By Michael Deming
A glance through the record book will reveal that Colorado is the king when it comes to harvesting trophy mule deer. They range from the tops of the fourteen thousand foot peaks to the plains, and a trophy buck can come from any one of those places or somewhere in between. The world record typical was harvested back in 1972 in Delores County which is the Southwestern corner of the state and at 227” it is quite the spectacle. It’s safe to say that this area of the country definitely has the right genetics to deliver the kind of buck most of us dream about. To kill big bucks, you need to hunt where they live.
Colorado Hunting Expeditions is owned by Bob and Terri Luna and is located right in the heart of this country. They are part of the Sportsman’s News Platinum Approved Outfitters, one that we highly endorse. Every year, we purchase one of the coveted 4th season landowner vouchers and a fully guided hunt from them to give away with our Pro Membership Sweepstakes. The 4th season vouchers are very limited because they are the very last hunt of the year on the western slope with mid-November hunt dates. This gives you the opportunity to chase those elusive giants when they are the most susceptible to harvest.
Ryann Booth of Salt Lake City, Utah was our lucky 2017 hunt winner and would be in for the trip of his lifetime. Growing up in the Utah area had him well aware of big bucks and what it was all about. However, due to a career that had him out of the state as well as out of the country for the better part of fifteen years, the biggest buck of his life only provided enough bone to build a small set of steak knives. So, needless to say, we were pretty excited to arrive in Delores to start our hunt on November 16th.
We arrived on the 15th of November to see a dozen excited hunters at the lodge, however, the weather seemed more fitting to be mid-September. The forecast looked to be predicting temps in the mid-sixties every day with the nights in the low 30s. Not exactly what you want for a November rut hunt, but you have to deal with the hand you are dealt. I had gotten the same weather in 2016 on this exact same hunt and was able to connect on a big mature buck on the last day of the hunt. I assured Ryann that we would have a great time and see no shortage of deer, but we would probably have to look at a bunch of deer to find one we really wanted to put a tag on. We got assigned a guide by the name of Colton Hanson who is a local and grew up in the area which is always a plus in my book.
Terri and the staff put on a dinner presentation which was truly fit for a king as is every meal at Colorado Hunting Expeditions. We conversed with our guide and set a plan for the following morning. Since every day this time of year can bring on a new suiter, our plan would be to cover as much ground in the trucks as possible and look at as many herds of does as we could find.
As the golden glow to the east started to light up the fields, Colton and I were able to start picking out deer in the fields. The majority of this part of Colorado is what I call ranchettes, which are smaller tracts of land which could range from 150-1,000 acres. Colorado Hunting Expeditions has many of these tracts leased up as well as some larger ranches, but it isn’t uncommon to be hunting a small parcel of land or looking onto neighboring properties of deer feeding which bed on ground we can hunt.
By the time it was legal shooting light, we had already counted over 80 deer and about fifteen of them were bucks. We were fortunate to be hunting a pretty good-sized parcel which was just about fifteen hundred acres and if we got lucky enough to see a shooter buck, we could get on him pretty quickly and close the deal or at least make an attempt. I was snapping pictures of good four points with my PhoneSkope and showing them to Ryann. He assured me that he would be happy with any of these great bucks we were looking at, but they were all only in that 150” to 165” range and we really wanted something much bigger. The morning sun heated up pretty quickly and by 9 am, all the deer had retired to the canyons and bedding area for shade.
Colton had a unique place to take us on the first afternoon. It was only about 100 acres, but it was where all the resident deer would come to feed at night as well as rut. These small tracts of land with impossible access allows many of these giant deer to get to be very old. Age and genetics are truly the key to growing big deer and we were hoping this little piece would deliver. It didn’t hurt that Colton had seen a whopper here two nights ago which he felt would top that magical 200” mark.
