This is a little late but I spent a weekend this year chasing Mulies on the eastern plains and had a ball. It inspired me to throw up a few pics and video because I had that much fun!
We did try something new this year, I finally got around to building a “deer head hat” decoy under the direct tutelage of Lou Phillipe. Or maybe it would be more correct to say he gave me the instructions and I cobbled it together from there.
I headed out last Thursday about 4 am arriving in eastern Colorado about 8ish. I was hunting a new property (State Wildlife Area) and planned on scouting/hunting all day, so I packed a lunch and took off. The county was WIDE open, as is most of eastern Colorado and I knew I’d have a tough hunt in front of me.
I was enjoying myself exploring some new country. It was on a fairly large parcel and on the map it looked like the main access road ended about midway through the property leaving several inaccessible miles, or so I thought. A couple hours into my tour I noticed a truck cutting across what I thought was the “inaccessible” section. This repeated itself throughout the day and between the vehicles and the cows I was quickly thinking about my “B” plan options.
I did run into a single whitetail buck early afternoon in the open county. I was pretty excited, I saw him first and the wind was perfect. So I quickly dropped to my hands and knees and threw on my fancy ballcap (deer head decoy). But about as soon as I started heading his way he started to quickly trot away. I’m fairly certain he never saw me; I think he just got nervous crossing a large open tract with no cover and I think he came up out of the river bottom to grab a quick drink at a stock-tank.
I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the dry creek which runs through the property. There was some encouraging sign, tracks, rubs and scrapes but I just felt like there was too much truck and cattle traffic to make it worthwhile.
I planned on hunting until the end of the day but pulled out a bit earlier as the rancher made another pass through the bottom right at prime time, I figured that was my hint to call it a day.
It took about an hour of splashing through the mud to make it back to my buddies house for the evening.
So the next morning things got a bit more interesting. Firstly, we relocated to some other SWA’s/State trust lands and some private we had access to. I spent a summer living out there which helps a ton when it comes to access and our buddy Tim Hall is a local, which helps even more. When we were heading out to our first spot we spotted a small buck 1/3 of a mile or so from the road, not thinking much of it we didn’t pay him much attention. But we noticed he seemed to be headed our way. I’m not much of a trophy hunter and would have gladly shot him but Tim convinced me we could do better. So still interested in testing out the new decoy hat I decided take it for a test drive, so to speak.
Anyway here’s what happened next, he was so engrossed in the smells of fall, nose to the ground with no other care in the world. That I jumped out of the truck and walked right out in the open, making it about 50 yards from the rig before he realized I was there. And even with the truck in plain sight and the fact we’re sitting on a county road he still came over to check me out. At the end he was no further than 20 yards staring at me.
After that encounter both Tim and I couldn’t believe what had just happened, that we had just decoyed a buck in plain sight of the truck from the dang road. We both stared at the hat like it was a magical unicorn (which it kinda was); it really was a pretty dang cool experience!
And no one can make fun of my blue jeans, super stealthy stalking skills or my superior crawling where I stick my arse way up in the air to add confusion to the setup!
Minutes after this encounter we took off down the road to glass another canyon and almost the second we pulled up Tim says “something just crossed the road behind us.” He thought it might have been a coyote so we didn’t give it much thought but minutes later saw a pretty awesome buck working away from the truck. In about a half-second we were scrambling after him but he was motoring. In the time it took us to pile out of the truck he was already ½ mile away. We took off after him and I learned my first rookie lesson with this open county Mulie thing, keep your eyes on them! I didn’t see where he’d crossed over a small crest but Tim said he saw him go over the next ridge, so we kept on going trying to catch up. But when we got to the ridge expecting him to be another ½ mile away (and I was scanning as I crested the top but in the wrong direction) I hear Tim giving me the psst, psst, which is never good. I turned 90 degrees to my left and he’s staring at me from about 60 yards. Dang it… I’m kicking myself!
He never really ran too far and we thought we might get a second shot but he wasn’t that stupid. We did find a spot of blood on the tracks he was following which confirmed our suspicion that things were started to heat up.
The next morning we almost hit a buck crossing the road in the exact same spot we’d seen the buck the previous day. We kept driving and when out of sight quickly pulled over and took off across the pasture at a diagonal from what we guessed was his intended travel path. This time we got lucky and spotted him before he saw us AND I mentally marked exactly where he disappeared crossing the horizon. With that we took off, almost at a sprint, across the prairie. When we crested the ridge we were scanning everywhere and for a brief second saw him sky-lined on the next little rise. Again, we took off trying to cut the distance. But when we crested the second ridge I couldn’t see him and again hear the psst, psst with my brother whispering “he’s to your right.” Sure enough he’d already made it another 300 yards and he wasn’t where I was expecting him but this time we got lucky and he hadn’t seen us.
I grunted quickly and with the decoys up got his attention. After a few brief seconds studying us he headed our way. I could tell he was trying to circle downwind and knew it was going to be close. I whispered to my brother “how far” and he responded with “40.” I didn’t think that sounded right but when he stopped to smell where we’d just walked through I drew back and put my 45 pin on him and let an arrow fly. We both watched as the arrow slid under his chest. We later stepped it off at 60, which was embarrassing and worse yet I had a range finder in my hand when I asked him how far. It just all went down too quick and I lost it in the heat of the moment. He would have been my best buck to date! It was both exhilarating and pretty humbling at the same time.
After the oh so sad miss we decided to check out another spot. As we pulled into the property we decided to quickly glass a large draw. About 2 seconds after the binos were up I about shouted “ shooter buck” again about 500 yards from the truck we have a good buck headed right at us (were not so sure how smart these Mulies really are!?) We really didn’t even know what to do but started scrambling, piling out trying to get bows and decoys out. In all honesty, I thought about hiding behind the truck as he was approaching so fast. We did manage to sneak out about 30 yards and somewhat get hidden in some weeds along the fence-line. All this time and he’s still coming at breakneck speed, but finally at about 70 yards we think he caught our wind (the entire time the wind was blowing directly at him).
But now I’m really confused, was my decoy hat awesome from the day before or does my big grey Dodge look like a sexy doe? We may never know…
Unfortunately that’s concludes my story (or at least the cool part). We did have another stalk that afternoon but were quickly reminded that not all Mulies are suicidal, but still had a blast trying. Hoping to get back out while things are still heated up!