Guest Author / Hunter: BRAD SHURTLIFF
It was late February when I received a call from a friend of mine asking if I had seen the draw results from the Salt Lake Hunt Expo. When I told him that I had not, he couldn’t hold back and exclaimed that I had drawn a Paunsaugunt Utah Archery Buck tag! I had heard a lot about the unit, but I had never been fortunate enough to draw a tag. Living almost 500 miles from the area and having very little experience there, I knew that I would need to employ some help, so I spent the next day or so researching outfitters. David Virostko—owner and operator of Virostko Hunts and North Rim Outfitters—seemed to be speaking my language.
David had repeatedly told me that we would hunt the biggest deer that we felt that we could kill. With that theme in mind, we focused our efforts on two deer that had been running together— “Clunk” and “Ugly.” Clunk was a huge non-typical with a frame unlike any buck I had ever seen. Ugly was a giant typical framed deer with three small cheaters on his left side.
David knew the watering hole where these bucks watered, so with 100-degree temperatures, we focused more of our efforts there. David had another hunter, Tim, who had actually sat the water hole on the opener, but to no avail. Day two found Tim in the blind again. As the morning drew on, Clunk couldn’t resist the urge to drink, and with one great shot, Clunk was claimed by Tim. And with that, my guide, Justin, and I were off to chase Ugly.
Day three found me sitting water with high hopes, climbing into my blind long before daylight.
With scorching temperatures outside, the blind was far from comfortable. As the day wore on, the water hole was surprisingly absent of much life. I had not seen any deer, or any other large animals for that matter. I had made a list of “to-dos” in the event that Ugly presented himself—focus, breathe slowly, pay attention to crosswind, follow through. I had spent considerable time in practice, but I was well aware of what an animal of this caliber could do to my mind in the heat of the moment.
It was in the last minutes of shooting light that I was looking down at my lap and studying my list. I was also rehearsing in my mind what our conversation around the fire that night might look like. David and Justin were confident that Ugly would come to this hole for water. We knew that it had been a few days since he had been here, but with the intense heat, I wasn’t sure that he could go that long without a drink. As the doubts ran through my head, I glanced up to find a large buck standing on the edge of the pond!