We started the just over 30 hour drive from Sagamore, MA with the same anticipation as usual: Big Bucks in South East Colorado!
A year ago John Setterlund, long time hunting partner and good friend, missed what would have been his biggest buck ever. John was set up in the crooked cottonwood, as we call it, on the Arkansas River in Las Animas, Colorado. It’s a small community in south eastern Colorado where the Purgatory River and the Arkansas River meet to form the John Martin Reservoir. These two rivers make their journey from the Rocky Mountains about 200 miles east, running about 5 miles apart and separated by wide open prairie. Few creeks, like Horse and Adobe Creeks, add to the river bottom where the deer dwell. Thousands of acres of private and public land create a great sanctuary where both mule and whitetail deer abound. Having few predators, such as bear or lion, makes it possible for these bucks to reach maturity. With the main crops in the area especially for raising cattle, there is plenty to eat for all the deer. Last year on his first set ever in Colorado, John saw a 300+, 160+class whitetail. He missed him clean, so he practiced this shot all summer long in hopes of another opportunity.
We arrived early in the morning on a beautiful day. November 4th was opening day for the second bow season which should have been during the deer’s full rut. We had a little problem. The moon was full and for the next seven days, buck sightings were few and far between. We tried hunting mid-day, mornings, evenings…. Nothing seemed to work. Fortunately, about 7 days into the hunt the activity started. Bucks were on the move at sunset and sunrise again.
John took up a stand on the south side of the Purgatory River. He arrived at 7:30 in the morning and put out a Wildlife Research Doe in Estrus Scent Wick and climbed up in his tree. About one hour later, my phone rang. “Boomer, I jus have arrowed a massive 8 pointer!” Steve Englert, our good friend from Las Animas, and I were on a morning duck hunt when I received the call. We had a couple of green heads in the bag. We had also been fishing for some of the 5-10 lb catfish, but no luck. So we picked up and headed to the river. John was eagerly waiting for our arrival to help track his buck. He directed us to where he had last seen the buck and within a few yards we found good blood. A few yards later and there he was… a huge bodied Colorado eight point whitetail. John turned inside out, thanking the good Lord for a clean kill and great trophy. After a short drag, John and I had him in the river and dragged him across to “Big Red”, our 1974 F250 which does a great job for us on our river bottom adventures. We took him to the local market where just a year ago we weighed in Frank Leonardo’s 184 lb 10 pt buck that won the Massachusetts Bowhunters Largest Out of State Award. Once on the scale, it tipped at 194 lbs! Will it be the winner of the Big Buck contest? We will have to wait and see. John is beside himself to say the least.
I hunted the Arkansas that evening and caught a glimpse of a great 10 point but too far to late. I decided the next morning to hunt the stand John shot his buck from. So, the next morning, I did just that. I was set up at 5:57, legal shooting time, sat for a couple of minutes and out of the corner of my eye I noticed a good buck heading my way. A few minutes later and a perfect broadside pass through. I looked at my watch…. 7 minutes past 6 AM. I’d have to say it was my shortest hunt ever. Just 10 minutes and I had my buck. I called John and we dragged him across the Purgatory and loaded up “Big Red” once again. I didn’t bother weighing my buck in as John’s was way bigger. We estimated him around 150 lbs. and a nice 9 pointed.
We both worked hard the next day getting both our bucks cut up for the drive home. Finishing late in the afternoon, we had a great supper and early to bed as we would head out at 5 AM for our 30 hour ride home. The ride went quick as we reminisced about the hunt of the two bucks the two buddies had harvested out of the same stand in two days. We both look forward to next year and maybe, hopefully, doing the same thing. It doesn’t get much better than that and who knows, maybe the frosting on the cake will be John’s buck winning the MBA Big Buck Out of State Award. We will just have to wait until the banquet in March.
All the best,
Dennis “Boomer” Hayden