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Author Topic: Quest for 200"  (Read 4203 times)

Offline jjhunter

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Quest for 200"
« on: September 14, 2017, 08:30:34 PM »
Coming out of a very successful 2016 season, I found myself questioning my approach to finding and killing a truly giant mule deer.  I knew that I had enough points in both Wyoming and Colorado to get into an area where the kind of deer I was looking for lived; Wyoming was easy but Colorado had me stumped.    I had hunted Colorado 4 times in the past, and each time, hunting conditions where less than ideal.  Although I was able to lay eyes on a few giant deer, lack of daylight had failed me time and again.   

As April and the Colorado deadline approached, I reached a state of panic, reaching out to every resource that I knew, looking for any bit of advice that would lead me in the right direction.   I had 8 preference points and ultimately wanted a tag that I would never buy (cost/availability) and in an area that had (traditionally) the genetics that produced giant deer.   While there was no obvious choice, it was my brother who pushed me to an area that was “down in quality” according to the experts, but ultimately still held a few giants.

I applied for an early high country rifle hunt, knowing that I would most likely be holding the permit come June.   When the draw results came out, I had drawn.   The preparation began including gear upgrades and an intense workout routine.   Before I knew it, the summer was gone and I was packing my gear and heading to Colorado.

Although I threw out several invites to friends and family to accompany me on my quest, I had no takers on a backpack hunt that would take us up and over 13,000 feet.   It seemed daunting to me, even though I had grown up in the steep Snake river breaks and had strong legs – what I didn’t have was that kind of elevation!

During the 21 hour road trip, the realization of the task at hand began to sink in.   Alone in the high country for up to 9 days…I thought “wow, this is happening!”

Offline stew pidasso

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Re: Quest for 200"
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2017, 08:34:51 PM »
Continue
Don't forget your spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch.

Offline PlateauNDN

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Re: Quest for 200"
« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2017, 08:40:26 PM »
Sweet, time to get the popcorn.
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Offline jjhunter

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Re: Quest for 200"
« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2017, 08:41:32 PM »
I reached the Gunnison on Thursday night and ate an entire large Hawaiian pizza, knowing it was the last good meal I would enjoy for a while.   I also took an extra-long shower at the hotel that night, knowing that in a few days, I wouldn’t be able to stand my own “mountain” odor.

Before light, I was checked out hotel and headed up the mountain.   I made it to the trail head at about 0730, checked my pack one last time, and headed up the trail.   I felt good at first, climbing strongly and steadily up the trail.   After 30 minutes, I looked at my GPS and realized that I was only .58 miles from the truck and had only gained 700 feet in elevation.  I thought to myself “Why is it so hard to breathe?”   As I continued to hike, a beautiful basin opened up before me.   As usual, I lost interest in the trail and decided to go straight up the mountain to the West.


Offline cougforester

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Re: Quest for 200"
« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2017, 08:49:44 PM »
Tag!  :camp:

Offline Timberstalker

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Re: Quest for 200"
« Reply #5 on: September 14, 2017, 08:54:32 PM »
Here we go!! :tup:
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Offline jjhunter

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Re: Quest for 200"
« Reply #6 on: September 14, 2017, 08:58:24 PM »
I climbed and climbed, until I was slightly over 12,000 feet.   I found a perfect little patch of pines with a clearing in the center (that was flat!) that would protect and conceal my tent.  I could also glass 360 degrees right from camp (I would later spot my buck at 1.5 miles while eating my mtn house dinner no more than 10 feet from my tent).
I set up camp, drank some water and let my legs rest.  It was 11:30 and in a few hours, I would head over the top behind camp and glass for the evening; hopefully, finding a likely candidate for the opener in the next morning.

At around 2:30, I packed up and headed over the ridge behind camp, overlooking a giant basin that looked promising.   I set up the 15x56 Swarovski’s and glassed and glassed and glassed, only turning up 2 small bucks.   I wasn’t concerned, but a little disappointed given the amount of country that I was looking over.   I headed back to camp at around 7:00 p.m. to get something to eat and a good night’s rest before the opener.

Back at camp, I quickly got the jet boil running and picked a delicious entrée of Italian Pepper Steak.   Since I was alone and bored, I set up my 15x’s looking into far basins to the East.  I wasn’t really expecting to see anything, just killing time.   As I sat there taking a few bites, glassing, taking a few bites, glassing…it began to get darker and darker.   Like a ghost, just before dark, a deer materialized in a small opening in the steep, treed hillside that I had been glassing.   I ran back to my tent, scrambling to retrieve my spotter.   I quickly found the buck in my scope and realized that it appeared to be narrow.  As it walked across the opening, it quickly changed direction uphill, revealing what appeared to be, long velvet covered tines.   Like that, it was dark.

