Change of Plans

By Scott Willard
Colorado, 2010, Semi-Guided, Private Land

Scott Willard - Change of PlansOctober/November 2011 EHJ (Issue 127) - After a long 15 years of accumulating preference points for a deer tag here in my home state of Colorado, I finally decided it was time to cash them in for a once-in-a-lifetime chance for that special hunt we all dream about. Because I knew I wouldn’t have time to scout any of the premier units, I had selected a Ranching for Wildlife hunt in southeastern Colorado with high hopes for a successful hunt.

Southeastern Colorado provides its own kind of scenic beauty, with seemingly endless tracks of rolling buffalo grass and working farms. It’s also home to deep redrock canyons cut into the earth by endless years of gentle erosion - an ideal location to support good populations of whitetail and mule deer.

November arrived quickly. I had been talking with the ranch manager, Steve, during the course of the summer and things were looking good. Rainfall had been above average, so the bucks should have good antler growth. Steve also told me about a nice whitetail buck that they had been seeing on a regular basis.

I arrived the day before the hunt. It was unseasonably hot for Colorado - 86 degrees in November! I introduced myself to Steve and his right-hand man, Brady (also his son-in-law), set up camp, settled in, and got my gear ready for the next day’s hunt.

The first couple days were spent learning the area and the best places to glass. Brady volunteered to tag along to help glass in between his ranch duties. The area boasts breathtaking scenery, consisting mostly of canyon country with some large mesas, river bottoms with a few cottonwoods, tamarisk, and lots of sandstone rock formations. Because my focus was more on whitetails, we started by glassing the river bottoms and looking for the big whitetail buck they had seen. By the end of day two, we had hunted and glassed our way some 12 river miles from where we had started.

The first few days the hunting was difficult. With the warm weather and a waning but bright moon, deer were scarce; I spotted a few does and small bucks each day, but my dream buck remained elusive. I would spend the early mornings and late evenings on different rimrock outcroppings overlooking the miles of river bottom, glassing for whitetails. The late mornings and early afternoons were spent glassing the side canyons and benches for mule deer.

By the end of day four, a cool front had moved in and dropped the daytime temps down to the sixties. The moon had also finally waned. However, after these first few days, I still was not seeing any mature bucks of either species - not quite what I was hoping for, but I still had half the hunt ahead of me. I had to maintain my poker face because I really wanted to lay my eyes on the big whitetail Steve and Brady had been seeing.

Back at camp, Steve said he had seen seven mulie bucks the morning before about a mile up the canyon from where I had been hunting; a big 6x8 and a big 4x4 were in the group.

The next morning, we located the 6x8 feeding his way into an adjacent canyon. We decided to circle around and come in from above. As we approached the edge of the canyon, we jumped another large buck and startled several others, including the one I wanted to see. The buck I was after stopped on the other side of the canyon with three other smaller bucks. We got the spotting scope on him and saw that he was a little narrow, but he looked good. We left them to settle down and bed for the day.

Scott Willard - Change of Plans

For a full account of Travis's adventure, go to page 14 in the October/November 2011 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.