The whitetail rut in is definitely heating up. Plenty of action was taking place in the wide open prairie country and river bottoms of this region October 22nd through October 26th. David Morris and I just concluded our third consecutive whitetail hunt in as many seasons on the plains of Colorado with the “master of the prairie spot and stalk,” Aaron Nielson, of Global Hunting Resources. Our strategy has normally been to locate mature bucks to hunt just after daylight when most deer travel from the crop fields to bed in the sparsely vegetated rolling hillsides or in the thick cottonwood and tamarack choked dry river bottoms. Success on our prior hunts here had not depended on intense rut activity. More so, we have depended on the late fall feeding patterns still intact during the pre-rut period for success on this hunt.
We arrived in Southeast Colorado on October 21st to find that the area crop fields, normally grown to over head high, were only half developed at best, only knee high in most places. The John Deere tractors and harvesters that gather tons of grain this time of year were parked. Drought conditions in the area we hunt have run roughshod over the crops and native vegetation as well. After looking over several mature bucks on the first day we were fully aware that antler growth had been negatively affected. And common sightings of bucks with half their racks broken off or with multiple broken points indicated to us that we may be in for a tough hunt. I have never seen so many bucks with broken racks, especially this early in the season. These bucks were seen daily. Pre-rut sparring and fighting had definitely occurred before we arrive.
An abundance of pre-rut behavior was observed during the first four days of our hunt. Bucks posturing and sparring were common. Bucks making and tending scrapes were observed daily in numbers. Plenty of brush breaking and an occasional clash of antlers could be heard while sitting on the bluffs glassing into the thick tamarack while waiting for deer to begin their late afternoon journey to the crop fields uphill. We observed several mature bucks during the first four days hunting, but no gross 170+ B&C racks like we`ve encountered the previous two seasons. I did get excited about a fantastic 150 class 8 point, with 8” to 9” brow tines, which we located the first morning. We stalked him on the third day without success. David Morris was still shopping after four days.
Weather reports indicated that the last day of our hunt would be wet, windy, and cold. There was a good chance of snow or freezing rain. Temperatures thus far had been as high as 85 F degrees in the afternoon, hardly conducive to major deer movement and rut activity during daylight hours. Daily we located bedded bucks through our Leupold spotting scopes as they held tight to cover, sometimes bedded all afternoon until after shooting hours had passed before getting up to make a living. We hoped that a change in the weather would kick the bucks into a higher level of daylight rut activity immediately. And it did.
October 26th, our last morning began in typical fashion with Aaron guiding us to a vantage point before daylight, high on a bluff overlooking the river bottom, with crop fields uphill a mile or so in the distance across the dry river bed. Today, unlike the four previous days, deer did not pour out of the corn and milo fields at first light. This grey misty cold morning had the bucks stirred up and hanging tight with small doe groups in the plains far above the thick river bottom. There was no doe chasing observed, but the bucks were hanging close to their potential girlfriends. We located a 160 B&C class 8 pt with several does on a hillside close to camp in the broad open around 8:00 AM. This sighting led to the conclusion of David Morris` hunt four hours later. Aaron`s relentless pursuit of this buck across three or four miles or so of yucca/sage plains guided us all the way. It all ended in a thick tamarack creek bottom where David took this 24” wide monster 8 point with a spectacular running shot at 150 yards. David`s buck had refused to part with a small band of does until the final moments just before he separated him for from the small herd with his Sako A7 Tecomate Rifle, .270 WSM.
After lunch we repeated nearly the same exercise, but with a bit more exhilaration, as I blundered my way into another heavy beamed mature Colorado 8 pointer at the conclusion of the final day. I did burn up more Winchester Supreme cartridges than David Morris, but all is well that ends well. Further reports from camp since we departed on October 27th indicate that rut activity has intensified. The recent harvest of two 170 class bucks since David and I left camp on October 27th is strong evidence that by now the whitetail rut in Eastern Colorado is in full swing!
Posted by David Shashy