I had much to look forward to for the 2007 season. But the adventure that had really captured my thoughts since the previous summer was a mule deer hunt on the Colorado plains - an area well-known to produce outstanding bucks.
My dad and I scouted through the summer and saw deer every day. We saw several bachelor groups of bucks, but two bucks in particular had my attention. During September, I had to go guide elk hunts in the Gila of New Mexico. Dad, being the nice guy that he is, said he would keep an eye on the two bucks we favored. My season didn't open until October 1.
I called home two or three times a week while I was away. Every time I called, it was pretty much the same story. Dad would tell me the two big boys were still hanging in one area. My hopes were high, and I was excited to get home to try my luck at getting one. The third week of September came around and I made my usual call. To my surprise, Dad said he had seen an even bigger buck that was about two miles from the bachelor group he had been watching. He said, "I would judge him at around 200 inches, and he was with only one other little buck."
That was just what I wanted to hear. I hoped I would get another chance at going after a 200-inch deer. The season in New Mexico was about to come to an end; it had been quite successful. We killed several bulls and had a great time, but I couldn't wait to get back home and see that buck.
The New Mexico season ended on September 22, and I was on the road to Colorado on the 23rd. That was the longest 12 hour drive of my life. I finally made it, and immediately started looking for that toad Dad had told me about. We searched and searched, but the deer had given us the slip. Just like most mature deer, he was nocturnal and tough to find. It was frustrating, but I wasn't going to give up. Persistence paid off; I finally spotted him the night before the season opened. I went home that night excited and eager for the morning to come.
On the morning of opening day, I picked up my friend Casey, who was going to try to get the hunt on video. We glassed all morning, but couldn't find the buck. At 10 a.m., we were meeting with my dad on a high hill to glass the area and to have a snack. The hill we met on overlooks a large CRP field we knew was apt to draw deer. We started picking it apart, looking for antlers sticking out above the grass. We glassed for several minutes and finally saw something shining about half a mile away. I put the spotting scope up to get a better look - it was a buck! I studied him for a bit and I figured him to be the one Dad had talked about.
I checked the wind and, of course, it was in his favor. My chances of getting close were slim to none, given the lay of the ground. With the wind being at his back and flat ground in front of him, I didn't have much hope of getting to with bow range. After talking it over, we decided to just sit, wait, and watch him.
We watched for half an hour, hoping he would move to another spot, that the wind would change, or at least something would happen to better my chances. My wish came true at last - the wind switched directions. I couldn't believe it. I said, "We need to go now, before he moves."
Casey and I went around, got into a wash, and walked to a fence line where we could peek over the crest of a little knoll. From there, I could see a tine sticking out of the grass. The wind started to pick up, and was blowing right into the buck's face. Casey said, "I'm going to stay here and set up; I can see everything from this spot."
We were only 80 yards from the buck when we stopped at the fence, but I still had to get at least another 40 yards closer. Within minutes, Casey had his camera up and ready to go. I started picking my way through the grass, taking my time, waiting for an occasional gust of wind so I could move with less noise. As I was working toward him, I ranged several times - 50 yards, 40, 30. I was taking it very slow, but staying ready every step of the way.
After sneaking for about an hour, I was finally where I wanted to be - twenty yards from the deer. He was still in his bed and had no clue that I was there. I sat down to wait him out, counting on him to stand up on his own. I was prepared to sit on him all day if need be, but thankfully it didn't take that long. I waited only 30 minutes, and then suddenly a whirlwind blew through to our right. Some tall dry weeds rattled, and he snapped his head up to see what was making the noise. As soon as I saw movement, I drew my bow. He got up perfectly broadside, but still didn't know I was there.
I settled the pin right behind the shoulder and released the arrow; it was a perfect hit! He jumped, kicked in mid air, and ran about 50 yards. He looked back, took one more step, and fell over. I stood up and looked back at Casey. He was running down the hill to me.
He got up to me and said, "That was awesome! I got everything - the stalk, the shot, you and him in the same frame when you shot. It was perfect."
The hunt was what every bowhunter dreams about. Having everything in your favor - the wind, the way he was lying, the buck being alone, and the way he stood up. I have been on many stalks during which I was 20 or 30 yards away, stayed there for hours waiting for the deer to get up, only to have something go wrong and go home with nothing. I guess it was just my day. The buck is my tenth deer with a bow during the 12 years I have been of legal age to hunt big game in Colorado.
If I could give any advice to anyone hunting the plains or wanting to hunt the plains, it would be to stay patient and persistent. Whether it's waiting for the right situation to make a stalk or being in a good position on a deer and waiting for him to stand up naturally, patience is the key.
It all comes down to making one good stalk, going slow and doing it right, instead of ten bad stalks, rushing things, and not giving yourself a chance. You aren't going to kill a deer every time but, if you're patient enough to wait for the right situation, and persistent enough to keep trying, your success rate will go up.
I was fortunate enough to have a great teacher, my dad. He was right there with me when I was younger, helping and pointing out my mistakes so I could learn from them. I just want to say thanks, Dad, for taking the time over the years to show me the dos and don'ts.