By: Tres Poynor
In June of 2013, I finally drew a muzzleloader mule deer tag for a do-it-yourself public land hunt in Colorado Game Management Unit 77. My hunt dates where set for September 14th through the 22nd. Soon after talking it over with my wife, I took off work and made arrangements for my upcoming trip to the mountains. After looking up the muzzleloader requirements online, I discovered that the Colorado Division of Wildlife does not allow scoped muzzleloaders. I would have to shoot using open sights and loose powder. After some online research and some discussions with my hunting buddies, I headed to Cabelas to pick out my shooting supplies. I ended up settling on 100 grains of loose Paradox Powder with a 223 grain Power Belt Platinum bullet. Not having a scope to sight through was a bit of a change for me, but after a day at the range with the smoke pole I was feeling pretty confident! The image below is a 100 yard group I shot in August after getting everything dialed in.
On September 13th I departed Bridgeport, Texas at 4:30 am and made the 12 hour trek north to Pagosa Springs, CO. When I finally pulled into town, I went by the local sporting goods store and purchased my habitat stamp and ATV permit. I grabbed a few necessities from the grocery store and headed to the condo to get settled in for the night.
I woke up at 5:15 am opening morning with the anticipation of a velvet muley in low light and couldn’t wait to get out there amongst the aspens! The first morning I saw two decent 10 points and several doe. That afternoon I saw a really nice 20 inch 10 point that had good deep forks but was lacking on mass. I decided to let him pass since it was early in the hunt. The next day I located the deer I was after. The only problem is that he was on private land and I only had a public land tag. He was a really nice 10 point with good mass and still in full velvet. I devised a game plan to catch him crossing the logging road where I found a heavily traveled trail. I knew I would have to catch him quick or he would give me the slip back to private land. I setup and waited for him early Wednesday morning but he never showed. The only encounters I had that morning were with other hunters.
That afternoon I setup on a good open meadow where another hunter had taken a bull a couple of days before. I knew the buck was in the area so I found a good vantage point and waited patiently. About an hour before dark, I had a bow hunter walk up beside me and was paralleling the property line between the private and public lands. He never saw me but I decided to make a move back to the logging road trail. I sat down overlooking the trail for 15 minutes and was feeling frustrated when a small fork horn stepped out at 50 yards. He was in a perfect shooting lane directly in front of me. I saw some movement behind him and my heart starting pounding with adrenaline! It turned out to be just a doe but she was looking behind her acting funny. The next thing I saw was velvet so I knew it was him! I pulled the hammer back on my muzzleloader and waited for the perfect chance to let one fly. He stopped broadside and I squeezed off a shot. I couldn’t see anything after the shot because of the enormous cloud of smoke. The smoke seemed to hang around for several minutes but in reality it was just a few seconds. When the smoke finally cleared I could see him just standing there not moving. I was heartbroken and thought I had missed! I was stunned and knew I needed to reload but I just froze in place staring at him. He soon started to sway and was frantically wagging his tail so I knew what that meant. He took three steps and laid down in his final resting place. I reloaded which seemed like it took an eternity and walked over to him cautiously. I then touched him with my barrel to make sure he was expired and then proceeded to celebrate. He had fallen just 20 feet from the fence that divided public and private lands. He was a beautiful 10 point and was my first ever velvet buck. Immediately after my celebratory dance, I paid my respects to the deer and sent up a prayer to the big man.
After calming down some, I walked back to the area where my four-wheeler was parked and drove back as close to my buck as possible. When I got back it was nearing darkness so I quickly field dressed him and “beastmoded” the deer back to my four-wheeler. My next major challenge was to get him on the back of the four-wheeler. This took about 10 minutes of excessive grunting. I then gathered up everything and headed back to the truck. As I was driving down the gravel road to town my mind drifted to the hunt that had just transpired and all the way back to the day I put in to draw the tag. It was an awesome journey that I will never forget.
I eventually got back to the condo and was greeted by my wife and a good friend. We talked and relived the hunt together and took plenty of good pictures. These are the times that I cherish the most with family and friends. I will always remember the story of the “private land” velvet buck.