After two years sitting on the sidelines waiting to accumulate the points necessary to draw the buck tag that I wanted, I drew a Colorado Late Plains Rifle Antlered Deer for the 2010 season. This license would allow me to hunt in the area in which I grew up. It also allowed me to take advantage of my dad’s lifetime of knowledge of the wildlife in the area and his current scouting. As a final plus, my parent’s house is a little over an hour’s drive from my house making for an accessible and inexpensive hunt.
I used the fact that my brother drew a muzzleloader tag for the same area as an opportunity to scout for animals that I hoped to see during my season. We came close to getting some shot opportunities on some small two points, but they always spooked just out of range. My brother was not able to fill his tag, and I did not observe any large bucks. However, I did not let this deter me in any way. My dad assured me that he had seen several large bucks in the area, and he was confident that we could get an opportunity to take one.
For this season, I either wanted to get a larger-antlered buck than my previous deer, or one that was a bit different than my previous three bucks. My first buck was a nice 3X4 with one point broken off. My second buck was a 3X3 with thick back antlers that looked like he was trying really hard to be a 4X4. My third buck was a nice 4X4. Basically, I was looking for anything besides a young 4X4, and hopefully something on the larger side of the scale.
Fortunately, I was going to be able to take at least one day off from work, and possibly a second day if towards the end of the season, I had not yet taken care of business. In addition to the possible two days off from work, I would be able to hunt both weekends of the season if necessary. I had checked the moon phases prior to the hunt, and I was excited that there was going to be very little moon light during hunting season, hopefully keeping the deer a little more active in the morning. With this in mind, I decided to use one day off to make sure that I was in the field for opening day Wednesday, December 1, 2010.
I left my house in time to make it out to my parent’s house about 30 minutes before legal shooting hours. After a few minutes discussing the game plan, we loaded up in my dad’s pickup to drive around to see if anything was still out on the farm fields and to look for fresh tracks crossing the dirt roads. The farmland is mostly flat, but with enough hills to offer a few places for wildlife to hide. By late season, all the crops have been harvested leaving little behind for cover. Despite the wide-open nature of the area, it is always amazing how deer, and especially mature bucks, seem to be able to appear out of and disappear into thin air. While glassing around all the properties I had permission to hunt, we saw several doe groups with a few small bucks, but nothing exciting. I did pass on one buck that appeared similar to my previous bucks, hoping that I would get an opportunity for something better. This was the first time I had ever passed on anything larger than a small two point, so I was really nervous that I was going to regret my decision.
We drove back to the house to pick up my younger brother to bring him along. After a quick snack, we headed back out intending to walk and glass the canyons southwest of my parent’s house. After parking the pickup, we decided to split up with my dad walking and glassing along a ridge heading southeast while my brother and I walk and glass to the south. My brother and I setup on the south end of a finger that allowed us excellent visibility for miles. After about twenty minutes of glassing without seeing anything, we spotted two does and a fawn that Dad had apparently spooked in our direction. Despite my best wishes that a nice buck would appear following these does at a distance, I had no such luck. By changing our position, we were able to get within fifty yards of these deer as they made their way towards us, still oblivious to our presence. After watching the deer make their way off into the distance, we started our walk back to the pickup.
We went back to the house for lunch and a short break. After lunch, we came across several more groups of does with a few young bucks, but nothing to get excited about. It was not until close to the end of legal shooting hours that we finally spotted what we thought was a shooter buck. He was with about ten does about three quarters of a mile away. At that distance, we could not completely make out his headgear, but we could see enough to be excited. There was not enough time to get close enough to get a shot, but it did feel good to end the day having seen a nice sized buck.
I had to go back to work for two extremely long and unproductive days while I waited for the weekend for my next opportunity to continue the hunt. I knew that as long as the wind cooperated, my plan was to setup along the south fence line between some fields where we had observed several doe groups up feeding and the pasture where we had seen the large buck on Wednesday. There were several game trails in the area indicating deer in the area where coming out on the farm ground to feed before heading into the hilly pastures to bed down for the day. I hoped that if I got into position before sunrise, I might be able to capitalize on this pattern and get a shot at a nice buck.
