After 36 years hunting mule deer in western Colorado, Jeff Draper, of Grand Junction, finally got his hunt of a lifetime.
Draper, co-owner of Glass Pros in Grand Junction, won one of two raffles for a special 2013 Colorado mule deer license and wound up harvesting a buck that preliminarily was scored at 226 points, well up in the Boone & Crockett Club mule deer standings.
“I’ve always loved hunting mule deer,” says Draper, who won his license in March 2013 at a Safari Club International annual banquet in Colorado Springs. “I’ve hunted them since I was a little kid. I’m 50 years old now and can’t remember when we started because back then, we could hunt at 14.”
Most hunting licenses are allocated through a computer drawing each spring, but a small number of special licenses, often referred to as “Governor’s tags,” are available only through either a raffle or auction hosted by wildlife conservation groups.
Owners of the tags are allowed to hunt from the opening day of the first season (in this case, deer archery season in August) through Dec. 31, but Draper, an avid bow hunter, opted to use his regular deer archery tag and waited until later in the year for his Governor’s tag hunt.
That extended season is one reason so many hunters want a Governor’s tag and will pay dearly for them. Regulations control the price of raffle tickets ($25 each, five for $100), but only demand limits the auction prices.
“I had about $200 invested this year,” says Draper, adding that he usually buys raffle tickets from Safari Club International and the Colorado Mule Deer Association.
He says last year’s SCI deer license auction drew $125,000 for the one license. “I’ve bought tickets for years, and I’ve always looked at it as a donation to SCI,” he adds. “This time, I just got lucky.”
Draper says he spends many hours scouting, both during the summer for his general hunting and during the archery season. Even though Draper knew he had a special buck, he waited, knowing there’s always the chance something even bigger might show up. “I normally do mostly archery hunting, but I decided that this buck wouldn’t present an opportunity with a bow,” Draper says. “Once the archery season was over, I went really hard. From the first of September to the end of December, I hunted for roughly 50 days.”
He says he savored every minute. “I knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I wanted to enjoy it,” he says. “And you never know, you might find something bigger.”
With about two weeks remaining in 2013, he decided the time was right. He had spotted the big buck a few weeks earlier and had kept an eye on it as the year drew to a close.
“A friend and I had been watching the buck, so I pretty much knew where he was,” says Draper, who wisely declined to say exactly where that buck was. “When I actually went to kill it, it was a matter of an hour and a half, and I was done.”
It’s unlikely that green score of 226 points will stand up to time, but that’s the least of Draper’s concerns. “This is a big deal to me because mule deer are my passion,” says Draper, who killed a state-record deer still in velvet antlers in 2004. “I’ve killed some other really big deer with a bow. This year I shot it with a rifle. I was being picky, and I didn’t want to fail.”