By Kurt Shepard, Central Utah District Chair, Utah County Chapter Chair
Mark Taggart and I met 15 years ago. What started out as a business relationship quickly grew into a lifelong friendship. One of the many interests we share is the RMEF. Mark is a longtime member, sponsor member and has been a mainstay at the Utah County Chapter’s banquet in Provo, Utah, for a number of years.
Last year when it came time to apply for Utah limited-entry hunts, Mark told me that he was applying for a tough-to-draw deer tag. Lo and behold, he ended up drawing one for the Vernon Unit. He was thrilled, because taking a good buck was always something he’d dreamed of doing. The thing is, Mark has terminal bone cancer, and at that point he was not doing well. As time went on his condition worsened, and he sadly realized that he would not be able to do any scouting.
I decided I was going to do whatever I could to help Mark fulfill his dream of taking a big buck. Being involved with RMEF and other wildlife organizations, I figured I could round up enough people and resources to help Mark’s dream come true. I phoned my friends about what I wanted to do, and they were quick to jump on board. RMEF regional director Bill Christensen gave me his inside contact at King’s Camo, and I gave him a call. I also contacted Darren Holden at Desert’s Edge Outfitters, who said he would love to help.
Mark then contacted the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to ask about the disabled hunter program. He was able to get an extension on his season, which would allow him to hunt until November 9. After making arrangements to have the hunt taped, we were all set. Now it was just a waiting game.
After many sleepless nights for Mark, Darren Holden finally called me on November 1, and I heard the words I had been waiting for: “You guys need to get down here.” I called Mark and told him to meet me at 2:30 that afternoon. Before long the three of us, along with Darren’s brother Rich, Mark’s wife Michelle and their kids Ryan, Anthony and Katelyn, found ourselves heading up the mountain.
Just before dark we found the buck we were looking for. He was 465 yards away and not leaving his does. Darren and Rich took Mark over the top of a ridge to see if they could close the distance. The buck was now just 250 yards away, but he had his head buried in a burnt cedar tree trying to tear it to pieces and wouldn’t present a good shot. As the rest of us sat waiting to hear a shot in the distance, the buck slipped over the ridge.
We all went back three days later to see what we could find. We made our way up the canyon where we had seen the first buck, and there were four deer—including a nice buck. He seemed to be more interested in the does than us, so we had plenty of time to look him over. After glassing the buck for 15 minutes or so, Mark decided that this was the one he had been hoping for. We set up the tripod for Mark and he waited for a good clean shot. The buck finally stopped, and we ranged him at 300 yards. Mark touched off a shot and the buck jumped straight up in the air, turned and went about 40 yards before dropping.
Then it was all smiles, hoots and hollers, and a few tears. The years of waiting for this buck were finally over, a dream come true for a truly great person. I’m glad Mark was able to have his wife and kids along for this great experience.
Special thanks to RMEF, Darren and Rich Holden with Desert’s Edge Outfitters, Ken Young, Wade Hanks, Scott Tycksen, King’s Camo and Nic Boren Taxidermy for your support. Thanks also to my employer Burton Lumber for allowing me the time off to do this.
And to Mark: Thanks for letting me be a part of your hunt. It is time well spent with a good friend who I will never forget.