Mentors and Monsters – Sharing a Colorado Mule Deer Hunt

If you are a Four Corners Chapter SCI member, you probably received a newsletter in the mail that had this ‘Mentors and Monster’s story of a Colorado mule deer hunt in it. If not, consider joining now so you don’t miss future news. Also, our 20th Anniversary Celebration is on Saturday, March 14th. We hope to see you there.

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It seemed as if the mule deer rut was never going to start. As the Colorado fourth season came to a close, there were still bachelor groups of bucks in hiding and does littered the usual breeding grounds. After miles and miles of searching in hopes of finding a buck with his nose in the air, still, the action was slow. Having an elk tag in hand, I decided I may search for a good bull since its been several years since I’ve been lucky enough to harvest one.

I switched gears a little bit and began to hunt in areas that I knew I could find both deer and elk, but I was still set on holding out for an elusive giant. The wife’s nephew, Junior, came to spend the week of Thanksgiving with us, hoping to experience a little hunting action first hand. He did not grow up with the hunting privileges that I was fortunate to have, but at the age of 11, I would say there’s still time to be infected by the addiction that only us hunters would understand! Every bit of free time that I wasn’t working or chiseling away at the honey-do list, we were out in the field glassing and glassing and glassing. We ran into many great deer that Junior got super excited about yelling, “that’s a pretty big buck!” in hopes that he would persuade me into us trying our luck in making a stalk. I had to remind him by saying, “That’s a pretty big buck, but we are looking for a giant. You won’t have to think about it if that deer is big, once you see him.” We covered areas that have held great deer in the past, but still, the rutting action was a little slower than I deem ideal, so I turned my focus onto areas that were more likely to have a good six-point bull hanging out since I haven’t harvested one in five or six years.

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I decided to be patient and not rush my deer hunt. The elk had finally started arriving in their usual winter range areas, and we glassed up plenty of bulls but never a bull over the 300-inch mark. We continued to search.

Thanksgiving morning proved unsuccessful, but I was on call with work and needed to be within cell range. As soon as I got home, I got a phone call and had to go into work. I finished the duties necessary and went on to stuff myself full of turkey, as I am sure most everyone else did across the country. We went for an evening hunt only to once again, solely, see small bucks and plenty of does. Friday, I had to work again but only a half-day, so my son Jaxx, Junior, and myself were on the prowl that evening. Jaxx loves to tag along with me every chance he can, and I knew we probably weren’t going to hike a whole lot, so I love when I get to include him as well. That kid amazes me with the keen eye he has when looking for game, and he definitely is the guy to do the job if anyone needs a laugh. The weather had thrown a wrench in that day, so we hoped for better luck the next morning.

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Saturday, November 30, the morning began with a temperature in which the old little Toyota struggled to start. We hit the road and headed to a popular area where I regularly run into many of the fellow Tribal Members who also are looking for game in which they find suitable to pursue. I pulled up to a great vantage point and began to scan the sage flats. I got out of the truck and climbed a hill to better the view. Junior is down looking at some old bones and trying to identify to what they could have belonged.

As I continue to glass, I use my spotting scope and slowly grid the area since there are so many deer and equally just as many hiding places. Just as I get to a nice looking small open field, I see a tall four-by-four trailing a doe. His frame is very heavy, but he lacked depth in his back forks. I decided he was fun to watch, so I followed him with the spotter until he got to a drainage. At the drainage, I noticed a buck that had the look of the “giant” that I told Junior about. They were at a distance at which a person really has to concentrate on getting the best look possible. I had my spotter rock solid and waited for the buck to step out of the drainage. I saw his main beams were exceptional. He turned, and his entire typical frame stood out against the snow, enticing me as I tried not to blink. I’m glad I didn’t because I caught what had looked to be a decent extra sticker off of the right G2. The image touched my soul.

I ran down the hill and told Junior that I found that giant of which I’d told him. He was equally as excited. We drove to a good access point, soaked up as much heat as we could from the truck heater, then bailed out. I made sure I had the essentials, an orange vest, my binos, and my rifle. We crossed the creek and made our venture towards the buck. Knowing that many deer occupied the sagebrush flat between us and our target, we stayed as concealed as possible, hiding behind the small rolling hills as we pressed on. With every angle that I had, I glassed in the direction where I last saw him. They were still a little bit out of range to clearly identify if the target buck was one of the many that kept disappearing over the next ridge chasing does.

A little bit discouraged that he might have slipped away, I pressed on behind a ridge that I knew would be perfect for getting above the deer without the wind blowing our cover. The whole way there, I kept switching hands in my pockets because the cold wind was draining the heat right out of my gloves. I could tell Junior was even colder than I was. We finally reached the base of the hill and started up. Just as we were about to peak the ridge, a doe hidden behind some oak brush about 15 yards away raised her head, she saw something was not right, and bolted to the rest of the herd of about 20 deer. They did not feel comfortable, and they all started bounding away in a single file line.

I saw a small buck but not the big guy, so I ran to the top of the ridge, where I had a full view of the little valley. Just as I crested, about 60 yards in front of me, I locked eyes with the beast of a deer that I glassed from a good three-quarter of a mile away. I picked up my binoculars to identify that he was indeed the same deer. He was. I dropped the binos, picked up the rifle, and in the scope, I saw that the buck had the distinct look of “alright I’m about to bounce” (literally), so I picked a spot right behind the shoulder, and I torched off the round. The dull thud after the recoil assured me that the bullet touched its mark. I looked back at Junior and waved my hand for him to hurry to my position so he can watch the deer go down. Just as Junior got next to me, the deer found his resting place about 15 yards from where 220 grains met the ole boiler room. As we walked up to the deer, I started to see more points than I expected. Once he expired, I rushed to the deer and was speechless when I picked up the rack. I admired the deer for a bit, and the work began.

-Alex Pena of Ignacio, Co.

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