I first moved to Colorado back in Spring of 2007. I was extremely excited about being able to hunt in this great state based on all of the blogs and articles I read about on the big game that is available to hunt here. Coming from Ohio and with a Dad that was an avid hunter, I grew up hunting cottontails and whitetails. One of the cherished memories of my life was my first hunt (and many subsequent hunts) with my Dad. I love those times and try to make it back every hunting season.
There can be nothing greater than the bond between a Dad and Son and/or Daughter during a first hunt... especially when it is a successful hunt. I did the same for my 2 sons. Taking both to my Parent's farm in Southeast Ohio I had the opportunity... no, actually the privilege of teaching my sons firearm and bow safety along with marksmanship and hunting techniques. And when the day came I also was able to enjoy the look on their faces when they each harvested their first Whitetail - both were Bucks. Both were priceless times... and will never be forgotten.
Since becoming a Coloradoan I have hunted the past three years solo. My sons are now in college with jobs and really can't make the time to hunt with me - for now. My wife also enjoys shooting and some bird hunting but finishing her Masters degree and working at the city hospital does not permit her to join me during the big-game hunting season. While hunting solo is a great opportunity to be one with and enjoy nature, it is also without the hunting companionship or the camaraderie that one can enjoy while being out in the wild. Thankfully that changed for me this year.
I guess the second best thing a hunter can enjoy and have the privilege of doing is introducing another person to hunting. My wife introduced me to one of her friends knowing they loved the outdoors as much as we do. Deb was involved in search & rescue in Southern Colorado and also enjoys handguns, target shooting, hiking, camping, plus fishing in this great state. It was only natural that I ask Deb if she would be interested in learning how to hunt. Being a novice to Colorado Mule Deer and Elk hunting this would also provide me with more knowledge at the same time. Deb said "absolutely"!
Deb started off the year with completing the required Colorado DOW Hunter Education certification. She scored extremely well on the test along with the Elk silhouette target shooting. Deb's success with this only fueled her eagerness to learn more about hunting. In March of 2011 Deb and I sat down and reviewed all of the 2011 big-game hunting regulations. Once complete we then worked together on sending in our preference hunts for our draws on both Mule Deer and Elk licenses. After receiving our 1st preferences on both big game animals it was time to scout the specific areas of the GMU.
In July of this year we scheduled a 3-day scouting trip. We arrived in GMU 079 on a Friday and completed our scouting trip that Sunday afternoon. With a topo-map in hand along with our GPS we reviewed/learned a 200 acre area that we would be hunting. During our scouting trip I discussed and showed Deb hunting techniques - techniques I had learned through the many big-game hunting articles/videos... as well as what my Dad had taught me. In that approximately 40 hour scouting period we observed and stalked 26 different Mule Deer. We saw several Elk signs too. All of this generated an even higher eagerness for that September opening day hunt!
In August Deb and I went to the shooting range several times to properly sight in our rifles as well as get used to different shooting positions. Deb's marksmanship was outstanding and I had to buy the beer as she was able to group her shots into a 1-1/2 inch circle at 100 yards. My shots were only within a 2 inch circle. She was also slightly better at 200 yards.
Our Antlerless Mule Deer tags were of a special September through December rifle season for private land in GMU 079. Our excitement was at its highest now. Our hunting trip was here.
We hunted that 200 acres hard. Deb and I saw many Mule Deer but we kept on encountering less than safe shooting scenarios... until that perfect moment. Deb and I were watching a small group of 3 Doe - one nice sized Doe and two smaller yearlings. We were in a sparsely wooded area and were watching their movements from about 150 yards away. We watched them for an opportunity to shoot the larger of the Doe's but they ended up walking a back trail to a neighboring property and out of our ability to shoot. Upon turning around to review with Deb the lost opportunity I spied another large Doe and two 2X2 Bucks walking up another trail directly behind us. I whispered to Deb directing her to freeze. Deb had her back to the three deer. At the right times I was able to direct Deb when she could move to turn around. The large Doe was leading the way, about 70 yards away, with the other two Bucks about 10 yards behind in trail. I had a clear shot on the lead Doe but decided it was Deb's animal. Deb eased her way into a sitting position while the deer continued walking parallel to us. Deb started to place her crosshairs on the lead Doe when she decided it may not be safe and started to trot. All of the review of hunting techniques and the marksmanship were now going to test Deb. I quickly made a soft tssss sound and that Doe came to a brief halt. Deb replaced her crosshairs, let out her breath, and squeezed off her shot. Perfect shot placement! The Doe bucked and ran about 10 yards and dropped. Upon watching the Doe fall to the ground I turned and looked at Deb's face. She had the same exact smile I had seen on my two sons' faces. I couldn't have felt any greater satisfaction.
Deb did a great job field dressing her first Doe Mule Deer and we hauled it out of the woods together to be processed.
I now have a hunting partner - in addition to my wife and Sons! Deb and I also have Elk tags so we return to that same 200 acres and the surrounding national forest in October for our Elk. I have no doubt if we can get an Elk within shooting distance, Deb will also harvest her 1st Elk. By the way - I filled my Antlerless Mule Deer tag a couple of days later.