I am beyond honored to have been given this opportunity to share my story on this site.
First of all, let me introduce myself. My name is John and I have been a resident of Colorado my entire life. I have always enjoyed being in the Outdoors but unfortunately some circumstances kept me away from the mountains for about 10 years.
I have rifle hunted in the Colorado mountains for about 10 years with no successful harvests. It never failed that each time in the woods, our hunting group always had the luck of seeing the exact opposite of what we had tags for or no animals at all.
This year in preparation for the draw deadline, my brother and I had decided that we were going to change things up completely. We decided we were going to put in for the muzzleloader season and hunt a unit which is an area that we have been going to to camp and fish since we were kids. Well, to change it up a bit more, my buddies at work talked me into archery hunting. Since I already had vacation for the week of muzzleloader season and since it is right in the middle of archery season, I would still be able to hunt with my brother.
The only problem was I didn’t have a bow.
I went to one of the closer archery shops around and started shooting different bows until I had narrowed it down to 2 different ones. I finally made my decision and that’s when the magic started to happen. I knew that I was new to this sport so I went out to the local archery range several times a week to practice with my friend Ty and sometimes my friend Josh who had recently moved here from Wisconsin. Josh would also be joining my brother and I on our hunt.
In August, Josh and I took our families up to the mountains to do a bit of scouting. I had to show Josh around because he had never been to the area. We checked out some areas that I wanted as a backup plan. However, I had a game plan for our hunt and I had this gut feeling the particular area that I wanted to hunt was going to pay off.
At the end our first day on this scouting trip, our beautiful wives were preparing dinner while I was setting something up when I just happened to look up. From our camp, we could see the mountain that was part of my game plan and up above timberline, I saw something that appeared to be the backend of elk. I told Josh to get his binoculars and to check it out. He looked up there and what I saw ended up being some rocks.
But he kept glassing the mountainside and it didn’t take long before he hollered out “got ’em”! With our binos, we were able to count 23 but some of them were right next to timber so there may have been some still not in view. My adrenaline went crazy and I couldn’t wait for our next trip up here.
A month went by and Josh and I headed back up for a weekend trip. This was going to be a very special trip because we brought along my oldest son Zander. He was 9 and this was his first big game hunting trip. We got to our campsite at 1:30 in the morning, set up our tent in a light rain and went to sleep.
A couple hours later, we were up and started our hunt.
Day 1 consisted of seeing some sign, but nothing fresh.
Day 2 came and we headed to a different part of the mountain. We found an old mining road that is no longer open because this area is now a wilderness area. I knew this road would be our easiest path to get us where we wanted to go. We started hiking in seeing a doe here and there and some elk sign.
After hiking in a ways, Josh couldn’t go any further. He was now learning that hunting in Colorado is more demanding than the other areas he had hunted. We didn’t know but this turned out to be a blessing. He staged himself on a little point while Zander and I had gone a bit further. After some time, we went back to Josh and he showed us something to boost my excitement.
Down in the ravine, he could see 3 game trails leading into one. We knew that this trail was leading down to a meadow down below.
It wasn’t long before we started hearing the sound of a rack rubbing on a tree. Unfortunately, where Zander and I were sitting, I couldn’t see anything. Little did I know, Josh could see a bull down below and was following his every move. Right when I got my first view of the bull, I went into a bit of shock because he was 30 yards away.
Right at that moment, I heard Josh’s bow release.
On the way, the arrow hit a branch that he didn’t see and deflected just under the bull. The bull was a good sized 5×5. We didn’t realize the arrow had deflected so we went over to check for blood. As we got over there, we heard another bull down below. While we waited to see what was going to happen, we could hear another bull not to far above us. We were surrounded.
A few minutes later, Josh decided to loop around and head down below to try and either put a stalk on the bull below or maybe push him up in my direction. As he circled back up to us, he had great news to tell me. Even though he didn’t see the bull, he did see fresh scrapes and rubs every where. His exact words were “That is the most beat down game trail I have ever seen! It looks like a war zone down there.”
Did we possibly find a “honey hole”? That would be determined a week later when we would be able to return.
We had to head back home for a week of graveyard shifts. Our shifts for this week were Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday from 5p to 3a. So our plan was to get off on Sunday morning, catch a little bit of sleep and head back up to the mountains on Sunday.
