By Ryan Gold
It seems like each and every year western big game tags get harder and harder to attain. After applying in multiple states for multiple species, the only thing I had drawn for 2018 was a somewhat planned unit 21 Colorado deer tag. This was a great tag, but I was hoping for something a little more.
Since I’m not much of a bow hunter, I really enjoy starting off my hunting season with an antelope tag whenever I can. I had unsuccessfully applied for antelope in seven different states, so my hopes of getting an antelope tag for 2018 were dwindling. Of all the states I had applied in, Colorado wasn’t one of them, mostly because of their established preference point system. However, after doing some research and learning about their leftover tag policy, I decided to give Colorado a closer look.
In one of the Huntin’ Fool issues, I saw an advertisement for a new app called Colorado Leftover Watch. Desperate for a tag, I signed up and began receiving notifications. As tags became available, I quickly discovered that I needed to do a lot more research. As a public land, self-guided hunter coming from three states away, my main concern was access. I narrowed my list down to make sure the units had ample public land to hunt and then waited for notifications. After missing out on a couple of good opportunities, I finally landed a tag. One small problem was that the season opened the next day and only ran for a total of seven days. I called my friend, Randy, and told him I had done something really dumb. I was already scheduled to go to Nevada later that day to help him get his brother-in-law, Mike, his first deer. In addition to bailing on my friends, I would be going to Colorado by myself and needed to be to work on Monday. It wasn’t going to happen on opening weekend. I went to Nevada with Randy and Mike and got Mike his first deer.
Later in the week, I was able to talk Daniel Robison into going with me. We left Wednesday night, which also happened to be my wife’s birthday, after work and drove over 1,000 miles through the night to get there. We pulled into town, got my tag, and with a day and a half left in the season, we went to work. With so little time, I didn’t plan on being very picky, but deep down, I wanted to see what the unit had to offer.
We immediately started seeing antelope. After passing on some small bucks, we chased a decent buck, which led us to even more antelope. Out of a large group of antelope, we spotted a buck that was a “no doubter.” We moved in for a better look, confirmed our assumptions, and made a plan for the stalk. We didn’t want to mess this up. After crawling on our hands and knees through mud and snow, we got to within 400 yards. The antelope weren’t spooked, but it was getting later in the evening and they were on the move. Daniel first called the range at 400 yards. I quickly dialed my scope to 400 and took the shot, but it went right over his back. I then heard Daniel say 370. My buck had spun around, and the other antelope were on high alert. I was running out of time. I put the next shot low on his shoulder and dropped him right there.
We knew he was big, but we couldn’t believe our eyes when we walked up to him. It’s funny how hunting works sometimes. The previous year in Wyoming, I had burned seven points on a “good” unit, looked over hundreds of bucks over several days, and never saw anything even close to this. This year, I had a buck-of-a-lifetime on the ground within a few hours of being in the unit and not burning any points at all. For a state that isn’t typically known for big antelope, my buck officially scored 90 0/8". He is the second biggest buck of all time in Colorado according to Boone & Crockett.