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Finally filled a tag..

mountainlaurel3

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Joined
Feb 14, 2020
Messages
51
Journey started fall of '19, when my wife and I moved from Denver to SW CO for her job (plus, who wouldn't choose the San Juans over the Front Range?). Lacking a job, I decided I should contribute to the household by getting an elk. Having barely even shot a .22 and with zero hunting knowledge or background, I borrowed my father in laws 30.06 and wandered the woods for a week. I fell hard for how immersive hunting is; the experience is so different from all the other ways I spend time outdoors.

Shortly after, I found @bigfin and hunttalk and have spent many hours researching and learning here. Got a second season buck tag and a third OTC bull tag for 2020, had one good chance in each season, but never pulled the trigger.

Ended up with a first season cow tag in '21, got into them most days, but again couldn't pull the trigger on my best chance, as the crosshairs were all over the place and I'm terrified of wounding an animal.

For my third season buck tag, I abandoned the higher country I know better/had hunted in prior seasons in favor of lower transition/winter range. At least, that's where I did all my scouting, being a mid-November season. Also had the advantage of a friend with 40 acres backing up to a few hundred acres of BLM, with commensurate knowledge of the deer and area.

Definitely started to question my lower elevation decision by day 2, when I hadn't seen a buck on public land. Did see gorgeous sunrises/sets, though.

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On day 3, was descending a oaky hill that I'd seen tons of sign on when I rounded a corner to two bucks and a doe staring at me. Did the staring contest for a few minutes, then they wandered off feeding. I followed and got on a small rise with good shooting angles, the bucks only 80 yards off, still feeding. Got prone, but the bucks were covering one another, couldn't safely take the shot.

Not concerned with antler size, but decided I wanted the bigger bodied of the two, which was barely a three point. He finally fed off behind some more oak, leaving me an easy shot on his buddy. Of course, having made up my mind on which I wanted, I decided to move to get a shooting angle on the other. When doing so, I also realized if I had taken the first shot, would have hit the dirt approximately 18" in front of the barrel, though the scope was clear. A good lesson for a terrible hunter.

When I got to a better spot for the shot, my buck had followed the doe behind some more trees. Couldn't move much, though, as I'd spook the other buck. Waited, waited, then watched the doe wheel and bolt and couldn't find the bucks again. Ugh, such an easy opportunity, messed up.

Day 4, had just messed up another chance on a fork horn at 40 yards (off hand was the only chance, and damn, I'm terrible off hand), started climbing a small ridge with oak and ponderosa back towards where I had seen the bucks the day before. Moving uphill I bumped a buck, which promptly ran to the next ridge. Tried to get a shooting position, but there was too much brush and he fed over that ridge, not looking too nervous. Did get the binocs on him, though, and he was the same buck from the day before, had the same lobster claw-looking rear. I quickly hustled to a spot on that next ridge, keeping the wind in my favor and presuming he'd go to the next ridge or the valley between (these are finger ridges about 100 yards apart). Got there, he was on the next ridge, again I secured by brush. Sat, tried to find him passing through the small gaps in the brush, then he meandered back towards me into the valley from my left. Again couldn't get settled enough as he walked through the biggest clearing in the bottom, but he eventually stopped between two ponderosas where I had a clear view of his vitals. BOOM, take my first shot on big game at just under 100 yards, he runs off. I get the glass on him through the brush, and he's feeding? What? I think about taking another shot through the brush, but I couldn't see him well enough to make sure it was the same buck and not the buddy from the day before or another rando. I then watch him feed off onto private, showing no signs of distress. I go down to where he'd been, no blood, walk the whole trail to private, no blood. He's still there, 100 yards onto private, still feeding. Oy, still not sure how I missed, other than being a terrible shot from any position other than prone. I ended up going back to that spot two more times during the day to make sure I hadn't somehow been mistaken and killed him only to see a different buck feeding away, but no buck tucked into the oak brush...

Feeling pretty down, but also thinking my terrible hunting was starting to get humorous. How many under 100 yard chances would it take for me to succeed?

Day 5, working back towards the same oaky hill I'd seen the bucks on on day 3, I come over a rise too fast to the same buck standing in the trail at 15 yards, looking at me through the branches of a ponderosa. Do the freeze routine, he walks off to the doe he's hanging with. I drop where I am, a tiny little spot burn from a recent fire, and get setup. No prone shot here, but my seated shooting was terrible the day before, so this time got a better setup with my pack as support while seated. He and the doe are still through a bunch of brush, but if heads where I think he will I'd have an 80 yard shot. He starts going that way, them changes his mind, to come right down the little ramp center left of this photo:

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He moves too fast through the best opening, but stops in another gap, probably 60 yards, down a good slope. I fire, this time I watch him run off holding his near front shoulder. Uh oh, did I somehow shoot him in the leg or something? Never heard a crash or saw him exit the area, so didn't want to move too much and bump him if he was hurt but not dead. Waited a few minutes, then butt scooted to the side to get a better angle, and glassed him up some 30 yards from the shot, dead.

