First Bow Hunting Season

A bit of good luck and a bit of bad luck made for a really short Colorado bow season for me this year. While I did harvest a really nice mule deer, I guess I had hoped for more. Don’t get me wrong. I am absolutely grateful, but I worked so hard preparing for my first season bow hunting that I didn’t want it to end.

It started out this past spring. My perennial hunting partner and good friend, Dan Harris, finally convinced me to get a bow. It turns out I happen to fall (relatively easy) to peer pressure when there is an obscure and unlikely challenge at hand.

So, I like challenges. I mean how hard could it be? You pack into the Colorado wilderness of a GMU that has a whopping 11% success rate during bow season, hike over deadfall timber for days, sneak up to within 40 yards of a big game animal that has absolutely amazing senses of sight and smell, release one well placed arrow, hopefully put it on the ground if you were a good shot, skin and quarter the animal, and then make multiple trips packing out all the meat back over the extensive deadfall timber with significant elevation. Sounds like fun to me.

However, before all this fun can begin, I had to buy a bow. Two days after purchase, I took it out for some turkey action and missed a ridiculously easy shot at a longbeard. Damn. This was going to be harder than it looked. So, I joined Gamelines Archery Clubshot my bow twice a week all summer, ran myself to great physical fitness, poured over Google Maps at every chance, and scouted the potential hunting area during the late summer. My plan was to be so incredibly over-prepared all I would need to do is put myself in an area with deer and elk, and put the training into action.

Another good friend, Todd Horn, decided to join the challenge. He, too, was a seasoned gun hunter but a virgin with the bow. So, the three of us applied for our tags, planned strategies for the week-long hunt, packed and repacked gear, bought tons of shit we convinced ourselves we needed, and finagled out of our regular responsibilities (which included taking vacation time we didn’t really have).

Anyway, let’s get back to the hunting season…


Upon arriving at base camp, we were treated to a heavy rainstorm followed a beautiful double rainbow. However, the rain turned the hillside into a greasy mess. There was only one other vehicle that was able to make it up the road that afternoon. He had chains, and he almost slid off the mountain. He was also stoned out of his mind, but that’s beside the point. Mental note – should we get a few days of rain, we’d be stuck up there for days. Bring chains next time.

Early the next morning, we headed out of camp well before dawn to clear skies. It was unusually warm, and the bulls were silent. We hiked all morning and didn’t see much fresh deer or elk sign anywhere. Throughout the day we continued upward and further into the wilderness crossing ridge after ridge. Taking a lunch and maybe a short nap during the heat of the day (85° at 10,500ft elevation) we decided to make a change of plans and head down towards the darkest timber we could find. Our thought was maybe we could find a bull or a few cows leaving their daytime bedding area.

While making our way through the timber, I spotted two large mule deer feeding about 130 yards away. I managed to stalk within 38 yards and place a single arrow through the lungs of the largest buck. Score! Todd, who also had a deer tag, set out to stalk the second deer. Unfortunately, he got wind of us and joined another friend higher up on the slope. The third deer was one of the biggest mulies I’d ever seen. Mental note – I’m coming back here next year. The rest of the afternoon and night we were busy quartering the brute and packing the meat two-three miles back to camp. Thanks guys!

Stalked from 130 yards to 38 yards, a single arrow brought down this nice buck. Now the work begins. Photo courtesy Todd Horn.

On day two, we were too tired to break camp before daylight, but we still managed to leave the coffee behind at a respectable hour. Since we didn’t see any fresh elk sign on the first day, we decided to try a different section. To keep it short, it was another hot and quiet like the first day. Around noon Todd split off from us an headed back towards camp where he had seen plenty of deer. Dan and I thought it would be more fun to hike deeper into the wilderness and climb over deadfall the remainder of the day. Unfortunately, the weather was not going to cooperate. Lightning, wind, and rain ushered us to retreat back to camp where there was, at least, cold beer and elk steaks. On the way back to camp, we shot two dusky grouse with well-placed synchronized arrows. Two days with no elk sightings, but now we had cold beer, steaks, and grouse for dinner. It could have been worse.



Well, it did eventually get worse. When we got back to camp, Todd was shaking his head. He had checked his iPhone for the weather, and apparently the forecast had changed. The 40% chance of showers for the day had turned into 90% chance of rain for the next five days. Remembering we didn’t have chains and not enough beer to last five days, we decided to bail on the morning of the third day.

I had hoped for so much more, but in hindsight we made the best decision. The 90% chance of rain for the next five days turned into the heaviest recorded rains in Colorado history, there were significant mudslides in the area, the interstate would close, and my hometown of Boulder ended up in a 100 year flood with 22″ of rain getting dropped in just four days – that’s about 120% of our total annual precipitation. The remainder of my hunting season involved pumping water out of my basement.

So, 2013 was a really short Colorado deer and elk bow hunting season. Sigh.

Say what?

Bow hunting whitetails in Nebraska next month? Sign me up.