Close Search

Everything I Wanted

February 2020
Story by Brady Eddings
State: Utah
Species: Deer - Mule

Every Thanksgiving, we reflect on and express gratitude for many things – our friends and family, our jobs and homes, the freedom and liberties that come from living in the greatest country on earth. In 2018, I was able to add something special to the list of things I was thankful for – a 2019 Utah Sportsman’s deer tag. I began making a game plan right away. I wanted to maximize my chances for a big buck, so I started researching the best places and times to hunt them. I set goals for what I wanted to achieve on this hunt. The first priority was a big deer. I decided I wanted a buck that scored at least 220". Additionally, I wanted to hunt without a guide. I really wanted to find and kill a buck on my own with my friends and family members. I’d always wanted to hunt the Henry Mountains, so after determining what my priorities and goals were, I felt the best chance at killing the buck I wanted and hunting the way I wanted to was in the Henry Mountains during the rut in November.

I headed south with my friends, Paul Golightly and Jason McGillivray, in early September to see if I could find a buck worthy of my tag. On that trip, I saw many bucks but not one that warranted me shouldering my rifle. I hunted for about a week without seeing a shooter buck, so I headed home.

My wife, Crisanne, and I returned a few weeks later and had better luck. We saw numerous good bucks, including a 7x10 that looked like he scored at least 190". Despite being a good buck, I wasn’t tempted to shoot him. I felt I hadn’t seen all the Henrys had to offer.

November rolled around, and it was time to get serious. My cousin, Jeremy Eddings, and my friend, Jared Fawson, were headed to the Henrys with me to put an all-out assault on big bucks. The two of them have years of hunting experience and were natural choices to help me kill the biggest buck we could find.

We began hunting on Sunday, November 10th. Early the first morning, we could tell the rut was starting to kick in. In total, we saw about 30 bucks that first morning, and many of them were mature deer. Not too bad for the first morning, but the bucks we had seen were far short of the goal I had set for myself.

Later that morning, we spotted a really wide buck at least a mile away. We couldn’t see his points very well but could tell he was at least 36" wide. We decided he was a buck that required further examination. Sunday evening found us on Pennell trying to find the wide buck we saw that morning. Just before dark, we found a buck with a sticker point on each side. We couldn’t make out exactly what he was, so I hiked to a better vantage point to try and get a better look at him. Once I got close enough, I could see he was a big 2x4 with two 6" stickers on each side. He wasn’t what I was looking for, but he was definitely cool looking. We never saw the wide buck again, so we headed to camp with a lot of pictures and video to look at.

Monday morning was a repeat of the previous day. We headed to Pennell and began glassing. We found a couple of 4x4 bucks that were in the mid 180" range as well as a number of other mature deer. We spent some time looking at them to make sure we weren’t missing something, but in the end, none of them were what I was looking for.

On Tuesday, we headed to Mt. Ellen. We had been told there was a 220" buck in the area. In the end, the play didn’t quite work out as scripted. Ellen was the place where we saw the fewest bucks. We didn’t draw a blank, but we definitely didn’t see as many bucks as we were seeing on Pennell.

On Wednesday, we were hunting Mt. Hiller and saw plenty of deer, many of them coming off Hiller and heading towards Pennell. A couple of the bucks we saw had tempted me. I knew that there were better bucks to find, but a few of them were downright hard to pass up.

Thursday started off different than the other days. The deer were moving much earlier than they had the previous days. We hustled to get on Pennell and start glassing. We immediately started seeing deer, including a couple of 5x5s that had previously tempted me. This was the first day I started to feel the pressure. I decided I was going to shoot one of the 5x5 bucks. When I told Jeremy and Jared this, they told me to think about my decision before acting on it. We left the mountain and went into Hanksville and had lunch. Just getting away from the deer that afternoon calmed me down and gave me time to focus on the goals I had set for myself. I realized that shooting a buck that did not meet my expectations would be a decision I would regret.

After lunch, we headed to Hiller with a new lease on life. I was once again focused on killing the buck I wanted. We planned on going from Hiller towards Mud Springs and Pennell, stopping to glass along the way. We didn’t get as far as we planned because we were seeing so many deer. Unfortunately, we noticed that many of the bucks had busted tines from fighting. This didn’t help calm my nerves.

Later in the afternoon, we were driving in the Ranger and saw a buck bedded down and tending a doe about 30?yards off the road. Jeremy could see it had an?inline extra on one side. The buck was bedded, and we couldn’t get a good look at him, so Jeremy started towards him to get him to stand up. Once the doe saw Jeremy, she jumped up and took off with the buck in tow. When I finally got a good look at him, I could see right away that he was a great buck.

Once Jeremy returned, we devised a plan to move on the buck. We drove to a ridge that overlooked where the buck had run. We could see him, and we were deciding how best to get to him when the wind shifted and blew straight at him. The doe and buck blew out and headed over a small knob and down through a draw. We knew where he was headed, so I headed after the buck and Jeremy and Jared stayed behind to try and record the action.

After a short stalk, I found the deer. I was about 180 yards away and felt I had a good chance at killing the buck. I got in a good shooting position and took the safety off, ready to shoot. I checked to see if Jeremy and Jared were ready to record the action, but I couldn’t see them. I could see the buck, but I never had a clean shot. I waited and waited, and it started to get dark. The buck wasn’t cooperating. Rather than risk a bad shot, I decided it was better to back out and come back in the morning.

The next morning was noticeably different. The deer were moving much earlier than any other day. It seemed as if the rut was hitting its peak. We passed deer after deer on our way to where we thought the buck would be. When we arrived at our glassing spot, I saw the buck cross over a ridge. If we had arrived there a minute later, we wouldn’t have seen him moving and may not have found him. We moved to a bluff overlooking the flats and started glassing. We could see where the buck was, and while trying to make a plan of attack, the lead doe started walking down the hill towards us. We could tell they were going to walk into shooting range, so I leaned over a fallen tree and got ready. They got within 275 yards, walked into a clearing, and I was ready. I got the buck in the scope, made sure I was steady and calm, and launched a round at him. He ran about 40 yards and dropped into a small wash.

The buck had everything I wanted – good mass, a lot of points, nice eyeguards, good width, and a lot of wall appeal. He scored 222 3/8", had seven scoreable points on the left side and nine on the right, was almost 30"wide, and had over 40" of mass. He was everything I wanted in a buck and more.

Utah Deer Hunting