A few years ago, a Colorado wildfire burned more than 150,000 acres of public hunting land in Pike National Forest, turning it into a hunting hotspot. But the skeletal remains of the charred trees, fallen and dropped into the area’s endless ravines, made the hunting challenging.
Kyle Lopez, 14, and his dad, Steed, who runs Sandre De Cristo Outfitters, knew that the more rugged the terrain, the better the hunting. They were hunting along the ridges, constantly checking the snarled timber, when a huge mule deer buck leapt to his feet and charged away from them, his perfect typical rack towering over his head.
Kyle had time to snap his .270-caliber short mag to his shoulder for two quick shots, but missed. As he and his dad turned for the long hike back to their truck, he was downcast, since tomorrow would be Monday.
Football Interferes With Hunting
Monday’s meant school, followed by football practice. If there was one thing Kyle Lopez didn’t like about football season, it was the way it wrecked hunting season. There’d be no chance to get back into the mountains until the weekend.
But on Wednesday, Steed gave Kyle permission to skip football practice and promised to take him hunting after school. Fortunately, Kyle, a tight end, had permission from his offensive line coach — his dad!
And before that day was over in November, 2007, they would find themselves in the middle of a much tougher workout.
Kyle joined his dad and the rest of his family hunting when he was 4 years old. The Lopez’s live on a 4,600-acre ranch, which has mule deer, elk, bear, and mountain lions.
But although their ranch held plentiful game, both Kyle and his dad — he guides hunters for Rocky Mountain sheep and elk — felt that Pike National Forest was the better bet for big bucks. Kyle’s spirits lifted when his dad picked him up after school that Wednesday, and they took the 20-minute drive to Pike.
“We got there about 3:30 and had about three miles to go, so we hiked as fast as we could and covered it in about 20 minutes,” Kyle said. “It’s a pretty nasty area, with lots of dead trees, and it was all up the mountain to where we wanted to go.”
Hurry Up The Mountain
It was about 80 degrees, unusually hot for November 7 in Colorado. After hurrying up the mountain, they decided to take a careful look around first.
“When we got up there, my dad said, ‘let’s just sit and glass first,'” he added. “We only had about an hour of light left.”
Steed spotted a group of mule deer does and the two watched them for a few minutes, but didn’t see any bucks with them. They decided to slip closer to the does, and soon maneuvered to within about 20 yards of the group.
“Then all the sudden they all just started towards us, I don’t know what they thought they saw or heard,” Kyle said. “They got within 10 feet of us before they figured it out, turned, and went off.
“We were going to follow them, and no sooner had my dad turned to his right to start walking when he saw a buck,” Kyle said. “He was standing against a background of boulders and a shale side.”
At his side was a small burnt tree, and Kyle used it as a brace for his gun and got his crosshairs on the buck’s body.
“We weren’t hunting for horns, just looking for something with a big mature body, which he had,” Kyle said. “When I shot, he jumped and then came down about 10 yards from where he was shot, and didn’t move.”
One Huge Mulie
They gave the deer about 30 minutes before approaching.
“My dad just kept saying, ‘Oh my God, Oh my God’ over and over,” Kyle said. “My first impression was that his horns were stuck in some brush — it wasn’t until I lifted his head that I realized just how big the rack was.”
Kyle then got a workout much harder than anything he would have experienced during football practice. Kyle had killed the buck at about 4:30 p.m., and he and his dad had it field-dressed shortly after 5. Even with both of them dragging, because of the rugged terrain, they didn’t make it back to the truck until 8:30 p.m..
Kyle’s non-typical rack buck scored 306-3/8 net B&C, making it the No. 2 non-typical mule deer ever shot in Colorado, missing the top ranking — held by a mule deer taken in the 1920s — by a half-inch! It’s the No. 12 mule deer in the world, and the biggest taken in the world in 20 years. It had an outside spread of just over 37 inches, and 26×17 points.
“I had lost hope after I missed that first buck, and that’s why my dad let me miss practice and go that day,” Kyle said. “I got my workout anyway, and a buck that was much bigger than the one I missed, so I’m happy.”
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