Six bulls, six bucks in six days, a successful Colorado do-it-yourself hunt on a budget!
New York State residents, Dan and Janet Wescott, had been hunting together almost as long as they had been married. They had been on both guided hunts and do-it-yourself hunts and the results from the guided hunts were impressive and are mounted in their living room. The do-it-yourself hunts on public land turned out to be unimpressive and more times than not they returned home tired and empty handed. It wasn't from a lack of hunting skill. The problem was hunter density, which turned out to be higher than animal density.
Dan felt they could do well if they hunted private land without a guide. They didn't really need a guide. They needed land to hunt with a reasonable number of deer or elk. When a friend at work asked if they would like to go to Colorado for a DIY (do-it-yourself) hunt with four other folks, the clincher was the location. The hunt would take place on private land without a guide, just the situation they had been looking for. The access fee of $2000.00 provided 8,500-prime acres of Colorado backcountry loaded with deer and elk. They would be sharing the ranch with six other hunters but after opening day, as people filled their tags, seeing other hunters would become less frequent. Under these conditions Dan and Janet quickly agreed.
Their lodging would be in a KOA campground or motel in Hayden, or Craig, Colorado, which ended talk about hauling a large wall tent and cooking paraphernalia cross-country. They would eat at restaurants and carry a sack lunch so they wouldn't have to worry about buying food and the hunt was just a 20-minute drive from town.
The day before the hunt the six hunters were shown the property boundaries and where to find the best bucks on the property. The elk were migrating through the area and could show up anytime, anywhere.
Opening day was dry and quiet and finding no elk and a few small deer was discouraging. The plan for day two was to hunt the north end of the ranch, which was more out of the way. It had fewer roads with steeper hills and draws making vehicle travel more difficult. They had just entered the area when Janet spotted a nice 4x4 buck slipping through the sagebrush. The buck was feeding and watching for danger and little did they know he was looking for a quiet place to spend the day.
Dan and Janet quickly left the truck and started to belly crawl toward the buck. Even while dodging cactus patches they were doing well, until they ran out of cover. They needed to take the shot but with nothing to use for Janet's rifle rest Dan lay crossways to provide a solid rest as Janet aligned the scope. While Dan held his breath Janet settled the cross hairs of the .257 Roberts on the buck's shoulder and the crack of the rifle was quickly followed by the thud of the bullet hitting the buck 140-yards away. The buck jumped and made a 100-yard dash then collapsed. The success lifted their spirits prompting Dan to comment, "This area of the ranch seems to have more game than where we were yesterday."
Once back in the vehicle they drove to a high point to glass and soon Dan spotted a small herd of elk crossing the north fence coming onto the ranch. Driving close to where he thought the elk would reappear, after dropping into a draw, Dan and Janet jumped out of the truck and ran to a position with good visibility to wait for the elk.
The herd soon appeared about 200-yards away passing left to right. Dan said, "Take the last one; it is a legal bull." As the bull stopped to wait for a cow in front of him, Janet now armed with a 7mm Magnum fired. The herd scattered and ran out of sight over the hill. Dan and Janet checked the area, found blood, then tracked it over the hill, finding the elk just out of site from their shooting position.
Days three through five continued to be eventful as Dan collected a 6x6 bull and a 5x5 buck. At the same time the other hunters were filling their deer and elk tags just as quickly. By the end of lunch on day six, the group had six bucks and six bulls hanging, and all hunters sported smiles from ear to ear.
Dan's theory was correct. If they had access to property that held a reasonable amount of game they could fill tags with quality animals. Hunting without a guide reduced the cost of the hunt by 67%.
As they were driving from the ranch to the restaurant for a prime rib dinner, Dan started to say, "Next year..." Before he could finish, Janet cut him off, "You bet we will; this is the most fun I have ever had on a hunt. Six bulls, six bucks, in six days." Dan just nodded and agreed. She answered the question he tried to ask.