Every year since 1999 I have been hunting with my buddies, Larry Ray, Rick King, Paul Cackowski and Bruce Kirk. We had been hunting the same area, usually during Colorado's third rifle season, but this year, 2003, we decided to try second season. Especially, since Colorado's Division of Wildlife decided to add a couple of days and lengthen it to a nine day season.
Our camp was situated approximately four miles up from the trailhead and on the edge a beautiful meadow at 9,500 feet. Just the perfect setting to get away from it all!
My buddy, Bruce, who is also my gunsmith, couldn't come up right away and would join us on Saturday night. The rest of us got to camp on Thursday and set out on Friday to do a little scouting. We were about six miles west of camp when Larry spotted what we thought was a big bull elk grazing in a field between two large stands of aspens. We were about a 1/2 mile away when we spotted him and I gasped when I found him in my binoculars. It was big non-typical muley!
Now, I have been hunting Colorado for about the past four years and had never even seen a buck of this size before. And, it just so happened that I was the only one with a buck tag. Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep that night waiting for opening day!
Saturday morning came early and I was on a bee line to that same area where we spotted the buck. For about four hours, I searched and searched and found not a glimpse of any deer. I was convinced that they really do know when the season starts. Then about 9:30 or so, I was walking along a game trail just east of one of the aspens stands and there he was looking right at me, with my gun on my shoulder! Before I could get my rifle up for a shot he turned and was gone. My heart sank!
I made my way back to camp and everyone could tell I had missed the opportunity of a lifetime.
I loaded up onto my four-wheeler and headed down to the trailhead to meet my buddy Bruce. Bruce showed up a couple hours later and we rode back up to camp in the dark. We had a quick dinner and made plans for the morning.
I took Bruce to the same area where I had my encounter with the buck and we started a slow methodical search. As we approached the aspen stand where I last saw the buck, there he was, standing broadside about 100 yards into the quakies. I motioned for Bruce to stop and he watched as I brought my rifle up and squeezed. Bruce told me later that he never saw the buck when I shot, but that he heard that familiar sound. I watched the buck jump straight up in the air touching his front feet to his back, then he disappeared. I am glad he did, because I had the shakes so bad, I don't think I could have gotten off another shot if I needed to!
We sat for about 15 minutes or so, which felt like an hour and then we started walking to the spot where I had last seen the buck standing. When we got to the spot I started scanning to the right thinking the buck would have run in the direction he was facing and there he was, piled up against an aspen.
I think I almost passed out with excitement, I had just closed the deal on probably the biggest buck I would ever see in my lifetime in the woods! The buck ended up being a 10x8 with two of those being drop tines on his right side and measuring 30 inches wide. What more could a guy ask for!
The best part of the deal, I had handloaded the bullet that took my deer and I was with my best friends!