In honor of my dad drawing this tag this year, I figured I would post these pictures and this story.
My dad and I try to take some sort of trip together every year to go fishing or hunting. He had me with him at a very young age hunting whitetail deer in South East Texas and fishing at Toledo Bend throughout the summers. Since I've been out on my own, we try to continue this tradition, whether it be fishing in Alaska, or hunting in the Rocky Mountains. This particular story starts in 2011 when dad drew a Limited Entry Elk tag for a unit in Utah with no preference points. My dad is a retired game warden and due to a bad experience we had in Idaho with a guide service we didn't want to take a chance on ruining a good opportunity for a great hunt. So I started calling farmers and ranchers in the unit and he started calling game wardens. Dad and I both came up with the same folks to talk to about hunting that unit and long story short, we had a blast and he ended up killing a small 6x6 bull, but passed on much bigger bulls and saw a couple tremendous bulls.
Since dad retired he has kept himself busy with running cattle. In 2011 it was a bad drought year for Texas and we had no hay, so he had the bright idea to mix business with hunting and buy some hay while we were in Utah and bring it back to Texas through the the Rocky Mountains. Trip up there was fine. We had even drawn a tag a piece in New Mexico in Unit 2B so we stopped in Farmington to scout out the unit in case we were able to make 2 trips that year. After this trip was over we had had enough. We made it to Round Valley, Utah, through Moab Pass in a torrential downpour at night and began our 7 day hunt there. On our way back loaded down with alfalfa, we decided to go back through Wyoming and drop down through Colorado. We knew things weren't going well when we didn't even get out of the valley with our first blowout. We stopped where the County Road met the State Hwy at the tire shop and had a young man change out our bad tire. We took off with no other issues on into Fort Collins. In Fort Collins, I thought I heard a noise. Which come to find out I did. About 20 miles down the road closer to Fort Morgan all hell broke loose and we came "skidding" to an abrupt stop. The young tire engineer back in Utah evidently snugged up the lug nuts just over hand tight and had come off, along with the inside dual, which both of them combined took out the back axle of our gooseneck trailer with about 12 tons of high moisture alfalfa hay on it. This was 1am on a Saturday morning. So we call the wrecker service out of Fort Collins to get our trailer off the highway. They get there and get stuck. He calls his buddy and pulls the first truck out of the mud and then together they both hook on to our trailer, one at each end and inch it over until finally 4 hours later they get it over the white stripe where it is somewhat "safe". The next morning we start calling trailer places to get us repaired. None are either open or have the capacity to do what we need them to do. I call one of my dairies I called on back home because I knew their headquarters was some where close by. Sure enough they put in some phone calls and get us some help. When we get back to the trailer, we find a young lady pulling a 40ft gooseneck with a Ford Dually and another young lady operating (notice I said operating, not driving) a CAT 928 wheel loader. They had our hay off of that trailer and stacked perfectly in no time flat. They said they would pull the hay to the dairy where it would be safe and then told us a guy was opening up his trailer shop for us in Fort Morgan. We took some pictures of what all was broke on the trailer and took it to the trailer place in Fort Morgan, where we saw the Mecca of all trailer places right on the interstate. The fellow in there had everything we needed and asked where we were broker down. He said he would meet us there and help us put the trailer back together. We went back and looked for our other tire, because we had only found one the night before. Never did find the other tire. Joe showed up with the parts and the extra tire and rim we had bought, but the guy was nice enough he went to the house and brought us two more tires and rims and wouldn't accept anything for them. He just said, "If I'm ever broke down in Texas, I'm calling you two." Fair enough. We got the trailer back together and back to the dairy a little after dark. Bri and Ashley met us there and got us loaded back up and strapped down. I've never seen anyone, male or female, operate equipment like Bri could do.
