Kessler Canyon: Colorado Mule Deer Hunting At Its Best

Snowmuledeersm Just got back from Colorado last week from a very successful hunt at Kessler Canyon, which is located about an hour outside of Grand Junction in the western part of the state.

The country there is stunning. The lodge is located in a valley that is loaded with sagebrush and willows and has a clear, cold stream that runs down its center. Drift a fly across any of the deeper pools and chances are you’ll be rewarded by a strike from a native cutthroat.

The lodge itself is the finest hunting camp I've ever seen. I like roughing it in the back country as much as the next person, but this hunt was the exact opposite of that. The food, the sleeping areas, the atmosphere and, most importantly, the guides were all first class. The hunting was very hard: up at 4 a.m., back into camp by 9:30 at night, with not enough time to sleep in between. But that made coming back to the lodge for dinner and a drink all the more sweet. The operation is managed by husband-and-wife team Dave and Jamie Massey, who do an excellent job making sure that both the hunting and the hospitality are second-to-none.

Rising 3,000 feet on either side of the valley floor are the canyon’s steep walls. Up top you’ve got a relatively flat mountain with a series of ridges that spill off to either side. If you viewed a satellite photo of the high country, the top of the mountain would look like the body of a centipede with a series of ridges going off on either side forming like legs.

Most of time we were hunting we were running up and down and around those ridges, looking for mule deer. The habitat is amazing—the deer have plenty of food, water, bedding cover and escape routes. The only thing that forces them off the mountain is the snow, which usually pushes them to the canyon floor at some point in late October or November.

We saw a lot of deer, glassing over dozens of animals while trying to locate a good buck. With the amount of animals we saw I knew it was just going to be a matter of time.

Unlike with borderline bucks, there was no need to take a second look at this animal’s antlers. He’s got everything you could want in a mature deer. He’s tall, wide, blessed with deep forks, good mass and is very symmetrical to boot.

The shot was a long one—450 yards to be exact. But the rifle, cartridge and optics I was using were ideal for this kind of country and that kind of shot. I’ll post some more details in a bit.

—John Snow