By Scott Stooksbury
The author is four for four when it comes to hunting in Colorado. His fourth trip was his best, thanks to this 31-inch-wide muley that grosses 209 inches.
During the eight hours it took me to get from Georgia to Colorado last November, I didn't dwell on the prospect of shooting a deer. I was simply looking forward to spending time with friends and breathing the fresh mountain air. That was my fourth hunting trip there, and I'd done well the other times. I didn't think my luck would hold for a fourth, which was okay by me.
My best friend, Jeff "Wood" Greene, introduced me to the ranch six years ago. His father, O.G., has been hunting the place for several years with a group of buddies. They had an extra spot, and I was asked to join them.
Anybody who's hunted out West knows of the physical demands and unpredictable weather. With the combination of high altitudes, severe temperatures and rugged terrain, a hunter's mind and body are challenged daily.
I monitor both the NOAA and Weather Channel websites months before going on these trips, sometimes as often as every three or four hours, when departure time is close at hand. In the same sense of preparedness, I also frequent the gym.
I love hunting out there. Not only am I sharing the land with an incredible array of wildlife, but the flora also is breathtaking. In addition, a Southern boy doesn't get to see much snow. Sure, it's pretty. But it makes for easier tracking as well, though snow wasn't a factor in 2007.
Hunter: Scott Stooksbury
We didn't have snow on the ground when I was there last. And spotting game was far more difficult.
The 5,000-acre ranch is surrounded by government-owned tracts and two other private ranches. On the first day of the hunt, I struck out for the heart of the property via Garbage Dump Road (there is no actual dump). I set up on a rock that morning and watched five does feed and bed down. I hunted until about 11:00 and never saw a buck, though I wasn't discouraged. Two days prior to the hunt, we'd witnessed deer sparring and chasing, so the rut was in full swing.
It was just a matter of time.
Afternoon temperatures were in the low 40s, and there was little or no wind. When I headed back out after lunch, I decided to visit the southernmost section, which is difficult to access. It's so steep, taking an ATV up can be scary. But the road had recently been graded, so I figured I would give it a shot.
Once I got to the top of the middle section of the road, I decided to park the ATV by a bush. I found a lone tree to break up my silhouette that afforded views of two draws. I plopped down there and watched a nice 4x4 and a doe for about two hours. They were at least 500 yards away. After that, I eased another 30 yards into the draw and resumed glassing.
Soon after I pulled up my binoculars, I saw a nice doe. Not long afterward, I spotted antlers and immediately lowered my binoculars, set up my shooting sticks and placed my 7mm Magnum atop them. I dialed my scope to 300 yards and zeroed-in on the buck, which was bigger than anything I'd ever shot.
I was as nervous as if it were my first time to see a deer.
The doe was very spooky and kept moving. But the buck stopped for a moment at 300 yards to see what I was all about, which sealed its fate. I took a deep breath and squeezed the trigger. The buck never took another step.
I couldn't believe that I'd harvested my largest deer ever on the very first day of the hunt. And to think I would have been content if I'd never seen it!
I started to walk down the draw to see the deer up close when I realized that the sun would soon be gone. I had a low-light battery, and I hadn't brought a knife. So, instead, I ran back up the draw and drove the ATV back to the lodge to get help. Our hunters were still in the woods when I got there, so I called the rancher, who agreed to meet me at the bottom of the draw.
Instead of driving up the south road, we walked up the draw. We field-dressed the buck and decided to retrieve it after the morning hunt.
The next morning, five of us went back up the draw. Because of the weight of the animal and its location, we were forced to pack it out in halves, which still wasn't easy.
-- Reprinted from the September 2008 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine