Lion Kills and Big Bucks

By Scott Watkins
Utah, 2011, DIY, Public Land

Scott Watkins - Lion Kills and Big BucksFebruary/March 2012 EHJ (Issue 129) - After receiving results that I had drawn a 2011 general season central Utah rifle tag, I decided to put a lot more dedication into the hunt than previous years. About June, I decided on the area that I wanted to hunt. I made multiple trips to the area for scouting and packing in a few items for camp so that I could stay in the area for a while. Upon the first visit, I found a few lion kills and I seemed to find more and more every time. I found a total of eight kills. There was one fawn so fresh that it was barely covered with leaves and still had fresh blood.

About a week before the hunt started, I spotted a great buck feeding out of some pines to a small clearing. He only fed for about 10 to 15 minutes before he slipped back into the trees. The day before the hunt opener my cousin, a friend and I, hiked to camp very excited about the hunt. After two and a half days of hard hunting, we were never able to put eyes on this buck again. Being very discouraged about the amount of hunters in the area and the eight mountain lion kills nearby, we decided to come off the mountain and try a different area the next day.

That morning we got up early to make it to the top of a local canyon to try our luck. After some time on the spotting scope, we spotted another great buck bedded down in some quakies about a mile and a half down the canyon.

As we stalked in, we spooked up a doe that we had not seen and all the deer took off but the buck was not with them. After a quick rest, we started down the hill. We had not even taken 10 steps we jumped the buck about 40 yards away. Blown away by the size of this buck with a spread of more than 30 inches, I didn’t even have time to get the rifle aimed to take a shot before he very quickly disappeared into the trees. After an exhausting day we began our way back.

That night I was very distraught, and knowing I only had one more day left to hunt due to work, I called a great friend, Levi Jordt. He had the same tag and hadn’t gotten a chance to hunt yet. We made plans to hunt another area that he had never been to.

The next morning we made the hike up to the area we wanted to be at only to see multiple smaller bucks that we did not want to pursue, and a lot of hunting pressure. Levi and I worked our way across a few draws as we tried to stay away from other hunters in the area. Soon we realized we only had a mile or so left of hunting area, and we were almost to the bottom. After a quick decision from Levi, we decided to hike two miles back to where we had just come from so we could then work our way across to another canyon that neither of us had ever been to.

We made our way to the top of the canyon just about noon. Levi and I decided to have some lunch and do some spotting. After seeing a few deer in the canyon, we decided to push down through a stand of pines and quakies and make our way to the other side of the canyon.

Once through the trees, we came to a clearing where I spotted a deer a few hundred yards away feeding up the canyon and almost into some pine trees. As I pulled up my binoculars to take a better look, the deer moved slightly into the trees, making it difficult to see the deer’s head and only leaving its body in view. After watching for a moment, the deer lifted its head up and turned just enough for me to see only the rear tines and the tip of his ear. Judging by the mass and the distance of spread past his ear, we knew he was a good buck. I wasted no time grabbing the shooting sticks and tossed the rangefinder to Levi to get me an accurate distance. I was trying to hold back the buck fever caused by Levi as he was saying, "Shoot, shoot him, he is a good buck! Hurry!” Then he said, "You better shoot him quick or I am going to shoot!”

Scott Watkins - Lion Kills and Big Bucks

For a full account of Scott's adventure, go to page 32 in the February/March 2012 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.