Spot and Stalk to the 10th Degree

By Dain Barnett
Colorado, 2010, DIY, Private Land
Spot and Stalk to the 10th DegreeJuly/August 2011 EBJ (Issue 66) - Southeastern Colorado is a place where brush, grass, and dry-land farms transform into metaphorical jungles where even the largest wildlife can seemingly disappear into nothingness in the blink of an eye. Rolling hills are few, the occasional tree can be spotted from time to time, and the flatness of the earth fades away into the horizon. Needless to say, this habitat presents an incredible challenge for even the most seasoned bowhunter, especially when pursuing trophy mule deer. Proper equipment and thorough practice can only go so far, and in the end, the success of the hunt requires a special combination of determination, persistence, and sometimes just a little bit of luck.

Living in a small, rural community provides numerous hunting and outdoor opportunities not simply reserved for the occasional weekend, but which are a part of daily life. Inspired by adventures as a young boy with my father, archery hunting rapidly became an obsession, fueled by my first mule deer buck harvested at the age of 16. Embodied in that obsession are countless values and life lessons obtained through the many challenging and unpredictable interactions with mature animals during a relatively short hunting career. There is often a unique knowledge gained from archery hunting mature animals not experienced with their smaller counterparts. You have to learn to expect the unexpected and be able to adapt to continually changing conditions while maintaining a sense of humbleness, knowing that these animals have not reached maturity by being inattentive and careless. The goal is always the same - to gain experience and knowledge through increased interactions with wildlife and the outdoors, and there is perhaps no better chance for this than the pursuit of trophy mule deer.

Visions of large antlers glistening in the sun have been permanently embedded in a memory built upon numerous encounters with large mule deer. However, to date, none of these encounters have been more memorable than those experienced pursuing a deer with antlers that were as unique as they were large. The product of superior genetics, this deer is what hunting stories are made of. To say he was simply a 7x7 with a wide rack would be an injustice, because this buck demanded respect. As impressive as an inside spread of 34 inches may seem, perhaps more impressive were his deceptive and elusive behaviors. The quest for this flatland monster was a never-ending and many times discouraging competition to locate and stalk an animal that did not want to be found nor pursued.

I first saw the buck trotting across a recently cut field during an early morning scouting session. He was undoubtedly one of those deer that caused you to miss a heartbeat. With tunnel vision setting in, the next three weeks were sure to be full of excitement.

Dain Barnett

For a full account of Dain's adventure, go to page 38 in the July/August 2011 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.