If you’re diving in here looking for grip and grin shots of me having filled my OTC bull, mule deer, or even cow tag — you’re going to be disappointed. My hunting partner and I came out of our original location for our 2020 season after a burn ban and a blizzard, but this year conditions were right to return to the unit. Last year weather prevented us from doing it, this year we had the gear, and the know-how to claw our way back in. I just wasn’t sure I could make it happen in our original spot, so I chose to relocate. Our 2020 Colorado Big Game season was well underway, and I wanted to make something happen.
Scouting for elk and mule deer out of season is weird. Both elk and mule deer happen to migrate, quite a bit actually. Mule deer being far more rangey migratory based off of the studies I’ve seen. They show that they can move as much as 150 miles! So when the snow starts flying it’s not uncommon to see these critters on the move. I am by far and away no expert in hunting them, but after spending two very short parts of a season in my original spot near the Sarvis Creek Wilderness and seeing tracks, old sign, and very little game on the hoof — it was time to find other prospects.
Change of Venue
Knowing that I’d need to find lower elevation to avoid massive amounts of snow I checked the topo map for high steep mountains adjacent to water. It turns out the Colorado River basin serves as the edge of GMU 15 and GMU 27. There are several other options that are even more palatable if you don’t mind walking and enjoy hunting creek bottoms and river cuts. However, I wanted to get sweeping views to work out my glassing skills.
Getting into the area required tire chains and/or brass ones — so we chained up and rode on. I was able to get into the area both Thursday and Friday of the second rifle season. Being there in person confirmed some of my suspicions. First, there were a fair amount of hunters who’d been through the area. Second, given the weather this 2020 Colorado big game season I wasn’t surprised to see that many of the hunters that had been there had left. Thursday I felt like I had the place mostly to myself as a reward for what seemed to me like a harrowing journey. Though, the driving always seems a little more white knuckle in the mountains when you’re going somewhere for the first time.
The first day I saw some 35 deer over the course of my sit and walk, and plenty of sign to boot. Lower elevation, closer to liquid water, and potentially lifted pressure meant game was moving. The area wasn’t without pumpkins dotting ridgelines, but if you move around you can get into places your average joe either won’t go, or can’t see from their vantage.
Spotting game from a half mile out gives you a sense of satisfaction. Though trying to plot a stalk on the other hand… Well that gave me an impending sense of dread. The television western hunters make it look easy making 400 yard shots and stalking in from over a mile. I’m not that guy. I’m the guy ‘glissading’ over scree trying to hold on for dear life on a pine tree. All the while getting coated in sap. All of this while trying to keep my rifle upright.
So, No Grip and Grin?
However, seeing critters was a distinct change for me during the 2020 Colorado big game season. Last year we’d gone several days without seeing anything. This year along with the cow moose we saw on opening day, it was refreshing to see so many deer on the hoof. Seeing a bunch of black angus threw me for a loop, but they were at least critters! I might just get the hang of this western hunting thing yet. It’s the little things in life. I can still produce deer on most days back east in the whitetail woods. It’s just an entirely different beast out here in Colorado. I look forward to learning about it some more, and hopefully filling a tag.
Manny joined me on Friday, but ultimately we didn’t see much. One deer causing a dog down valley to go ballistic, a recently shot elk being worked on by one person while eight others stood around, and some does at last light. Do I put all my eggs in one basket and change this to our primary location for next season? Only time will tell.
But Wait, There’s More!
This year I have a pronghorn late season tag still burning a hole in my pocket for a unit down near Pueblo. I’ve never gotten a chance to hunt pronghorns despite having a tag the last two years. The first year I had a tag in Wyoming but was called back to Washington for some work stuff. Last year… well… I didn’t have any transportation.
I’m trying to dodge coronavirus protocols at work and making sure I can handle childcare responsibilities with my wife, but I’ve got the entire month to try and hunt. I’ve got one doe tag in my pocket, but I think there’s a bonus. It just so happens that the area should also be good to check for scaled quail. A friend of mine suggested if you can find cholla you can find quail. I intend on doing just that, after finding my doe.