Hiking into the record books
EAGLE COUNTY – If Drew Rouse’s day had gone a little differently, he might have ridden right past a trophy-sized mule deer. Instead, a creaky knee and a steady eye have likely landed him in the record books.
Rouse, a professional free skier and avid outdoorsman, was bow-hunting near Beaver Creek in August with friend Ben Koelker. Tired of hiking, Rouse decided to head back to the car, and came across the kind of mule deer most hunters only dream about – big, with a multi-point rack and antlers in full velvet.
Using the complex “point” system of measuring antlers, the deer measured out near 200 points. Based on final measurements, it could be among the biggest in the world ever taken with a bow. But the deer didn’t come easily.
Rouse was nearly 50 yards away – easy with a high-powered rifle, but a challenge with a bow. Thanks to lots of practice at long distances, Rouse was confident he could make the shot. He put an arrow into the bow, took aim and let fly.
The shot was low, the razor-sharp arrowhead barely grazing the animal’s brisket. But the deer stayed where he was, just long enough for Rouse to set up a second, true, shot.
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The deer bolted, and Rouse and Koelker soon lost the blood trail, then started tracking by walking in a grid of expanding circles. It can be hard work. Rouse said he’s tracked animals for a couple of days when he’s been on backpacking hunting trips.
But that’s when coincidence played a role.
Friend Rob Gosiewski, who’d asked Rouse to go biking that day, was riding on a nearby trail when he found the animal, saw his friends and called out to them.
Koelker said he isn’t sure he and Rouse would have found the deer if it wasn’t for Gosiewski. Rouse disagreed, saying he probably would have found him on the next part of the search.
However it worked out, Rouse has a world-class trophy – and meat in the freezer.
But, while Rouse is already an accomplished hunter, he’s only been doing it for a few years. While he’s had a bow since he was a boy back east, Rouse has only been hunting since he moved to Colorado several years ago.
At first, he took a hunter safety course, bought a rifle, and bagged his first elk that way. Rouse still hunts with a rifle, but has come to appreciate the more subtle art of bowhunting.
The hiking keeps him fit for skiing, he said, and he likes the idea of having to get in close for a shot. There’s far less room for error when a hunter’s using a bow.
Successful hunting often takes pre-season scouting, finding places where the animals gather, or ponds where they drink. Rouse didn’t do much scouting this year – he was skiing in South America for much of the summer – but because he’d hunted the same area for the past few years, had a pretty good idea of where the deer are.
He knows where the elk are, too, but his knee hasn’t let him load up the pack for the hike needed to get there.
In fact, Rouse just had surgery on the knee that kept him to a relatively short trip last month. But he fully expects to go out again during rifle season this fall.
“I’ve got an early-season tag that I might try to trade for a later season,” he said. “But if I feel like I do now in a couple of weeks, I’ll get out there.”
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or email@example.com.