Public Land Paradise
By Brad Cupit
CO, Mule Deer
Anticipation grew on my hunting party and me weeks before our 2018 Colorado third season hunt began. We knew snow had hit our area and it had been cold, so big bucks should start rutting sooner than normal and all five of us had buck tags in our pockets.
Since my dad had hunted this area 48 years in a row and I had for 24 years, we knew where we wanted to be before daybreak of opening day. Our other three buddies went their own ways with one buddy going high. The day started out the same for everybody with tons of does and small bucks, except for Cole up high. He was watching a 25" 4x4 chase a doe all through the aspens. Deciding the buck was not big enough, especially for opening day, he let him walk, knowing he would probably stay in the area since no other hunters were around.
The next day began with much of the same, tons of does and small bucks in the morning. Then a storm hit and dumped snow all day with zero visibility, so we headed off the mountain to let Mother Nature do its thing. We were smiling knowing bigger bucks were really going to start pushing out of the timbers.
Day three came with fresh snow covering the ground. We all headed off, and Cole went up high. Evening came, and Cole saw a huge buck chasing does in the aspens and waited for his shot. At 400+ yards, the 180"+ buck with kickers coming off his left side stopped. Cole shot. Boom! Miss. Boom! Hit, but it looked a little far back on the buck and it was too late, so he had to let the buck lay through the night and go back the next day, hoping to find him.
Tuesday was here with no deer on the ground, but we had a good feeling things were going to change. Cole went on the far ridge to look for the big buck he had hit the day before, and Kyle and I went to where Cole had shot the buck from to keep watch. As soon as Kyle and I got to Cole’s spot, Kyle spotted the 25" 4x4 Cole had seen on opening day and went after him. Cole got to the spot where he had hit the buck and only found a little spot of blood. It was not looking good. At that moment, I watched Kyle connect twice and drop the buck he was after. I got the call to come help him pack it out of the nasty terrain. I watched Cole follow the buck’s tracks. He hit up and down those steep hills with no blood.
After about half a day, we both knew that buck was fine and went to help Kyle pack out his buck. Congrats all around to the first buck down, which was a heavy 25" 4x4. We packed the buck back to the truck and hunted lower with only a couple hours left. I walked to a spot where I had killed a great buck years before and immediately spotted a great buck lying 240 yards away. Shane was hunting with me, but I had to wait awhile for him to get to my position. Once he got to me, I said, “Do you want this buck?”
Immediately, he told me yes. I already had my gun in position for the shot, so he got on my gun and pulled the trigger. The .30-378 hammered him! The buck jumped forward about five feet straight to his face. Another great 4x4 26" wide buck was on the ground. Day four was a great day with two great bucks down.
Mid-week came with bigger bucks starting to come out of the timbers more and more, chasing off the little bucks. Toward the end of the day, Cole and I were hunting together and heard a shot over where we knew my dad was hunting. Five minutes went by, and my dad called to say he needed help as he had just killed a big buck. We headed that way, and when we got to him, we realized he had killed a 30" 4x4. High fives were all around as we were now on a roll putting some great public land bucks down.
A couple days went by with big bucks on our minds. We were seeing many good bucks and trying to get on a couple bigger bucks but coming up short. Knowing our last day was coming and after passing on a lot of bucks, I started wondering, “Did I wait too long?” However, I thought, like many years before, I’d killed great bucks on the last day and I needed to stay positive. Even if I had to eat my tag, our group had taken some great bucks.
The last day had arrived with high hopes and thoughts of a big boy fading. Cole and I headed to a spot we had seen many good bucks funnel through in previous days. At first light, Cole sat about 100 yards from me, and within 10 minutes, I spotted a buck’s horns in the thick oak brush below me at 326 yards. I immediately got the spotting scope out. He wouldn’t move, but from what I could see, he was at least a 24"+ buck with a great front on the left side. He was a shooter for sure on the last day. Cole had come over as I got on my rifle, waiting for the buck to get up. Cole, looking through the spotting scope, said, “Twenty-four inches plus, but I think he has a kicker on his right side.”
About 10 minutes went by, and then the buck stood up. He took a couple steps forward and cleared the brush. I touched off the .30-378, which dropped him in his tracks. I had no idea how big he was other than he was a shooter. I got my Exo pack on and headed down to get the buck with Kyle there to help. I walked down thinking I’d killed a dandy buck and was happy, but when I went around some oak brush and saw the buck lying dead facing me, I couldn’t believe it! I have never in my life seen a buck grow like this buck did. I picked the buck up, shaking, knowing now what I had shot. Kyle and I just looked at each other in awe. He said it was a giant 30 1/2", 5x5 buck with hook cheaters on both sides. We took pictures, and I was in such shock that it took me about an hour to stop from shaking in order to cape and debone my deer. What a moment!
An amazing Colorado hunt with my dad and three buddies had come to an end. As a group, we took three great 4x4 bucks, a 180"+ that got away, and my last day buck that I’d always dreamed of in the 30-200 club. He scored 202 4/8"B&C. Taking bucks of that caliber on public land self-guided is something we all dream of.