By Michael Deming
Whenever the topic of giant mule deer comes up, Colorado is at the top of the list. Flip through the pages of the of the Boone and Crockett record book and it will show you just how many giants this state produces. The world record typical buck was taken in Dolores County in the southwestern part of the state back in 1972 and it still holds that position today. There have been a lot of great bucks taken in this area since, but none have topped this giant. They say to kill big bucks, you have to hunt where they live and this is definitely a great place to start.
The Sportsman’s News team has spent plenty of time in this area chasing big bucks and everyone knows that we do our best to search out the best outfitters to work with as well as buy trips for our Pro Membership Sweepstakes. Whenever we are in this area, Josh and Gina Boren, who own SWC Hunt Services (Southwest Colorado Hunting Service) names always comes up.
Regardless of the doors we pounded on looking for permission in the past, it always appeared that Josh had the rights to hunt it. We always got to see a lot of big bucks but were only usually able to take photos on these private land havens. I had made several calls to Josh over the years trying to get an opening to hunt some of these big bucks, but he was always booked full and for years in advance. His book of business clients consisted of well-known names like Hall of Fame Quarterback Jim Kelly, who hunts with them nearly every year. Our conversations were always pleasant, but he said that he wanted to keep his operation small and focused on great deer and a high level of customer service.
Finally, my phone rang in July and lo and behold, it was Josh. I immediately answered the call and Josh asked if we wanted to fill a cancellation archery deer hunt he had available. Having already drawn a tag for another unit in the state, I knew that I couldn’t do this hunt personally, but I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity at getting our foot in the door with SWC Hunting Services. I told Josh that we were in and would be there in early September to chase some fuzzy-antlered muleys.
I immediately called my archery expert, Shane Chuning, who at one time was a full-time employee with us, but now only moonlights when his has time. He is hands-down the best archery shooter I know and is well-known around the industry as a bow tuning expert. He had been unsuccessful in the draws for 2019 and he jumped at the opportunity to hunt some muleys as well as throw in an elk tag just in case he got an opportunity at some alfalfa fed bulls.
The second week of Colorado’s archery season would be our time-frame to hunt, which was September 6-10. The bucks would still be in the velvet, but ready to rub out and the elk should be starting to rut. We felt that our timing for getting a big buck was perfect. The first weeks’ hunters would be able to provide a bunch of current intel and the trail camera data would fill in the gaps.
We were to arrive late evening on September 5th, but Josh called me early in the morning and asked if we could try to get there early enough to hunt. All of his first week’s hunters were gone and he had seen a giant go into an area that might give us a good evening play on him. I picked up Shane and we were on the road for the 7-hour road trip.
We rolled in just in time to meet Josh, throw on some camo and head down the road. We were close to town where the houses are on 2- to 1,000-acre pieces. These are small farms and ranchettes where good crops, water, and lots of fruit trees are abundant. These are little havens for a big buck to grow old and since Josh lives right here, he knows the majority of the residents. It’s like having hundreds of guides out there looking for bucks on a daily basis. His phone rings constantly with possible candidates to hunt and here we were about to reap the benefits of some of this intel.
As we pulled up next to a hay barn, Nate walked out to greet us. Being a landowner as well as one of Josh’s guides, he knew how to handle the situation. He immediately went through a brief explanation of the topography of the land and where the big buck had bedded. Shane grabbed his bow and I had the camera in hand. We worked through the tall weeds for about half a mile and settled in along the edge of the fence, forty yards from where the buck had jumped out of the field. The wind was good, but the mosquitoes were horrible and the humidity generated from the pond below was driving the 90°-day heat to almost unbearable. We were planning on a long miserable wait, but about that time a buck jumped the fence less than sixty yards away. It wasn’t our target buck, but a great young deer with tremendous genetics. He had extra points off the back G2 and all the makings of a future wall hanger. Unfortunately, our first night didn’t yield a sighting of our shooter buck but passing on a solid 170’s type of deer on day one was a great start.
So, here we were on our first day, which wasn’t even supposed to be a real hunt day as Gina had huge ribeye steaks with all the fixins’ prepped and ready for us when we got back to the lodge. Yes, great home cooked meals and hospitality were a common theme every day we were at the lodge. After dinner, Josh said that we would go west in the morning and look over some bigger parcels of land.
Well the next morning, we found that he wasn’t kidding! We would spend the entire first and second day looking for bucks and taking inventory on the current situation. We looked at over seventy bucks on the first day and sixty on the second. We had multiple stalks on great bucks, but one of the biggest problems with hunting in an area with a lot of deer is that there are just too many deer. The number of eyeballs and noses that you have to beat is often not workable when you are shooting with a bow, but Josh was confident that if we continued to do our time out west and with Shane’s shooting ability, we would eventually get a big buck in a place where we would get within archery range.
As we were finishing up our morning hunt on day three, Josh got one of those special phone calls. It was Nate calling again and he said that he had two really good bucks near his parents’ house. He said that they were in the shade and would probably be there for the afternoon. We would be heading back to the same place we had hunted the first night.
