November 14, 2014 |
In 2014, I had the unique privilege of having two premier deer tags in my possession. One was a landowner tag for Colorado, and the other was for the Paunsagaunt draw unit in Utah. Each of these hunts ended up becoming very special and rewarding for me and for my family and friends who shared in both experiences.
The start of my first hunting adventure began in Colorado on the opener of the muzzle loader season in September. I had our dear friend and taxidermist Dave Anderson with Antler Addiction as my guide. My sweet husband (Jarod) joined me along with one of our daughters (Savanna). In an effort to let the deer settle down for me, my husband decided to step away from his archery deer hunt for a bit and try to tag out on his bear hunt. He was successful in his efforts on his bear, and not quite so much on his deer for the moment.
The original plan was for me to hunt over the weekend, and hopefully get one down, so my husband could go back and finish up his hunt.
On the opening morning we spotted a lot of nice mature bucks out feeding in the open. I really started to get excited, and I remember thinking that this was going to be my first opportunity to harvest a decent buck worth putting a score on. The truth be told, I have only ever harvested one other deer in my life, and it was a small spike when I was 14 years old. The rush of those feelings as a young girl flooded my mind once again, and I was excited and nervous for this new adventure since I had never shot a muzzle loader.
As Dave and I got set up on this sage brush filled hillside, and buried ourselves into a patch of oak brush, “the perfect spot” or so we thought. Shortly, along came a little two point and young spike feeding right towards us within a few feet. The wind was perfect, and we could only hold tight and hope that the others would follow. The big bucks never came in that morning!
That evening we decided to move from our previous location for a better opportunity of making a stock. However, if I was hunting beef cows I would have filled my tag about thirty times over. Shortly afterwards, we received word that my husband had spotted the 180” class 4 point named “Slick” who on previous attempts received his name by slipping away without notice. We decided to try a spot and stock approach and in doing so the cows that I thought were a hindrance at the time ended up helping us make our successful stock. As we closed in on these two mature four points I could immediately tell which one was a shooter. I was so excited that I could not contain myself for this was surely one for my books. As they were feeding away from us, just minutes from last shooting light, they stopped skyline and broadside to look back to try and figure us out, I took my opportunity and landed my first big 180 4/8” buck.
My husband went back later in the week to the hunting spot to tag his nice full velvet 185” class “basket buck”.
The second hunt I had been anxiously awaiting especially after feeling the rush from my Colorado hunt, was that of my Paunsagaunt tag. The arrival date of Sept. 24th could not get here soon enough. I had actually seen pictures of the deer back in July when we were sent trail cam photos. We had hired Wade Lemon Hunting as our guides because (A) they are the best to have, and (B) neither my husband nor I had the time to scout or had any kind of knowledge for the area. Monday morning before the hunt Wade Lemon and I went down and met up with Jessica from Barnes Bullets who was setting me up with a (Remington 700 Ultimate muzzleloader & Remington’s Premier AccuTip muzzleloader bullets featuring Barnes 250 grain. T-EZ.) since I didn’t have my own. On Tuesday I headed on my way down to Cannonville leaving behind four busy children, ages of 7-13 with an even busier dad who was going to play Mr. “mom” for the week.
I arrived there with my guides just in time to go scout that evening so we could put a game plan together for the morning hunt. Wednesday and Thursday were very eventful. Unable to get set up on the deer due to swirling winds. We were on the move trying to get down wind of these four bucks and all four times we were outsmarted. Thinking that a moving target was the only way this was going to happen I tried a few hail-mary kind of shots. All four shots were outside of 100 yards and at a fast moving target. I was worried that this was not going to happen due to me missing and having the “fever”.
These winds and this weather were not cooperating, and the deer were certainly not following my game plan that I had in mind. We never saw this buck again all weekend, I was sad and discouraged that we had pushed him too hard and out of the area. Trying to keep a positive way of thinking we kept after it.
The nasty storm and flooding that came around on Saturday played a huge roll in some big mature bucks popping out that we hadn’t seen before. We were placing big 190” bucks on the back burner for the last days hunt. I was not willing to go home empty handed. These were very nice mature bucks and my excitement was starting to grow again, they were not the ones I initially had my heart set on. I was starting to feel okay with going home with one of these big bucks since I had never shot anything bigger.
After the rains and much discouragement we found some big tracks that brought hope and we would look for the deer these belonged to on Monday morning. After glassing in the general area we found the big tracks. I was ecstatic when my guide told me that we had found “the big buck” again and in his bed this time. Finally after all this time and all the effort we had put into this hunt, I felt that it was going to work out. The weather had finally made it so the wind wasn’t swirling and the rain made the smell of the outdoors overpower anything we might smell like.
We put a game plan together and decided we would circle him and get down wind and try to catch him in his bed. Twenty feet before we ridged out from where I was going to shoot, he stood up to feed, my heart pounding. Could this be real? Is this really happening? Am I dreaming? All these questions, anticipation, and so much more flooded my mind in the split seconds that I had as I drew the gun up to shoot. Calm on the outside I made a clean shot 53 yards away, stumbling for only a brief moment he fell hard and started rolling downhill only to have a small sage brush catch him. I was shaking like a leaf I had finally made a shot that connected, so excited and filled with adrenaline I couldn’t stand any longer and had to sit for a moment.
Waiting to get my composure together so that I could walk up to him and finally get my hands on this monster seemed harder than all weeks hunt leading up to this point. He grew in every aspect as we approached him. I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears for that matter when we finally got a tape on him. The 210” buck we thought he was had actually measured 233 5/8”. I was in heaven and rode the adrenaline high the whole way home to Orem. By the time I got home and into bed it was 2:00 a.m. I realized I had been up for 23 hours straight. I still can’t get the grin off my face from this trophy of a lifetime that I landed.