By Brett Joos
2013 started out like every other year, receiving the unsuccessful notice for all of my limited entry applications in my home state of Utah. I did however, draw a general deer tag. I had also applied for a buck antelope tag in Wyoming and after a couple years of accumulating points I was successful. I had hunted this area the last couple of years for doe antelope with my friend Chris and we had learned the area very well.
Being disabled and having these two tags in my pocket did not give me high expectations for trophy quality. My goals were to have fun, try to harvest a three point or better deer and a 14 inch or better antelope.
Opening day came and with my Wyoming antelope buck tag in hand, Chris and I went out looking for bucks. Chris had done some scouting before the season and had gotten some leads to follow from our friend James, who lives in Wyoming and from a local warden.
We saw a lot of small bucks right away but nothing to write home about. After a while without any luck we decided to go after a buck named Trashy that Chris had scouted. We took a good look at him through the spotting scope and decided to give it a shot. The only problem was that the does would hear the truck start up every time we tried to move closer and then they would leave and take Trashy with them. Being in a wheel-chair makes it tough to cover uneven ground without the help of a motorized vehicle!
After about an hour of cat and mouse we decided to leave him alone and go check out another part of the unit that the warden told Chris about. It was a good lead, but none of the bucks were quite what we were looking for.
Then we saw a group of antelope off the road but within shooting distance. I had recently read Mike Eastman’s Hunting Trophy Antelope and remembered him writing you should look for mass first and then length on a buck. We looked over the buck in the group and saw that he had some good mass and length but his diggers were not too good. We decided to pass and come back later if we did not see anything better. We went a little ways down the road and decided that we should give the buck another look.
They were still in the same spot as before and in a pretty good position to shoot from the road in my wheelchair with shooting sticks. I got set up, ranged the buck, adjusted my turret and waited for him to turn broadside. It felt like forever but it finally happened. Chris let out a yell and the buck stopped and looked at us. I pulled the trigger and what felt like forever for the bullet to get there, was really just an instant.
Chris yelled out that I got him and that he was down. I could not believe it, my first Wyoming antelope buck was on the ground. I was in disbelief and felt like I had won the lottery. Then I started to feel bad for Chris because he had to hike all the way down the hill and pack the antelope back to the truck by himself and this was no small hill!
When Chris got back to the truck we measured the buck to be around 16 inches and we both could not believe his mass. What an awesome day!
Next up, my Utah General deer tag! My goal for this hunt changed when we got a tip about a good buck the night before the hunt. Mike and Jeff, friends who live in the area, were scouting and met some elk hunters who told them about a dandy buck. They contacted Chris and shortly after he contacted me. Chris downplayed how big the buck was so that I might be able to get some sleep!
The 4:00 a.m. alarm went off and soon we were headed down the road. We met up with Jeff and Mike and made our plans for the hunt. When I got out of the truck and into my wheelchair there were rocks everywhere and there was no way my wheelchair could go over them. Chris and Jeff each grabbed a side and farmer carried me over a rough 20 yards to our set up. They set me on the ground and we glassed into a gorgeous little basin waiting for the buck to come out.
Jeff and Mike were looking over one side of the basin and Chris and myself over the other. We were there for 30 minutes and well into shooting light when Jeff started seeing deer. At first it was only does and then Jeff said, “Big Buck!” I looked over immediately and without my binocs I could see his rack from 400 yards away. I threw Chris’s backpack on the ground and set up for the shot. The buck walked out and stopped broadside when Chris ranged him at 381. We dialed the scope and I put the crosshairs dead on his shoulder and took the shot. The buck stumbled and went 20 yards and expired.
I could not believe it! Two great bucks in one year and both surpassed my expectations in many ways. The green scores of my two bucks this year were way higher than I ever thought I could achieve. My antelope ended up green scoring 82″ and officially netting 80 B&C and my deer green scored 175″.
If there is anything that my disability has taught me it is that if you try and do not give up, most things are achievable and that good family and friends are to be cherished! 2013 was one of my luckiest years and I hope that my next year will bring me my next dream of a big bull elk. Thank you to all who helped me have a “Lucky 13!”
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