The $20 Buck
The Colorado Wildlife Federation sponsored a raffle for a Governors deer tag in the spring of 2001. I bought one ticket for twenty dollars figuring I was just donating to a good cause. Nobody was more surprised than me when I got the call congratulating me on winning the tag!
Colorado is a draw only state with preference points going to applicants who are unsuccessful in the draw. Most trophy hunts require 8 to 10 points to draw out, and you're restricted to the unit you drew. The Governors tag allowed me to walk into any open deer season in the state, whitetail or muley. The only restriction being I would have to hunt with the weapon specified for the unit.
Being an Idaho resident, I have never hunted in Colorado. So I immediately hit my back issues of hunting magazines, scanning for anything about Colorado deer hunts. I contacted a number of outfitters and found their prices way out of my budget. Aaron Nielson of Adventures Wild called me back and offered to take me out to a few of his hot spots without charge, only because it was a unique opportunity that doesn't come along very often and he thought it would be fun. He was excited to be able to hunt any unit that was open for deer.
Aaron suggested the late plains rifle hunt as the best bet for a big deer. He also suggested I bring the bow in case we find a monster in an archery only unit.
As you can imagine, the summer of 01 was the longest in history. I spent my free time practicing with both rifle and bow and dreaming of big Colorado deer. I managed to spread my vacation time around in order to hunt deer in Idaho, scoring a nice 25" 4x4 muley. This only energized the motivation factor and by November I was pinging off the walls. My wife about moved me out to the back yard along with the gear I had spread throughout the house.
Aaron picked me up at the airport and we drove east, clear to the Kansas border, where we hooked up with an Air Force buddy of mine who lives in Colorado Springs. Jackrabbit Phil Clemens jumped at the invitation to get in on this hunt. We also picked up Rod Lindsten, a friend of Aaron's who grew up in this area and has invaluable information on landowners, deer hot spots, and habits.
Having hunted deer in the mountains and high desert, I was amazed at the terrain these eastern plains deer live in. The gently rolling hills and cuts held an unbelievable amount of whitetail and muleys. We jumped a 170 class whitetail the first day that Aaron passed on, waiting for a bigger buck. Rod told us about a nice muley he saw on a previous scouting trip and we found him on day two. Aaron judged him as a 185 class buck, but because it was early in the hunt, he passed on him also.
The weather was extremely warm for December, reaching 60 degrees during the day. The big boys were not out feeding during hunting hours, which frustrated our plan of finding a 190 + buck. We saw 150 class white tails and 170 muleys every day, most well within rifle range. The quantity of deer on Aaron's leases is amazing.
The last day of the hunt arrived and we decided to go after the 185 buck we saw on day two. We found him not far from where we left him, surrounded by 12 does and a small 3 point. We watched him bed down and planned a stalk to get within range. We moved down a small draw where we spooked some range cows we hadn't seen. Those cows blew right thru the area where Mr.185 was bedded down! We watched him run into a pasture we had permission to hunt. We located him again and after a couple of 350 meter shots, harvested the 5x7 muley. He is 27" wide and scores 188 gross. The buck has good wall appeal and will look great in the den.
My thanks to Aaron for giving me the opportunity to hunt with him and the entertainment he provided while I was in Colorado. And thanks to Rod Lindsten for his company and the extensive knowledge he provided while we hunted his back yard. If it weren't for the Colorado Wildlife Federation, I would not have had the option of buying a raffle ticket. I will continue to support hunter friendly agencies with donations and free time.
My hunt was great fun and extremely rewarding.