Come dawn in nine days, thousands of people will don orange caps and vests and suddenly become hunters. After months of strategy talks with friends, a few trips to the target range and a quick shopping spree at a local sporting goods store, they'll be ready to hunt.
They will have talked with the neighbors, heard a report on the news, have the inside story from the guy at the office, read the paper and remembered the way it was the last time they hunted, last year.On Oct. 21, about 200,000 hunters will take to the mountains. Some hunters will, of course, have a much better chance at success than others.
It is expected that at least one in three hunters will be successful. It is guessed that of the lucky ones, over half will be just that. They will be in the right place at the right time, and won't jerk the trigger.
The other half will apply some long-practiced hunting skills. In most cases, these will be the hunters with the bigger bucks to take to the locker plant. Trophy deer get that way not by luck, but by staying out of clearings and moving very little during daylight hours. Hunters that know this usually go where the big bucks are and hunt accordingly.
Woolstenhulme is one of the state's top hunting guides. When he hunts, he expects to find big deer, and his trophies prove it.
For example, he knows that big bucks like thick cover, and that they stay close to ridges so that at the slightest hint of danger they can be to one side or the other, and that in most cases deer will see more hunters than a hunters will see deer.
After spending considerable time in the mountains for the elk hunt, Woolstenhulme said one thing is certain: "I'd hunt where water is available. That's where the deer are, around water."
He also suggested hunters think low. "The mistake many will make is they'll hunt in the high country. I saw a few deer up high while on the elk hunt, but most were real low this year. Down in the brush."
He said, too, that big deer like thick brush and that a lot of hunters won't go near it, preferring instead more open areas that are easier to hunt . . . "And that's why the big bucks get that way."
Another mistake hunters make, he continued, is they get impatient. They walk when they should be looking . . . "especially down."
"I've seen deer sneak right between hunters. They'll tell you they didn't see a thing, and probably 30 deer went right between and around them. It's amazing how many deer will sneak back between hunters. When I hunt I stay low and look for legs and movement."
He also had other tips for hunters:
- The key to any hunt is to scout an area thoroughly. Get out before the hunt to see where the animals are.
- In checking out an area, look for signs of deer. The first thing to check are game trails. Trails with little use would indicate few deer in the area, and vice versa. Also, check small stands of aspen at the tops of canyons for signs where bucks have been scraping the velvet from their horns. Woolstenhulme said he has watched bucks stand at a tree for two hours scraping their horns.
- Plan to do most hunting in the early mornings and late evenings. That's when deer travel.
- When conducting a drive, push down a canyon, not up. Big deer, he said, will stay under ledges along the ridges so that at the slightest hint of trouble they can be over one side or the other. By pushing down a canyon, hunters can often cut off the retreat. Pushing up a canyon gives deer an avenue of escape. Also, hunters have a less-obstructed view from up higher.
"Personally, I don't like drives. Too often, all you do is push the deer off into another canyon for someone else to shoot. I prefer to wait and watch as the deer move," Woolstenhulme added.
- Hunters will notice that at this time of year bucks are running together. Usually, if hunters see one, and they wait, they'll see more. If the deer aren't spooked, a hunter may want to wait and see what's available. If a cold spell hits, bucks will start breaking into smaller groups in anticipation of the rut.
- Don't be too anxious to hike. Woolstenhulme said he prefers to let the big deer come to him, which is why he hunts very early and late, when the deer are moving, and enjoys the country during the day. Sometimes mid-day hunts can be productive, but he suggests hunters walk as slowly and quietly as possible . . . "Always being on the watch. Do it right and you can catch deer bedded down for the afternoon.
"From what I saw on the elk hunt this year, I'd hunt around water and I'd hunt low.
"I think, too, that this is going to be a good year for trophies. The big bucks are coming back after the bad winter of '83-84. I've seen a lot of deer with heavy horns."