As we sat next to the truck with our spotters out, the deer started to pour out of the trees and head towards our sanctuary. First there were eight and then twenty and then thirty. They just kept coming and coming as if someone rang the dinner bell. A few 3- and 4-year-old bucks were in the mix and one 5X5 with eyeguards caught our eye, but the fact that he was only 3 years old and had tremendous potential had me just snapping photos and taking video while Ryann shook his head in disbelief that we would pass on such an amazing buck. There was a small roll in the hill to the north which kept about 30 acres out of our vision. Colton said he would walk over and take a look while we stayed by the truck. Just as Colton got into position, nearly thirty deer bolted back to the canyon and in tow was a giant buck. He was only 250 yards away and on the move and with the naked eye, I could see unbelievable mass as well as height on this buck. I grabbed the camera and yelled for Ryann to get his rifle out of the truck. None of the deer were slowing down and would soon be out of sight. I was able to get my spotting scope swung around on him as well as the video camera just in time to realize that he was missing his entire right side. He appeared to have 8-inch bases and carried his mass all the way to the ends. I called Ryann off on the shot and we both sat amazed at the buck we had just witnessed. We immediately wondered if this was the buck that Colton had seen a few days before. However, who could have possibly been able to break that right side off unless he had a late-night run in with a truck. Needless to say, we were committed to targeting the unknown buck that might have been able to snap this old warriors antler only six inches up from the petical.
This was the kind of buck you come to Southwest Colorado to kill and the Colorado Hunting Expeditions lodge is loaded with mounts like this. We talked about this buck all evening long and we knew where we were headed in the morning.
It ended up taking us a couple of days of waiting to get another glimpse of our one antlered warrior. When we did, we were able to determine that it wasn’t a break, but it had grown this way. With a matching right side, this deer would have been very close to that 200” B&C mark. The good news is that the buck Colton had seen a couple days before season was still in the area, hopefully with both sides intact.
We decided to split up the last couple of days of the season to cover more ground. The unseasonably hot temperatures were not working in our favor and only getting to see deer for the first couple hours of the day were making these already short days a little pressing. We were looking at several hundred deer a day and new bucks out with each siting, but unfortunately nothing worthy of this special tag.
We spent all day in the field on day four hoping that maybe the deer might move with some of the overcast skies. We were pretty far west of the lodge and Colton had committed to sitting the smaller parcel in hopes of seeing either the one antlered buck or hopefully the big boy. The wind was picking up pretty bad where we were at and the deer were just not moving. A phone call to Colton confirmed that the wind wasn’t hitting his location and the plan was we would show up over there for the last thirty minutes of daylight.
As we rolled in, I could see deer everywhere. There were numerous new bucks and lots of rutting activity. I could see Colton’s truck and as we were rolling up the road to park behind him, I saw several deer in the blind spot the big buck used on the first evening. “Wow, that’s a good four point,” I whispered to Ryann. I threw my spotter on the window mount and gave him a good once over. He was bedded and looking away, but I could see good mass as well as the tine length we were looking for. I looked at Ryann with a grin and told him, “we need to shoot that buck”. I saw the look of sheer panic come over his face. He went from calm and collected to a bit of a mess. We rolled up behind Colton and I showed him the photo of that buck I had just taken and said “let’s go get that buck”. Colton went into guide mode and I grabbed all the necessary camera gear for the task at hand. In a matter of minutes, Ryann was on a dirt mound in the prone position and the buck of his life was bedded in the open, 285 yards away. After a few minutes, the buck stood and turned broadside. Being a true sportsman, Ryann gave the buck a warning shot over his back to let him know that now would be a good time to get out of the country. However, the buck didn’t take heed of Ryann’s courtesy shot and, so he put him down with a well placed second shot. Ryann apologized for the miss, but Colton and I just chuckled. It’s exciting to see someone get so rattled when they get their first big buck in the crosshairs.
As we walked up to the buck, it was obvious that Ryann had achieved a lifetime goal of harvesting a big mature buck. After a photo session and some well-deserved high fives, we loaded the buck in the truck to show everyone at the lodge and get him prepped for a trophy room. Colorado Hunting Expeditions had delivered another hunt of a lifetime to one of our lucky winners.
The Sportsman’s News Pro Membership Sweepstakes will give this great hunt away again in early 2018. Become a member for your chance at winning this great hunt at www.promembershipsweepstakes.com. With two consecutive years of unseasonably warm weather during this hunt, the year that delivers normal snow and cold November temperatures is going to be one for the ages. We will be guaranteed to have a tag every year until it does. Book your hunt with Colorado Hunting Expeditions by logging onto www.coloradohuntingexpeditions.com or call Bob Luna at 970-882-5400.