After we were finished, Bri got out of the loader and she had seen the elk horns in the back of the truck. She said "So you two like to hunt, huh?" That opened Pandora's box. She started showing us pics of monster bucks that they had killed in Colorado and we were amazed. We asked where? Not really expecting to get the secret unit they hunt in, she said "Right back there." Pointing to miles and miles of CRP and corn ground. So we asked about public land in the area to hunt and she said there was none. Me and dad said, "Well that knocks us out." Bri replied, "Why is that?" We said, "We don't know anybody around here." "Well you know us don't you?", she said. Why yes. Why yes we do. She told us that if we got drawn for the unit to give her a call and she would take us hunting. Luckily I had been putting in for points in Colorado so I had a head start on my dad. It took a couple more years, but I drew in 2013. Dad lucked out and Bri's family had an extra Land Owners tag in 2013 too.
We get up there the day before the season starts to do some driving around and looking ourselves. We meet her the next morning and she says hop in the truck, there's been a nice buck or two in the front pasture. We hop in pull through a gate and look around the hill and sure enough there's about 15 deer on the hillside looking at us with a small buck and a bigger buck that slipped over the back of the hill about the time we spotted him. We got back into the truck and she says hold on their going to try to beat us to the property line. So I figure we would put the Louisiana Creep on them and circle around.... Instead we put the Colorado Crazy on them and went Baha 5000 over sage covered sand dunes. Did I mention she was an operator? Any normal human being would have flipped this truck over. Evidently Bri has some Earnhardt blood in her family tree, because we went airborne at least twice and one of those times when we were in the air coming down off the back side of one of those dunes we looked down and we were headed into a small canyon. In mid-flight she said calmly, "Oh year I forgot about that ditch." Ditch? No one would ever find us in that thing or hear the explosion when we hit the bottom. As soon as we land at some where between 50mph and Mach 2 she cuts an immediate left and we are on two wheels and I am looking down into this Pit of Despair. Somehow she manages not to flip and I hear my dad in the back using adjectives I never heard from him before, she straightens up and hits the next dune at over 50 mph and you see the mule deer out the left side bounding along on what looked like flatter ground. When we are airborne off of the next dune, I see the property line in a 6 strained bard wire fence and we are about 20 yards from it, when she says get ready. Ready for what? I don't even know where my gun is. I'm embarrassed to stand up for fear of what might fall out of my pants and I don't even know if I want to shoot this buck and we're about to run through a fence. But yeah, I'm ready. I wasn't aware Dodge 1 ton's could do this but she made a 90 degree turn on a dime and came to a screeching halt and had me faced perfectly down the fence line waiting for the deer to catch up. Once the dust cleared, I looked down my scope and saw the first doe bound over the fence, followed by several more and the two bucks we had seen. We got a good enough look at the bigger buck and decided we weren't going to miss out on more excitement and end our hunt too early.
We told her dad was old and his heart probably couldn't take to many of those rides, all the while he was doing his best Fred Sanford impression. She agreed to tone it down for two Texas sissies and she did. She had been seeing a 220's class buck in a corn field on the south end of the unit. We said he would do, so we drove down that way. Just about the time we got to where we were going the landowner that she had permission to hunt on called her and said, don't hunt. He had just put a high fence up on most of his acres for an elk meet harvesting ranch and they were trying to kill all the mule deer that were trapped inside the fence and they didn't want us messing them up hunting outside the fence. She was ticked!!! We were bummed, but ready to go check out some other areas. So while we're down that way we checked out several other places she had, but didn't find anything to our liking or hers. She decided we should go hit the front pasture because the big 5x5 she had been seeing wasn't with the group we had seen that morning and they would be transitioning through that pasture headed to the corn fields. While we were flying down the county road, we passed an irrigated corn field on our right and then a fence line that separated the corn from the CRP ground. All the sudden, we saw a good buck standing with a whole herd of does at a 100 yards off the county road. We came to a screeching halt and started glassing him and decided it was definitely a buck we should try to take. I asked her if she had permission to hunt the place and she said, "Not yet, but I know the guy."
