Better than expected: Colorado mule deer hunt for Corey Welsh of Waukon turns into cover story for Epic Outdoors magazine

Cover story for Waukon hunter ... Corey Welsh of Waukon had a late 2020 hunt in Colorado yield the mule deer with the sizable rack he is proudly displaying in the above image. The animal and Welsh’s hunting experience resulted in the cover story for the March 2021 edition of Epic Outdoors® Western Hunting Magazine, the cover of which is pictured above and is being reprinted with permission from Epic Outdoors® Western Hunting Magazine.

Editor’s Note: The following article and accompanying image appeared in the March 2021 edition of Epic Outdoors® Western Hunting Magazine, a publication produced in Cedar City, UT and specializing in in-depth state-by-state, species-by-species analysis to aid in planning big game hunts in the western United States. The article features the first-hand experience of Waukon native Corey Welsh, whose Colorado mule deer hunt in late 2020 resulted in a cover story and photo for the magazine. Both the article and cover photo image are being reprinted here with permission from Epic Outdoors® Western Hunting Magazine.

Early in the year, I knew I was going to be limited on the amount of time I could spend out West in the fall, my fiance and I were getting married in early October.

Typically, my brother Brennan and I make two or three trips out West, from Iowa, each fall doing DIY (do it yourself) public land hunts, but between work and the wedding it just wasn’t in the cards this year. One shorter hunt was about all the calendar would allow me. I had four points in Colorado and knew, after tagging along to help my brother on his successful third season hunt the year before, a late season hunt was what I wanted to use them on.

We loaded up my truck and trailer with a side-by-side, borrowed from a friend. We were a little late getting going but hit the road and made the 17-hour drive straight through, to avoid missing more of the already short season than we already had. We rolled into town about 7:30 a.m. opening day and topped everything off with fuel before heading up the mountain to start hunting.

A buddy of mine had actually spent some time in the same unit elk hunting during the second season and gave me a few spots where they had seen bucks, so the plan was to get up top and hit those areas first. We saw a lot more elk hunters than deer the first day so that night we decided to move about five miles south to an area with less convenient access, in hopes of escaping the crowd the next day.

We spent most of the second day driving two-track roads in the UTV and glassing as much country as possible just trying to learn the unit and figure out what the deer were doing. Everything seemed perfect, good looking country, temperatures were in the low teens, and we had snow on the ground!

But, where were all the deer? So far, we had only seen ten or twelve does and a young three-point. Nothing seemed real rutty yet, but just as we saw on my brother’s hunt the year before, it can change in the blink of an eye.

By late afternoon, we had found a plateau that had noticeably better feed on it and, almost instantly, glassed up two small groups of does. We kept slowly working our way down the two-track then suddenly, Brennan said, “Big buck to our left!” He wasn’t kidding. The deer was so close to us I didn’t even see him right away, but I did get a glimpse of him before he dove into the timber.

The wind was right, so I jumped out and had Brennan keep driving to make it sound like we had moved on. I picked up his tracks right away, it didn’t seem as though he had bumped hard and I stayed on the tracks for a half mile or so but ran out of daylight before I could turn him up again. We didn’t know exactly how big he was and it really didn’t matter, we knew he was big enough. About all we could do was hope he wasn’t on the move yet so we could keep hunting him.

The next morning, we were right back up there with hopes of getting back on him, but also knowing there was a good chance we would never see the deer again. We got eight inches of fresh snow overnight so picking his tracks up again was not an option.

The plan was to keep checking doe groups and glassing everything we could within two miles of where we had seen him. Glassing was difficult because of thick trees and because the deer were using the flats on top of the ridges where it was hard to get up above them to see very far.

By noon on day five of the season, we were really starting to question if we’d made the right decision to limit ourselves to such a small area for a deer that may be in another unit by now. Not that we had a lot of other good options at this point, we had found some other bucks but nothing even close to what we had seen earlier in the hunt. Around 4 p.m., we were hunting our way back toward a flat that we had seen deer in the night before and as we popped over a small hill, we caught movement to our left in the trees.

“There he is Corey, kill him!” Brennan said.

There were about 15 deer scattered in the trees between 75-100 yards away and starting to blow out. I took a few quick steps to clear a tree and pulled up, free handing my rifle, scoping deer after deer until I found the buck.

I pulled down to his vitals and got a quick shot off on him but he took off out of sight right after. I knew I had hit him, I just didn’t know how well, it had all happened in a matter of seconds. I took off over the hill to try and put eyes on him again, but couldn’t see him running with the other deer.

I turned back around to walk up the hill toward my brother, to regroup and figure out what had just happened and look for blood, but there he was piled up between two trees to my right. He didn’t go 10 feet!

We did the usual high-five and dance and took turns picking him up to admire his rack which seemed to grow five inches every time we did. After the shock of how quickly we went from zeros to heroes wore off, we got to work taking pictures before we lost too much light.

After pictures we quartered and caped him and when we pulled the map up to head out, we noticed we were only about 400 yards from where we had first seen the deer three days prior! He ended up having eight scoreable points on each side and measured 228-1/8”.

I have to thank my brother for taking the time to come help me. We have found our best success when there is one hunter and one or two guys along without tags to help glass and scout. I also have to thank my lovely wife for fully supporting this crazy addiction we all face.

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