January/February 2012 EBJ (Issue 69) - It was coming, and it was coming fast. September archery was around the corner and I was getting nervous. I hadn’t been able to shoot the bow like I usually do because of a left shoulder injury and I was just praying that when the time came, I would be able to.
I dream all year of the Colorado archery season and couldn’t imagine not being up there. This year was special because other than my overthe- counter elk tag, I had also drawn a mule deer buck tag for a general unit that I knew held some brutes! Scouting was a must for this area, and I put every available weekend I had into it. It was looking very promising too. We had a good winter and the mountains were lush and full of good forage. Animals were looking fat and healthy, and horn growth was doing great.
My main passion is chasing rutting bulls in the aspens, but this year I had to rethink my strategy. Last year had been exceptionally hot, and because of that, the bulls did most of their rutting at night. I choked down that bowl of tag soup and swore that would not happen again.
What do animals still need when it’s hot? Water. My plan this year was to set some stands way down in the hole we hunted, over some springs and mud wallows. With the help of my brother, we got them set. Because of my shoulder, we had to set enough steps that I could climb into them with basically one arm. That was tough, but I did use the proper safety equipment just in case.
The night before the opener is always rough because lets face it, you never get any sleep! 4:00 a.m. came and into the mountains I went. Let me tell you as a guy that has never sat in treestands before, I don’t know how the whitetail hunters do it! It took all I could do to sit in those stands for 14 hours a day! My wife finally got the idea to put some books in my pack and that helped. Weekend number one came and went with nothing except a sore rear. There were no bugles and no rutting activity yet, so I knew I was still doing the right thing.
The second weekend of the season rolled around and it was still clear and warm. I hunted the same stand I had the week before. It was over a spring and wallow in the pines and once again, nothing used it. My brother and I had noticed that the bull sign in the pines had dropped quite a bit and wondered if they had headed down the mountain to start grabbing cows that were still thick in the quakies. The main calving herds in our area hang out in the aspens. With that theory in mind, I headed to an aspen stand that I had set over a small clear spring. It was in a transition spot right below the pines but still fairly high.
At first light, I decided to do a couple of estrus whines just to stir the pot. Five minutes later, I heard some movement right behind me and it’s close! I slowly turn, and there was a small 5x5 bull coming right in. I started to breathe pretty heavy because it was the first bull of the season and I could almost jump out of the stand and tackle him. At that moment, he smelled something he didn’t like and spun around and left, giving me no shot. I was just stoked because our theory seemed to be holding some truth to it.
For a full account of Thomas's adventure, go to page 36 in the January/February 2012 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.