CO 2nd season story

mcseal2

Veteran member
Mar 1, 2011
1,124
97
midwest
We got back last Monday from our 2019 Colorado muley hunt. Two of us went, myself and Dean, the friend I always hunt with on the destination hunts It was a grind of a hunt but turned out successful in the end.

We scouted the unit for 4 days mid-summer. We saw few deer but learned a lot of the country, glassing points, and access points. We used a UTV to cover a bunch of ground and see what the unit had to offer. It is a unit that deer migrate into for winter, not a great year-round area we learned. Consensus of those we talked with in our research for the hunt was that the deer would be there for 2nd season.

We left after work on the Thursday night before the 2nd season opener. We drove through the night and caught a short nap waiting for McDonalds to open for a quick breakfast before heading into the unit. Following the meal we drove the main road along the creek bottom to see what had moved in. It was disappointing. We located an unoccupied camp site and got set up mid morning when deer activity would have slowed. After that it was time for a quick nap and an afternoon of scouting. We used the UTV to cover more ground through rougher country and saw one decent 3x3. It was an older buck that froze in the sage thinking he was hidden, but that we spotted. Right at dark we saw a mid 160’s 4x4 that looked really young. A deer destined to be a stud if he lived, but not what we were looking for.

Saturday season opened and we were out glassing before light. We heard no shots and saw few deer. The next few days would be much the same. Many of the BLM roads we scouted that passed through private were now locked and posted limiting access to a lot of public land. We hunted hard all day most days. The warmest, windiest days we caught a mid-day nap to help fill the sleep deficit we were running on. We did not see many bucks. We saw 15-20 deer total each day with 2-3 of them having antlers. The bucks we did see were young 4 points or really small bucks. We checked different parts of the unit each day to see if anything had migrated in starting with the highest elevation areas and working other areas after.

Finally Day 6 of our trip we found a buck. I’d love to say it was skill, but I think it was more luck and determination. It was late afternoon with snow beginning to fall. We were headed to a glassing area in a remote corner of the unit when I spotted a buck bedded near the 2 track we were following. I pretended I didn’t see him and went on by. It was Dean’s turn to shoot first that day, so I told him get ready, I had spotted a good buck. We stopped up the trail and slipped back as quiet as possible. The buck was still there, still visible through one little window in the oakbrush. He was confident we couldn’t see him and lay there as Dean shot him at 12 yards. I’m sure he was aware of our presence, there was just no way we under the conditions we got that close without him knowing. The buck ran down the ravine he was lying above after the shot.

I then made a mistake in the excitement that I should not have. I left both my pack and my bino harness behind when we stalked the buck. When we tracked him off the ridge I had no light, no survival kit, nothing but my pocket knife and gun. With light fading, snowfall increasing dramatically, and the trail getting further away I was glad we found the buck only a quarter mile down in the ravine. One of us was going to have to quit the trail and go back to get gear if we did not find him right then, and with the snow covering the sign quickly I did not want that. Dean is color blind to red and so I was doing the tracking while he watched for the buck in case it was still alive. Lesson learned (or re-learned) always have at least the minimal kit in my bino harness (1AAA flashlight, lighter, tinder) with me. I know better but broke my own rule.

After locating the buck we got him pictured, processed, and loaded into our packs. The bullet had not exited at that short range, blowing up inside the buck which had made our tracking job more difficult. We got no blood until the chest cavity had filled and the buck slowed. That was one tough muley to go as far as he did with the internal damage he sustained. We got back to the trail and drove to camp in high spirits through heavy snow. We ended up getting about 3” in a pretty short time, but it all melted by mid morning the following day. Dean’s buck ended up being 28.5” outside and gross scoring 176.5”. Great frame and mass with weaker back forks.

The rest of the hunt was similar to the first few days. We got a little snow but it always melted by the middle of the next day. We kept covering country glassing and searching for a decent concentration of deer. We kept striking out. Finally it was getting to the end. The last day of the season there was a significant snow storm building between us and home. We had stretched our time away from work and the families about as far as we could with the 10 days we planned to be gone (1 scouting, 9 hunting) and could not afford to get stuck longer if roads closed over the mountains. We agreed that we would hunt that last morning and then pull out mid day before the storm got too bad. The morning’s hunt was slow as past days had been. Just does if anything in all the areas we glassed. Finally on our way back 3/4 of a mile from camp I spotted a grey shape under a tree. A quick look through the binos revealed one of the best bucks we had seen on the trip and I immediately went from glass to gun. I got to a steady position and hit the buck facing me at 216 yards. He went out of sight but we soon found him about 40 yards from the tree. He was a heavy old 26” wide 3x3 that gross scored 153”. Not the giant I’d come to Colorado dreaming of, but a solid mature buck I was very happy with especially at the last minute! He was the second best buck we saw on our trip, Dean’s buck being the first.

Following pictures and packing him back to camp it was a hectic job of loading everything up and getting on the road. We just beat the worst of the snow and had no issues getting home. Since then it’s remained hectic getting caught up with work and family tasks, plus getting all the cameras checked for the upcoming whitetail season. I hope to get one more deer before the year ends.

10 years ago now I started keeping a journal of all my hunts. Whitetail seasons at home get recorded on the computer each evening, and destination hunts on a Rite in the Rain notebook purchase for each hunt and keep with me. During a mid day lull or in camp after supper I will jot down a quick entry for the day. After each hunt I write a heading “What I learned this hunt” and fill the list in under it. This hunt the mistake I made about taking off without any light, fire, etc made the list. What also made it though is the most repeated and most recurring theme on all my lists over the years. Never quit. This is repeated over and over by the successful hunters I listen to on podcasts while baling hay all summer, and for good reason.

I think attitude and time in the field trump any other factors in successful hunts. Attitude and time in the field are interrelated. Spending time in the field grumbling and putting in only a token effort seldom results in success. A good attitude makes it easier to commit to putting in the time afield and to remain alert and effective while out there. Time in the field spent actively learning creates the knowledge base and skill sets that develop over time to make an effective hunter. Even luck can be partially attributed to these, for the lucky encounters to occur a hunter must be in the field and ready to capitalize on them. I have a quote written in a journal I came up with on a hunt, “Once quitting is eliminated as an option it frees up a lot of brain power for deciding how to succeed.”

It has worked for me more than once over the years. I have taken animals on days where conditions were poor for animals to be moving. I hunt relatively short firearms or blackpowder seasons everywhere and only get one destination hunt a year. Hunting under these limitations has forced me to hunt as often as I can, not just when conditions are right. It has paid off often enough to keep me doing it.

Anyway, story/ pep talk over. Good luck to everyone who still has a tag, stick out the late season weather and have a great hunt.

Dean buck 4.jpgMy buck 1.jpgMy buck 5.jpgtipi snow.jpgtruck trailer snow.jpg
 

JimP

Veteran member
Mar 28, 2016
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Gypsum, Co
It was a strange year this year out there. The deer didn't start to migrate until after the season started. There were some does and small bucks but the big boys were holding back.

We didn't get as much snow as you did. On the Thursday night before the hunt we got enough snow to cover the ground and then a little bit more on Saturday night. My BIL shot his buck Sunday evening after spotting it on a almost bare side hill where he had been laying under a tree 20 yards off of the main road all day.
 
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mcseal2

Veteran member
Mar 1, 2011
1,124
97
midwest
Thanks everyone. I do seem to get the most satisfaction out of the toughest hunts. Darn sure not to the point I’ll pass on a good animal early or easy though! Take success when and where its available.