Reaping What You Sow

By Spencer Nicholl

Reaping What You SowSpencer Nicholl
Colorado, 2008, DIY, Public Land

My 2008 archery deer season actually started in December 2007. That fall had been unusually dry and the elk and deer were still a long way from their winter range. In the area around Gunnison, Colorado that I call home, there can sometimes be 15-20 miles between summer range and traditional winter ranges. Since most of the fall had been warm and dry, I was still seeing elk and deer up near timberline through November.

On December 8, it started snowing.....and didn’t stop. At my house, in the tiny town of Ohio City, it snowed 36 inches in about 24 hours. Through most of December and January, the snow continued with little reprieve. Many of the deer and elk were simply trapped and would probably never make it to their winter range. Even if they did, there wasn’t much feed available. By mid January, the Colorado DOW started a widespread feeding program. Over the next two-and-a-half months, most of my free time would be spent feeding three different herds of deer near Ohio City. Several friends and family members helped each day as we loaded bags of deer feed on snowmobile sleds and fed the starving herds.

The DOW and volunteers did a fantastic job with this huge effort, but in the end, many of the deer didn’t survive. Through the late spring and early summer, I picked up 179 antlers. Most of these we not shed, however; they came from dead bucks. Mother Nature had claimed a huge number of deer and a very high percentage of our bucks. My friends and I estimated that over 75% of our bucks were now dead. They simply never had a chance.

So, when it came time to apply for a deer tag, I turned to an area I hadn’t hunted in 20 years in hopes that the winter hadn’t been as hard on the deer. In fact, my first good buck with a bow had come from this area. It was magnificent country, but oftentimes the bucks were up near 13,000 feet and I would see as many mountain goats as deer. I didn’t have much time to scout since I would be hunting so far from home. I decided to just go in the day before season and take my chances. Twenty years ago I would see up to 30 bucks in this basin, but those days were gone.

Reaping What You Sow

For a full account of Spencer's adventure, go to page 14 in the September/October 2009 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.