On Saturday morning, I was out in the area well before sunrise. I parked my pickup in my uncle’s yard, and I walked the fence line till I found an area that gave me adequate visibility combined with some taller grasses and sage brush to break up my outline. There was a breeze out of the north. This was the direction I was hoping for, but it was also strong enough and cold enough that it made my eyes water. It was dark enough that I could not see much of anything around me. If it was not for the clock on my cell phone, I would not have known if time was flying by or standing still.
Almost exactly at legal shooting hours, I finally spotted a buck at about 175 yards due west of me. It was walking calmly to the southeast. At about 150 yards, the buck spotted me and stopped, standing nearly perfectly broadside. Despite being legal shooting hours, I could not get a good enough look at this buck to decide that it was the buck I wanted. The buck stood there tauntingly for what felt like an eternity, but never gave me a better look at its headgear. Eventually, the buck grew tired of me and made its exit. Even as it left, it took its time as if it knew I was not going to pull the trigger. I watched the buck till it was completely out of sight, swaying between thinking I made the right or the wrong decision not to pull the trigger.
I stayed sitting where I was at in order to give my heart time to recover from my exhilarating encounter. Also, I wanted to see if any more deer would offer me the same opportunity the last buck had. After the sun was up and I could determine there were no more deer in the immediate vicinity, I decided I would take a walk through the pasture to my south to see what I could see. Shortly after I took off, I came across a well-used game trail with fresh deer tracks. I decided to follow the trail, and after walking for a while I heard a snort. I looked up, and on a hill in front of me at about 75 yards, I saw an unusual looking 2X3 watching me. After holding still and eyeing each other for a little while, I decided to try to back slowly out of the area to try to find a better vantage point to see what other deer were in the area. I was able to get behind a small hill to my right, and by peeking over it, I saw that there was also a small two point and about six does in the group with this young buck. After watching this group of animals for a while, I decided I would work my way back to my pickup to see what Dad thought I should try next and to see if my brother wanted to join me.
Once back at the house, we decided that the next thing to try was to walk the fence line along some farmland to see if we could find any animals bedded in the neighboring CRP. Dad had some work he had to get done, so it was up to my brother and me to take care of business. We loaded up in my pickup, and headed to our destination. When we topped the hill about a quarter-mile west of the fence line we were going to walk, we spotted a deer herd bedded down directly south of an abandoned building right along the fence line we were planning on walking. I had my brother get out of the pickup and hide in the ditch. From where he was at, he could keep an eye on the deer if I got busted when I tried to get closer. I was going to drive around to the other side of the section, and see if I could sneak through the grass and get close enough for a good shot.
As I drove along the road near the building, I saw that the deer had not spooked, so I decided to change my plan. I brought my pickup to a stop in the driveway on the north side of the building, directly opposite of where the deer were bedded. I left the pickup running, got out, chambered a round, and made my way as quickly and quietly as possible to the edge of the building. As I approached the building, I could hear that the deer decided it was time to vacate the area. I peeked around the northeast corner of the building and saw three does at about 20 yards heading southeast as quickly as possible. I steadied myself against the building and readied myself for the shot, betting that the shooter buck we had spotted early would follow his does out of the area. Seconds later, my buck appeared, and I put my crosshairs on him to wait for a shot opportunity. At about fifty yards, he came to a stop, nearly perfectly broadside, and I pulled the trigger on my .257 Weatherby. He flinched and took off running. In the time it took me to chamber another round, he covered about 25 yards and fell to the ground. Once I was convinced he was not going anywhere, I walked back to the pickup to get my brother.
We took some celebratory pictures, loaded him up in the back of the pickup, and drove back to my parent’s house to take care of the butchering. Since then, I have enjoyed eating the deer steaks, jerky, and summer sausage, as well as the sight of the antlers in my basement all as reminders of my successful 2010 mule deer hunt.