My last article described the slapstick comedy of my first inept attempt at shooting a mule deer in Colorado. I mentioned that it was a three-day hunt, and on the first day, after the fiasco of missing that first buck in the morning, I finally was able to shoot a good-sized six pointer that afternoon.
However, before we had left Texas to drive to Colorado, I jokingly had asked my father-in-law, “With this being a three-day hunt, what do I do with the remaining two days if I bag a deer on the first day?”
Naturally, we both had laughed, and he replied, “You can go fishing, or you can continue hunting, and I will use my tag on anything you shoot.”
Little did I know that this would actually happen. Plus I certainly didn’t know that my “propensity for absurdity” would also continue on day two when my fishing attempts were an abject failure and on day three of our hunt when I could have landed in jail. Day one had been humiliating enough, I thought.
Regarding fishing, for the life of me I have no idea why I did not do some sort of investigation or inquiry regarding successful ways to catch fish in Colorado.
My only fishing experiences had pretty much been limited to the Brazos River, Lake Whitney, and the little lake at Cleburne State Park. I just remember, as I was still packing the night before we left, hastily grabbing my spinning rod and freshwater tackle box (I also had a saltwater tackle box that I used for fishing at Port Aransas).
I believe John Thompson was writing outdoor articles for the Star-Telegram then, and I could have easily called him and received some much valuable information. No, dopey me, I just thought fishing was fishing and threw my fishing gear in the back of the camper on a mere whim, and off we went to Colorado the next morning.
Sure enough, after downing that buck the first day, on the second day I chose to stay near camp and do some fishing in the three or four beaver ponds I had noticed nearby while my father-in-law and brother-in-law continued to hunt. They left long before daylight to take up their positions before the deer started moving around; I waited until right at daybreak to leave camp.
Thus with spinning rod and tackle box I set out to catch a bunch of trout, hopefully for us to have for supper that evening. Man, I could already taste that sumptuous meal now—freshly baked trout! With a vision of ten or so fat trout hanging from my stringer, I merrily hiked to the nearest beaver pond about a couple of hundred yards away.
Stopping some yards away so I would not disturb the unsuspecting trout, I opened up my tackle box and began deciding which fish killer should I select first. Hmm—would it be my Arbogast green Jitterbug, a good bass getter; my large Rapala minnow; or a crippled shad? I selected the Rapala and then eased my head up so I could see where my hapless victims lay.
Sure enough, there were a half a dozen trout lazily swimming around in the water, and I casually cast my lure out, confident that I would have a stringer full in no time with that many trout easily visible.
My lure landed with a splash, and all of the trout promptly disappeared. I slowly twitched the lure back to me, just certain that the trout would be fighting each other to gobble up that delicious-looking bait. Darn! No luck!
I tossed that lure out to various points around the pond but to no avail. I tried six or seven of those lures and still had no success. Strangely enough, after visiting three other beaver ponds in the area, with the same resulting failure, I trudged back to camp, firmly convinced that Colorado trout were just prejudiced against Texas visitors, like some of the two-legged folks up there are.
Pretty much discouraged by my lack of success, I really had no desire to go out hunting that afternoon and decided to wait until the next morning to give that a try again. By mid-afternoon Pop and my brother-in-law came in, having had no luck either. After telling them what lures I had used in fishing, I could not understand why Pop died laughing.
Shortly after, we began driving down the dirt road to go to Creede for supper, and we saw an elderly gentleman walking up the road, carrying a light spinning rod and a nice stringer of trout. Pop, just having to rub it in regarding my ineptitude, stopped and casually asked him what he had used for bait.
The old fellow nonchalantly replied, “Salmon eggs and kernel corn.”
The next day, our last day dawned, and we three were already sitting quietly in the dark in our hopefully successful spots that we had picked out in three different directions. Seeing only a couple of does, I stayed in my position until about nine o’clock and then began slowly still hunting again--taking a few steps, doing a 180-degree scan from left to right, and then cautiously proceeding.
After about an hour and a half of this, I suddenly heard some smashing up ahead in this thicket of quaking aspen and saw something brown and large bolting away. I immediately stopped and sat on a log to give the deer some time to settle down and hopefully go back to grazing or even lying down.
I thought to myself, “All right — this is the last day. We are to hunt till lunch and then come back to camp to eat and pack up to leave for Texas. I am going to focus solely on this deer; as large as its body seemed, it had to be a big buck.”
After waiting about 30 to 40 minutes, I slowly continued my stalk and came to the exact spot were the big buck and jumped up and ran off through the quakies. Sure enough, I found his tracks where he had dug in and blasted his way out of that thicket.
Good grief! Ordinarily, you can make a fist and set it down in a deer’s track to measure its size. This track held both my fists side by side! Holy mackerel!
This had to be the biggest mule deer in the state of Colorado! I vowed to myself then to successfully hunt down this Boone and Crockett winner; he would surely set all kinds of records.
So on I journeyed, patiently following his tracks and determined to triumph this time after my various blunders on this trip. I trailed him for another hour and a half, jumping him way ahead of me twice but with no clear shot through all the trees.
However, he was angling higher, and the trees were thinning out, so hopefully I might be able to manage a two-hundred yard shot or so and down him.
Of course, with the mule deer going higher, the air was also getting thinner, and I was wheezing like a pair of bagpipes. Suddenly, I heard a whistle, and down from higher above came Pop and my brother-in-law.
When they got closer, I excitedly told him about this world-record mule deer that I was tracking, and now maybe the three of us could bag him.
Pop looked at me rather irritatedly and said, “That was not a mule deer you were trailing; we could see from up above you that that was an elk! If you had shot it, without an elk tag, they would toss you in jail and throw away the key!”
What’s that old saying, “I can’t seem to win for losing?”
Weldon Reed is a Cleburne
resident who recently
returned to his hometown.
He can be reached at