By Clark Schmitz
With just enough morning light my guide “Miles Fedinec” and I scanned the alfalfa field we had glassed the evening before and watched 2 nice muley bucks feed in. As the daylight improved it was apparent the deer had already left the field and headed back to their day beds.
It was Aug 25, opening day of the 2012 Colorado Mule deer archery season. I was hunting in South Central Colorado with Atkinson Expeditions. Also in camp was Wes Atkinson, owner of Atkinson Expeditions, who was guiding Phil Judice from Louisiana.
We were hunting mainly irrigated alfalfa fields that were a magnet for the deer as other food sources in the area paled in comparison.
We drove to a new area and hiked to the top of a high bluff to glass for deer. We soon spotted a group of three bucks feeding to the west. Two were really nice bucks! We watched as they left the field and took cover in a willow patch for the day. The plan was to slip quietly into position approx. 200 yards east of where the deer had bedded in some chico brush and hope they returned to the same field later in the afternoon.
We kept out of sight as we moved towards the spot where we hoped to conceal ourselves and wait out the deer. We got to a patch of Chico brush that would work well to hide us and keep us far enough from a group of honey bee boxes that were between us and the bedded deer. We settled in for the long wait. The wind was perfect, blowing from the willows where the deer had bedded to us.
At about 4 pm the two good bucks appeared at the edge of the willows. They began feeding slowly toward our location. The setup seemed to be right, this should work! A moment or two later we realized that a Toyota pickup was coming across the field right toward us. The deer were of course watching as well and hesitated only a moment before heading back into the cover they had just come from. Dumbfounded we watched as the truck drove up to the bee boxes and the driver got out to check on them. A few minutes later the bee keeper got back in his truck and drove off never realizing we were there. The timing of his routine visit couldn’t have been worse; we were crushed as our eager anticipation turned into utter frustration.
With four hours of daylight left we decided to sit tight and hope the deer didn’t blow out of the area. Three hours later and to our surprise, the two deer reappeared at the edge of the willows. Could we actually get a second chance at one of these great bucks? The deer again start slowly feeding our way. They stay in the waterway we are hiding in and continued to feed very slowly toward our location. Minutes later, the range finder showed 57 yards! It’s was windy enough that I wasn’t comfortable taking a shot of that distance and I continued to be ready as they worked closer. I was confident I was minutes away from a shot opportunity at a great buck! Then, glancing to my left I notice two hunters at the road some ½ mile away glassing the bucks in front of us. An instant later the deer also notice the hunters that are now making their way toward the deer. Once again the deer spook and now run North and East with no intention of stopping anytime soon.
We can’t believe it! Speechless and almost in shock I tried to pull myself together. Moments away from a second chance at a super buck and again we get a visitor, truly unbelievable!
We made our way to the truck and spoke briefly with Wes and Phil, as we needed some words of encouragement to regroup. Wes said he and Phil would come and help try to relocate the bucks.
After some long distant glassing we locate the two deer. They have stopped in another hay field up against a grassy irrigation ditch. As the sun is getting low, we quickly decided to try to stalk the deer. We circle around the deer using a line of willows for cover. The willows stop and we then begin crawling. Two hundred yards of crawling and we were now getting close. We keep checking on the bucks and crawling. The ground is hard and rocky and was killing our knees, but provided a fairly quiet approach. The deer have now bedded at the field edge. The wind is still strong and really helping. More crawling and we were now 25yards from the closer of the two deer lying at the edge of the tall grass. We could only see the tips of their antlers. I nocked and arrow and slowly rose to my knees. The sun is now setting behind the mountains and light is fading. We needed the deer to get up for a shot but didn’t want to alert them to our presents. I then noticed Phil walking very slowly across the field from the other side toward the deer. “Good plan” I though as the deer needed a reason to get up. As I watched the tips of the deer’s antlers in the tall grass, I could sense their getting concerned about Phil’s approach even though he was some distance away. The deer finally jumped to their feet and moved approximately 25 yards east and stopped to look back. The larger deer was at 30 yards and quartered away slightly. As my sight pin settled on the deer, I allowed for a little windage and released the arrow. The buck bolted and ran approximately 200 yards before going down.
At that moment it was almost hard to believe that we had really gotten it done. The emotional rollercoaster had ended with a hunt that seemed like we had hunted for a week in one day. Not giving up had paid off with a third time that was a charm. It was a hunt I will never forget.