November 2013 EBJ (Issue 80) - Only three hours into the opening day, I found myself kneeling on the edge of a 100-foot cliff with that sick feeling that comes with a blown opportunity. I had just missed a perfect, 180-inch high-country buck. All I could do was watch as the buck casually walked off 200 yards and bedded down for the day. I sat there for the next six hours, relegated to taking pictures of the bedded buck and his friends while second-guessing myself. The only comfort I found was that this was the first day of a nine-day hunt and I had already made a successful stalk, except for the shot.
There is nothing quite like being in the Colorado high country chasing mule deer with my good friend Justin. After our scouting trip in late July, we knew that this country held some bomber bucks and we had only scratched the surface of what was to come.
On the long hike back to camp I replayed the shot over and over again in my head as I prepared myself for the ridiculing sure to come. To add insult to injury, Justin had the whole thing on film and had already replayed the miss several times. To make matters worse, in the dark I mistook Jordan’s Preparation H for my toothpaste and started to brush my teeth with it. That only added to the bitter taste of a missed shot. I went to bed that night hoping that the bucks would still be in the basin the next morning and give me a shot at redemption.
As dawn broke on the second day, we found ourselves perched high on the cliffs overlooking the massive basin these bucks call home. We were very excited to see that the bachelor herd was still there. As we watched them we noticed that there were a few new bucks scattered across the basin. All we could do was watch and hope that they would bed down in a stalkable position.
Over the next two hours we glassed the bucks as they slowly fed out of sight. Once gone, we expanded our glassing area and started to pick up bedded bucks along the open cliff faces. Even at the extreme distance, one buck in particular stood out above all the others. With the nearest basin now vacant of approachable bucks, the decision was made. We would leave the relative comfort of base camp and load up for a three to four-day bivouac.
By midmorning we had our camp on our backs and enough food and gear to stay out as long as we needed. We knew that getting to the distant bucks was going to be a major undertaking. At 10,000 feet, nothing comes easy.
Slowly we made our way out of the basin and scaled the ridge we would use to get us to our destination. After three hours of climbing and traversing, we decided to take a lunch break. Justin glassed a little while we unpacked lunch.
For a full account of Ryan's adventure, go to page 18 in the November/December 2013 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.