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franklin county times

Mike's buck and bull hunt

By By Otha Barham / outdoors editor
November 5, 2004
Mike Giles finally let his spirit of adventure and his curiosity about the big deer of the western mountains win out. He made a trip to Colorado to see what all the excitement was about. And on his very first trip, he bagged both an outstanding mule deer buck and a fine bull elk.
Mike's success speaks well not only of his known skills as an outdoorsman, but also of meticulous preparation. There is a significant financial expense in making a western hunt, and Mike was dedicated to preparing himself and his gear to give himself every opportunity for success. It paid off.
When his chance came as a big bull stepped through a small opening at about 150 yards, Mike made the shot offhand that dropped the bull within a few feet. This after having scouted the herd for days from long range with binoculars and becoming familiar with their bedding area near the top of a mountain that required climbing to lung-busting heights.
The bull grazed with a small herd where Mike knew getting the animal out after a kill would mean an almost superhuman struggle. He walked a horse over a mile to the mountain base for the retrieve. Leaving the horse with this writer, who would ease up the mountain at a snail's pace, he climbed up to the elk to scare off the magpies and prepare the bull for packing.
Long walk out
Then he led the horse, loaded with all four quarters of the elk, to the top from the back side of the mountain, and then down through the aspens and across a sagebrush flat to the truck. Finally, he walked the horse back to its trailer where it had been stashed well away from the impassable mud trails near the kill site.
Mike's mule deer was the objective of his trip. He grew up hunting southern whitetails and a big deer was naturally, though still somewhat surprisingly, his principle goal on this hunting trip for both deer and elk. Most hunters traveling to the Rockies seek elk. These giant deer of the sagebrush, pinion, aspen and cedar covered ridges capture the hearts of all who hunt them. They are the size of three mule deer, sport gorgeous antlers and can be called with manmade callers. Their venison is delicious and they are plentiful.
But on just the second day of Colorado's mid-October season, Mike's plan was to abandon the elk quest and seek a mule deer. I knew that each passing day meant added distancing from the early October elk rut and a lesser chance to call a bull to the gun. And each passing day inched us closer to the beginning of the mule deer rut. My emphasis would have been on elk early in the nine-day season and on muleys in its closing days.
Mike, however, stuck to his plan. He hiked into an area called Cedar Ridge and spotted some deer on a mountainside. He glassed the deer from an adjacent sparsely covered ridge and soon found a heavy bodied deer in the small herd. He waited two hours for the buck to stand up, which he finally did as some does passed close by the resting deer. The big buck was somewhat spooked by the does and Mike's second offhand shot dropped him as the deer was fleeing his resting place. This was perhaps a 300 yard shot.
The size of the monstrous deer shocked Mike when he climbed downslope and up the other side to the buck. The fallen animal was accessible by a 4-wheeler, so Mike headed for his truck and a trip back to town brought help and an ATV.
When he and Gary Beason returned for the buck, snow was falling so heavily that he could see only a few yards. His buck was completely covered with snow and not easily located. But Mike had a GPS reading on the deer just for such possibilities as a snowstorm. Good preparation again.
Prepare, prepare
This success story has its roots in preparing well for the hunt. Mike asked perhaps hundreds of questions in the months and days leading up to the hunt. There was hardly any aspect of hunting mule deer and elk that he didn't address with his questions and research. And he asked anyone who had experience with these game animals so that he had several viewpoints.
When he entered the enchanted world of the big, gray muley bucks and the tan and chocolate bull elk he was ready to hunt them. And when the mercury dropped to 22 degrees, he knew how to stay toasty warm all night in an unheated tent. He faced very few surprises.
The lesson here for aspiring western mountain hunters is learning as much as you can about the experience before you spend the bucks to make the trip. Follow Mike Giles approach and you can't find a better blueprint.

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