It was still dark on opening morning of the 2017 General Rifle Deer hunt here in Utah. As I set there with my sons in the quiet of the pre-dawn morning, before the mayhem began as is custom on the Utah General Rifle hunt, I was excited for what this day would bring. We had hunted hard during the Archery and Muzzy hunts and had come away empty. As the sun begin to rise the energy and excitement grew to epic proportions. Little Joe was hunting for the first time and he was bound and determined to get a buck. As we began to glass we were able to locate a buck we had now had a 3 year history with, “Dark30”. He was coming up out of a draw and would be coming to an opening at about 200 yards, a shot Little Joe was very comfortable making. As he readied for the shot…… I woke up from my dream. It was Opening Morning of the Utah General Deer hunt but we were not in Utah and we were not hunting.
As I came to from my sleepless night I realized and remembered we were in Las Vegas and we had a family wedding we had to be to today, on OPENING DAY!!!!!
My wife’s niece had planned her wedding on the worst possible day, and we had made the decision as a family to support her on her big day. The boys and I weren’t happy about it but we were there with a smile on our face (Somewhat). The weekend seemed to drag on and what made it worse is that even when we got home I would have to work Monday and we wouldn’t be able to hunt till after work Monday evening.
Time seemed to creep by on Monday while at work but finally it was time to roll. I got home as fast as I could and got changed as the boys finished loading up the optics and guns and we were out the door. We got to the trail head and started out hike. We had 3 tags to fill and now less than a week to do it. My #1 goal was to get Little Joe on a buck and be able to fill his tag. He had worked so hard during the archery and muzzy hunts and had missed a shot on both those hunts. #2 goal was to help Jacob fill his tag and get a better buck then he had the year before.
Joe and I worked our way to a great vantage point and Jacob and Jace were just around the corner looking at a different canyon. It didn’t take long to find some deer way down in the bottom of this canyon and on closer inspection we found they were 2 little bucks. Joey said that he was going to fill his tag with whatever he could, he just wanted to get his first buck. We made a game plan and picked out a spot that would put us within about 250 yards. We quickly made our way down to our spot and tried to relocate the bucks. We searched and searched and couldn’t find them anywhere. It was getting dark quick and we were in a real deep hole. We decided to hunt our way out of the canyon but to do it quickly. As we made it back to the trail head Jacob and Jace were there waiting. Jacob said that he had got on a buck, but with the low light and not being able to see it real well he decided to let it walk. We had found a good spot and knew we would be right back there the next evening.
Again the day drug on and then like a flash we were off again. We hit the trail head with about 4 hours of light to hunt. We hiked out the trail and made it to our pre-designed glassing location. I had just taken off my backpack and pulled up my binos to look around and Joey whispered “Dad I found a buck”. We made a really quick game plan and moved in.
The buck was feeding his way up through a patch of burn quakies. We got into position with Joe and I down the ridge from Jacob about 100 yards. The plan was if Joe couldn’t get the shot or missed, Jacob would bat clean up. Little Joe knelt down and steadied himself and got ready for the shot. Now at this point I was thinking I hope he can remain calm this time. During the Archery and Muzzy hunts as he got his shot opportunities he was so excited he rushed them and missed. This time I was praying it would be different. The buck moved into position and Joey touched off a round. He missed high!!!! This time, as if like a seasoned professional hunter, he stood up calmly and moved up hill 5 feet and got a new line of sight through the quakies and knelt back down. Calm as a cucumber he waited till the buck came into the shooting lane and he let his rifle bark again. The buck dropped in its tracks and did not twitch again!!!! It was over and Little Joe had filled his TAG!!! This is when the little boy and excitement broke out as he and I both yelled and screamed in excitement. We could even hear Joe’s big brother Jacob from up the ridge yell. What an unbelievable experience. His reaction was Priceless. He had worked so so hard from before the archery hunt had started till now. He had sacrificed opening weekend to support his cousin at her wedding and now the Reward had just hit the ground.
We made our way over to the buck and the joy and excitement were so much fun as a father to watch. He had done it. He had completed his and my #1 goal. We took some pics and then started the hard work of getting his buck taken care of. His hard work was not done yet as we quartered the buck and loaded it on our backs for the pack out. Little Joe was a trooper and he took the back straps, tenderloins, neck meet and head on his pack, while Jacob and I each took a front and hind leg. We had a slow hike out in the dark with a lot of weight on Little Joe’s back but he made every step of the way on his own.
The next day we were back out on the mountain to see if we could fill my #2 goal and Jacobs tag. We had split up and Joe and I walked up one side of the ridge and Jacob and Jace walked up the other side so we could look into 2 canyons. It wasn’t long again when Jacob radioed and said he had spotted a bedded buck and there was another one with it he hadn’t got a good look at. We made our way over to Jacob and Jace and set down and put some glass on the bucks. The one we could see was a good 3×3, but not what Jacob was looking for. There was still the other buck that was with it that was in some real thick stuff and wouldn’t come out. We could get glimpses of him but never a good look. It was getting dark so we made a plan that Jake and Jace would stay right there and Joe and I would move up the draw to see if we could bump the buck just enough to make him move down the canyon to an area where Jacob could get a good look at him.
As Joey and I made our way up the canyon quickly I remember thinking to myself, “This is never going to work”. As I finished that thought we heard a BOOM…. I thought to myself, “No Way That Just Worked”!!! We the plan worked to perfection. The buck tried to slip out the bottom of the canyon as we were working up the canyon and Jacob got a good look at it and decided it was what he was looking for. One shot and it was over. We had just filled Jacob’s tag and my #2 goal. 2 great bucks in 2 days. We made our way over to the buck and had our celebration because at this point Joey and I had not seen the buck yet. It was a great buck and had defiantly passed the size of Jacobs buck last year. He was super excited and was nothing but smiles. We again took some pics and took care of the buck and made our way off the mountain with Buck #2.
The rest of the hunt was pretty low key. With only my tag to fill and with now 2 deer in the freezer I was very selective. I ended up passing on a really nice buck as light faded on closing evening but I didn’t really care. We have all accomplished our goals for the year and we were all really happy. It was at this point I realized again “With Sacrifice, comes Rewards”
Here is the Youtube Video it is a must watch to see Joeys reaction to his first Buck ever!!