I took a break from the thick woods of the Mid-South last week to do some mule deer hunting in Colorado with my buddy Miles Fedinec (970-629-9894). Miles is owner of FMF Outdoors, and rapidly gaining a reputation as one of the West’s top guides, particularly for mule deer and antelope. For the past month he had been watching mule deer by the dozens filter out of nearby cover – cedar draws, sprawling sage flats, and a thick river bottom – and into a massive irrigated alfalfa field. Sound like a familiar pattern?
Miles has grown up with western big game. But he’s hunted a variety of environments for a variety of animals (including whitetails with me here in Kentucky). From African plains game to red stag in Argentina, Miles says the bed-to-food ambush works for any animal on the planet. “Sure, it’s not the romantic stalk all you eastern guys envision when you’re dreaming of killing your big muley,” he told me. “But the fact is, if you can set up and catch that buck on the way to his food, that’s your very best chance of killing him. Why? Because you’ve patterned him, know where he’s coming from and where he’s going.”
It’s sounding more familiar all the time.
A fairly zealous but friendly young police officer pulled me over in my rental car on my way from the Denver Airport to Craig, Miles’ hometown. He caught me doing 10 over, and asked if I’d been smoking weed. Odd question, I thought, since I’ve never even tried it (honestly), but hey, it is Colorado, a melting pot of physically fit hippies and rednecks. He let me go with a warning to slow down and a good-luck wish on getting my buck.
With only an hour of daylight left to show me around the alfalfa field that evening, Miles pulled his truck to a stop next to a tall stack of hay bales to do some glassing. “There he is,” he said after about 2 minutes. Sure enough, the buck stepped out of the river bottom, crossed a dirt road and strolled out into the field.
We tucked a ground blind into the sage about 50 yards from that dirt road the following afternoon. There was cold, steady rain falling when we climbed into blind, and Miles, the westerner used to driving and walking but not sitting, was antsy after 30 minutes. But then deer began showing up. My buck walked into the field, out of range, with a full two hours of shooting light left.
There were at least two dozen deer in the field, but they all seemed to be members of their own little “cliques.” My buck was hanging with a grown doe and a velvet spike. For whatever reason, those two deer decided to turn from their hangout 150 yards in the field and trot straight toward the blind. They passed by at 30 yards. My buck followed right behind them, and I had to bleat to stop him. I was at full draw, and he was at 23 yards, quartering sharply to me. The arrow buried to the nock between the neck and shoulder blade, and he piled up within sight of the blind.
It came together like a classic early season whitetail hunt. There was just a big, cool mule deer lying at the end of the trail. And it proved that a good early season pattern works on big bucks everywhere. Regardless of how big their ears are.