by Zack Faller
My nephew who lives in Utah talked me into putting in for a limited entry deer tag for 2009. I agreed and did.
We put in for the Book Cliffs for the muzzleloader season. I was hopeful but after hearing that it would probably take 5-7 years to draw I didn't get too excited. The draw was announced and we were successful.
I ordered my gun and booked my airfare all the same day. The plan was set and we had plenty of time to get ready for this hunt. I felt this was an opportunity of a lifetime especially when I had the blessing of my wife to go.
I needed to get into shape so I could hike all day and keep up with my nephew. I hired my sons MMA coach to do personal training for a month and a half. He asked me what I was getting in shape for. So he set up my training to accommodate my hunt. Needless to say when he was done with me I was in the best shape of my life. I went from 243lbs down to 208lbs in short time and had great cardio.
When I arrived in Utah 3 days before the hunt my nephew and I began to pack our gear, shop for food and pack the truck. We left a day early as we had a 6 hour drive to camp from Spanish Fork.
He had scouted the area 3 times before the hunt and sent me pictures of all the bucks he was seeing. I was amazed at the size of the animals in Utah. We finally hit the dirt road heading towards camp. 2 hrs from the paved road to camp.
I was a bit nervous as we didn't see any animals for the first 30 minutes. I asked my nephew where are all the deer? I was told we won't see anything until we get on top. This proved true.
As we crested the top of the mountain, the deer came out of nowhere. I couldn't get my camera out fast enough. My nephew was laughing at me at how excited I was and said that I hadn't seen anything yet, he was right. 4x4, 5x5,4x5 and 3x4 were everywhere and right next to the road. I was told these bucks arn't big enough, WHAT?
They aren't tall enough or wide enough, he said.
Now my curiosity was killing me. We got to camp set up out wall tent and got all our gear set up and with about an hour of light left we took off to check out where we were going to be hunting. We saw several bucks on short time and two of the bucks were shooters according to the nephew.
The next morning we set out for our first hunt. We hiked in in the dark about a mile and set up on a hill with our spotting scopes out and ready to check out the area when light hit. We spotted several bucks down in the bottom of a canyon with several elk scattered around the hills.
We came up with a plan and set out for one of the bigger bucks. After a two hour sneak we had got within 200yds. We dropped our packs and started our final sneak when we noticed a group of does with the bucks and they seemed to be set up as look outs.
All the deer were bedded down and with was not looking good for us. We sat down and tried to spot all the deer in this group before we went any further. After about 15 minutes we thought we had them all spotted and changed our plan. The plan was not good enough because as we had gone about 15 feet a doe stood up that we didn't see and she busted us. All the deer in the area were gone in an instant. There were actually more deer in the group than we saw to begin with.
After hunting awhile longer we made our way back to camp. We had lunch took a little nap and headed back out again. We went down to a spot where we had seen a nice buck cross the road when we were coming back from our scout trip the night before. We got about 300yds from the truck and started heading down a canyon when all hell broke loose. Deer started running everywhere.
My nephew said right there between the big boulders, look at that buck! The buck was frozen in its tracks quartering away from me and he was big. My nephew said he's a nice buck, big body and nice rack and that if I wanted him I'd better take him now. The shot was a tough shot at 105 yds quartering away and a hard quartering shot at that. I took the shot and drilled him. He ran about 50yds and laid down.
Barlow ... my nephew ... said stay here and keep an eye on him and reload. I'm going back to the truck for the bigger packs. By the time he got back the deer had got up and moved out of my sight.
We had about 1 1/2 hours of light left and this deer was now in the bottom of the canyon and out of my sight. When Barlow got back to me we headed down after him. We tracked him to where I last saw him and to our surprise he was only 10 yds past where I had seen him but now standing on his feet.
One shot put him down and the deer tag and cameras came out. We got back to camp around 10:00pm that night tired but very happy and excited. The next day Barlow's mom (my wife's sister) met up with us a few hours away and took my meat and head home to be processed.
Now we had Barlow's tag to fill. We hunted all day on day 3 saw a few nice bucks but not the buck Barlow wanted. As I said before Barlow had scouted this area 3 times before I arrived. He had taken several pictures and did some hiking. He knew what deer he wanted. We just hadn't found him yet.
The day was coming to an end and with 1 hour before dark we went to an area that we hadn't hit yet. BING, he found the buck Barlow had been looking for. We watched him until dark all the while we were planning the hunt for the morning.
A sleepless night was had by both of us and 5:00 am wasn't coming fast enough. We both decided to get up earlier than expected had a good breakfast and took off from camp. We got up to where we had seen the buck the night before but could not spot him. About 20 minutes had gone by when Barlow said, there he is.
He was about 1/2 mile away across 2 small canyons. This changes the game a little to where I decided to not go with him on this hunt. I had the best seat in the house where I was at with my spotting scope and I would see the whole thing come together from my vantage point.
Barlow set out after this buck and I sat back and relaxed and keep an eye on this buck. As I sat and watched him I saw another buck hanging with Barlow's buck. The two bucks were totally different in that Barlow's deer was a 5x5 with a couple cheaters and very heavy horns. The other buck just wasn't as big or as wide. Barlow had made his way over to within 250-300yds when I saw 3 doe in between the bucks and Barlow.
I thought this would be the end of this hunt because Barlow didn't know the doe were there as he couldn't see them from where he was. I had a fear of the doe getting spooked and running towards the bucks. As it turned out the doe didn't even see Barlow and he snuck right past them. At about 200 yds I saw Barlow take his pack off and his jacket. He began to low crawl about 50-75yds.
He got into a batch of bushes and could now see the buck of his dreams. He was at approx 125 yds and was trying to get about another 25yds closer when the buck heard him and stood up. Barlow already had a bead on him by the time he got up and looked in his direction. As soon as he turned broadside the bullet was sent and it connected.
The buck tried to run and made it about 20 yds and just stood there. Barlow was in the process of reloading when the buck was standing there looking around. Another bullet was sent and the buck had hit the ground.
I was so excited to see this all unfold and to see him harvest a big of a lifetime I let out a yell. It must have been pretty loud because Barlow heard me. He sat down next to his buck for a few minutes and then just laid back to soak it all in. He called me on the radio after he gathered his thoughts and I came over to help him haul out the buck of a life time. His buck score 171 7/8. My buck scored 144 6/8.
This was a hunt of a lifetime for me. This was my first out of state hunt as I live in Washington State and the first big buck of this size. This was also my first muzzle loader hunt.
Had I of not killed a deer on this trip it would have all been worth it just to see Barlow get his big buck and to watch the way it all went down. He was 22 yrs old and shows the patience of a 50 yr old on this hunt, amazing!
I will be hunting Utah in 2011 on a bow hunt and can't wait. Utah has the best deer hunting and the best caliber of deer I have ever seen. If I could hunt Utah every year I'd be totally content with that.
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