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July 2023
Story by Douglas Erickson
Hunters: Nick Erickson
State: Arizona

We were sitting at dinner when my wife casually mentioned we got a notice from the credit card that $300 had been charged by Arizona. My mind started racing. I had put in for sheep and deer for myself and my son, but neither of us had points near the level to draw. I double checked, and sure enough, there was a $300 charge.
The next day, I called Huntin’ Fool and talked to Garth Jenson. He confirmed that Arizona would not release results for a few days, but if we had a charge, someone drew a tag. I asked him for some thoughts on an outfitter, and he gave me a couple names. I called Pat from Shadow Valley Outfitters, and after 10 minutes on the phone, I had a gut feeling they would be a good fit.

The email came that Arizona results were out, and I logged in and checked my results. Unsuccessful. I couldn’t believe it! That meant with 5 points, Nick, at 15 years old, had drawn maybe the best archery mule deer tag in the country. I contacted Pat and told him Nick had drawn the golden ticket. I booked, and we started counting the days.

Quickly, the day came and off we went. The flight from Newark to Las Vegas went smoothly, and then we took a shuttle to St. George, Utah. The next morning, our guides, Hunter and Trevor picked us up at the hotel. After a quick stop for supplies, we went for lunch where we met up with the other hunter in camp, Dave, and his son, Chase. We finished lunch, drove into camp, and got settled. The plan for the week was to alternate between sitting a blind and spot and stalk. We hit the sack excited for opening day.

The alarm rang at 3:30 a.m. Nick was up in an instant and getting dressed. A 45-minute drive took us to the parking spot. After a short hike, we were settling into the blind. Things were quiet that morning, so we decided to meet up, grab some breakfast burritos, and pass some time until the evening hunt. The first evening, we had a doe and two fawns visit but no other action.

For day two, Nick was stalking. He and Hunter spotted several bucks together and worked in pretty close, but there was not a shooter in the group. These deer were part of a bigger group that Hunter felt held a couple target bucks he had been watching during scouting. The evening plan was to get in the same area as the morning hunt and try and pick up one of the bigger deer. As we worked slowly toward the area where we thought the deer would be, Trevor got on the radio and said he had a couple deer located. Hunter and Nick headed after the deer, and I went to join Trevor. When I got there, Hunter and Nick were about 100 yards from the deer and making a move. Suddenly, a herd of cattle started plowing into the patch of trees the deer were in. With that stalk blown, we quickly spotted two other deer. One was a deer named “Tank” that was one of the top deer from pre-season scouting. With last light coming fast, Hunter and Nick decided to push it and made a move in the open. One looked at them, but Tank and another nice typical kept feeding. Nick got 50 yards from the other buck and took a shot. The arrow went just right and in front, missing cleanly. The deer jumped but only ran a few steps, and Tank never stopped feeding. Nick was able to nock another arrow and line up on Tank. The shot looked good but fell just short under his chest. They recovered both arrows and confirmed clean misses. Back at camp, the group decided to explore some different country the next day.

Day three found us all on a flat top mountain. We dropped two spotters at glassing points and split up with Dave and Hunter headed in one direction while we went with Trevor. I happened to look at a knob on the horizon and picked up five bucks just about to go over the ridge. Several had good frames, and Trevor quickly got on them and confirmed at least one was a good buck. They dropped over and out of sight. We quickly called Hunter, and they headed our way. We planned to peek over the edge about 400 yards away and see if we could formulate an approach. Hunter and Dave went 300 yards left of where we had last seen the deer, and we went straight at their last location. When we peeked over the terrain, no deer were in sight. Trevor and Nick eased forward, and after about 150 yards, Trevor picked up antler tips in the distance. Hunter and Dave snuck down to work around and above the deer, and Trevor and Nick moved to a likely escape route. Before Hunter and Dave could get into position, the deer were up and moved over another edge.

Trevor dropped down and quickly glassed the deer bedded under the only two trees on the whole flat. They were positioned fairly close to the edge of the last drop before the bottom. Trevor did not think an approach from above was possible, but he knew of a two-track that came up the bottom within about a mile of where they were. The plan was made for Trevor to stay put and keep eyes on the deer while all of us drove around to the trail.

We made our way around, and Chase, Jordan, and I set up to watch the show while the guys headed up. Trevor confirmed the deer were still in place with the exception that one big non-typical had separated itself and moved several hundred yards to a different group of trees. After a long, tough climb, they got the wind right and made their move. In the final approach, the deer stood and stared away from them. Suddenly, he turned and trotted off. Everyone made the long hike back down, and we headed to camp.

The next morning, Nick was happy to sit the blind back where we had hunted the first two days. No deer were seen on our sit, but Hunter and Dave had a Tank sighting. That evening, Hunter and Nick started off on a different part of the mountain, sneaking and peeking, while Trevor and I got back on the high point to glass. By the time we got set up, Hunter had picked up some deer and they were working in. Suddenly, he got on the radio and said the deer had completely switched direction. He and Nick were going to have to make a mad sprint to get around them and get the wind. They got into position just as the deer started to filter into view. Hunter and Nick ended up with 10 deer around them, including Tank and another big typical. For 20 minutes, they were 40 yards or less away.

Finally, Tank fed 20 yards away and Nick began to draw. Tank looked right at them and froze for about 30 seconds and then fed around a small tree. Nick drew, and when Tank stepped out, he released. Tank jumped and bolted off. Nick and Hunter agreed that the hit was behind the shoulder but low. They recovered the arrow and tracked to the last place they had seen Tank. The arrow had blood but also rumen contents. There was a decent amount of dark red blood along the track, and we all agreed that it appeared the liver was involved. About an hour had passed, and darkness was falling. Hard as it was, we decided to wait until morning to avoid possibly bumping the deer before it expired.

Taking up the trail at daylight, the tracking was good for about 150 yards, but blood diminished and eventually stopped. Then, Trevor got on the radio and said, “Get over here. I found the deer.”

The celebration began! I will remember the look on Nick’s face when he put his hands on Tank for the rest of my life. He showed such character and a never quit attitude during the entire hunt and took the emotional ups and downs with exceptional maturity. I am so proud of the man he is becoming. I can’t say enough about the dedication and commitment Trevor and Hunter displayed. They are an outstanding team. I can’t thank them enough, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them and Shadow Valley Outfitters to anyone. I have to thank Dave and Chase, great camp mates and partners in this hunt. Of course, most of all, I need to thank my wife for supporting me and now Nick as well as we follow our hunting passion.