There’s something special about hunting big mule deer. I’m extremely fortunate to have called Wyoming home for most of my life. My family owns and operates Extreme Outfitters, which allows me the opportunity to hunt big deer, elk, and antelope every year in some of the best areas Wyoming has to offer. However, due to our booked hunts and my usual poor luck in the draws, I rarely have the opportunity to chase big deer with my own tag in hand. The 2017 hunting season was a different story, though.
Like many other Huntin’ Fools, I apply in multiple states throughout the West every year. Only having three preference points in Colorado, I was just planning on banking another point for a fun hunt some year down the road. Instead of applying for points only, though, I decided to apply for a seemingly out of reach early archery deer tag that required about 13 points to draw last year. Draw results were posted, and as expected, I was unsuccessful and gained another preference point.
After a grueling wait, it was June and Wyoming finally posted their results. I was blown away to see that for the first time in my life, there would be an awesome deer tag with my name on it. I immediately began to prepare and scout. I knew that I needed to make the most of my opportunity and that pre-season scouting would be crucial since my guiding would occupy a lot of my time during the fall.
In mid-July, I received an odd phone call from the Colorado Game and Fish notifying me that the tag that I had unsuccessfully applied for had been returned and through their new re-issue process they were offering the unit’s only non-resident tag to other applicants. The guy nonchalantly asked me, “So, do you want the tag??” I was flustered and didn’t know what to say. Was it even possible? Could it be a scam? Would I have time to do the tag justice with my packed schedule? Still, my gut reaction was that I wanted the tag, but I was unsure. I asked if I could check my schedule. I was given 24 hours to make a decision. After telling my family and close friends and consulting with Garth Jenson at Huntin’ Fool about my unbelievably good fortune, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. There were now two awesome mule deer tags with my name on them.
I received my Colorado tag in the mail just a few days before I left for my self-guided hunt in a unit I had hardly ever stepped foot in before. I blocked out a week to make it happen towards the end of August and into early September. It took me a few days, but I found a sweet rim with mule deer all over it, including some outstanding full velvet bucks. A couple of good friends joined me for a few days in the middle of my hunt and helped me formulate a plan to get an arrow in one of these bucks. After blowing a few close opportunities, we noticed a secluded waterhole that was close to their bedding area. It was 100+ degrees during the days, and we knew these deer were thirsty.
With only a couple of days left, I decided to sit on the waterhole. The morning was not as action-packed as I had hoped, but a few does and small bucks did very cautiously drink at the waterhole. I was worried that my setup wasn’t up to snuff and was about to call it quits around 11 a.m. Just before I left my post, I heard running footsteps to my right. I turned just in time to see two mature bucks crash into the water and start drinking at 25 yards. I quickly analyzed the two bucks and decided the big framed 3-point was worthy. I drew and forced myself to take my time and make a good shot. The arrow passed all the way through the buck’s chest and stuck in the bank on the other side of the dirt tank. He only made it 20 yards. I was absolutely in awe over my beautiful buck and couldn’t believe how lucky I was to even be there in the first place!
As soon as I made it back to Wyoming, I was back to archery hunting and guiding. I was in mule deer heaven throughout September and continued to keep tabs on numerous great bucks. I had a hit list about five bucks long, but one buck stood out above the rest. This was because he was one of the biggest slick typicals I had ever laid eyes on. Since I first discovered him in July, I always saw him in the same spot. I never felt like I had a high percentage opportunity for a stalk with my bow, and I didn’t want to bump him. I played it safe and routinely watched him from a distance and planned to come back for the opening day of rifle season in hopes that he would stay put.
I was back a few weeks later, full of excitement and nervousness. My wife, Karlee, and my good friend, Donk, came along to help out, and my other good friend, Johnny, also had a tag. The first morning was full of deer sightings but not my big typical. I had to fight to keep myself in good spirits and optimistic the buck was still in the area. That afternoon, we continued to glass the normal honey holes. We located a good buck that Johnny was interested in. Just before we left our glassing point, Donk and I both caught a glimpse of a big-framed buck in the sagey draw that the big typical lived in about 800 yards away. Before we could get confirmation on his size, he dropped out of sight and into the draw. We all agreed that we had to get a closer look.
We peeked into the draw and instantly knew it was him. He was broadside 300 yards away with another solid 4x4 and a dozen does. I zeroed in on the big buck I’d been watching for months. After a few excited shots, I had just killed the biggest deer of my life. Once my buck was down, Johnny decided to shoot the other solid 4x4. The two deer died 100 yards apart. My buck gross scored 194 5/8".
In hindsight, this hunting season was like a dream. I had an extraordinary opportunity to hunt mule deer in two great units in two great states. To top it off, I got to share the experiences with some of the people I care about most in this world. I couldn’t have asked for anything better!