I was on my way out of town on a business trip on a Sunday evening in March of 2007. It would soon be time to file my annual mule deer license application with the State of Colorado. I had seven preference points and was trying to decide which area to apply for. My mind began drifting back over the years to when my mule deer quest had begun. My late father, Robert David, took a 209" buck in the Flat Tops area back in 1970. When Dad returned home with that magnificent animal I became fascinated with trophy mule deer. I took my first Western deer hunt in the fall of 1976 to that same area, where I shot a one-antlered fork horned buck. Since then I have done a lot of big game hunting throughout the U.S. and in to Canada. I have generally had good fortunate in my efforts to take nice animals. However the mule deer had become my "Achilles Heel."
Over those 30-plus years I had hunted mule deer in the southern, southwestern, and western regions of Colorado. I had also hunted once in the famed Greys River area in western Wyoming and taken numerous family hunting trips near Buffalo, Wyoming. I had managed to take a couple of pretty nice four-by-four bucks during those years, but never anything that was exceptional. My goal had always been to take a buck that would compliment the exceptional one Dad had taken. It would not need to be as big or bigger, just something that was large-framed with a lot of mass. During the past several years I would attend the Sportsman's Expo in Denver each winter; I would salivate over the bucks that Eastmans' would have on display. I would imagine which buck I would like most to have taken. I had almost conceded that I would continue to hunt mule deer for the rest of my life for pure enjoyment, but there was likely not a "big one" in the cards for me.
I had long known that the plains of eastern Colorado were one of the best places to get an opportunity for an exceptional buck. I had recently spoken with an outfitter who operated there and had a reputation for taking big bucks. However, a hunt on private land in a prime area such as his was rather expensive. Thus, I was wrestling with whether to try the plains or go back to western Colorado.
My 50th birthday was about only two weeks away. I thought, what the heck, I would get myself a nice birthday present. Even though it was kind of late here in Indiana I decided to call the outfitter right then. He and I talked for quite a while and he assured me that I would be able to draw a tag in one of his units. By the end of our conversation I had committed to hunt with him that fall during the late rifle season.
The following summer and early fall went by quickly. I was soon getting ready to make the drive from my home in Fort Wayne, Indiana to eastern Colorado. I had planed to spread it out over two days. However I was apparently running on adrenaline; I was able to drive the 1,000-plus miles straight through and really wasn't that tired. Upon arriving at the ranch I met my guide, Scott Vermilyea, as well as two other sportsmen who were really fine people.
Scott and I spent the opening morning glassing an area where a big buck had been spotted. We glassed one nice buck in a group of distant deer, but he was in an area where we could not move in on him without blowing them all out. We backed out and moved to a different spot to hunt that afternoon.
On the morning of day two Scott and I decided to still hunt down through a series of drainages with the wind in our favor. We saw several bucks that were pretty nice, including one that would probably go about 180". Even though I had never taken a buck that big, we decided to pass on him. As we were getting near the end of the drainages we stopped to rest up and do some glassing. As soon as we started moving again a monster buck with several does blew out of the creek bottom and were heading for the ridge line. I dropped to a sitting position and got my rifle on him; he was running away at about250 yards. He would not stop and I do not take long shots at running animals. He went over the ridge and got away from us - which was as painful for Scott as it was for me. It was the largest mule deer that I had ever seen while hunting. Ouch! Oh well, that's the way trophy mule deer hunting goes. Actually, it was very depressing.
The third day was spent hunting hard in some really lousy weather. We saw some pretty decent bucks, but nothing exceptional. The area was really a lot more rugged than I had imaged. It was broken up with endless drainages and ravines, with too many hiding spots for those intelligent animals to live in. There also were not as many deer in the general area as I had imagined there would be.
On the morning of day four we decided to hunt the same drainage where we had bumped the big buck a couple of days earlier. We would access the area from the opposite end to get the wind in our favor. The weather was pretty bad. It was about 12 degrees, with hard blowing snow. We had spent several hours sneaking down through the draws without even cutting a fresh track. As we circled back, taking an alternate, route we watched about 20 Rio Grande turkeys fly down off of their roost about 40 yards from us in a creek bottom. They then walked single file up a switch backed deer trail up and then over some rim rock. Scott tried to get some video, but his camera had frozen up. I thought to myself, that was a rare sight and was worth the walk in and of itself.