Sunday arrived and we were off. This time we would meeting up at some point to hunt with my brother Marc. Marc, his father in-law Chuck and Marc’s buddy Tyler were staying in a cabin so I wasn’t sure how everything was going to work out but Marc said they would try and find the area that I had explained to him.
After our 4 hour drive, we finally arrived at our campsite. We got our tent and everything set up and Josh started to unload the side by side. Well, at that moment, I got the brilliant idea for us to run up the trail to see if Marc and them had found our little parking place. I knew if they had, they might have a little excitement. So I jumped in and we started up the trail. We weren’t planning on hunting this day but about a third of the way up to our parking spot, Josh looks at me and tells me that we were idiots.
Yep, you guessed it. We forgot our bows. We both knew what that meant. It wasn’t 5 minutes later that I pointed and said “Bull”. Josh stopped the side by side and we watched that monster walk out of sight. There was a little hill that we couldn’t see over so Josh snuck over to take a peek and waved me over. When I got over there we watched the bull and tried to see how close we could get to him. The timber was pretty thick but we were able to sneak within 40 yards of him.
That bull never seemed spooked. He just gradually walked through the woods occasionally stopping to eat some grass. We watched him for a couple more minutes and headed back up the trail. We didn’t have to go too far to determine that Marc, Chuck and Tyler hadn’t gone far enough. So we turned around headed back to camp, let an arrow fly to make sure our bows were still shooting right and took off on foot to try and call that bull in.
Unfortunately, we didn’t see anything that night and we had missed the other three when they stopped by our camp. We got a good nights sleep, woke up and headed back to what may be a honey hole. I had let Marc know that we would be hunting this area and I was hoping that he would be able to find us. Josh and I had gotten to our spot right before sunrise. We waited for a bit and then there was a bugle.
I don’t know how Josh was feeling at this time but my heart started racing. I went a head and used my cow call. There was another bugle but it was a different bull. I kept using my cow call from time to time and I was continually getting responses from bull’s. Not one, not two, but five different bull’s! This went on for two hours and then the bull’s were silent. My excitement was high with how many bull’s that I had heard but I was unsuccessful getting one to come in to view.
We had decided to hang out on the mountain instead of heading back to camp for a lunch. When the bulls went silent, we decided to try and stalk through the woods a bit over in the direction where I had heard one of the bull’s. We had found a tree that that bull had rubbed his antlers on. I am 6’2 and the rub went up the tree slightly higher than I could reach. No matter what happened the rest of the week, I had become hooked to this thing called Archery hunting.
So, Josh and I found ourselves some places to lay down and rest and wait for the animals to start moving again. The time went by, nothing was happening so we made a decision that we probably made too early. We decided to follow the ravine down towards the meadow. On our way down, we saw plenty of fresh sign. Josh decided to use his bugle to see if he could get a response. What do you know, a bull bugled back and he wasn’t too far away. The bull’s bugle was real deep and raspy and we decided to go after him. I don’t know if we were too noisy or the bull had picked up our scent but we never found him.
Tuesday morning arrived and it was a lazy morning. Sometime around 10:30, Marc and Tyler showed up to our camp. We talked for a while and decided we would all head up to our spot for the afternoon hunt. They both had cow tags so I told them that I couldn’t promise them any cow action but I was confident that there would be plenty of bull action.
For whatever reason, they had to run back to the cabin so while they were gone, I pulled my gear out to start checking everything. It was a good thing I did because when I pulled my bow out, I had noticed that my whisker biscuit had moved. So I adjusted it and spent sometime shooting to make sure everything was dialed in. When Marc and Tyler got back up, we headed up the mountain. Josh and Tyler branched off about a third of the way up the trail and headed towards where Josh and I got that last bull to respond.
I took Marc up the rest of the way and staged him where Josh had gotten the shot off at the 5×5. I explained to Marc what the bull’s pattern seemed to be and let him know that I was going to sit about a hundred yards away from him in hopes to get that bull that had rubbed the tree the day before. Just like clock work I heard the first bugle. I hit my cow call and Marc cow called too. Just like before 5 different bull’s started responding.
That bull that I wanted let out a bugle so I left my pack and tried stalking him. He was in the same area and as I made my way toward him, I could only tell myself to stay calm. I got to where I should have been able to see the bull but he was nowhere in sight. He wasn’t responding to my call either. However, that bull with the deep, raspy bugle was down below.