She dialed him on the phone but didn't get an answer and said he lives right back there, let see if he is home. She threw it into reverse and drove that Dodge just as fast backwards as I could forwards. Sure enough he was there and gave us permission to go hunt. We went through his gate to get into the pasture that we saw last saw the buck and started easing through the sage brush. We got to the top of the hill and crested over and deer started running everywhere. We quickly sorted through them and picked out the big buck who was running directly away from us right toward the skyline. It was right before dark, but we found the buck in our cross hairs and let lead fly. I was shooting a 300 Win Mag BAR and dad was shooting my 338 RUM. We were prepared for rhinos.... Or 600 yard shots. Dad shot first and missed by somewhere between 70 and 80 yards and I shot the next 3 shots in a volley. After the 3rd shot the buck disappeared into a wide opening. To this day we still don't know where that buck ducked into. We saw his does skyline on the next hillside so we pursued after them, when we couldn't find hair, hide or blood in the sage brush where we last saw him. He never did turn back up, so we decided we would come back in the morning and see if we could find him.
The next morning we went into the same pasture as we did the night before and looked closer in the area we last saw him, and still had no sign where I might have hit him. So we followed in the direction of the does from the night before, hoping he had joined back up with them. We went through the sage brush until we hit another ranch road and followed it further back into the ranch. We were about to cross a cattle guard when I noticed a few does mingling around on a hillside by some cattle pens. There was a little buck bedded down in the brush beside them. We glassed for just a bit there to make sure our buck wasn't there with them and never picked him up. We went in the direction of a windmill as it was getting towards mid morning and we thought they might try to hit water before bedding down for the evening. We got to the windmill which was kind of down in a valley and we could see forever on all sides. So we decided it would be a good place to glass. We couldn't pick anything out of the sage brush so we turned around to move diagonal back from the way we came. About the time we got our direction set, I told Bri to stop. How in the world I spotted this I will never know, but there was something that didn't look quite right on the hillside 1.5 mile away. It truly was 1.5 miles away, we clocked it. I got my bino's up and still couldn't quite pick out what it was I was seeing, but told Bri the course to take and drive in that direction. We cut the distance in about half and I never took my eyes off of what I was seeing so we didn't lose it. We stopped and I glassed again and told dad and Bri that I thinks it's a deer. They still hadn't figured out what I was looking at, so we cut it to about 400 yards and we glassed again. Sure as heck, there was a white ear sticking out of the sage brush that belonged to a mule deer doe. We pushed her up and started following her in hopes of pushing up more deer covered in the brush. She went over a little ridge and we followed and wouldn't you know it when we topped the hill more deer got up out of the brush including a little buck. We followed a little more and a bigger buck got up. It wasn't the one we were looking for, but it was showing some promise for finding the buck we wanted. We weren't able to get any more big bucks out of the brush and eventually those deer disappeared into a hole somewhere when we went around a hillside, so we decided to head in for lunch back the way we came. We started to approach the same cattle pens from earlier in the morning and I told Bri to stop, there's more deer there than there was earlier. We through up our glasses and the first thing I noticed was a heavy horned buck that looked pretty good. I popped off, as I am known to do, being the good son I am, I asked dad, "You want him." Figuring him being the good father he is, I had him pegged to reply, "No son, I want you to take him." Instead I got "Why hell yeah." So Bri thought we would be able to pull up to the cattle guard and get an easy 100 yard shot at this buck laying down in the brush. None of us had actually been able to get a good look at this buck yet because he was camouflaged so well in the sage. Dad got out of the truck and used the hood to lay the 338 across for a brace. I told him, lets get him to stand up and he said, no I'll take him right here. I questioned him some more and he told me to shut up, so I obliged. I heard the safety click off and dad take his deep breath and the big gun roar. The next thing I see, can only be imagined in horror movies as the buck exploded up and out of his bed on a dead run away from us. I see the blood on the side of his leg and I tell dad to shoot again. He does and the buck never slows down as he is over the hill and hauling. We get dad to jump in and the race is on. Bri charges up the hill through the sage brush after him and we crest the hill to already see him on the next hill still cruising at Mach 1. Dad fires off another shot and I tell him I'm about to start launching lead so we don't lose this buck and he tells me to go ahead. We crest the next hill and it opens up into a huge flat and we see the buck still making tracks quartering away from us. I take the first shot and Bri says "You hit him." Dad takes the next shot, followed by me again and Bri says, "You hit him again." At that point we see the blood on the side of his neck where I hit him with my second shot. He's hurt and turns back broadside to us. Dad gets out on the ground and gets set up for his next shot while Bri ranges him. "432" she says. I tell dad to use the second mil dot on the scope, and I am dialing in my Swarovski to 430 while he's taking his breath and squeezing one off. He shoots just over him. The buck doesn't flinch, he's dead on his feet, but we want to end it so I tell dad, "First mil dot and if you don't get him, I'm about to drop him." I can still hear dad take a deep breath in and the roar of that gun go off that final shot and watch it happen in slow motion. That bullet hit him like a hammer and all four legs folded underneath him. Dad got back in the truck and we drove down there to the the buck. When we got down there to him, I wanted to kick myself even worse for offering the shot to dad.... It was the buck from the night before. He had a cheater tine coming off below the split of his g-2 on his right side that was very distinct. I was still happy for my dad, but not as happy as I would have been for myself if I would have been in the pictures.
