Hunting High Country Mule Deer Bucks - Part 2
By Allen Jones
You may have read my other hunting story, Hunting High Country Mule Deer Bucks about my son Kenny and I hunting high country bucks in the Sangre De Cristo Range in Colorado during the early September season. Well, Kenny’s twin brother, Ben, drew the same September high country tag the very next year and, as brothers will do, decided he would one-up his twin brother and get a better buck, AND he would do it on his own without Dad holding his hand and making it easy… (Like I had done anything of the sort!)
Anyway, he buddied up with his brother in law, a combat vet from the Iraq war, and started planning a hunt. He did his homework, scouted, made a plan and had all his equipment gathered and ready for opening day. He had absolutely no qualms though about borrowing his dad's rifle to make the shot with, so I graciously agreed to the plan and got him practiced up with my .338 Edge. He was consistently shooting hand size groups out to 800 yards. He felt pretty good about being able to sashay up the mountain, kill a 200 class buck and be back before dark on opening day. Did I mention he was a little cocky?
(A little about the gun… It is a 338 Edge I built using Jerry Teo's method spelled out in the article Long Range Rifle On A Budget. It was built on a Savage action with a Pac-Nor barrel and using the Bondo method of improving the shape and feel of the stock)
Let me stop here and tell you a little about these boys of mine. From the time they were up on their hind legs walking and talking, they were inseparable. They were the easiest kids to take care of because it was like they had a built in baby sitter in each other and were always doing something together. They grew up in a hunting family and helped with the meat gathering in the fall from a very early age. At the tender age of 12 years old they were doing overnight backpack trips into wilderness areas all alone.
They were very abused when it came to things like playing Nintendo and watching hours and hours of TV. It was not allowed. If they ever wanted to go camping, fishing, hiking, etc. they never heard a no, but if they wanted to go to town and hang with their buddies, maybe go to the arcade, hang out in the park, it was a definite no. My dad had told me long ago that town was where bad things happened, not in the wilderness. They soon learned not to even ask. I believe this really made them the great young men they grew to be. A little parenting discipline goes a long way toward creating good, honest, hard working, responsible kids. We could go on forever on that theme, but I digress. Back to the hunt…
Ben had spotted some really good bucks one drainage over from where Kenny and I had hunted, one of which was a real keeper. His plan was to be on the ridge above them at daylight on opening day. Mind you, this involved a hike of 3 miles or so and a climb of at least 2000 feet in altitude in country that you sometimes needed ropes and pitons to maneuver in, but he was up for the challenge. They had made it up and over and were on the downside slope as the sun was rising, lighting up the drainage. Already they had spotted a few deer moving out into the open. As he side hilled over to a better lookout spot, a rock rolled underfoot and the tumble began.
He managed to keep from hurting himself, but the rifle was not so lucky. He had it strapped to the side of the backpack and in the end-over-end tumble it had broke loose and went tumbling through a rock slide. Here is where he wished he had taken my advice and brought along a backup. The wooden stock was broken, right through the handgrip, and the scope was broken completely off the mounts and the eyepiece bent about 45 degrees. Of course about this time is when the big buck stepped out from the shadows at an easy 300 yd range and looked around to see what the ruckus was. I am sure that at the time he was much more worried about what dad was gonna say about his broken rifle.
Well, after several frantic phone calls and help from his brother, a backup plan was made. Kenny would bring his rifle up as a backup, his well-tuned rem 700, 300 RUM, and help him salvage the hunt. Remember, these tags took 8 yrs of applying to draw, so his brother made every effort to help out. They got together later that afternoon and the swap was made. My poor rifle was delivered home in very sad shape, but the hunt continued. Ben took a nice buck the next morning, but alas, the first shot was at about 600 yards and he didn't allow for a steep downhill angle and shot over on a quartering away shot…..right through the right horn at the base. Shot the horn clean off! Of course he thought he had made the perfect shot because the buck had dropped dead in his tracks.
After congratulations, they got up and headed down the hill only to see the buck get up and go over a ridge out of sight. Long story short, he had to make another shot on the buck after tracking it over a mile away. He had to eat a lot of crow over this hunt, but he was humble about it. We decided the bucks were about the same, considering that you could not tell because of the shot off horn.
I was able to repair the broken stock on the 338 and sent the super sniper scope off to Bushnell and they repaired it for ten dollars. It was back to shooting before the elk season, albeit with a few battle scars.
Ben and his buddy went on to harvest two nice bulls during the upcoming elk season. I went with them on opening day and we had a wonderful encounter with a large black bear at about 15 feet. We were walking thru oak brush on a windy ridge and walked around a corner and the bear was head down in a bush with his butt toward us. We all immediately dropped to the ground and lay still.
The bear must have heard something because he turned around and looked. I had my elk call in my mouth and started squealing like a rabbit and the bear stood on his hind legs and took a couple steps forward to get a better look. The wind swirled about then and he blew outta there like his tail was on fire. What a sight! I will never forget that day for more than one reason, you see, that was the last day I ever got to spend hunting with my son. He was killed in a logging accident just a few weeks later.
I cherish the memories I have of all the hunts we were on together, but oh how I wish there were more. Please remember this when the chance comes to spend time outdoors with a loved one. We never know when those chances run out.
It has taken me a long time to be able to write this article. Ben loved hunting, and especially long range hunting. He was a good hardworking young man and a lover of all things outdoors. I have agonized over what I could do as a memorial to him, and after talking it over with his brother; I have decided to do a Bennett Jones memorial elk hunt. I am offering to the readers of this forum a chance to go on an elk hunt in Ben's memory, here in Colorado. I would like this to be a first time elk hunt for a young person out there with a love of hunting, to try and inspire in him/her the things my son loved. If you have a son or daughter that you would like to take on a guided hunt, but just can’t seem to afford it, send me a note and tell me a little about them. Of course Dad is welcome to come along, and we can work out all the particulars later.
RIP, Bennett Jeremy Jones 1985-2010
Allen Jones is a water well contractor in central Colorado. He has lived and hunted with gun and bow in Colorado since moving there in 1975. He is a former state champion and all-American trapshooter and also loves long range shooting, varmint hunting and Texas hold em poker.