Roads less traveled: whether it's a new hunting area or a risky strategy, sometimes a new idea is what it takes to find success. The author's venture into eastern Colorado is evidence.
The familiar rutting sound--if that's really what it was--couldn't have come from the 8-point. That particular deer had already topped the hill and was now walking away from us. We had seen him so many times over the past few days that we had no trouble recognizing his 140-inch rack.
I struggled to hear in the strong wind. When I heard the noise a third time, I locked in on a small hill barely 100 yards away. Something was clearly behind it, hidden from view.
When the vocal deer finally crested the hill, its breath visible in the cold morning air, my heart lunged. I tried desperately to get Patrick's attention without spooking the huge deer. "Buck. Buck. Big buck!" was as eloquent as my speech would command.
As Patrick carefully shifted to start sizing up the deer, my decision had already been made. Especially this late in the hunt. All my energies turned to the seemingly simple task at hand--a task that I had accomplished countless times before. But as I knew from experience, in the thrill of a moment like this, "simple" is a dangerously deceptive term.
Particularly in the difficult position we were in, with absolutely no cover and an alert deer directly behind me. Recognizing a need to improvise, I clumsily managed to make use of only one leg of my shooting sticks, confounded by the thick sage around us. There was nothing simple about it.
Patrick finally acknowledged the deer was a shooter, although at his angle he wasn't sure how big. I hastily came to the best position I could massage, doing my best to lock the deer into the crasschair. In a last ditch effort to calm my nervers, I briefly reflected on event leading me to this point of truth.
Two critical decisions - decisions that required me to step outside my comfort zone and onto roads less traveled - had gotten me here. The first was venturing to eastern Colorado for whitetail deer. In all honesty, it had not been at the top of my list of destinations.
I, like many others, had heard rumors over the years of an occasional quality whitetail in Colorado. But that could be said of lots of places. I had just never paid them much attention.
And then I located Royal Mountain Adventures online and was instantly intrigued. Could it really be that good? I thought. A follow-up phone call with Sean Sanders satisfied my curiosity, and I booked the trip for late October and early November. My father and my good friend, Josh, agreed to make the trip as well, although they also expressed similar concerns. "Isn't Colorado for mule deer?" I remember Josh asking.
As we drove from Texas into eastern Colorado, I could feel both of their eyes bearing down on me. They didn't have to say a word. I knew what they were thinking as we watched the rolling grass hills pass. There aren't enough trees out there to hold a squirrel, much less a deer herd, I could hear them thinking.
The next morning, the first of the hunt, all those thoughts quickly disappeared. To my surprise, we were seeing deer everywhere. Just as my outlook was changing for the better, my friend Josh texted us a picture of the deer that he had already killed. Not just any deer, mind you, but a brute that grossed 178 inches.
To be clear, I always want the rest of a hunting party to be successful, especially friends and family. But heck, I never claimed to not be human. A couple of hours of hunting and Josh already had 178 inches of bone on the ground. There was something about it that just didn't seem fair, but it motivated me to get busy!
And that eventually led to my second uncomfortable--but critical--decision. The one that now had Patrick and I completely exposed in the middle of a sagebrush flat.
Ever since the first day in Colorado, hunting had been tough. The wind wouldn't lie down. The deer were moving out of their feeding areas earlier in the morning, keeping them out of shooting range. I was seriously questioning myself for passing on a 150-inch deer the first morning. My father and I even changed guides on Halloween afternoon just to shake things up a bit.
That night, as kids around the world were enjoying candy and costumes, it occurred to me that the deer we were seeing each morning were getting out of the alfalfa fields just a little too early to allow a decent stalk. So I suggested to Patrick that we get out about 45 minutes earlier the next morning and ease down closer to the travel route between bedding and feeding areas.
We knew it was a gamble, but we also knew that the conditions we had been experiencing weren't ideal for the hunting style we had been using. A new strategy was warranted, even if it meant risking exposure in the wide-open sage. Patrick acknowledged the risk but also conceded that a "new road" needed to be traveled if we were to be successful. He was pleased to have a hunter willing to put in the extra effort.
So as I released half of a deep breath in an effort to steady my aim, I realized that both of those decisions had been good ones.
I squeezed--or maybe I jerked--the trigger. Honestly, I don't remember in the excitement. But I do know that the bullet hit its mark as the deer lunged six feet into the air. Patrick was not quite so confident in the shot and suggested another as it raced to my left. My next attempt clearly missed, but the third bullet of the morning was true, stopping the deer's hurried exit.
As we approached, we still were not sure how big the deer really was. The entire incident happened so quickly that there had been no quality time to adequately judge its size. But any doubt that we may have been harboring Quickly disappeared as the deer came into view.
This was no "marginal" deer. It was one of the most impressive deer I had ever seen in my life, and according to Patrick, it had never been seen before in this hunting area.
The 15-point deer caused quite a stir not only among the guides and outfitter, but also in town with the locals. The deer boasted a 10-point mainframe rack with 25-inch main beams and five scoreable kickers, the shortest of which was 3 1/2 inches. Thinking back, the matching split brow tines and the matching horizontal kickers off each G2 only enhanced my initial excitement when the deer first crested that sage covered hill.
After drying, the magnificent whitetail officially scored 188 1/8 as a non-typical. To this day, it represents the largest deer taken by the outfitter.
And to prove that such quality whitetails are not a fluke, the outfitter took 13 whiteails in 2010 in eastern Colorado. Seven of them scored over 170 inches, and three scored in the 160s. Royal Mountain Adventures produced as they said they could.
Without a doubt, when considering where the location of my next hunt will be and what strategies I might use, I will always remember to consider the roads less traveled. There may be rewards never imagined,
Brad Dobbs used the following equipment to take his trophy whitetail from Colorado.
RIFLE Weatherby 7mm STW
AMMUNITION; Swift Scirocco 150-grain (hand-loaded)
SCOPE: Zeiss 3.5x10
BINOCULARS: Swaroyski 8x30
BRAD DOBBS BUCK Prowers County, Colorado Total points 15 (8R, 7L) Greatest spread 25 7/8 Inside spread 18 6/8 Main beams 25 2/8, 24 7/8 Longest tine 11 4/8 Antler bases 4 4/8, 4 5/8 Abnormal points 21 3/8 Gross typical 172 5/8 Deductions -5 7/8 Net NT score 188 1/8
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|Publication:||North American Whitetail|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2011|
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