By Michael Lee
Andrew Atkins of Southern Backwoods Adventures harvested this Colorado antelope with a rifle while hunting with big game outfitter Adventures Wild.
-- As I sat fletching arrows for the coming deer season one August afternoon, my cell phone rang. On the other end of the call was my good bud Chris Vaughn of Adventures Wild in Colorado. Chris and I had talked a few times on the phone about getting together and hunting in Colorado.
He asked me if I wanted to come out and try to shoot an antelope with my bow. "Heck yeah," I said with enthusiasm because I'd never hunted antelope before. We worked out the details for the hunt and our plan was in motion.
Then Chris called me back later and asked, "Hey dude, do you want to come and bowhunt mule deer, too?"
My only reply to that was, "Man, do you really have to ask me that question?" Again, we worked out the details on the second trip. By now I was primed and ready to go bowhunting in Colorado!
On the first trip to Denver I was accompanied by my dad, Mike Lee, and our two cameramen, Andrew Atkins and Matthew Story. We had a fun-loving crew and were ready for the party. Our flight from Atlanta to Denver was painless, and we were met at the Denver airport by Chris. After gathering our gear, we headed to the local Bass Pro Shops to meet up with our guides, Patrick and Scott, as well as purchase our antelope tags. Finally, we were ready to get after some speed goats!
Michael Lee of Southern Backwoods Adventures watches as another day closes during his Colorado mule deer hunt with big game outfitter Adventures Wild.
The three-hour ride to the bunkhouse was one that I'll never forget. This was the first time I'd been to this part of Colorado and to see the open plains was somewhat of a mystery to this Southern boy. Where the heck were the trees? Where do antelope hide? My questions were answered pretty quickly once we started seeing the antelope. They simply don't hide!
Some folks will disagree with me, but I firmly believe that an antelope and a turkey must be related. They both have vision that is beyond comprehension. Their speed is simply unimaginable. I suppose this is why antelope are the fastest animal in North America. Keep all this in mind, because these critters are slick!
After settling in at the bunkhouse, it was already dark, and we all hit the sack with high anticipation for the next morning. As the sun came up, we waited at the house. Our guides explained you have to wait until it warms up so the antelope will come to the water holes.
Well, then what? Then you have to sit almost all day to have a high success rate. That was where one's mental toughness was to be tested. We hunted at least 6 hours and a maximum of 11 hours straight in the ground blinds located by these water holes. Seeing antelope was no problem. Getting them within range was the hard part. As the sun set on the last day of the hunt, I did have some does in range and a couple bucks but just never got a shot at any.
So round one went to the antelope. Not to worry though, my cameraman, Andrew Atkins, had a rifle tag for Colorado antelope. Talk about a lucky dog! Andrew headed back out to meet Chris and the guys. He would be hunting the same area we bowhunted in, only a month later. After sighting his gun in, they set out for some spotting and stalking. It didn't take long for Andrew and his guides to find a nice antelope and get setup for a shot.
At 300 yards, Andrew squeezed the trigger. Dust flew up beyond the antelope. To use a baseball analogy, Andrew was 0 for 1. The guys were determined to not give up. They moved around on the same antelope herd and Andrew was again in place for a closer shot than the first attempt. He squeezed the trigger and the buck bolted but didn't make it far. Round two went to Andrew. Finally, one of us Georgia boys had put a tag on an antelope!
The month is now November, and I've been sitting in treestands and chomping at the bit to go back Colorado. I had a deer archery tag that was on fire, and I was determined to wrap it around a buck's antlers. Finally the day came when cameraman Trey Wetherington and I headed back out West. We landed in Denver and Chris picked us up. We were headed to an area close to Fort Morgan, Colo., which is an hour northeast of Denver. Chris has several large land tracts where we could spot and stalk mule deer. The weather was going to be cool and windy. We knew that the bucks were definitely in the area.
Day one, the sun came up, and we were glassing several draws with our spotting scope looking for a shooter buck. The wind was blowing 10-15 miles per hour and the temperature hovered around 30 degrees. We drove and spotted and walked and spotted and finally found some deer. The only problem is they wouldn't bed down. For a successful mule deer bowhunt you find the deer first. Second, you watch them bed down, then lastly you get the wind in you favor and pretty much crawl as close as you can for a shot.
Everything was picture-perfect for the first two days except the bucks would not lie down. They were too busy chasing does and trying to breed. This was a great time to hunt mule deer because the largest bucks were out in the open. However, the hunting was tough because there were a lot of does in the area, which caused the bucks to not bed down during the day.
The third day started off well. We found a nice 180-plus-inch buck with a few does and smaller bucks. They beaded down and everything looked great until one thing happened - the wind died! Literally there was a 0 mph wind. There was nothing, nada, zilch, zero, and the absolute worst conditions to spot and stalk mule deer in the dry Colorado prairie. Chris and I looked at each other and decided we were going to try and stalk anyway. Hey, it sounded good.
Crouching down, we closed the gap to around 150 yards, and as we peered over the prairie grass, what did we see? Nope not the big buck right there for a shot, but two does locked on us. You can imagine how this turned out, not too good. The does spooked and took the rest of the herd bouncing over the hill about a mile away. That's the tail of the tape for day three, but we had one more half-day to try and take down a buck.
Day four started off terrible due to the absence of wind. Again, we traveled to our hunting area and scoped several small bucks and does, but nothing to attempt a stalk on. After a couple of hours of riding and spotting, we finally found a huge buck bedded in the perfect spot. It was lying on a small shelf that we could approach with the wind in our favor, and the grass was short enough that noise wouldn't be a problem. We drove nearly a mile around to get on the back side of the buck. It took us about 20 minutes to get to the ledge where the buck was bedded.
We eased up to 35 yards away from the spot. No buck though! Where did it go? We stood, simply dumbfounded and a doe walked out from the brush 100 yards away. It spotted us and stopped. Right behind the doe was the monster buck. The buck never looked in our direction. Then something that I've only seen a handful of times happened. The buck mated with the doe right in front of us! It was simply amazing to see the deer mating.
We then watched as the couple walked off and crossed the property line where we couldn't hunt. Guess that was a great symbol of how my Colorado luck went during 2007.
I highly recommend Chris and the guys at Adventures Wild for Colorado antelope, mule deer, and whitetail hunting. You can check them out at www.advwild.com.
God bless and good hunting,
Note: Michael is co-host of Southern Backwoods Adventures television show. Visit www.SouthernBackwoods.com for more information.
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