It's Him... Maybe Not
My brother in law (BIL) works for a construction company here in Colorado and my brother is a construction management major here at Colorado State University. The first advice that my BIL gave to my little brother was that to make it in a construction firm, you either have to be a good golfer, or be a good hunter. Well, my brother was already a good hunter but his golf game definitely needs some work. So as you can imagine, my BIL comes into contact with a lot of guys that love to hunt. From the lower ranks of his company, all the way up through upper management, there are hunters keeping the business afloat. I am not sure what it is about the construction business, but it definitely lends itself to outdoorsman. So I get to come in contact with many people that have had varied success across Colorado and other western states. And a couple years ago, one of those contacts took a great buck with a bow. And he took it close to home!
I live on the front range of Colorado and if I could get rid of the massive overpopulation of bipeds, I would say that it is the perfect place to live. I am a short drive from great hunting, hiking, fishing, boating, mountain biking and a variety of other great activities. The frustrating thing is that even within the city limits, you see some very good deer. We have a lot of deer that literally make their year round living right in town. And I am not only talking about mule deer, the white-tailed deer have moved in too. And every fall when the bucks’ necks get swollen and their minds turn to one thing and one thing only, I get a chance to see them come out of their hidey holes and show off their impressive racks. Of course it is against the law to hunt these smart bucks, so they are strictly for entertainment purposes only. But I live only a 15 minute bike ride from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. And once the land starts rising up towards the sky, the deer become a lot more abundant. The problem is that the foothills are for the most part, not huntable because they are mostly in private hands. There are very little public lands in these lower elevations. But if you are in a profession full of hunters that have hook-ups, say the construction business for example, than you just might be in for the hunt of a lifetime.
One of my BIL’s interns from a couple of years ago found himself in this awesome situation. He got offered the chance to hunt on some private land very close to town. The only thing was that he had to agree to use a bow, as the neighbors would probably not be very happy about hearing rifle shots for the first time. He had never hunted with a bow but the offer was too good to turn down. He went to the local archery shop with my BIL and started looking for the perfect set up. My BIL is a big fan of the archery company Diamond and I swear that he is secretly a rep for that company as he is always talking about them. So it didn’t take long for my BIL to convince him to get one. At the time, we all had a membership to a local outdoor 3D archery range that provided 18 stations of hunting situations. It was an awesome range and it probably did more for my archery skills than any other factor during that time. My BIL’s intern got a membership there and within 3 months he had become more than proficient with his new weapon. We coached him through stance, follow through, range estimation and arrow selection. By the time archery season rolled around at the tail end of August, he was ready.
It was HOT that year. I cannot overstate this. We were literally dealing with 90 degree weather at the beginning of bow season. It would have been nice if the property that they had permission to hunt had a water source, but it didn’t. There was a river at the base of the foothills that was being used by the deer and catching them on their way up from watering was the hunters’ main strategy. Meanwhile, I was hunting a handful of miles away on public ground, and you can bet that I was focusing on water. But this was the year that my brother botched my best chance at a 200 inch mule deer, so we are not going to go into that in fear that smoke might start flowing out of my ears.
They had trail cameras up all summer and had gotten some pictures of some very good bucks. They were planning on holding out for a good one. He had only ever taken does and forkies with his rifle so after seeing the photographs of these velvet-covered monsters, he decided to wait for a big one. They got out a couple times during the first week of the season but the temperatures made it nearly impossible to move without pouring sweat and thus filling the hills with human scent. They got out in the evenings and on one occasion got a glimpse of two good 4x4’s cresting a ridge 200 yards above them. Other than that, they only saw does and young bucks those first few trips out.
Half way through the season, the weather started to cooperate… at least somewhat. Daytime temperatures in the low 90’s finally gave way to temperatures in the lower 80’s and upper 70’s. Not perfect hunting conditions in anyone’s book but a definite improvement from the weeks prior. And with the change in weather, came a welcome increase in deer activity. They were starting to see bucks moving from water during the daylight hours and they were finally able to start putting some stalks on bucks that had bedded in less forbidding cover. Now by less forbidding, I don’t mean nice and open. The hills that they were hunting were covered in dense mountain mahogany, skunkbrush, buckbrush and choke cherry… all nasty shrubs that can hide deer easily and make stalking a nightmare. But at least they were seeing bucks!
In a couple of the trail camera pictures they had obtained over the summer there was a 160 – 170 inch buck with a kicker on his right side. When the landowner showed him the picture, he instantly identified that buck as the one he wanted to shoot. My BIL and the landowner thought he was crazy however because there were some bucks caught on camera that would push 180 or 190. But he wanted the one with the kicker. So when they spotted a 4x4 with a kicker adorning his right antler coming up from the river one morning, they thought that they had found the buck. They had located one of the main deer trails coming up the steep ridge and had set up about 30 yards off of it. And it looked like this buck was heading right for this ambush site.
When they first saw him, he was stotting up the rise from the river. The buck then walked into a thick cottonwood grove that they could not see into. From past scouting, they knew that the deer trail split once it got into the cottonwoods. One split would put the buck on a collision course with a broadhead-tipped arrow, and the other split would take him to an adjacent property. Five minutes went by and they wondered why the buck hadn’t popped out and started up the ridge that they were patiently waiting on. Had the buck really taken the route to the other property just when they had finally gotten in the right spot for an ambush? Just when they were about to hike to the top of the ridge and confirm that the buck had indeed headed for greener pastures, he stepped out of the cottonwoods. And he was taking the trail that headed right to them. He was now only 200 yards from the hunters lying in wait. The problem was that once the buck got within about 125 yards, they wouldn’t be able to see him again until he was right on top of them at bow range. It did not take long before they started to hear movement in the shrubs not far from them. He saw movement through the thick mountain mahogany and came to full draw. The buck stepped out into the opening and seemed very nervous. He had the sight placed perfectly over the buck’s vitals but a branch of shrub was standing in front of the buck’s lungs like a secret service agent for the president. The buck knew something was up but just stared in the general direction of the hunters. The stare down went on and on. Finally the buck stomped the ground with his hoof and took the one step forward that it took for him to clear the branch. As soon as the buck took that step, the arrow was on its way. And it connected perfectly. The buck disappeared into the shrubs and in a couple seconds, they heard what sounded like a buck falling and crashing to a halt. They gave the buck a half hour before trailing it but it didn’t take long to find him. He had only gone 30 or 40 yards after being hit.
They were ecstatic when they got to the buck and were amazed at their luckiness to have actually taken the buck that they were targeting. It wasn’t until they got the buck off the ridge and down to the house that they recognized that something was wrong. When the landowner walked out of the house he asked where that buck had come from. They said that they had gotten the buck from the trail camera but the landowner knew right away that he was looking at a different buck. He grabbed the pictures to prove it.
I have seen the trail camera pictures and it is certain that they ended up taking a different buck. Everything is identical about the two bucks antlers except that the one from the picture has atleast 20 inches of main frame more than the buck that they ended up taking. The kicker is literally in the exact same place but the deer from the picture is just a whole lot bigger. That is not to say that his buck is a slouch though. I have yet to take a buck of this caliber, with or without a kicker, and he did it on his first bowhunt ever. It is really neat to think that the big, grey ghost from the pictures could still be out there passing on his genes.