Tag Archives: Mule Deer

Opportunistic

I arrived at the Cage Ranch just before 1 pm on the third day of Colorado’s deer rifle season.  It was 86 degrees, and a 20 mile per hour dusty wind was blowing from the southwest.  These were hardly optimal conditions for deer hunting. Recognizing that any and all deer would be bedded down, I decided the best strategy would be to slowly walk through the dense cottonwood trees that border the dry creek.  The sand on the creek is cool, and the banks provide shelter from the strong wind.  It took me 45 minutes to make my way to the eastern fence line of the Shipping Trap pasture.  I took a circuitous route in order ensure I did not alert any animal of my presence.  As I walked north over the hill that sits above the creek, I paused to glass the area.  Almost immediately I saw a whitetail doe and fawn resting in the tall grass.  They saw me but did not startle.  When I finally made my way to the edge of the creek, I used a single tree as cover and looked west.  There was a buck in the middle of the arid riverbed.  He was too far away to make out his exact size, but he was worth a closer look.  Slowly, I backed away from the creek, and then I navigated my way to the position where I thought he was resting.  My estimation on his position proved accurate, as I found myself staring at his back at 30 yards.  He eventually turned his head when he caught my wind.  It took him about 5 seconds to process the situation before jumping up and bolting northwest.  As he made his way over the far bank, he frightened another young buck who also joined in the run.  Recognizing that the plan was appropriate given the circumstances, I worked my way down the tree line, glassing every 40 or 50 yards.  As I approached a second clearing, I noticed what I thought were antlers just above the grass 100 yards in front of me. A few minutes later the adolescent buck jumped up and ran southwest.  His movement startled a group of deer a few hundred yards away.  It was easy to make out the lone buck in the group galloping towards the neighbor’s property.  While I could not make out the rack configuration, it was obvious he was a big dude.  Sticking with the strategy, I went back to the creek to continue my methodical westerly walk.  It did not take long to see another buck staring at me from a position under a dead tree.  He stood up and 8 does followed.  All of the deer looked at me, then simultaneously turned their heads left. Realizing that there was another deer, I moved back to my right, and witnessed a large buck walking away from me.  I put my crosshairs on his shoulder and contemplated my next move.  I took the safety off my rifle, but I decided against pulling the trigger.  Energized by my frequent engagements, I crossed the creek in order to hunt the northern section of the pasture.  It did not take long to notice a big bodied deer standing on his back legs feeding on the buds of a tall shrub.  Realizing he was a shooter, I extended my monopod, and powered my scope to 12.  The buck was just over 200 yards away, and I could tell that he had both mass as well as width.  I had the wind in my favor, so I had time to establish a solid rest.  A single shot knocked the buck to the ground.

I planned to spend 4 days hunting the Cage Ranch.  While I am thrilled with my buck, I was disappointed that the chase ended so quickly.  The process surrounding the hunt is as exciting as the moment of truth.

2016-mule-deer_cage-ranch

Product Comment
Styrka S7 Binoculars Great optics in all conditions. A must to evaluate if you’re in the market.
Styrka S7 Riflescope Great scope at this price point.
Primos Trigger Stick Easy to use and stable.
Badlands Stealth Pack High quality with lots of useful pockets.
Pelican™ Weapons Case Amazing protection for your rifle/shotgun.  Bulletproof.
Knives of Alaska Light Hunter Suregrip + Havalon Piranta Edge does the job.
Truck Storage My Mobile Strong unit is invaluable for keeping me organized.
SoundGear The ultimate hearing protection + digital audio enhancement.

 

 

Bob’s Day

The first of my two tags on the Cage Ranch was filled on October 5th.  It was a spectacular morning, filled with complex emotions.  The initial anxiety resulted in overwhelming elation.  My pronghorn hunt was a unique life experience forever etched in my memories. 

October 26th was opening day of deer rifle season, and I had been preparing for months.  Bob and I had done some scouting during September and early October.  The north part of the ranch has a dry creek meandering from west to east.  There are cottonwoods and tall grass that provide dense cover for the animals that roam its sandy bottom.  Along with seeing multiple photographs of deer on our game cameras, we had witnessed a variety of does and bucks as we glassed the area from afar.  Bob had set up two tree stands on the west and east end of the riverbed, which provided 270 degrees access to all animals that patrolled the vicinity. 

