I’m a big-time deer hunter. I just love deer hunting that several years ago, I had to give it a shot to go after deer other than white-tailed deer. So that’s why I asked a buddy of mine who was from Colorado to give me a reference for mule deer hunting and he gave information for Prairie Wind Outfitters. These guys are specialized in antelope, mule deer, duck, goose, and pheasant hunting and from what I’ve read and heard, have a good reputation. I sent off an email and a got a quick response from the man in charge and hunting guide, Brad Jackson. On these trips, it’s generally a good idea to plan and reserve them ahead of time as hunting can only be done in a certain time-frame and there’s always the possibility of other hunting wanting to hunt during the same time slots.
What do I mean by slots? Well, generally in order to keep the hunting good for everyone who comes in, certain outfitters will only allow a certain number of hunters out in the field as to not create too much pressure on the animals which could push them off the land and never come back or whatever the case might be. Also, there may only be a certain number of tags meaning one tag means you can harvest one animal and these tags are generally limited. So that’s why you have to reserve ahead. In addition to reserving, the outfitter will be able to scout certain areas months or even weeks before you go there in order to maximize your possibility of a harvest.
After talking through the phone and email, I gave it the green light and made my reservation for the mule deer hunt to occur in December. I also put in flight reservations as well but no hotel reservations as the package would include accommodations and food, which I was thought was great! So in order to prepare for the trip, I generally like to go shooting to make sure my aim is straight and true, but since I’ve already hunted in the fields of New York hunting white-tail deer with my trusty rifle, I didn’t practice at all since I was already practicing with the real thing. And since this trip was going to more about spot-and-stalk techniques, this meant a lot of walking around so I decided to train for it by doing a lot of cardio workouts. And lastly, I made preparations for my gear to ensure that I had camouflage top and bottoms, boots, hat, and most importantly a good gun case because traveling on the plane with a firearm is a little different than just getting on with just clothes in a bag.
In order to fly with a firearm, you must declare it at the counter and then possibly show the firearm to security officials. What they are checking for is the type of firearm (handgun, rifle, shotgun) and its legality, as well as to see a lock on the bolt or firing mechanism. Yes, you must have a lock of some sort to order to fly with the gun. Once you’ve declared, shown the gun, and then filled out some minor paperwork, it gets checked in. Generally, you have to pay an extra fee as for my gun case is vastly shaped differently in order to protect the inside so I’m really paying for the odd-sized luggage fee. Once it’s all done, all I got to do is get on the plane and get to Colorado.
Once I hopped on the plane and got to Denver, I got off to get my luggage and I met up with Brad and then we were gone. He drove me to northeastern Colorado where he said that there were plenty of mule deer around and he wasn’t kidding at all. After registering and doing paperwork with Colorado Fish and Game in order to get my license and tag, we went to the hotel where I would be staying to drop off my gear, change, and then off to the fields we went! Because northeastern Colorado is generally dry and flat hilled, it’s best to drive in a 4×4 vehicle like a SUV or truck. So as we drove in the truck, I immediately spotted 8 or 10 Mule deer. There was only one problem: they were all small and I wasn’t in it for small, easy puny deer like that. No, I wanted a trophy, something bigger than the white-tail buck that I shot the year before. As we drove some more, I spotted more and more deer but all small ones. All babies. This cycle would continue on for the next several days of driving around to scout for any big deer but poof! Nothing but smallies.
But just as we were about to head out on the 3rd day, I spotted a fairly big-sized mule deer with a nice rack on it. I told Brad that I wanted to get closer to see if it was a shooter or not. So we walked to the other side of the hill to avoid getting seen and then up the hill to take a look at a bunch of them. We glazed on all of them but saw nothing but small ones until we finally pointed one out. There he was! I looked through my scope and saw that he wasn’t that big like I see on the hunting videos but to me, it was big enough for me. Hell, it was bigger than any other deer I’ve shot. I took out my range finder to find out that he was 175 yards away and the deer knew that we were there so it meant that I had to get a shot off before they walked over the hill. That’s when I set my Remington 30-06 rifle on a sturdy place to fixate my cross-hairs on the buck. I couldn’t get a good shot unless he turned broadside, that way I could get a shot at his heart and lungs, just like I was taught how to hunt.
Once that deer turned walking, I set my breathing motion into play and slowly pulled the trigger and bam! Got him! Of course, the deer ran off for awhile like most deer do and then dropped dead. That was the next problem that I encountered of finding the deer while the sun was going down. Brad and I looked around for awhile and then he spotted it. We walked up to it and poked it a few times to confirm it was dead and yessssss! My first mule deer! It was a beauty of a thing – probably 3 and half years old with 9 points. Definitely bigger on the weight and antlers than my first buck. This no doubt merits a Kodak moment and I posed with my deer to say that, “yes, I did it!”
It takes a lot of work and time to get a successful harvest and for this I sure did. Not only were the days long of getting up at 4 AM to eat and get ready at 5 AM in order to hunt at the break of dawn at 6 AM and then hunting until sundown at around 5-6 PM, but just keeping the eyes open for anything and everything. Brad even told me that if they spotted an elk, he would be more than willing to take me back to Fish and Game to get the elk tag and then go back to the same spot since elk meat is just exceptional (not to mention hard to shoot a decent-sized one!).
After the harvest, I celebrated the dinner with a great meal and the next day I went with Brad to the meat processor to get the meat turned into jerky, steaks, and sausage. It was a great time and it definitely helps to have some experience hunting deer and expecting the unexpected.
Unfortunately, Brad stopped his guiding service for deer to focus himself on other opportunities but a quick look online will reveal plenty of guiding services to take on mule deer and elk in the great state of Colorado. It’s pretty much a guaranteed hunt/harvest unless you mess up the shot or don’t want to go after a small one.