As we continued walking out along the upper side of a deep creek bottom we had gotten almost back to where we had started. Suddenly, that same big buck blew out of the creek bottom with six does and was heading for the horizon. Scott hollered to me that he was at 300 yards when he stopped for a moment. I dropped down with my elbows on my knees and prepared for the shot. Scott then dropped his spotting scope tri-pod down in front of me and told me to use it as a rest. As soon as I had rested my rifle on it one of the legs came off and it fell down away from me. It all happened in about five seconds. Then the big buck was running again and went over the ridge and out of sight. Oh my gosh, how could that have happened again?
We took off running in the direction that he had gone. When we cleared the hill we could see him near the horizon at about six hundred yards. The does continued over and out of sight.
However, the old buck doubled back and went into a short, deep wash out and bedded down. He had obviously used that hiding spot before. It was about 15 feet deep, with almost vertical side walls. The mouth of this wash out was heavy with brush, so he nearly disappeared from view. Scott decided to wait and watch him to help direct me with hand signals if necessary. As I began leaving he said something to me to the effect that it was a world class deer. I knew I had better block that thought so I could compose myself when the time came.
The creek bottom was so deep and steep I had to make a big circle to be able to cross it. It probably took me nearly an hour to get to the point where I would begin sneaking in on him. As I approached a point where I could again see his bedding area I began belly crawling through the foot-deep snow. As he came in to view I ranged him at 212 yards. When I glassed him he was looking away from me, directly at the vertical earthen wall behind him. I thought that this was unusual. It was about as close as I would be able to get. There was a yucca bush a few yards ahead of me that I would use as my rest.
As I approached the bush I glassed him again; he was looking back in my direction, but was not alarmed. I crawled halfway into the yucca bush and took a prone dead rest. I could see him only from the base of his neck up. I took aim at the base of his neck and pulled the trigger. At the report of my rifle, the monarch began thrashing around and could not get up. I had broken his neck. I stayed there for several minutes, ready to shoot again, but it was not necessary. I think that my mind was blank from that point on as I began walking up toward him. As I approached the top side of his hide out I looked down to a sight that took my breath away. He was even bigger than I had thought. It took several moments for everything to soak in. All of the sudden it hit me. I had done it! I thought of Dad and things got very emotional for a while. I knew that he had been with me on that awesome stalk.
When Scott made his way over to me he was in awe of the magnificent animal. We dragged him back up out of the hole for some photos. Scott asked me if I wanted him to field dress this buck for me. I had been telling him all along that I was a low maintenance client. I had brought Dad's old German made hunting knife along for just such an occasion. It was the same knife that he had dressed his big buck with 37 years before.
Back at the ranch that night Scott rough scored my buck at over 241 gross non-typical inches. The typical main frame grossed over 205". The antlers were as heavy at the top as they were at the bases. The upper tines were bladed in such a way that they still had patches of velvet on them. I do all of my own taxidermy work and plan to display my buck and Dad's together on a common base. Two exceptional mule deer bucks over 200" displayed together. I can't wait to get to work on the project.
I must thank Scott Vermilyea for his efforts. He is an outstanding guide who really knows the animals. He knew how to push me at the right times and was able to boost my morale when I needed it most.
Rifle: Weatherby VGX Deluxe, .270 Winchester, with Timney trigger and Zeiss Conquest 3x9x40mm scope.
Ammo: Remington Accu-Tip 130 grain.
Optics: Spotting scope, Leupold 30x60mm; binoculars, Leupold 10x42mm; rangefinder, Leica 800
Knife: My late father's German-made hunting knife, taken along as a tribute to him.
Boots: Danner 800 gram Pronghorns.
Pack: Cabela's Scent-Lok Leafy wear.
Clothing: Cabela's Revolution DryPlus Thinsulate Fleece with Scent-Lok.
Camo: Mossy Oak New Break Up.
About the Author:
Greg David is a sales representative for a manufacturing company and has been married to his wife, Michelle, for 26 years. They have three grown children and one grandson. Greg believes strongly in the importance of fair chase hunting.