A 4:30 am alarm was set on my iPhone, but I was already up at 4:15 am, and getting prepared for a successful day.  A coffee and a METRX protein bar would be my fuel for the hunt.  Bob’s nephew Paul and I left headquarters in the pitch black and slowly made our way to our pasture.  We parked about a mile from the west stand, and utilized my Garmin GPS to guide us to the specific tree.  As 5:15 am approached we climbed the ladder, and situated ourselves in the elevated position.  Paul would scan to our left, and I would focus to the rear and right.  It was 26 degrees and there was a cold northwesterly wind blowing at 15mph.  It didn’t take long for my hands to become numb as I had foolishly left my gloves in the truck.  At about 6 am, the sun offered enough light where we could start to glass for movement.  As I turned to the rear, I spotted five does making their way west.  As if they marked my position, the deer suddenly bolted to the south, and were out of view in seconds.  I questioned whether they picked up my scent, and if I was unintentionally giving away my location.   The visibility was improving at 6:30 am, so my glassing become more frequent.  I picked up movement in the trees to my right.  When I trained my binoculars on the image, I witnessed a big bodied deer making its way along the creek.  There was no question it was a buck; I just needed to determine if it was a shooter.  As he made his way across the creek, I could see that his antlers were outside his ears.  He was a very respectable 5×5, and I decided that I would take this animal.  For the next 10 minutes, the buck refused to provide me a shot.  Patience paid off when he turned to his right, exposing his vitals to me.  I chambered a round and clicked the safety to the off position.  My crosshairs were situated on is left shoulder, and I slowly pulled the trigger.  The buck dropped in his tracks at ninety eight yards.  My first deer was down, and I was ecstatic.  

At 10:30 am, we reconvened at headquarters.  The celebration included a big breakfast, and exchanging stories of the morning events.  We relaxed around the house and prepared for the afternoon hunt. 

Brent, Bob’s brother-in-law, would take his daughter back to the east stand, and Paul would man the west platform.  Bob and I had a different plan.  We decided to employ a spot and stalk strategy and quickly cover ground.  After walking Paul to the west stand, we made our way south to see if we could locate a buck in the plains. 

Bob does a great job describing the afternoon events.  

The interesting thing is that I’ve spent my entire life on this ranch guiding pronghorn hunts, and have never bothered to get a license for myself for any big game animals.  I decided that I would this year, and only try to fill the tag if Ross got his deer.  Ross ultimately shot his deer at first light on the opening morning.  His is a beautiful, very symmetrical 5×5.  A trophy for sure.

I glassed the initial buck from about a mile away as he departed a cattle stock tank.  While were putting the sneak on him, we inadvertently walked by a doe about 120 yards to our left.  She didn’t run so I didn’t think we were busted.  We never had a clear line of site on the buck due to tall grass and rolling hills.  In fact, we could only see his rack, and we agreed he was a shooter.  Unfortunately we bumped him and he bolted with his doe to the east.  We waited for him to crest over an adjacent ridge, and then we sprinted 500 yards with the hope he wouldn’t move out of range.  Unfortunately his speed put him about a mile away by the time we reached our spot.  We sat in that position and glassed the entire landscape until deciding to run back to the truck in order to continue the pursuit.  Our plan would be to drive around to the far side of the pasture and cut him off.  While contemplating our next move, I saw a coyote at about 100 yards.  I decided not to shoot him as I didn’t want that report to echo across the pasture.  This decision was fortuitous, and led to our ultimate success.  On the way back, I felt the vibration of my phone signal that I had a voice message.  I decided to return the call en route to the truck.  While walking back, I was quickly yanked to the ground by Ross.  Remember the doe that was gazing at us when we started our stalk?  Well, she didn’t leave and she had a suitor.  He saw us but seemed indifferent as he purposely quartered away from us.  I put the phone on speaker, and dropped it in the sand, while shouldering Ross’ rifle (yes, I forgot the ammo to my gun).  I whispered to the friend on the other end of the line to, “shut up and don’t say a word!”  Ross just about came unglued when he put his binoculars on the deer, and saw that this was a lifetime buck.  I quickly put the barrel in the BIPOD shooting sticks and shot him in the right shoulder.  The deer staggered to the right; he was obviously sick.  I placed the crosshairs on his quartering away shoulder and squeezed off another round.  This bullet entered his right hind quarter and must have found its way to the vitals.  He dropped like a sack of hammers.

