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Colorado's 2nd Rifle Season

October 26, 2009.

Colorado's 2nd Combined Rifle Season for deer and elk ran from October 17 to October 25. Expectations for the season had been high, with lots of bull elk roaming the mountains.

According to an informal estimate by one of the butchers at Rocky Mountain Meats in Wheatridge, CO, volumes are running slightly below average. Based on what he was hearing from hunters, lack of tracking snow was being blamed for modest success rates.

Most of the pickups coming down from the hills have been empty, although the elk racks that you could see sticking up have looked pretty respectable. My observation, by the way, is that there tends to be an inverse relation between the number of ATVs a pickup is towing and the likelihood that they have elk horns in tow.

Bears seem to have been active in the 2nd season. One elk hunter who took a nice 6-point down near Trinidad told me he lost the back straps of his elk to a bear. After downing 60 pounds or so of elk meat, the bear then raided their camp that night and took 5 cans of beer (exactly what I would want if I had just eaten 60 pounds of elk chops).

My kids' babysitter told my wife that she was chased by a bear during her 2nd season deer hunt. Details are a little sketchy on that one, but overall, bears appear to have been abundant and active.

Personally, I had very little luck elk hunting, see only a few tracks in some very nasty country. I was elk hunting on National Forest near Granby, CO, and heard very little shooting in general.

I did take a very modest mulie, however, the first I've taken in several years.

The ranch I was hunting for deer was supposed to have the potential to produce some nice animals, but reports from hunters who were there before me indicated that deer numbers were way down this year, for whatever reason.

My season got off to a late start due to an H1N1 outbreak in my household. When I did get up to the mountains, I saw only a single doe for the first day and a half I hunted. This combination of events quickly weakened my resolve to hold out for a big deer.

On thursday evening, I drove up to some sage brush country to set up to glass for deer.

As I drove out, I came right up on a group of 4 feeding bucks. These were classic old-school non-spooky mulies who largely ignored my truck and kept right on feeding.

I jumped out of the truck with all the grace of the Keystone Cops, grabbed and loaded my rifle, crawled up about 40 yards, then set up my shooting sticks for a 200-yard shot. It just seemed too easy, however. And after I looked the bucks over I felt that I wanted to hold out for something larger.

I watched them through my scope for about 10 minutes, then heard a 4-wheeler coming up the same road I had just driven up. It was a side-by-side ATV carrying a father-and-son pair of elk hunters I had met earlier.

They took a different fork in the road than the one I was on, and drove quite close to the deer. Suddenly seeing them, they stopped and watched them.

"Uh oh, he's about to shoot one," said the son, having noticed me on the shooting sticks.

I kept debating whether to shoot one, and the father and son eventually backed down the road they were on, away from the deer. This spooked the deer over the ridge and out of sight.

I walked over to the father and son, who had been hunting this area for 6 days straight. Those were the first bucks they had seen in all that time. In the previous 4 years they had hunted this spot, they always saw far more deer.

My 2009 Colorado Mule Deer

The father and son apologetically headed back out to look for elk. Now that the deer were no longer in my sights, I suddenly wanted one of them very much.

So I made a big long circular uphill stalk to where I thought they'd be. The stalk went perfectly, and I came right up on the bucks. I set up the shooting sticks at 100 yards, and drew a bead on the biggest buck.

I squeezed the trigger of my .300 Winchester Magnum ... but nothing happened?!?!

I stared down at the gun in disbelief and the firing pin suddenly unfroze, launching a round over the heads of the deer.

I jacked in another round while the miraculously patient mulies stood there. I squeezed the trigger, and again, nothing happened. I looked down very carefully and saw the cocking indicator of the Remington 700 action was not set.

I jacked in my 3rd and final round, and saw the gun was still not cocked.

Very stressed out, I pulled out the bolt and banged it around. I reloaded the gun and tried to rechamber several times.

I finally got a round in chamber and had the cocking indicator looking good. Regrouping, I quickly settled down and got back on the biggest buck. The head-on shot went right through throat and shattered his spine, dropping him.

I fell back on my ass and shook my head.

Details of the rifle problem are a little unclear, but I probably short-stroked the action when I first piled out of the truck, and when I disassembled the bolt and cleaned the firing pin it was fairly dirty (though definitely not extremely so). After cleaning I was unable to reproduce the cocking failure, so this seems to have been the key issue.

The buck I took was very modest, 22" wide, 4x4, with shallow forks. First mulie I've taken in a long time, however, and the meat in the freezer takes the pressure off my remaining hunts.

Recovered 180-grain 30-caliber TSX

Interestingly, I recovered my bullet while skinning. This is the first Barnes Triple-Shock I've recovered since I started using them almost exclusively a couple years back. It had entered the buck head-on, penetrated about two feet of neck muscle and spine, then lodged under the skin of his back.

My 30-caliber 180-grain TSX didn't have the picture-perfect petals you see in Barnes' advertising, but it had certainly opened up. And, heaven knows, the end result was quite effective.


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