Colorado Mule Deer Hunt: You Must See Them First!
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.