The temperature hovered in the single digits as the sun came up this morning, on the first day of Colorado’s fourth rifle season. My friend Blaine and I pulled our truck into a wide spot along the two-track and started glassing as the landscape–a mix of rolling sage hills, willow bottoms and stands of aspen and pine–revealed itself.

The frigid conditions had the deer on the move, up and feeding with a purpose–to maintain sufficient energy to combat the cold and prepare for the harsh mountain winter that will be soon arriving.

We counted twenty-something does and a handful of small bucks nosing through the dusting of snow to nibble on grasses, leaves and other tasty morsels. But no big bucks.

After thoroughly glassing the hillside, and putting off the inevitable, Blaine said, “guess it is time for us to go for a hike.”

I gathered my pack and rifle and we left the warm confines of the Jeep and headed uphill toward a ridge that split two drainages. Our plan was to walk along the spine of the mountain and glass down each side looking for deer.

On the way up to the top we saw one good buck trailing a doe that was feeding just inside a stand of timber. In most places, the 4×5 mule deer would have been a shooter–but this region of Colorado, just north of Granby, produces some whopper bucks and that was what we were after.

We stopped for a bit and let the deer feed away from us to avoid blowing them out of the drainage, then skirted around and above them.

Moving along the spine of the ridge we spotted several more deer, mostly does and a couple small bucks.

One of the bucks offered up a classic mule deer moment. He was bedded underneath a cliff about 600 yards up the ridge from us. With his back protected by the rocky escarpment and a panoramic view in front of his perch, he was quite content to be bedded in the sun, safe with the knowledge that most predators couldn’t reach him.

Blaine and I watched him for about 20 minutes while glassing the timber that spread out below us.

After a while we backtracked toward the truck and and toward some much needed warmth and lunch. Tonight’s hunt awaits.