Mule Deer Hunting – Not This Day | Mia’s Motivations

I was pumped to have drawn a Mule Deer buck tag for second rifle season in Durango, Colorado.  We were up before the crack of dawn.  I guzzled my coffee and donned my layers of camo.  It was a brisk fall morning, and I knew I needed to wear enough clothes for the worst weather but also be able to remove some in the event the sun decided to shine.  We drove off in the darkness before anything stirred.

We arrived at the bottom of the mountain and unloaded from the pickup.  I donned my blaze orange and slung my rifle over my shoulder.  It for sure felt like fall.  We hiked up the mountain, and as the sun began to rise, we saw the frost sparkle off every tree and blade of grass.  It was a cool 23 degrees in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Before we could even walk more than 100 yards from the truck, we spotted a decent little buck.  He stood there broad-side mocking me as he knew it was still too dark to shoot, and we were too close to the road and houses.  I could not take him there, or should I say, I would not take him there.  I admired him and imagined all the other deer we would find on the mountain.

We hiked along a small game trail, and the fog rolled so thick we could barely see ten feet ahead of us.  I could feel the moisture as the thick air rolled past.  I wondered what could be nearby that would hear or smell us and never be seen.  We hiked quietly through the oak brush and suddenly heard a crashing sound as something winded us and ran, breaking a branch.  We whispered about what it must have been.  We were in deer country, but we both decided it had to have been an elk.  Its stomping sounds as it ran were much too heavy to have been a deer.  We looked for tracks and sure enough, found a big bull track.  We were looking for a buck, so we continued.

The fog cleared out, and the rain began.  The rain beat on the hood of my jacket as the wind tried its hardest to blow it back.  We hiked on and on, stopping to scan across the valley.  We looked under the trees, in the brush and fields to see if we could spot a buck.  Nothing.  I stood there with the water gushing off the front of my hood, and I was thankful for my many layers and great gear.  I was dry as could be beneath it all.

With each step, my legs grew heavier as the mud clung to my hunting boots.  It held my feet down as I lifted my legs and ascended the mountain.  With the thick mud hanging on, each step was tough as we slipped on the smooth, wet river rock.  I panted as quietly as I could and we pressed on.

Atop the ridge, the rain slowed a little.  The wind continued.  It ripped across my face.   I held tight to my hood and ducked my head as we dumped over the hill’s edge to escape the fierce gusts.  I was sure the deer were doing more than we were.  They were bedded down tight.  I wished for the weather to turn, which was granted shortly after as the hail came.  It didn’t last long, and it was just the last attempt by mother nature to get me off the mountain.  The attempt was half-hearted, and we remained as the sun began to show through the gray clouds.

I removed my hood as the sun peeked out.  I began to smile as the sun kissed my frozen nose and I remembered that all these challenges were exactly why I enjoyed hunting so much.  I love to get out and feel mother nature.  I like to become connected.  Most of all, I enjoy the challenge.

I hiked as silently as I could feeling the earth under my feet.  I felt the rocks or the sticks beneath my boots with each step.  I adjusted my weight as I moved not to make a sound but to keep my balance on the slick, wet terrain.  I moved a little easier now that I wasn’t defending myself from the weather.

The deer also began to move.  We spotted four does that had come out in the sun.  They peered at us as though they knew it was not them that we were looking for.  I admired their beauty, whispered “Good morning ladies.” and hiked away from them and across the valley, through a bog, and up another ridge.

“Good morning ladies”

The temperatures were rising, and now I was beginning to become soaking wet from the inside as I sweated in my layers of gear.  We took a break while I silently slipped some layers off and put them in my pouch, leaving my raincoat on because I knew Colorado….  the weather may change at any time.

Once my gear was fully adjusted we hiked on.  We spotted fresh elk tracks in the mud.  What?!  More elk tracks down here in the lowlands?  This time of year this should be deer country.  We searched around for buck tracks and spotted a few doe tracks, MORE elk tracks, a couple more doe tracks, and even MORE elk tracks.  We followed the top of the ridge, keeping to the trees, and had the same experience nearly the whole way until I spotted some gray ears with white tips.  Yes, it was more does.  Five this time.  I scanned around me to see if a buck could hide among them in the trees, but there was no buck in the group.  They looked at me as I stood motionless and then they slowly walked over the ridge.

We knew there would be more deer, so we hunted on.  We hiked all day stopping to glass across the hills.  We spotted small bucks across the valley.  They were nothing large enough to shoot.  We spotted nearly 40 does that first day, but never a good shooter buck.  I didn’t let the day dampen my spirits.  It was so great to be out there, and I still had several days to go!  I went to bed with sore muscles that night from the hiking and dreamt of the days to come.

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Mia Anstine is an outdoor writer, licensed outfitter, hunting guide, life coach, keynote speaker, and range safety officer, firearms instructor, and archery instructor. She is the founder of MAC Outdoors and Host of the MAC Outdoors Podcast. 

Mia Anstine strives to encourage others to get outside, hunt, fish, shoot, and survive life with others in a positive way.

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Mia Anstine
MAC Outdoors LLC
PO Box 31
Ignacio, CO 81137-0031

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