By Jennifer Huff
Jen Huff almost developed some sort of palsy both times she saw this awesome 6x5. Nevertheless, she put three bullets into this Utah stud, accepting whatever target was presented. Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Huff
Saving your name drawn for a limited-entry tag for one of Utah's prime mule deer units is akin to finding a diamond ring in a box of Cracker Jacks. A person has to buy a lot of boxes, as a rule. And even then, it ain't gonna happen.
I had to open only two to collect my prize.
When I heard that I'd drawn a deer tag in 2007, I assumed it was a general tag, but it wasn't. After it dawned on me, I was so excited that I called my husband, Scott, and other family members. Nobody could believe it, especially since that was only my second year to put my name in the hat.
Almost immediately, I called Doyle Moss with Mossback Guides and Outfitters.
Doyle and I have been friends for years. All summer long, Doyle enjoyed teasing me, saying I would probably shoot a "2-pointer," while I insisted I was going to get me a 200-incher.
After some very slow months of waiting, the calendar finally flipped to Oct. 5, when Scott and I met up with Burdett Shumway and Jake Butler, who were to be my guides. Doyle was guiding other hunters and could not do it.
Soon after we set up camp, we went out looking for deer with Jake. The countryside was beautiful - really flat and loaded with pinion pines. While out scouting that evening, we saw lots of bucks. None were huge; nothing really worth pursuing. We scouted until dark.
The adventure officially began the next morning at 5:00. We drove to the hunting spot and waited for sunrise. Then we got out of the truck and started glassing hillsides.
We didn't see anything there at first, just a few does and some small bucks.
But when we decided to move to another area, Burdett suddenly spotted more deer in the quakes. One was a bedded buck. It was a nice-looking deer, probably carrying 180 inches on its head.
We watched that buck for about 20 minutes. I could have shot it 50 times.
Burdett said, "Do you want to take it?"
"I think I'm going to go with my gut instinct and wait," I replied, much to my guide's disappointment. He didn't think I was going to see anything bigger.
He'd been scouting for weeks and hadn't seen a better buck. But I somehow knew there was something better waiting.
A little while later, it started snowing. It was hard to see much of anything, and it was freezing cold. Halfway back to camp, however, the snow ceased as we reached a fork in the road.
Burdett looked at me and asked, "Which direction does your gut tell you to take?"
I chose the right fork. The terrain didn't look all that promising, but it sure did feel right. After about 30 minutes of driving, we hadn't seen so much as a doe.
And then Scott and Burdett started teasing me, claiming they knew we should've taken the other road.
About that time, Burdett spotted a buck a mere 50 yards from the road. He stopped the truck so we could get a better look at it. When I told Burdett to back up the truck in a hurry, he looked at me like I was crazy.
I repeated: "Back the truck up!"
Scott also thought I'd lost it. He looked at me and said sternly, "Jen, we can see the buck. It's only about 25 inches wide."
"BACK THIS TRUCK UP NOW," I demanded.
The look on Burdett's face was priceless. He finally said, "Yes, Ma'am."
When he started back, Burdett just about came unglued. When he saw what I'd been looking at - not the same deer they'd dismissed - he sprang into action, yelling for me to get out and shoot.
I could not get out fast enough. I have never had such an extreme case of buck fever. That was the biggest deer I had ever seen. The reason they didn't see it was because it was standing behind a huge pinion pine. I'd just barely glimpsed it, but I never needed a second look.
When I hopped out, I had no shot. There were four other bucks surrounding this one like bodyguards. I have never seen anything like it. They all finally ran off a bit, and I never got a chance to shoot. We were all sick.
We ultimately decided not to push them and to go back later that evening.
Around 4 p.m., we left camp and returned to that spot. Jake, meanwhile, went off in another direction to see if he could spot the cadre of bucks. When we got back there, we saw some really nice bucks, including one that Burdett advised me to shoot.
"Jen, you better take this one," he said. "I really doubt your buck will be back here."
"Nope, I'm going with my gut," I replied.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes I am," I insisted.
We continued driving down the road, and, lo and behold, there stood "my" deer 50 feet from where we'd spotted it earlier in the day. We all jumped out of the truck.
The buck was at 320 yards and walking away. Just my luck. It was not about to turn and allow me a shot at its shoulder. Nevertheless, I rested my .270 across a tree limb.
The whole time, Scott was yelling "Shoot him ... shoot him!"
I said, "Are you sure it's my buck?"
He continued yelling: "SHOOT HIM!"
At that point, the deer looked back at me, and I knew it was the one. I had buck fever so bad, I thought I was going to have a stroke right there. Again, Scott told me to take the shot.
I found the deer in my scope and, before squeezing the trigger, said, "Please, Lord, let me hit it."
Afterward, we all ran toward the deer, which hadn't fallen. Burdett and Scott were yelling for me to shoot again. I did. My second shot was through the shoulder, and it fell.
When we were within 15 yards, the buck got its feet under it and took off running. One more shot ended it.
When I walked up to my first mule deer, I could not believe my eyes. Five points on one side; six on the other; and a spread of 33 inches. I couldn't wait to tell Doyle about my "2-pointer."
-- Reprinted from the November 2008 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.