Nathan's Buck Grosses 184 2/8 and nets 181 7/8!
I looked forward to the opening of the 2003 Utah general rifle deer hunt with more than a little enthusiasm. It had been almost four years, since the 1999 Utah archery deer season that I have waited to hunt deer in any state.
In 2000, we moved from Utah to Colorado where I accepted a term position with the US Forest Service as a Wildlife Biologist. Of course, I had to sit out the fall hunts in Colorado because I had not established residency yet and could not get back to Utah to hunt because of work conflicts. I participated in the hunts that year by going out on hunter compliance patrols and getting to know the area better.
The next year, I put in for a permanent Wildlife Biologist position on the Lewis and Clark National Forest in Montana and was fortunate to be offered the position. I was only able to hunt three days during the ensuing 2001 Colorado archery deer season before having to pack up and move my family for the second time in two years. The fall hunting season in Montana brought yet more hunter compliance patrols and no hunting.
The following year we experienced yet another job change and more lost hunting opportunities. I put in for and accepted a journey level Wildlife Biologist position on the Dixie National Forest back in my home state of Utah. I was offered this position and moved my family down to Cedar City in August of 2002. The only hunting I was able to do in Montana was the 2002 spring bear and turkey hunts. If there was anything I regretted about moving again, it would have to be not spending more time in that state and taking advantage of the many and varied hunting opportunities and getting to know Montana better. Of course, during the fall hunting season in Utah, I again found myself behind the wheel of a Forest Service rig performing hunter compliance patrols.
It is easy to see why anticipation of the 2003 Utah hunting seasons brought a little bit of excitement and enthusiasm my way. After establishing residency and not accepting any forms of employment in any other state, I decided to increase my hunting opportunities by joining the dedicated hunter program. With 2003 being my first year in the program, I told myself that any deer I looked at harvesting would have to be pretty large.
I scouted off and on during the summer and saw some good deer, but none that I was really excited about. I located a good spring source for a treestand, where I planned on spending opening morning and evening during the archery hunt. I had seen two fairly nice bucks on Alfalfa fields just down off the hill from this spring and hoped that they might come into this water source. Unfortunately, Mothernature took a role during the archery hunt and it rained off and on for almost the entire archery season. Of course, no deer came into the spring.
When rifle season rolled around in mid-October, I decided to spend my time out west near Enterprise. I did not hunt opening weekend due to work conflicts, but Monday morning I was out before dawn in the area around Pilot peak and flat Top Mountain.
I saw a lot of deer and a lot of hunters, but no bucks at all. This trend continued through Tuesday morning and it was getting obvious to me that buck-to-doe ratios were pretty low in this area.
Wednesday morning, I hooked up with two friends, Bryan Carter and his Father-in-law Bob Tobler. We hunted around Pole Hollow and Little Valleys and did not see any bucks. That evening, we hunted around Cottonwood Creek, just north of Paragonah, and still no bucks. By this time some of my enthusiasm had begun to waver as you can imagine.
Thursday morning, we decided to go out west again and hunt the area north of Modena and the railroad tracks, since the enterprise unit had closed the day prior. The area we went to has historically produced big bucks. Anticipation was high that we would be able to find something, even though I had not personally been out there to scout. At first light, we jumped a group of 8 deer off of a spring and this group included two small bucks. This was better than the previous 3 days, so things were looking up. We decided to split up and work along three ridge lines and then circle around and meet in this large bowl where Bryan had seen good deer in the past.
My route was the furthest north of the 3 and it led me up under some impressive rock outcroppings just under the ridgeline. As I was huffing up this ridge, and was just about to turn on a more southerly course to bring me around to the large bowl, I decided to hike up to the top of the ridge and glass the other side to see if I might have jumped anything in front of me. Just as my head crested the ridge, I found myself looking at a large buck standing broadside about 100 yards away, just below the opposite ridge top. One look told me that this buck was respectable enough to take during any year, let alone on the first year of my dedicated hunter program. However, I was breathing pretty hard from the exertion of climbing the ridge and thought it would be a good idea to move ten more feet where I could get in a prone position on the ridgeline. The buck was looking at me, but did not appear to be alarmed.
I began slowly moving up the slope, placing a small juniper between the buck and myself to hide my movement. I had not taken three steps before I decided I had better keep an eye out to make sure the buck was still there. I peeked around the juniper and saw that the buck was starting to trot off and was just about to crest the ridge and disappear over the other side. I quickly stood up and put my scope on the deer. The only part I could see was his head and neck, so I placed the cross-hairs on his neck and squeezed off a shot. I instantly saw that I had scored a hit because he dropped like a rock. I sat there for a while to catch my breath and take visual bearings on where the buck was and then set off to go see what I had shot.
When I walked up to him and saw antlers poking up above the brush I knew that I had shot a nice deer. What impressed me most about this buck was his symmetry. Aside from an inch or two difference in the G3 points, I could see that there were very few deductions. He was about 28.5 inches wide and was still a relatively young deer and had not developed much mass. I had him scored by an official Boone and Crockett scorer and he officially grossed 184 2/8ths and netted 181 7/8ths. He just made the three-year Boone and Crockett Awards book and was definitely worth the wait of the past few year's hunting frustrations.
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