Lifetime 220-inch Colorado Mule Deer
BY CHRIS SEVERS
The 2014 hunting season had finally arrived. I was working in Dallas when my dad called and asked if I’d be able to fly out to a Colorado mule deer hunt in one week. My grandfather needed surgery and his operation was scheduled for the same time as the hunt. I understood my dad’s desire to be at my grandfather’s side for the surgery. Although also concerned about my grandfather’s wellbeing, I knew he would want me to go on the hunt. I was overwhelmed with excitement at the opportunity of going on a mule deer hunt, and booked my flight to Colorado. My dad’s been hunting mule deer in Colorado with Tri-State Outfitters for the past seven years, so I knew there’d be an opportunity to take a quality mule deer. Nevertheless, if someone had shown me a photo of the first mule deer I ever hunted, prior to the hunt, I never would have believed them.
In preparing for the hunt, I went to the range and made sure I could shoot out to at least 500 yards with my 300 ultra mag. My dad told me his average shot distance was close to 300 yards and that he had taken shots exceeding 500 yards. Over the years, I’ve seen the photos and mounts of incredible mule deer he has taken in Colorado, and I knew the shot I made would be crucial.
On the morning of November 5th, I departed the Dallas Fort Worth airport and picked up my rental vehicle after touching down in Colorado. I rendezvoused with my guide, Chip Beiner, at a local sporting goods store, picked up my mule deer tag, and followed him out to the hunting lodge. Chip guided my first antelope hunt in New Mexico back in August of 2010, so I knew he was an excellent guide. When we arrived at the lodge, Chip immediately told me to throw on my hunting clothes and be ready for action after lunch. We went into town to grab a meal and met with other hunters and guides. As it turned out, there were a lot of familiar faces and I had a good feeling about this hunt. After lunch, Chip and I hit the road.
While on our way, we discussed the upcoming hunt and the time Chip had just spent with my parents a month earlier on an elk hunt. We drove for nearly an hour before reaching the legal hunting boundary, at which point I scanned the horizon for mule deer. It didn’t take more than twenty minutes before Chip and I saw all sorts of wildlife. After scouting for about an hour, Chip spotted a massive mule deer bedded down near a tree about 200 yards off one of the dirt roads we were using to cut across the property. When I looked out the truck window, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was looking at an extraordinary buck with tall forks and mass that carried through his whole frame. He looked like a shooter to me—the largest mule deer I had ever seen in person. Chip explained that the deer looked approximately six years old and might score somewhere in the mid 190’s. But given this was the first evening, and that we had five days to hunt, we decided to roll the dice and continue searching for my trophy mule deer. Reluctantly, I took Chip’s advice and passed on what would have been an exceptional trophy mule deer that I would have been proud to add to my growing collection of North American species.
Chip and I continued our search on another section of property; we started glassing a valley that was probably 500 yards across, a mile long, and fairly deep. In order to get a better idea of what type of bucks might be in the valley, we hiked to the edge and climbed down a ledge about twenty feet. As we canvased the valley, we saw some decent-sized mule deer with a group of does. After about twenty minutes of glassing, we saw another group of mule deer across the valley over 1,000 yards away, just as we were starting to lose our last shooting light. Chip said we would need to come back in the morning and hopefully get a better look at some of those mule deer we had just seen. Chip told me my dad had taken a nice bull elk a year ago in the same area. As we were heading back to the lodge, we saw another large group of does with a buck that I wouldn’t have thought twice about shooting, until I started hunting with Tri-State Outfitters. I knew we were hunting in the right area with all the action I had just witnessed.
When we arrived back at the lodge, the others were in the skinning shed processing a beautiful mule deer that another hunter had just harvested. The buck was perfectly symmetrical with a lot of mass and the largest pair of forks I’d ever seen. After listening to the hunter’s story of the stalk, we went in for a home-cooked meal. At dinner, one of the other hunters, George, asked me about my dad and why he couldn’t make it out this year. Like my dad, George has been hunting these same mule deer with Tri-State for years, often at the same time. It was obvious throughout the hunt why hunters like George and my father come back year after year. Tri-State Outfitters puts on a first-class operation that does not overhunt the game and is loyal to its hunters; this can all be attributed to the management by the owner, Bridger Petrini.
At 5:30 a.m., Chip and I took off in search for a trophy mule deer. After about an hour of driving, we arrived back at the location of the prior evening’s mule deer sighting. Chip said the mule deer were likely to be moving a lot over the duration of the hunt, because we were under a full moon and they were in the rut. The deer we had seen previously were nowhere to be found, but Chip had always had success seeing large bucks in this particular area. Then, Chip glassed over one of the ridges in the distance and saw a group of does with a buck about 1,000 yards away. At our angle and distance, we couldn’t really get a good idea of the size of the buck. We closed the gap to about 600 yards, where we were able to get a much better look. We about lost our minds!
All of the mule deer I had seen so far looked big in comparison to any other deer I’d ever seen; however, the buck in front of us dwarfed even the largest deer I’d seen at Tri-State. He had an enormous body with a neck the size of an elk. When I asked Chip what he thought, the tone of his voice started to change and his words started to stagger. The adrenaline was starting to flow. Chip looked over at me and said, “Get your gun ready Chris. That’s one of the biggest mule deer—if not THE biggest—I’ve ever seen!” Once Chip said that, I knew it was time to go bag the mule deer of a lifetime. Chip’s been guiding my dad for a long time and killed plenty of 190-200 inch class deer, and I knew if Chip thought the buck was big, then it was a shooter. As we made our stalk, and I tried to stay calm and under control, all I could think was, “I’m about to shoot the biggest buck of my life!” We made our approach and the buck was so caught up in the does that he didn’t notice us make one move. My heart was pounding out of my chest. The deer looked huge through my binoculars, and he was even bigger when I put my scope’s crosshairs on him. With a calm and collected exhale I made a perfect shot with my 300 ultra mag, inside of 100 yards, and the buck was dead in his tracks.
I was absolutely elated and still am as I recount the events leading up to November 6, 2014. It was likely the quickest big game hunt I’ve ever experienced, while so resoundingly successful. When I walked up to my buck, I couldn’t believe how quickly it had all happened. I may have spoiled hunting trophy mule deer for myself after getting a buck of this caliber on my first mule deer hunt, but you just never know when the next one’s going to walk in front of you. I’d taken a buck that most hunters search for their whole life. Chip and I knew the buck was easily over 200 inches, but we weren’t sure by how much.
I wanted to share the moment with my mom and dad as I knew none of this would be possible without them. So, we Facetimed them that morning while we were looking at the kill. My mom couldn’t believe I had shot a buck so quickly and my dad couldn’t believe the size of the buck. They were both overjoyed with excitement for me and this major milestone in my hunting career. It was my first record book North American kill. After taking photos for what felt like hours, I still couldn’t get the smile off of my face. Chip and I loaded the buck in the back of his truck and hurried back to camp to get the deer processed. I received countless congratulations from the rest of the hunters and guides back at camp, and then Chip and John each made their measurements on the buck. Uniformly, they came back with nearly 40 inches of mass measurements, matching 27 inch main beams, and a spread measurement of 30 inches. The buck came in at a final gross score of 220 inches! He is currently being scored officially for Boone and Crockett Club scoring, where I anticipate a matching score.