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January 7, 2014
One Big Buck

Zach Mikesell recounts his experience with the Utah Mule Deer Sportsman’s Tag and the adventure to find “Dozer” 

239 inches.

That’s the size buck that Zach Mikesell, of Tooele and currently a student at Dixie State University in St. George, brought down during the summer after he was awarded the 2013 Utah Mule Deer Sportsman’s Tag.

The Sportsman’s Tag, which is awarded to one person out of about 50,000 applicants, allows that one hunter an opportunity to use a rifle from Aug. 31 through Jan. 15, hunt statewide on public land, and hunt on private property with permission. The Sportsman’s Tag holder, along with the Governor’s Tag holder, are the rifle users who are able to hunt during this time.

Mikesell found who drew the Sportsman’s Tag on Dec. 2, 2012. Surrounded by friends at Dixie State, Mikesell opened his email that night to discover he had been awarded the tag.

“I made a call to my dad, and he didn’t believe me. He actually hung up on me,” Mikesell said. “He said, ‘You’re so full of it. I can’t believe my own son is trying to blow smoke up my skirt. Prove it. Send me a pic of your email.’”

After showing his dad, John Mikesell, proof that he indeed drew the tag, it was then time to make preparations for his hunt. The biggest thing for Zach in preparation was that he didn’t want to hire a guide. He wanted to do this hunt “the old school way” with just his family and friends at his side. He said while killing a deer is three-quarters of the fun, making memories with loved ones is the other quarter.

“I got contacted by everybody in the state,” Zach said about guides who wanted to help him find a dream buck. “They all wanted to do it for free. They just wanted the publicity over it.”

But Zach wanted to learn how to hunt big mule deer on his own. So he rejected help from potential guides and made plans that whole spring and summer to go out and find his dream buck.

He told potential guides “I’d rather kill a 190-inch deer myself than hire you to take me to him.”

He even took the semester off school, to his mother’s dismay, so he could work two jobs and save enough money for the ensuing hunt. Finally, the time arrived to scout, and eventually kill, the deer. Joined by friends and family, Zach made his way down to the Henry Mountains in southern Utah, near Kanab, during the weekend of Aug. 22-25 and spotted “Dozer,” the 239 1/8-inch mule deer.

Zach’s parents found him almost by accident after rolling an ATV. Zach drove in his truck up a different ridge with his sister, Samantha Mikesell, and Colby Hyde, a friend from Zach’s LDS mission.

“As we were glassing, Colby noticed the four-wheeler that my parents were on was struggling with the loose rock that they needed to get across while headed up to the ridge,” Zach said. “As I turned to look for myself, I saw the four-wheeler begin to roll backwards. It turned sideways and then rolled over my mom and dad.”

Zach and Colby rushed over to help Zach’s parents and found his mother, Karen Mikesell, in tears. She broke two fingers, chipped a bone off in her elbow, and her right hip was severely swollen. But that didn’t keep her down.

“My dad was more shaken up than anything,” Zach said. “I told my mom we were headed back to camp, and she very sternly declined that option. … she replied, ‘I will not hurt any more here than I will there. Plus, we are here in prime scouting time to find a big buck so that is what we will do.’”

And Karen’s toughness may have made all the difference as moments later, as Karen tried to move away and calm down a little more, she spotted deer in a ravine below.

“So my dad puts his binoculars up, and my mom was so sore that she couldn’t really move so she was just yelling for me,” Zach said. “So finally I take my video camera and my spotting scope, and I look at Colby and say, ‘I hope they found something awesome just to lift their spirits.’”

John had the deer in sight and tried his best to show Zach where to look without lowering his own binoculars, in fear that he might lose him. When Zach saw the deer, he knew right away that it was “Dozer,” the 239-inch buck.

“That’s it. Lock my heart and throw the key,” Zach said about the deer. “That’s the buck that I want. That’s the dream. I’d be so happy with him.”

So the scouting ended, and after waiting impatiently for a week, Saturday, Aug. 31 arrived — the day Zach could go out and kill his deer.

“Five minutes after we started glassing and locating many of the bucks that had been hanging out with my buck, Zeb (Hansen) located my buck,” Zach said. “We all broke out spotting scopes and prepared a gameplan.”

Zach and his friends and family hiked around and looked for a good spot, and eventually they found themselves 75 yards away from “Dozer” and several other bucks. He prepared himself for the shot with his heart racing. Zack focused, pulled the trigger and the buck dropped dead.

“In one moment, the stress of possessing such a coveted tag was lifted,” he said. “My hunt that could’ve lasted four months was over after about an hour and a half. It was totally worth it. I am so blessed to be able to say everything came together like I wanted it to.”

Zach wanted to thank everyone who helped him along the way, including his parents, John and Karen, his sister, Samantha, Colby Hyde, Brad Brinkley, Kelly Cox (the videographer on the trip), Ed, Zeb and Jake Hansen, Scott Brown, and Kent Heder.

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