Family Night - Arizona Strip Style

By Lauren Christopher
Arizona, DIY, Public Land

Family Night - Arizona Strip Style - Lauren ChristopherFebruary/March 2014 EHJ (Issue 141) - Growing up in what my husband considers "the city,” I had little to no experience with hunting, but I always loved camping. On the other hand, my husband, Chase Christopher, grew up in a small town in Texas where hunting was a way of life. When we met six years ago, he slowly introduced me to the world of hunting and promised me a few good camping trips along the way.

Fast-forward to 2013 and we now have a 2-year-old and brand new baby twins. Chase has been applying for the Arizona Strip for several years. Even though I only had a handful of points and not much free time, he decided to put me in as well. In an "against all odds” scenario, I drew the tag! Chase was ecstatic and so was I but I began to worry. I was thrilled for the family camping adventure but on the other hand, I was anxious about juggling childcare. It would be easy for Chase to be in charge of childcare but I am a novice hunter and really needed him to be with me.

After months of discussion, we finally ended up with a solid plan that included family and some of our dearest friends. While I was busy organizing childcare plans, Chase was hard at work networking with members of the hunting community and memorizing unit 13b. Through his communication, he met a fellow hunter by the name of Trevor Davenport. Trevor and Chase hit it off right away and after talking numerous times, made a plan to meet up during the hunt.

After all the groundwork of getting ready for our big adventure we finally made it to the week of the hunt. We met up with the other half of our hunting crew/babysitters in Saint George, which included our good friends Eric and Antje Bergman and my little sister Cassidi Van Echo.

After we drove for three hours down a primitive dirt road, it got dark and we had three very tired and hungry kids. Finding a camp spot in the dark was an impossible task so we decided to pull off to the side of the road and make the best out of a stressful situation. We got little sleep.

The following morning was opening day and against my wishes, Chase insisted we wake up well before daylight and give the first morning a good attempt. We made it to our glassing spot about a half-hour before daylight. Not more than 15 minutes after the sun started to rise, we spotted a nice buck about 50 yards away. I excitedly asked Chase what he thought we should do. It was a 180-class 4x4 and a buck we would regret not shooting in the days to come.

Family Night - Arizona Strip Style by Lauren Christopher

We made our way back to the truck and hoped to find a place to camp. Thankfully, Eric was already on top of it and Antje and Cassidi had the kids all taken care of. That evening we loaded up the whole family to go explore a new part of the unit. After not finding any deer, we made it back to camp to enjoy dinner, give the kids a bath, put them to bed and enjoy some quality time around the campfire.

The following four days of the hunt had highs and lows. Some of the highlights were being together as a family, exploring the beautiful country, meeting fellow hunters and getting to see their trophy bucks. Those four days also had challenges. I was feeling very torn between being with my kids and trying to keep up with Chase to have a successful hunt. Another challenging morning was when Eric, Chase and I saw a 30-inch buck run away about 50 yards behind us because we were glassing in the opposite direction.

The fourth morning started out as a 1,200- yard stalk on a very nice non-typical buck that backfired as he followed a doe into the thick cedar trees. I was once again feeling very defeated. In addition to feeling overwhelmed, we had to drive Antje and Cassidi into Saint George to exchange them for my brother and dad. I was distraught to see the girls go, but to my surprise they showed up with my mom! I was overjoyed to see her.

On the fifth day, we needed to try something different. That evening Trevor had invited us to go with him to a new spot that would take us two hours to get to. The area we were hunting was very thick and we decided it would be best to split up. Chase and I hiked up one ridge and Sean and Trevor went their own ways. Just as we were about to move to a new glassing point, Sean signaled that he’d spotted some deer and a nice buck.

Chase and I made our way down the mountain and back up to where Sean was glassing. Sean quickly pointed out the herd that was feeding across the canyon. It only took a second to see that the buck had a heavy frame and was worth shooting. We skirted the ridge to get closer to the deer. Chase and Sean could now tell it was a great buck but were trying to contain their excitement, as they still needed to coach me through the shot.

Chase told me which line to hold on the buck, reminded me to breathe and to squeeze the trigger. I settled in on the buck’s shoulder and took my first shot that missed just in front of his chest.

Chase calmly asked, "Were you steady?”

"It felt good to me.”

He then noticed the grass blowing on the opposite side of the canyon. It was calm where we were sitting, but windy where the buck was. Chase quickly explained where to hold the crosshair to compensate for the wind. My next shot found its mark and then buck fever set in. Chase, Sean and I celebrated while we waited for Trevor to make his way to us. Trevor had just watched all of this go down through his binoculars and he was screaming all the way down the mountain.

We now had a steep climb down and back up the canyon to my buck. The hike took forever and my short legs managed to fall behind. But, the boys were way too excited to wait for me so they continued to push up the mountain. As they reached the top of the ridge, I could hear each of their first reactions as they laid eyes on the buck.

Family Night - Arizona Strip Style by Lauren Christopher

Once I finally reached the top and the antlers came into view, I noticed he continually got larger. This deer was the most unbelievable buck I have ever seen. All four of us stood there, jaws hanging open. After a few dozen sunset photos, the boys were making a plan on how to get the buck out. It was getting late and I was beginning to worry about the kids. They decided it was safe to leave the buck there and take me back to camp and then bring Eric and Dylan to help pack him out.

We returned to camp around before midnight and I quickly leaped out of the jeep to tell everyone the good news. They were so excited for me and before we could even finish asking the boys about going back they were packing up and ready to go. Once they left to retrieve the deer, I made a warm cup of hot chocolate and curled up next to the campfire to relax with my Mom.

I was so excited it took me a while to come down. I finally started to feel relieved and relaxed that I had accomplished what I come to do. Once I finished my hot chocolate, I climbed into bed with my daughter Laney.

When I pulled her close she opened her eyes and said, "Hi mom, did you get your mule deer?”

I whispered in her ear, "Yes honey I did!”