I’ve traveled all over North America hunting; white tail and quail in South Texas, bear in the boundary waters of Minnesota, deer and elk in New Mexico and Arizona and even moose in The Yukon.  Not once have I turned in a landowner voucher for myself on my own property.  I’d much rather donate these vouchers to friends, soldiers, Wounded Warriors and youths.  I’m so happy that it worked out the way it did.  Having Ross spot that deer, and be there for the harvest after his success early in the day, is truly a memory that will never be forgotten.

Bob Cage is a good man.  He donates his land, money, expertise and time to people who might never get an opportunity to experience the outdoors.  His success provided me a tremendous amount of excitement and personal satisfaction.  I am proud to say that I was with Bob when he harvested his first big game animal on his own ranch.

Gear in the Field

Product

Review

Tikka T3   Lite chambered in a 30-06 caliber

Three shots, three kills.  The gun’s average is better than David Ortiz in the 2013 World Series.

Limbsaver Recoil Pad

Darn good, low-cost investment.  I shot a lot of rounds when sighting my   rifle in prior to my hunt.  Once I   installed the Limbsaver Recoil Pad, I stopped flinching. 

Bushnell   Elite Scope (3 x 10 x 40)

I made a scope change 10 days before my pronghorn hunt.    That shot was very challenging (270 yards in high winds) and ultimately successful.  My deer was shot at 98 yards, and I had plenty of time to wait for the right shot.  In low-light conditions, the scope worked   very well.

Barnes   VOR-TX 168 grain bullet

Devastating round.  At 98 yards, I hit the animal on my   mark, and he was dead within 10 seconds.

Under Armour

·ColdGear   Infrared Ridge Reaper Softshell Jacket

·Ridge Reaper   Shell Camo Hunting Bib

·ColdGear   Evo Scent Control Fitted ½ Zip

·UA   Speed Freek Chaos Hunting Boots

·UA   Camo Crew Socks

·UA   Base 3.0 Crew and Leggings

·UA   Hat

This was the second time I employed an entire Under Armour   outfit.  Saturday morning was really cold (26 degrees) and very windy.  My body and feet remained warm even though we were stationary in the stand for over 2 hours.  I wish that I had not forgotten my UA   gloves in the truck as my hands were frozen.  

The Speed Freek boots remain extremely comfortable and   warm.  No blisters to date.

When Bob and I put the stalk on his deer in the afternoon, the day had warmed and the wind had calmed.    We did a lot of running during the pursuit, and the UA fabric kept the sweat away from my body.  I never felt chilled when the sun finally set.

The UA fabric is very flexible and seems durable.   I want to wear this clothing on a future elk hunt in the mountains of Colorado.

Vortex   Diamondback Binoculars (10 x[RF1]  42)

These are a great set of binoculars at an ideal price   point.  The early morning was dark, and I could still pick up the deer in low light conditions.  It was easy to distinguish the specifics of the rack at 100 yards+.  I am going to eventually step up and   purchase the Viper HD   binoculars.  Two of my buddies have the   15x50s, and they are remarkable. 

Outdoor Edge   SwingBlaze

Great concept.  That said, the knife was not sharp out of the box.    I should have put an edge on it prior to the hunt.  I wish the knife was manufactured in the   United States.  My deer was  gutted in less than 20 minutes.

Badlands Recon   Pack

Versatile and light pack.  Badlands makes great products, and the Recon is no exception. 

Leupold   RX1000i TBR with DNA Rangefinder

I quickly ascertained the distances of my deer and Bob’s   deer.  This is a great product and was worth the investment.

Garmin   450t GPS

Hunting GPS Maps

Awesome unit – so much functionality and it is pretty intuitive.  I added the Hunting GPS   Maps for Colorado and Kansas.  Great investment. 

BIPOD   Shooting Sticks

Very functional shooting sticks.  Light, easily accessed and quickly deployed.  I need more experience with them in order to provide a comprehensive review.  So far so good.

2011 Ram   1500

Still running strong after almost 2 years.  About to   install an ARE camper shell.

 


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