, the 140-grain Hornady boat tail doing it's job.

As they made their way uphill to Scott's buck they kept an eye on the big fella across the canyon. The larger buck seemed concerned with the noise but did not leave the cedar bench or the does that bedded there. The approaching rut had exposed the monster buck's weakness - hot does.

After taking photos and dressing Scott's buck, the group was back at camp taking care of the deer and reliving the morning's adventure with high hopes of seeing the bigger buck that evening. Ron had watched where the big muley had made his way up a steep, rough draw and he would be waiting for the buck that evening when he followed the does down to feed in the creek bottom.

That evening the does, several smaller bucks, and the big guy made their way down the draw, but the big buck hung back just enough to avoid moving into position for a solid shot. Ron had one opportunity at 305-yards when he stood broadside, but did not feel comfortable with the shot and passed as the light faded. The next day was uneventful, the buck was not spotted, but the does and smaller bucks remained in the same area. Since they did not think Ron had spooked the buck, they planned to glass the next morning from Monday's vantage point.

As often happens, when patience and perseverance rule, they found the big buck the next morning at daybreak when he started to follow several does up the same hill where Scott had shot his buck two days earlier. Ron worked his way closer to their travel route. When he popped into view on a rocky hogback at 263-yards Ron found a solid prone rest and anchored the monster with a 140-grain Hornady bullet from his Winchester 270. When Ron got closer to the buck he knew ground shrinkage would not be an issue. This buck was bigger than what they had guessed at 195".

Ron and Scott worked hard and did everything right. Taking a pair of bucks like these on public land within 500-yards of each other is something they will never forget. The secret to success? The hunters saw the bucks first!

A pair of nice mule deer bucks - If you don't see them first, you won't see them again.
Scott Hueth took the deer pictured on the right, the third morning of the season. His buck
is a 25-inch, six by four that grosses 188-typical. Ron Adkins took the buck on the left on
the fifth morning. Ron's buck is a 30-inch seven by seven that grosses 203-typical with
16-inches of deductions that will keep him from Boone & Crockett's record book.


numbnutz's picture

Those are two very nice

Those are two very nice bucks. Like other posters have said it's rare to find two big bucks like that even if your hunting in a good area. The way they hunt them is the best way to hunt mule deer. Most back country hunters that I know will get to a good vantage point long before the sun comes up and wait for daylight then spot their prey. Artfer the quary is spotted then comes the stalk. Pick your route wisely though because one wrong move and your busted and like the say if they see you, you wont see them again ( in some cases you can get a 2nd or 3rd try at them). This article tells me the importance of finding a good area and scouting it out and hunt it smart. You can return year after year when you find a good honey hole like that and usually be pretty sucessfull. Great story here. Thanks for sharing.

Boots's picture

Nice Bucks!

Those are some really nice bucks you've got there.  No doubt that you've got to see them first in the West, bucks are so weary in the West.  Even in the heart of the rut, you have to be careful around the big guys because they're not having it.  I've always heard about these monsters up in Colorado and I hope that one day I'll be able to get up there and take one for myself.  Sometime in the next 50 years that is.  Nice bucks guys and congrats.

deerhunter30's picture

Them are truly some nice

Them are truly some nice bucks. I am gonna have to check into doing some mule deer hunting.

I mainly just hunt whitetail and gobblers. Money is the big problem for me. Its hard to get everything to fall in the right place at the right time and to be able to do something differant.

Maybe after my kids are grown I will be able to expand my hunting game. HOPEFULLY.

hunter25's picture

Those are both great bucks

Those are both great bucks and even in good hunting areas you don't often see two of them in the same camp or same picture. A lot of guys hunt in the Rifle Colrado area and very few of them go home with bucks like those two. In fact the majority usually go home with nothig at all. Even though I live close and go to Rifle fairly often I have never hunted down that way at all. Ever since Colorado changed to being unit specific so many years ago we rarely hunt far from home and just stick with what we know best. The information here applies anywhere you hunt though and only the name of the location will be different. 

I thought it was interesting the story about how Rifle got it's name as I've lived here for nearly 30 years now and had never heard that before. I'll be down there next week so I'm going to ask around to see if anybody else can tell me the story before I share it. I'm glad that hunting season is coming up quickly as with stories like this one written about big bucks taken so close to home has really gotten me wound up. Both of those would qualify as the biggest buck I have ever taken.

niceshot_smitty's picture

Nice deer!!  I don't really

Nice deer!!  I don't really think that matters where i live for the mule deer.  if you screw it up the first day or so,  you will be able to get back on them with in a week or so.  being that you have the bow hunt here in New Mexico.  With rifle season here, might be different.  Only hunted once with rifle here in New Mexico and that was on private land and we say 3 deer in 2 days with no shoots. Mind that it was late Nov. and a ice storm hit where were.  (Northeast NM.)

even Muzzleloader season you get second chance here.

arrowflipper's picture

how many ways

How many different ways can you say "Wow"?  I can say it forwards and backwards with just about the same emphasis.  Those are two very, very nice bucks!!  No, they are GREAT bucks! 

I agree that it's almost imperative that you see a big buck before he sees you.  That's why it's so important to be where you want to be long before the deer arrive.  You can't overemphasize the importance of getting up early and being where you want to be before it gets light.  I know some guys like to hunt their way to their spot, but that is often too late.

Animals see you most quickly by movement.  If you are still moving into your location when they are there, you are busted.  I like to get settled in and relax before the sun begins to crack over the horizon.  That lets me be the one that sees motion.

I am amazed at both of those bucks.  Congratulations to both guys on such wonderful trophies.  It sure pays to be patient.