Offline grundy53

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Re: Quest for 200"
« Reply #7 on: September 14, 2017, 09:03:59 PM »
Tagging along

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Offline jjhunter

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Re: Quest for 200"
« Reply #8 on: September 14, 2017, 09:06:53 PM »
I crawled into my tent, tired, and looking forward to what the next day would hold.   I decided that I would hunt the same basin that I had glassed that night.  It looked too good to not hold a big deer.   Soon, I fell asleep.   Although I would wake up every 45 minutes to an hour (I am a heavy sleeper so I can only attribute this to the thin air), morning came quickly.    I drank 16 oz of water, threw on my pack, and headed up the hill behind camp.   As I scrambled over the top of the ridge and set up my 15x’s, the skied began to lighten.   I felt my heart began to race, ever so slightly, as the anticipation began to build.   “What would today bring?”

As the sun began to rise, I could hear two bulls screaming below me and quickly located a group of 30 cows with a 6 point herd bull and several satellite bulls trying to sneak into the action.

Offline jjhunter

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Re: Quest for 200"
« Reply #9 on: September 14, 2017, 09:11:15 PM »
I glassed for about an hour, spotting a few does and one little buck.  I packed up my gear and headed to the South ¾ mile to get a different view of the basin and open up some additional country in the bottom of the canyon.    I quickly spotted a tall, heavy 3 point below me, but the rest of the morning was a bust and I headed back to camp at around 11:00.

Offline Birdguy

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Re: Quest for 200"
« Reply #10 on: September 14, 2017, 09:18:24 PM »
Sounds amazing so far.....tagging  :tup:

Offline jjhunter

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Re: Quest for 200"
« Reply #11 on: September 14, 2017, 09:19:50 PM »
As I reached camp, the storm clouds began to roll in.   I was in desperate need of water, so I grabbed my pump and headed to the north, hoping one of the little creek drainages held water.   Thankfully, it did and I brought 5 liters of water back to camp – enough to last me a couple of days.   As I got back to camp, the wind began to howl and heavy rain fell.   I crawled into my tent and fell asleep.   Several hours later, I awoke and the rain and wind has subsided.   I fired up the jet boil and pulled out a bag of mtn house spaghetti for the night.   Like the night before, I set up my 15x’s and enjoyed my evening meal, hoping to catch a buck in an opening on the same timbered hillside.

After several minutes of glassing, I spot a buck.   It is a 30-32” 4 point with a tall, boxy rack.  However, with just decent tine length, he is a 175” type buck and not what I am looking for.   I continue to glass and enjoy the evening, working my way up the mountain, pausing in each opening and looking for movement on the timbered edges.

Offline fishngamereaper

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Re: Quest for 200"
« Reply #12 on: September 14, 2017, 09:25:10 PM »
  :tup: :drool:

Offline jjhunter

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Re: Quest for 200"
« Reply #13 on: September 14, 2017, 09:26:44 PM »
As the sun continued to dip, I spot a deer walking quickly in a long narrow lane between two tree lined bluffs on a mountain to the East.   Tonight, I am prepared and grab the spotter lying next to me, getting the buck in my scope in seconds.   I watch him for about 10 seconds as he meanders out of sight.   “What did I just see?”   It was the tallest, heaviest, narrowest buck I had ever seen!   But, I had no doubt that it was over 190”.   The only problem was that I would have to move camp into an entirely different drainage to hunt him; one that would take considerable effort considering that it was nearly unreachable from any angle.

Offline outdooraddict

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Re: Quest for 200"
« Reply #14 on: September 14, 2017, 09:34:58 PM »
We want more, We want more!!!!

Offline jjhunter

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Re: Quest for 200"
« Reply #15 on: September 14, 2017, 09:40:07 PM »
As I crawled into my tent, I made a deal with myself.   "I will hunt one more basin on “my side” in the morning, and if I don’t see anything good, I will move camp midday and dedicate the rest of the hunt to the narrow buck."

The next morning, I left camp extra early, hiking up to 13,000 feet and looked over a new, beautiful basin for the first time.    I instantly spot a large 4 point, but again, this buck is a little lacking on his G3s and G4s.   I continue to glass, spotting 7 more bucks but nothing that I am interested in.    I come to the realization that for whatever reason, the deer have moved down out of the rocks and ledges and that it is time to move camp!

(Sorry for the selfie, I didn’t know what else to do solo?)

Offline jjhunter

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Re: Quest for 200"
« Reply #16 on: September 14, 2017, 09:49:15 PM »
As I head back to camp, I  meet another rifle tag holder on the trail.   He is a really nice guy so I let him know where I saw a couple of the better 4 points.   We wish each other luck and I hustle back to camp.   I need to get moved and set up before the next storm arrives!

I quickly break down camp and dread putting my heavy pack back on – but, it is what I need to do!   I head down the hill (I hate losing elevation!) and pause along a quick running creek before I push up the other side through 1200 yards of 6-8 foot tall willows.   “This may get western”, I thought to myself.   After an hour and a half, I have powered up through the willows and found a suitable place for camp.   I am still 1500 yards below and on the other side of the ridge from when I last saw “the buck”, but he is huntable from camp in the evening which is my best chance to kill him.

