The western deer hunt that almost killed me! and the buck that?
I'm not sure I even want to tell this story , but hear it goes, may-be someone might learn from my misfortune.
It was supposed to be a high country mule deer hunt in unit 471 of Coloradoes Colegete peaks wilderness area. After a 4 year wait since my last HCMD tag I was pretty pumped. I had seen 13 bucks on the first day of the hunt 4 years ealier so I was expecting a relativly productive hunt for a trophy class buck. I was the only deer tag holder but two friends agreed to come on the hunt to archery hunt elk. We were planning on driving up the mountain and packing in camp to an elevation of 12,500 feet. It would be about a 1.5 mile hike. I warned Ben and Jamie that we would be hunting high and the elevation is quite different then the normal 8,500 feet the usually hunted in.
A few days before we were to leave Wisconsin, I was dealing with a cough that just didn't seem like the normal cold. I called the clinic and the nurse suggested I tuff it out, that anti-biotics would not help what was "going around". 1st mistake.
Well the ride out was uneventful other than my persistant cough, we stopped in Georgetown CO at about 8,500 ft to get a room for the night and help us adjust to the elevation change. I slept like crap and the cough got worse. I'm starting to think I'm going to really suffer.
The next morning we cross independence pass and head into Aspen, I tell the guys we need to stop at the hospital in Aspen so I can get checked out. Well I have pnemonia. The doc ask where we are headed and we tell her 12,500 feet to pack in, she's not impressed with my willingness to kill myself and warns my buddies to keep a very close eye on me. I think I can handle it but had a very small reservation in the back of my mind telling me this may not be smart. 2nd mistake, trust your gut.
We park on top unload the truck, load the packs and start the march. I was loaded before Ben and Jamie so I told them I was going to get started. (Regreting the 14 lb. 300rum at this point.) We make it to our camp location, and I did pretty good, probably the excitment of the adventure, but the exaustion from being sick and lack of sleep really hit me.
The only was I can describe that night is to say, thousands of 70's hippees on lsd, at Woodstock halleucinated less than I did that night. I would fall asleep my breathing would get real shallow and I would have some freaky dream which would wake me up and cause me to take a deep breath. I would then fall asleep and it would repeat itself all night long. It was painfull, and mentally deafeating. During the night I honestly thought to myself, "well Jim there are worst places to die, just close your eyes and sleep if you don't wake up in the morning,you will never know it."
That morning we had a meeting and my buddies said they were not going to shine a light on me every 15 minutes to see if I was still breathing, and that they would be ok if I took the truck down and they stayed hunting. I was a little aprehensive about leaving them without a vehicle that high up. They reasured me and said they could always walk back to the parking area and get help from another group if they needed it. So down I went, I made it to a hotel(not in Aspen) where I spent the next 3 days recovering.
Monday found me back on the mountain hiking back in. I felt 95% and was eager to get hunting. I left my gun and gear in the tent so the hike was unloaded. I shot the gun at 300, 600, 720 to check my charts and reset zero. The guys said they had seen a real nice nontypical buck and one pretty good one, so I started with that. By Wendsday I haden't seen but 3 deer and no bucks. I new somthing was off, and found out later by some locals there was a substantal winter kill in the Gunnison basin, the DOW claimed it was minimal, but that just wasen't the case.
The weather started to turn and I spent most of thursday am in the tent, Ben and Jamie had spiked in another mile and a half the afternoon before and were due to return by nightfall. By 2;00pm The rain had lifted and I made the quick walk to the top of a ridge 500 yards from camp. With-in a half an hour I put glass on a buck that had gotten out of it's bed and started to feed. It was a nice 4x4 about 25 inches with good forks, not quite what I was looking for but it was gonna due. I had set up on the ridge above the deer so I would be shooting into a ten mile per headwind. I carefully glassed the surrounding brush(about2 foot tall but covered the whole area) looking for any other deer. Being calm and satisfied with the 2 range reading with the Bushnell 1500 arc at 520 yards I dialed the turret, and aimed for the high shoulder shot. I took the shot the gun bucked, and after settling, I could see a water vapor haylo come off the shoulder, The deer flopped to it's side and his legs rolled up into the air and back down. A thundourus whack drifted with the wind to my unprotected ear. All was still and the buck lay hidden in the brush. Then his nontypical buddy stood up made to bounds over the ridge and was gone.
After a few minutes I unmounted the gun from my shoulder and noticed the guys hiking up the valley behind me towards camp. I met them there, cooked an early meal, and we headed up to retreave the deer. We ranged back to my shooting position and walked a semi circle in the brush to find the buck. Unfortunatlly all we found was where the buck had been hit. The animal had gained his feet after apperently pushing himself along for about 20 feet. The blood was very minimal after he got legs, with drops apearing every 5-10 feet. The next 2 hours we found where he stopped twice and left a few ounces of blood. Then the snow showers started and continued for the next 36 hours. At this point I'm thinking the man upstairs never intended me to harvest one of his mountain top trophys.
The next morning we pulled camp and headed to lower ground of 10,500 feet, in fear of getting stuck up there if we waited any longer. By the next morning we had 5 inches at our new camp. A day and a half later we were packin it up to head home.
I replayed that shot a thousand times and I am sure it was good and hit the mark. Did a 210 berger come apart on the blade knuckle? I will never know. Some suggested that the bullet may have gone above the spine, would that take him off his feet in such dramatic fasion? Would it cause him to push along for 20 feet before gaining at least 3 working legs?
Others though maybe it went a little far back and caught the area behind the shoulder but just below the spine. That doesn't jive with the very audible smack of the bullet, nor with the haylo of water vapor that came off the hide, or with the bang flop.
3 years and 12 animals killed with the 260AI one bullet in each.
300rum... 1st shot on game, failure... ugh.