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Turns out the shot was perfect, right behind the shoulder, exiting lower due to the angle.

Called my wife for the walk up, got a little choked up thanking him, and got to work.

Thanks to @bigfin for the gutless method videos. Went reasonably well, though definitely have some better ideas for next time to keep the meat clean, which was harder than I expected. Also my work on the hide left much to be desired.

Felt a little guilty about how easy the pack out was, if you can call it a pack out. Landowner friend brought the 4 wheeler out within about 50 yards. Could definitely have gotten the whole carcass out, but wanted to practice the gutless method.

Shout-out to the hunttalker who posted about getting to wear a 90s hunter pink hat.

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Requisite deer in the Subaru shot.


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mountainlaurel3

Active member
Joined
Feb 14, 2020
Messages
51
Couple more, apologies for the lack of brevity.

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Hung it all Wednesday, had to leave town Saturday morning for a funeral, so packaged it all Friday. Ended up being up until 2:15 am to get finished, big day. Had backstrap, the heart, a tenderloin before we left town.

Damn, feels good to have filled the freezer (and even had to get it out of the box, bought it for the '20 season, ha). Never had a hobby in which the end of the season marks the beginning of the fun part - the cooking and eating.

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Thanks for all the help, hunttalkers, I'm in it for life.
 

kansasdad

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 30, 2011
Messages
5,225
Location
Wichita
Every outing will expand your experience and skill level.

Congratulations!

(And work on shooting in other than prone situations) 😁
 
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Ben Lamb

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Joined
Aug 6, 2010
Messages
15,273
Location
Cedar, MI
It's a helluva feeling when it all comes together and you're standing over something you've successfully hunted. Well done!

Judges award you pain & a 6 mile pack for next year.
 
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Wallydeuce

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Joined
Feb 24, 2021
Messages
617
Location
NV
You can now call yourself a hunter. Congratulations on your success!
Ben's right. Next up is a multi mile pack out.
 

mountainlaurel3

Active member
Joined
Feb 14, 2020
Messages
51
(And work on shooting in other than prone situations) 😁
Definitely. Even tried between elk and deer seasons, as the first made me realize the importance of doing so, and still straight missed an easy shot.

It's a helluva feeling when it all comes together and you're standing over something you've successfully hunted. Well done!

Judges award you pain & a 6 mile pack for next year.
Definitely a great feeling, and yes, I expect the next pack out will be more trying. I'm a better hiker than hunter, at least, though that's usually with 25 pounds, not 70...

Thanks folks!
 

huntandfly

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 30, 2020
Messages
244
Location
Las Vegas, NV
Always great to read stories like this. Only bad news: the addiction gets worse. Soon it will be multiple states and applications and points games but it always seems to be more than worth it when you strap on your boots for opening morning
 

Dsnow9

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Joined
Oct 29, 2019
Messages
1,436
Location
Colorado
Awesome story and way to hold out for a good, ethical shot. Maybe you forgot to flip up the bill of that awesome hat on your first shot! Lots of shooting practice in different scenarios and setups will benefit you greatly! Even if it’s just on your pack in your basement with snap caps. The more practice the better! Seems like the shooting aspect is the only thing holding you back.
 

Mudranger1

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 30, 2010
Messages
2,666
Congrats on the success! That hat is probably the reason for all your troubles tho...it may be worse than a flat bill
 

Rzrbk

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Joined
Jan 10, 2021
Messages
392
Congratulations and thanks for the great story. I admire you holding out for a high percentage shot.
 

mountainlaurel3

Active member
Joined
Feb 14, 2020
Messages
51
Subaru, beard, hot pink vintage ski hat...it's like you're channeling your inner @wllm1313 and @Dsnow9, they're not the worst guys to idolize :ROFLMAO:
I'll admit that @wllm1313 /the charts/the corgi was my first hunttalk mancrush, but yes, @Dsnow9 won me over with the Elan hat.

Awesome story and way to hold out for a good, ethical shot. Maybe you forgot to flip up the bill of that awesome hat on your first shot! Lots of shooting practice in different scenarios and setups will benefit you greatly! Even if it’s just on your pack in your basement with snap caps. The more practice the better! Seems like the shooting aspect is the only thing holding you back.
Yep, need to remember to practice all year, not just waiting for pre-season. And I didn't realize I needed to flip the brim, that must have been it!
Way to keep at it. I think it worked out for the best taking a muley before getting an elk down. You learned a lot.
Definitely. Really want an elk, but took me nearly 2.5 hours to break down the deer, can't imagine how slow I would have been with an elk...
 

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