I set up my new camp, hanging my rain fly, pants and vest to dry as I came out of the willows completely soaked to the bone.   Thanks to my rain cover, my pack and contents were still dry.  I put on a pair of KUIU shorts  (home made mind you…ok, we’ll call them what they are…”Jorts”  hahaha) and wait for evening.

Offline jjhunter

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Re: Quest for 200"
« Reply #17 on: September 14, 2017, 10:04:35 PM »
My plan is to leave camp at 6:30, putting me at the top at around 7:00 (prime time).   I have a good feeling that I will kill that buck tonight!

Around 4:30, the clouds roll in along with 30 mph winds and whipping rain.   “Oh no” I thought “I am not going to get to hunt tonight!”   The storm pounds on for the next two hours and I have lost all hope.  At 6:45, I notice that my tent stopped whipping.   I peek outside and see that it is dark and the thunder is still rumbling, but I am going hunting!   I grab my rifle and my EL Range and power up the hill, still wearing my jorts!

At the top of the hill, I begin to slow and check the wind.   Wind is good!   I crest over the top looking into the little valley where I caught him feeding the night before.  Nothing.   I continue to slowly stalk and glass along the tree line, looking intently into the narrow lanes that open up before me.   I get the end of the ridge and wonder what I should do?  I am hesitant to drop down into the steep, thick hillside below in fear of blowing the buck out of the country.   After all, I have all week to let him make a mistake.
Below me is a 30 x 100 yard opening in the timber….I guess it wouldn’t hunt to head down about 40 yards and have a look around?   I can’t help myself and I slowly work down the near vertical face.   As I look to left, I notice that there are two lanes where I can see several hundred yards.    As I look in the lower lane, I notice a the back half of a deer.   I quickly drop another 15 yards to get a better angle, but the deer has his head in the trees and I can’t drop any lower.   The buck picks up his head and I see a massive blob of G3 and G2, scrambling for the range button on my ELs.   321, 325.   In seconds I spin the turret on my scope to 325, check the range one more time, and shoulder my rifle.   One step and the buck could be gone forever.   As the crosshairs come up the front leg and into the pocket I squeeze the trigger.   I am instantly rewarded with the all familiar “whop” and catch the buck donkey kick as the recoil causes me to lose my sight picture.

Offline jjhunter

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Re: Quest for 200"
« Reply #18 on: September 14, 2017, 10:14:04 PM »
I scramble across the hillside, wondering where the buck went after the shot?   What did I actually shoot?  Is it the same buck?   A different buck?   It has to be the same buck with that MASS!

As I round a small patch of pines, I look below be and notice two nice, velvet 4 points staring at me from 75 yards.   I have to be close?   I scan to my left and see why they are just standing there,  I have just killed the mountain monarch and he is laying 25 yards from me in the brush!

I am shocked at the mass and tine length!   It is the same buck that I had moved camp for.  “He is only about 20” wide, but he had to pushing 200 inches” I say to myself.
I fly back to camp, seemingly unconcerned with the long night ahead me and grinning the whole way.   Thanking God, thanking my wife for allowing me to pursue my passion, thanking my brother for pushing me to this unit, thanking my dad for teaching me to be an outdoorsman.  “I did it, I freaking did it!”

Offline jjhunter

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Re: Quest for 200"
« Reply #19 on: September 14, 2017, 10:21:29 PM »
With knives and pack, I head back up the mountain by headlamp, excited to spend some more time admiring my buck.    I quickly find him in the dark and snap a few pictures with my cell phone.   I get my camera set-up on the tripod, but alas, the timer function was not working.   I was devastated!   I shot a 200” buck on a solo back pack hunt and won’t have any field photos with it!   I lick my wounds, take some additional cell phone ATL pics and proceed to bone out and load the buck into my pack, making the slow trek back to camp.   As I crawl into my sleeping back, and shut my eyes, I can’t help but smile.   This is a moment that I will keep forever.

Offline jjhunter

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Re: Quest for 200"
« Reply #20 on: September 14, 2017, 10:25:48 PM »
This buck is literally a one-in-a-million.   The mass is just incredible, though it "only" gets credit for 41"

The stats:

41" of mass
189" frame
16" inside spread
20" outside spread
202 3/8" gross

Offline jjhunter

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Re: Quest for 200"
« Reply #21 on: September 14, 2017, 10:27:51 PM »
Goodnight.   Hope you enjoy the read!

Offline WA1232

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Re: Quest for 200"
« Reply #22 on: September 14, 2017, 10:31:10 PM »
Well done! On both the buck and the story telling. Thanks!

Offline full choke

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Re: Quest for 200"
« Reply #23 on: September 14, 2017, 10:32:41 PM »
awesome! :tup:
Thanks for sharing the story!
Winter is coming.

Offline Dan-o

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Re: Quest for 200"
« Reply #24 on: September 14, 2017, 10:44:06 PM »
Wow, what a great write-up on a terrific buck.

Holy mass, batman!!!
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I wonder how many people will touch their nose to their screen trying to read this...

 

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