We rolled into the yard and the whole family was there enjoying a family weekend. They filled us in on the layout of where the bucks were bedded and what they told us had me a bit shocked. There was an old hay barn less than a hundred yards from the house and Nate’s dad, Lonnie said, “They are in the barn,” which caught me a little off guard. I wasn’t sure how I felt about shooting a buck in a barn. Apparently, this is a common place for big bucks to get some good shade and this happens all the time.
All of our talking and commotion was out of the norm for these old warrior bucks and suddenly they busted out of the barn without any arrows being launched as they headed across the road where we had hunted the first night. We decided to head back to the lodge for a few hours and come back for the evening hunt.
A few hours had passed while we waited and wouldn’t you know it, Josh got another one of those calls. He rousted us and said, “Let’s go. Nate found another big buck bedded on the other side of the road.” When we pulled up, the family party was still going on and they had the Vortex Razor spotter trained on a big mature buck across the road, bedded in the shade of another old barn. We quickly gathered our gear and jumped in Nate’s Polaris Ranger, as the deer are used to hearing it and seeing it around the ranch which would allow us to get across the road into a good position for a stalk.
Within 20 minutes, we were fifty-two yards from the bedded buck, using an old tack shed for cover. I could tell by the way the buck was moving his head around that he would be getting up soon and sure enough, he stood. Shane came to full draw, but the heavy weeds prevented a clear shot at his vitals. Shane had held at full draw for nearly two minutes when the buck finally put his head down to feed, giving him a chance to let down. Shane shoots a one-pin HHA sight which had been set for the 52 yards. All of a sudden, the buck started walking towards us, presenting no shot, but when he went behind some old equipment, Shane came back to full draw. The buck had no idea that we were there but stopped quartering to us at 38 yards. Shane held that one pin way low and released the arrow. I watched the arrow through the camera lens as it sailed over his back. I was completely shocked as I didn’t think Shane could possibly miss at any distance, let alone at 38 yards. Once we watched the video playback, the buck had dropped over 20” to duck Shane’s well-placed arrow.
We made it back to the house or should I say the “peanut gallery” where everyone commenced harassing poor Shane for missing such an easy shot. It was all in good fun and Shane took it like a champ. It wouldn’t be long before he would get a redemption opportunity.
Nate said, “Let’s take a drive and check that lower field to see if anything else has come out.” Sure enough, there were several good bucks already feeding and Nate knew just how to use that Polaris and the topography to get us inside a couple hundred yards. The bucks never even raised their heads as we drove out of sight. Twenty minutes later as we were being chowed on by the local mosquito population, the bucks were headed right at us. Shane crawled through the tall grass and put himself into position ten yards closer. As the final minutes of daylight approached, one of the mature bucks presented a perfect broadside shot at seventy-one yards and Shane redeemed himself with a well-placed shot into the vitals.
We recovered the buck early the next morning and he had only gone about a hundred yards. Shane’s skills were on display with this shot and I was able to capture it for a future episode of Sportsman’s News TV.
Josh and Gina Boren, with SWC Hunting Services proved to be everything we had heard about them and more. The opportunity to hunt with them was well worth the wait and we will be buying one of their coveted 4th-season rifle hunts and a landowner voucher for the Pro Membership Sweepstakes to give away each and every year. We have definitely provided them with our full Platinum Approved Outfitter endorsement as well. Give them a call to check out what they have to offer at (970) 749-6153.SWC Hunting Service provides very limited hunting opportunities for both mule deer and elk in southwestern Colorado near the town of Dolores.
Lodging and accommodations are first class and sit aside a privately stocked fishing pond which is a great way to spend the midday on early season hunts.
Great hunt to bring a spouse or girlfriend due to the quality of accommodations, great food and the tourist opportunities in the area while you are off hunting.
Hunts are $7,000 for a 1-on-1 hunt or $5,800 for a 2-on-1 hunt.
Landowner vouchers are available for most hunts if you book early and range from $1,500 to $2,000 except the most sought after 4th-season vouchers which are usually around $5,000 each.
Late season hunts provide great opportunities to hunt bucks that spend most of their lives in the Mesa Verde National Park and are unhuntable until they migrate out during these later dates. Josh has large tracts of private land in the migration path of these giants.
Mule Deer are the focus on these hunts, but a $1,500 kill fee for elk can be added to any hunt where you have a tag in your possession.
SWC Hunting Services hires veteran local guides who have hunted here most of their lives and know the area as well as the landowners in the community.
First season elk hunts are available on a D.I.Y opportunity. It provides each hunter access to a lot of private land as well as great accommodations for $3,000 per hunter. This is a great opportunity for those who don’t want to be guided. Many of these properties back-up to public land which gives you millions of acres to hunt with easy private access. This option is only available during the first rifle elk season when no mule deer hunting is going on.
- Archery season is a month long and SWC only provides 12 hunt opportunities.
- Muzzleloader season is 9-days long and provides six hunt opportunities.
- 2nd Rifle Deer season is 9-days long and provides twelve hunt opportunities.
- 3rd Rifle Deer season is 7-days long for 2020 and provides eight hunt opportunities.
- 4th Rifle Deer season is 5-days long and provides 5-8 opportunities.