So we took him in to the processor for him to keep for us and went back to hunting for my buck that afternoon. We decided to hunt the west pasture of her family land that evening hoping to catch the big buck they had been seeing moving to the corn ground earlier in the day to get a crack at him. Right before dark we saw a big bodied buck easing along the fence line. I couldn't quite make him out until the fading light hit him just right and I saw what looked like 2 baseball bats coming out of his head with points growing tall off the main beam. This was the kind of buck we drove from Texas for. He was pushing 200" but it wasn't a good shot. I know what you're probably thinking.... Never stopped them before, but it's a different style of hunting from anywhere we've ever hunted before and it's run in gun under most circumstances. But this particular instance, the buck was calm and didn't know we were there. Instead of taking a marginal shot and risk pushing this deer into the next county we decided we would try our luck the next day. We set up on this buck the next morning to try to catch him coming from the corn fields with no luck. We found some other bucks, including a true 30" wide buck, but he was young and only a 3x3 so we let him walk. Saw a couple other bucks in the low 170's but after seeing the baseball bat buck I was willing to go home empty than shoot anything less. And that's exactly what happened. On the last morning of the hunt it was super cold so we tried the baseball bat buck again and actually saw him feeding back to his bedding grounds from the corn fields. We were about a mile away, but thought we had him land marked pretty good to put a stalk on him. The sun was high in the morning, but it was still colder than all get out when we pulled up to the lookout knob we thought he would be behind. Me and Bri got out with our shooting sticks and eased up the incline. When we reached the top he wasn't where we thought he would be. Instead we looked to our left and saw him and another buck about 200 yards away staring at us. They had their heads above the sage brush and I had a shot at his throat. In hind sight, I should have taken the shot as I am plenty capable of this shot off of shooting sticks. Instead we thought we could creep down and get to the next knob and get a full on body shot at 120 yards. We were wrong. We popped up on the next side expecting to see the big buck still their feeding, but instead we saw him over a mile away in a matter of a couple of minutes running with his buddy in tow. Wild as a March hare. We pursued and got close to him again but never presented a shot, so I was blessed with tag soup.
There's good news and there's good news and there's good news. The first good news is, we didn't take a trailer on this trip and made it home with no blow outs, but did have to fight a blizzard on the way home and actually had to camp out in Vernon on the way home overnight. The other good news, is my baseball bat buck is still alive 3 years later and bigger than he was before. In fact they saw him the end of this last season and said he's got a 9" drop tine on one side and had another one on the other side that had gotten broke off. The other good news is that dad drew a tag this year, so we are headed north in December. I guess the only bad news at this point is, I don't have a tag as of yet. But landowners get their tags on June 15th. So I'm praying our Colorado friends again have an extra tag this time around.
This is some of the tame land that we hunted in.
This is the buck that dad killed
This was the last morning when I got out of the truck.