I cow called and headed about fifteen yards in the same direction. When I stopped, I cow called again. This time, the bull was in a different spot. I moved and called about three more times. Each time I called, he was in a different spot. I heard my brother call and the bull responded. He was heading towards my brother so I let out one more call and got ready. I knew I turned him back toward me and I started praying that I would be able to see him before he saw me.
Right then, I got a quick glimpse of the bull below. He was on a mission. There was a cow that he was after. I had just enough of a look to know he was a shooter. He darted to his left, my right, right behind a group of trees. At this time I drew back. The bull stopped directly in front of me at about twenty five yards. The only thing between him and me were two small trees and they were in a perfect line of me and his head. All I could see was from his mid section back. I knew he was looking right at me.
He bugled one more time and started to move toward my right. As he did, I rotated at my waist, had to tell myself to look through my peep sight and put my pin on him. As I did, all I could see was brown. I gently squeezed off my trigger for my release and the bull took off back the other way. My adrenaline went nuts. I hit my cow call three times in a row so my brother knew that I needed him. That was our signal.
I headed over to where he was to see if I could find blood or my arrow. My adrenaline was flowing too much that I couldn’t think straight. I kept hitting my call so Marc could locate me. When he did, I told him that I had shot at a bull but couldn’t find my arrow or any blood.
I left my bow with Marc and ran back to find my back pack. When I had gotten back, Marc had gotten a hold of Tyler on the radio and apparently Tyler wasn’t too far from the path the bull had taken. As he was on his way towards us, Tyler had found blood and tracks. It was official, I had shot my first big game animal. We met Tyler by the stream at the bottom where the bull had crossed. Then we sent him off to find Josh to get him ready to either help track or help pack.
Enough time had gone by so Marc and I started slowly following the tracks. We found a little blood here and there with some indicating that the bull was bleeding out of both sides. We came up on a small tree that the bull had run into and nearly uprooted. We knew we were close and he was hurting or expired. We moved about ten more yards and we spotted him.
Marc got on the radio and let the other two know we had a bull down. The bull was a 6×6 bull and a beauty. To be able to harvest a decent bull with a bow on my first archery hunt was a thrill for me.
When we had all gathered at the bull, I got on my knees and thanked the Lord and then we all did the common thing. Pictures. After pictures were all taken, we got back to work. Thankfully Josh was with us because he knew what he was doing. We decided to do the gutless field dressing process. The rest of us had only watched videos.
We got the bull quartered and deboned to reduce as much weight as possible. Darkness had set in on us. I had shot the bull about 5:30 but we were determined to get him off the mountain that night. I packed out the head while Marc and Tyler packed out the meat that they had tied to a small tree that they had found lying on the ground. We sent Josh up ahead trying to find the easiest path back to the trail. When all said and done, we had the meat, rack and all of our gear back to the atv’s at 1:00 in the morning. We were all relieved the work was over.
I have to give all the credit and thanks to my brother Marc, and friends Josh and Tyler. They made the whole process of packing that bull out easier and in one trip. I honestly believe that it was supposed to happen the way it did. To have us all together for the experience and memories was a blessing. Next year, I owe myself to help these guys!
After getting home with my trophy, my wife gave me permission to have an antler mount done. It’s going to take a miracle to get her to agree to a shoulder mount. My friends and I were all guessing that the rack would score somewhere between 280 and 290 but most of us didn’t know how to properly score a rack.
It took some time to get my rack back from the taxidermist and then some more time to get a friend Steve from work to come over who knew how to score the rack. Steve came over and started doing his thing. After he took all of the measurements, I added up the total and we came up with a gross score of 289. Steve had to take off but suggested that I get an official scorer from Pope and Young to score my rack because he felt that my rack my just make it into the books.
I took Steve’s advice and found out who the official scorer was and contacted him. I made arrangements to meet up with him that night and Steve was right. The official score came in at 291 2/8 and a net score of 279. My first big game harvest makes Pope and Young requirements. I truly was blessed with this experience and even if the rack wouldn’t have made the record books, it would still be a trophy for me.
I learned a lot with the past hunting season and can’t wait until next year. I hope to take what I have learned and will learn and have another successful year this year. Thanks for taking the time to read this and have a fun and safe hunting season this year.