It was 11 p.m. and we were only an hour away from our hunting destination. We stayed in a Days Inn to get a good nights rest in preparation for the days to follow. Jake Vancil, and Joel Eggers were sound asleep in the room, and I was still wide awake and needing something from the truck in the parking lot. On my way back into the room I went to shut the door and realized it was going to slam hard enough to wake them, so I ran to grab the door ending in a severe smashed middle finger. As bad as I wanted to yell, I held it in, biting my tongue, and headed to bed. When I laid down, I thought to myself, man I hope this isn't a sign on how the rest of the trip would go.
The plan was simple; Joel would hunt elk in the morning/evenings and I would hunt Mule Deer during the midday. The elk didn't make much noise until the last two days of the trip. The final day is when we finally figured them out and it was too late, as we had to head home.
Day 3 Nightmare: After glassing the first two days of the hunt for a Mule Deer I wanted to chase we were pleased to find two great bucks. One had little splits but a huge frame, and the other was a wide and overall a great buck. Finally on day 3 the buck gave us an opportunity to put on a stalk. The wide buck was bedded in the middle of a handful of other smaller bucks. Joel was back at camp cooking, while Jake and I settled in to see what the bucks were going to do. The bucks were in a position that we couldn't go straight after them and we elected to wait and see which direction they went, knowing we could get in front of them no matter which direction they went. To our surprise, the bucks stood and bedded four different times over a three hour span in the aspen trees.
Several of the smaller bucks stood, and for no apparent reason, started running across an open field to the north of us. We knew the big buck would follow, so we immediately stood up, dropped back and down on the ridge behind us and started running to the north. We visually marked where we needed to pop back up and to our surprise they weren't there. There was no way the bucks could have got in front of us without us seeing them. Scratching our heads, I could see the tops of little scrub oaks on the backside of where the bucks ran to. It was now 4:30 p.m. and a light bulb went off to me; The bucks were feeding on the small acorns from the scrub oaks. There was a group of aspens within 200 yards of the scrub oaks and we had to make it there quickly before the bucks finished eating and headed to bed. As stealthy as we could, we crawled to the aspens, looked through the binoculars, and could see one of the bucks that was in the same group as the big buck. We knew the other bucks had to be there, just out of sight.
The learning curve:
To our surprise, there were actually a handful of scrub oak groves in the sage brush open country. The only problem we faced was the open country between ourselves and the bucks, which were approximately 200 yards away. Not wasting time, I knocked an arrow, took my quiver off, and both of us took our packs off, preparing to belly crawl towards the bucks. Three scrub oak groves were in front of us and they were in the furthest one away from us. Quietly and undetected, we crawled to the first set of scrub oaks and saw the remainder of bucks, including the one we were after. Again, we crawled to the next group of scrub oaks, putting us around 120 yards away. With the bucks on the back side of the third set of scrub oaks, we had to reach the scrub oaks to be within archery range. Miraculously, we made it, but one of the smaller bucks caught a glimpse of our movement. The buck we were after was 60 yards out, a shot i'm confident in making, and it was now or never as the buck was ready to head straight away from us.
I whispered to Jake to go ahead and get in position to film it, even with the small buck watching or it wasn't going to happen. Jake quickly moved into position, the big buck started to walk broadside to our right, I grunted to stop him, settled my 60 yard pin on him, and pulled the trigger. The lighted noc showed the path and knew I'd hit him. Initially, I thought I was a couple inches back, and was certain of it being a liver shot. After running a short 50 yards, the buck bedded down. After 7 hours of waiting for this shot, both of our excitement let loose, and was certain the buck was down for good. The arrow had went completely though the buck with the arrow barely holding on by the fletchings on the exit hole. Through our binoculars, we could see the arrow sticking straight up and the Havoc broadhead gleaming in the sunlight.
The celebration started, I called my wife, and let Joel know we had a buck down. The buck had no idea we were there and the strong wind was still in our favor. In disbelief, we turned around only to see the buck stand from his bed and walking directly towards us. The buck walked in the wide open 30 yards from us, heading towards our downwind side. Unarmed, I felt helpless as my quiver was back where we started the stalk. Once the buck was downwind he bolted directly away from us. In that same instance, a rain/hail storm came out of nowhere. It was raining and hailing so hard we couldn't see through our binoculars. Jake ran to the camera to protect it from the elements, while I (like an idiot) ran towards my quiver of arrows in hopes of getting off another shot. Neither of us had a clue on which direction the buck headed after a short distance, because we both took our eyes off him.
After reviewing the footage/pictures, we were still confident it was a liver shot deer. Joel showed up in the truck and after further discussion we decided to give the buck overnight as it was supposed to get down to 30 degrees that night. To no surprise when we showed up the next morning, the blood had been washed away by all the rain. For the next 2 1/2 days we grid searched over 5 miles with no luck. I was and still am sick over this. There's no question in any of our minds that this buck is dead. How or where did this buck go? We thought of nearly everything and looked everywhere, still no luck.
Lessons Learned: 1) Bring your entire quiver with you on EVERY stalk. 2) Like Whitetail hunting or any hunting for that matter, after a shot, watch where the animal goes until you can't see them anymore.
It sickens me to write this now, but hopefully some of you can learn from my rookie mistakes. I can assure you, I will ALWAYS have my quiver within grabbing distance from here on out while hunting, no matter the style of hunting.
Without question, the smashed finger was a clear indication of how our hunting trip would go. But we did enjoy our stay, the scenery of the rockies, the laughs, watching the critters, and a few cold ones. Colorado, we will be back and prepared!
By: Kyle Heuerman