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Christian Hagenlocher’s 8-pointer

October 18, 2007

Illinois hunting and fishing

Trophy Tidbits

Scorable Points: 8

Kill Date: Oct. 18, 2007

County: Chaffee

Season: All seasons

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here in the words of Elsah bowhunter Christian Hagenlocher is the story of his hunt for an 8-point mule deer in Colorado.

My first deer hunt wasn’t supposed to be going like this. Here I was, standing out in the foothills of the Collegiate Peaks of the Rocky Mountains, with another hunter walking up to me, clearly upset. As he approached me, the animosity in the air was thicker than the flurries that had left several feet of snow high up on the tops of the mountains the previous night. He had placed a stand on fence line between two properties, about 20 feet over the property line on the land I’d been given permission to hunt. Apparently, this guy thought I was in HIS spot, and he ordered me out of it, clearly upset that he had been caught trespassing on my contact’s land. I respectfully submitted to his request, and began to head out back towards the lodge.

That morning I awoke with an excitement I had only experienced before on Christmas mornings. All hunters know that feeling, but it was new to me because this was my first time hunting. I come from a family that doesn’t hunt, and my passion for the outdoors has been growing since I was a child, with hunting magazines, tv shows, and the occasional adult mentor to help it along. Bobby was the man who made this hunt possible for me; I had grown up around him while attending a youth summer camp he directed in the mountains of Colorado, rafting, hiking, and backpacking every summer.

He was a hunter, and had offered to put in for a non-resident Mulie tag for me, and be my guide that fall. I scouted the mountains during my days off that summer while working at camp, and at the end of the summer returned to college in Illinois very optimistic and excited for October to come. When I learned I had been drawn, I was ecstatic. And that first of five days of hunting was here!

After a hearty hunter’s breakfast, we went to the range and shot the rifles we would be using, to sight them in. Retrieving my targets made me even more excited. Then we cleaned and oiled our rifles, packed our daypacks, and headed uphill. The lodge is at 8,000 feet above sea level, and we headed straight up into the mountains, making about another 1,000-foot gain. I had been glad I trained at elevation throughout the summer for the fall football season. (I was missing a big game at “the dome” in Wisconsin that weekend).

Living in Colorado year-round, and being a seasoned athlete, Bobby was almost running up the hillside. Bobby had an elk tag to fill, and we thought we’d try the high-country animals first, which had been pushed down from the previous night’s snow. Throughout the day we managed to skirt several herds of deer, and I saw several nice bucks, including a large 4x4 buck. Because it was the first day, I didn’t know what all to compare it to, so I passed, but promised myself if I saw him again I would take the shot. Hours later, the sun began to fall behind the mountains.

I told Bobby I wanted to hunt alone, and would meet him at nightfall. Taking a radio and some granola bars, I headed downhill back towards the lodge, down a long ridge, until I hit a fenceline. That’s when I met Carl. (the “angry trespasser”) After our conversation, I turned away from the fence line and had walked no more than 200 yards away from him when I saw a large-bodied deer stand up from behind a cluster juniper bushes far away.

Raising my binoculars, I immediately recognized the large, tall 4x4 from earlier that day! I didn’t have a rangefinder, but I am a kicker on my college football team, and I am pretty used to estimating distances and trajectory. I guessed it was about a 150-yard shot, so I decided to close the distance. I carefully stalked closer, dodging sharp cactus plants and periodically looking up to see if he was still there. At about 100 yards, I sat down and used my knees to rest the old .30-.30 bolt-action rifle.

I squeezed the trigger, and the deer collapsed. My shot echoed off the mountains, and then almost three seconds later I heard the echo from the mountains across the valley. Bobby heard my shot, and radioed me, asking if I had taken the shot. I told him I had a deer down, and gave him my location. I sat on the ground in disbelief for a minute, wondering what Carl was thinking, minutes after we had talked and he had told me he had not seen any deer around here in a week. (I guessed he was lying) I paced out the distance to my deer, and it was clearly dead when I reached it, 110 yards later. The shot had been true, and I looked into the eyes of the first animal I had killed, and said a silent prayer to God for providing such a magnificent animal for me to harvest.

I felt the hard, long tines, and felt the soft hairs on its nose. I was grateful for having the opportunity to hunt, and play a role in something greater than myself. A half-hour later Bobby arrived, and we took some photos, then we field-dressed the deer and he ran back to the lodge and brought out the truck. Everyone was all smiles that evening, and words can’t describe the humble pride I felt. I called back home to the Midwest to share the news with my family.

I spent the rest of the week pursuing elk, wearing running shoes and jumping over fallen aspen trees. I helped guide a friend on his first mule deer hunt too, where he made an impressive 50 yard uphill shot through the trees on a walking deer we had stalked. He was 14. I visited the taxidermist whose work I had admired for years as I drove past his shop when I was in Colorado. To see his smile when I unloaded my mule deer made my day. He said it was the largest deer brought to him so far that fall! I already couldn’t wait to return to Colorado the following summer and pick up my mount. The last day, we drove to Denver and dropped our deer meat off at the processors.

Overall, I could not have asked for a more amazing first hunt. I spent it with close friends, in the mountains where I grew up, and was fortunate enough to take a trophy animal on the first day of hunting, then assist another first-time hunter with his kill. It doesn’t get much better than that! I hope I can continue to share my love for hunting with others in the upcoming years, like Bobby has done for me. Now, sitting in my stand in the Oak-Hickory forest of Southern Illinois, I dream about the crisp autumn gold of Aspen leaves and dream about the elk which roam the mountains of Colorado.

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