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Last-Second Opportunities

March 2020
Story by Mike Zuhlsdorf
State: Colorado
Species: Deer - Mule

The call was a tough one to take, perhaps even tougher to deliver. Three weeks before a long-anticipated September spot and stalk archery mule deer hunt in Alberta, my friend and hunting guide told me he was not going to be able to go due to an untimely foot injury. With a week of leave already scheduled and a goal to take a monster mulie in 2019, I put up the “Bat Signal” to Huntin’ Fool.

The staff was quick to get the message to the Hunt Advisors, and I received a direct call from Austin Atkinson. I explained my situation, and he told me to give him a couple days to shake the trees with some outfitters. In less than 24 hours, I had the contact information for Dan Harrison, owner of Harrison’s Hunting. Austin told me Dan recently had a client back out of a hunt due to medical reasons and that this would be a tremendous trophy opportunity.

I immediately called Dan, and he patiently answered all my questions about the hunt, including lodging, quality of animals, lay of the land, the clientele who would be in camp, and logistics. What really sold me was his quiet confidence in being able to put me on a high-quality, free-range mule deer. By the time I got off the phone, I was convinced Dan could help me fulfill a lifelong dream.

On Halloween, I flew into Denver International Airport and then drove south on I-25 to meet Dan and my guide, Roman Nigrini, to exchange the landowner voucher. We then headed to the ranch in the Eastern Plains of Colorado. I quickly changed clothes, packed my gear, and headed to the range to check my rifle zero. I am glad we did. Somewhere during transit, my sight moved and I was about five inches high at 100 yards. Lacking time to make corrections, Roman and I made a mental note and off we went. Along the way, I told Roman my ideal goal would be to shoot a 190" or better mule deer. Little did I know what was in store within the next couple of hours.

As we gained elevation, we immediately began seeing deer. We saw one big-bodied deer about three-quarters of a mile away, but its head was always down. We were checking some other deer when I glanced back to that deer and up popped a fantastic rack. Roman was confident that this was the deer I was after, and he recommended we get a closer look. By this time, we were about 800 yards away, so we began using the terrain to stalk the deer. We popped up at 550 yards, and he looked even bigger. We then backed down into a draw and got closer, finding him again at 385 yards. Just as Roman was reaffirming this was a great typical mule deer, I asked him to give me the shooting sticks. He called out the yardage, and I lined up the crosshairs. A couple seconds after the shot, we heard the “thump” of the hit and Roman whispered, “You crushed him.” Since the buck did not immediately go down, Roman told me to hit him again. I hit him a third time before he finally went down for good. It turned out all three shots were within eight inches of each other in the boiler room.

The deer was tremendous, scoring right at 190" with a nearly 26" inside spread and 16" G2s. It was exactly what I was hoping for when I first talked to Austin and Dan.

I am thankful the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department still has a landowner voucher system. I am also grateful to Dan and Roman for giving me the opportunity to hunt with them and experience Harrison’s Hunting firsthand. Dan has quite a resume – active in the Congressional Sportsman’s Foundation, a Mule Deer Foundation board member, and a co-host for Remington Country Television. He also has over 30 years in the guiding and outfitting business, and it shows. He has assembled some truly bucket list elk, mule deer, antelope, moose, and whitetail hunt packages. Dan runs a very tight camp, sprinkled with old school humor, and is a fantastic cook, too. He has also assembled a great group of repeat clientele who are some awesome Americans and really make camp a pleasure to be in. Finally, I would like to thank Austin and the entire Huntin’ Fool staff for helping me secure this opportunity. I have been a Huntin’ Fool member since 2007 and have always been able to count on sage advice and expert application for all of my hunt desires.