By Daryl Benish, Berkley, Mich.
Three days into my third Colorado rifle season solo deer hunt and I’d yet to see a single deer. I’d never been to this area before, so I did plenty of e-scouting before making my long drive from Michigan. My attention was focused on public-land foothills of a fourteener towering in the backdrop. Predominantly covered in sagebrush, there appeared to be good hunting opportunities far and wide, but striking out on seeing even a doe left me feeling concerned soon enough.
While talking to a successful hunter that afternoon, he offered a tip of where three out of four in his party shot their bucks. Sure enough, I caught a glimpse of a cruising buck in the early light in the same area shortly after leaving my truck the next morning. Instantly, I started stalking parallel to him, up and over then down and back up to finally get glass on him at 400 yards. Studying his antlers, he turned out to be a wide 2x2. I passed on that buck, but was thoroughly content because I was finally hunting. A good day for sure.
Covering miles of ground over the next couple of days, my concern for not finding success grew louder in my head. But then I spotted a group of seven does feeding midday, which I found particularly curious because, first, it was midday and second because they were quite close to the only two-track road for miles. Pondering how relaxed they were, it was apparent feeding there was routine. “Where there are does pre-rut, there will eventually be bucks” is no secret. My plan shifted to take a closer look.
Perched on the highest point in the vicinity on the sixth morning, the sudden crack of a rifle broke the morning’s silence when it was barely light enough to see. Off to the west I witnessed a hunter clamoring up a hillside a quarter-mile away. With such unexpected activity, I hurriedly glassed in that direction to see if a buck was coming my way. I was on high alert. Seconds later a buck with a wide rack facing away 150 yards to my left dropped out of sight over a ridge. At first, I thought that must be the deer the other hunter was looking for, but I eventually watched him reach his downed buck. Later the same day, a few more does showed up with a young forkhorn in tow. A bit of action lifted my spirits. Maybe I’m still in the hunt.
To my surprise, the following day I saw a shooter, but I ranged him with my Leupold RX-1000 TBR to be 590 yards away in that same feeding ground. I decided to hike back to my truck and drive downhill about a mile to put a stalk on him. Starting below him, I hiked up one hill, crossed the top of a second in order to get to a third. Paying attention to wind, and moving as quietly as possible, I did a fishhook-shaped stalk. After an hour and 15 minutes, I was in position only to find that he and the six does he was with were gone. I knew I hadn’t spooked them, though, because a second group of three does was still there.
Feeling discouraged, by the end of the day I’d convinced myself I’d be heading home empty-handed. The last morning, my eighth, I was back in the same area hoping he’d make a repeat appearance, only this time I’d moved down a couple hundred yards. “There’s a buck!” He just showed up from nowhere, only closer than the day before. Topped with a Leupold VX-III scope, I took a shot at 297 yards with my Remington 7mm Magnum on a bipod. Shivering from it being the coldest morning so far, I watched him run behind a stand of aspens. After several minutes of glassing, I found him walking slowly in some sagebrush. Fifteen minutes after my first shot, the second rang out as he dropped at 200 yards. Afterward, I really started shaking not from the cold but from adrenaline I’ve only heard about before. Man, was I ever happy. Persistence certainly paid off after all.
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