Long Range Hunting Online Magazine

High Country Velvet

High Country Velvet

By Marlon Holden
©Copyright 2010, Western Hunter Magazine

The tree line is a mile below. The scree fields are getting steeper and steeper as the shoot and forb fields are fading below. It’s so steep in fact that I had to strap my bow to my pack simply as a matter of survival! More than once I simply told myself, “This is not worth it. Back out and let him go for today or you could end up dying doing what you love…”

High Country Mule Deer Velvet
This Colorado velvet buck has deep forks and great symmetry.

I figure that sounds a little dramatic and maybe a touch over-emphasized but alas, I am not pulling your leg. Our high country Colorado hunt was filled with some of my best memories. Great friends, beautiful country and plentiful game; it doesn’t get much better.

Alisha and I left Southern California for our hunt the day before the opener. The drive went quickly and the mountain air was clean, crisp and refreshing. Arriving in the high country the next morning at 12,500 feet from sea level was a bit of a challenge and had both of us sucking wind while standing still!

High Country Mule Deer Velvet
It's often easier to approach mule deer bucks after they have bedded.

Looking through the 15x56 Swarovski binoculars mounted atop my Outdoorsmans tripod, I manipulated the pistol grip, searching the terrain above me. In the buckbrush 1,500 yards away were seven magnificent mule deer bucks feeding along the bottom of a huge basin spanning over a mile in width. The awesome sight took my breath away. Each buck was P&Y or better with the largest being a typical-framed four-point around 180”. To say I was charged-up would be an understatement. We hadn’t seen all the country we wanted to, so we left those alone and did a little basin jumping. Two hours later, we were in a new basin but since it was late morning, the bucks were bedded up. To my surprise we found them in the cliffs, bedded above the sheer talus slopes. I couldn’t believe it… I could only surmise that it may have been cooler or maybe there were fewer insects there to bother them. Nonetheless, these animals were acting more like sheep than deer. A total of 12 bucks revealed themselves to us and as it turned out, those 12 occupied the remaining nine days of my hunt.

High Country Mule Deer Velvet
The symmetrical 4x4 hung around with 12 other bucks including a big 3x3.

One buck in particular was a typical 4x4 that pushed 195” gross. He was tall and wide, with great tine length. His G-2s were 24” minimum and his rack was so massive atop his head we affectionately named him “Elk.” Well, Elk was of above average intelligence. He would buffer himself between others in the herd and lock up tight to sheer cliff walls that were all but impenetrable; hence my death defying acrobatics, stalking down sheer cut drainages trying to get to him. One day found me perched 200 yards above on a cliff with him 120 yards vertically below me. The talus was too loud for my boots and my wool socks slipped too easily over the small rocks. I had to go barefoot.
I only read a few print magazines these days. Western Hunter magazine is one of them. It is unique in that its articles are about hunting only in the western states that I love and seem to be drawn to about 10 times per year!
Len Backus
Two hours later, 110 yards down this steep 55-60 degree incline, 15 feet wide and towering 200 feet above me on each side, I was methodically calculating my next move. I had thought to myself that I could fall at any time or a rock could break free from above at any moment, making my stalk exceptionally precarious and nerve-racking. In the middle of a two-point balance, reaching with my right foot for the next hold, I felt the wind at my back! Just as quickly it started to hail and it didn’t relent for two hours. I sat there freezing in an inch of hail on this steep incline, watching Elk bust out, feeling dejected and I learned that day that even a big buck such as Elk is not worth that potential price.

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