Utah's New No. 1 Elk

Utah's New No. 1 Elk

Out of shape and out of bullets, Jeff Didericksen - hunting in 2002 with the statewide Sportsman's tag - still managed to bag the biggest bull in Utah history.

By Brett Prettyman

Some hunters will spend a lifetime trying to draw one of Utah's prized Sportsman's permits and never come close. Jeff Didericksen didn't even know exactly what the statewide bull elk Sportsman's permit was until his name was chosen from 3,600 entries in 2002.

That was just the beginning in a chain of mind-boggling events leading up to Didericksen being guided by Doyle Moss to a monster bull unlike any other ever taken in Utah.

"I'm not sure I will ever realize the magnitude of everything that happened. It is really hard to believe the whole thing when you look back at it," Didericksen said of the 418 3/8 gross Boone and Crockett bull. "I did a lot of dumb things leading up to getting that bull. I'm afraid I may have used up all of my luck when it comes to hunting." That may be an understatement.

The story begins two weeks before the application for the $5 Sportsman's permit was due in November 2001. A cousin working at a local Utah Division of Wildlife Resources license outlet told Didericksen about "some kind of permit draw that looked pretty cool." Didericksen took his cousin's advice and applied. "I didn't even read about it. I forked over the $5 and forgot about it," Didericksen said. "To show you what we knew about it, my brother ran home to see if he had drawn the same permit after I found out I had drawn it."

After learning more about the Sportsman's permit from the UDWR Web site, Didericksen began to realize the value of the tag he had drawn. The Sportsman's tag was created to give the average hunter the same opportunity for a statewide permit as the one being doled out annually to the highest bidder at auction. While Didericksen paid just $5 for a chance to draw the Sportsman's tag, another hunter paid $79,000 for a statewide elk conservation tag in 2003.

Even if he had not gone online to research the Sportsman's tag, Didericksen would have learned about its value the next morning on the phone.

Jeff Didericksen and Doyle Moss of MossBack Outfitters pose with Utah's new state-record bull elk. Photo courtesy of Doyle Moss

"I started to get calls from guides. They wanted to make sure I knew their names so that they would be included on the list of guides I was considering. One of them kept on me pretty hard," he said. "That's when I really began to understand how big of a deal it was." Didericksen got calls from about 30 guides. And even though he admittedly had no clue where to start looking to fill his special bull permit, Didericksen decided not to use a guide, at least initially.

"I was thinking I had four months [to hunt] and that I would go out and have some fun with it," he said. "I figured I would get what I would get and be happy with it. Hey, I could hunt anywhere I wanted to. I was sure I could get a 6-point."

Other hunters soon convinced Didericksen he was a fool to settle for just any old bull.

"They were telling me I would be an idiot if I didn't shoot something around 370," he said.

As the calls from guides continued to come in, Didericksen began to realize that having the entire state to choose from was not such a great thing.

Didericksen and his brother, Mike, started on Boulder Mountain, where they had hunted elk before. They also ended up spending time on a popular unit near his home in Grantsville and on the Deep Creek Mountains in western Utah. In addition, Didericksen had friends scattered throughout the state keeping their eyes open for big bulls. "I was scouting every chance I had. Once the hunt started, I didn't take a gun for the first little while, because I was afraid I would pull the trigger and regret it later," said Didericksen, who had from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31 to hunt.

He came close to doing just that when some friends turned him on to a bull he now figures might have measured in the 350-360 range. But because the bull had a broken tine, Didericksen decided to wait. By Thanksgiving Didericksen was starting to get nervous. That is when Doyle Moss entered the picture.

"He told me he was a guide and asked if I had filled the tag yet. He was glad to hear I hadn't, and said he had found some big bulls while scouting for deer," Didericksen said. "I kind of blew him off saying something like, 'Using a guide is kind of like using steroids.' I was kind of stupid about it."

World-Class Bulls on Video

Guiding Jeff Didericksen to the new state record will surely bring new clients to Doyle Moss, but few of them may ever realize the amount of work it took to lead a hunter to the biggest bull ever taken in Utah.


Moss, who has been guiding for 15 years, spent three years keeping tabs on the bull and collecting some of its shed antlers. After Didericksen's successful hunt, Moss combined the scouting and hunt on the video, Screaming Bulls 2.


Moss started producing videos for marketing his guiding business, and then realized that other hunters would be interested in individual stories developed by each hunt. "We video as much as we can during each hunt as long as it doesn't interfere with the taking of the animal," said Moss, who has about 10 guides helping him. "Most of our hunters see the animal they end up taking long before they shoot it because we have sent them video taken while we were scouting."


Moss eventually started MossBack Productions to handle the video aspect of MossBack Western Wildlife Adventures. He has also worked with BuckMasters and the BassPro Hunting Team to create videos of some of the biggest animals in the West and in the world. A collection of Doyle Moss' work is available by visiting www.mossbackmulies.com, or by calling 1-877-682-2079. -- Brett Prettyman


Didericksen figured he would never hear from Moss again, but the guide called back three days later and again asked if he had filled the tag. Again the answer was no. Moss implored Didericksen not to shoot a bull until he saw the one they had found in Spanish Fork Canyon. "I just kept brushing him off - until one day. He called and said he had just taken video of the bull, and wondered if I would like to see it. It was getting late in the hunt and I wanted to see what it looked like, so we drove to Salt Lake and met him in a grocery store parking lot," Didericksen said.

Didericksen and his brother were impressed. "It was just massive," Didericksen said. "I had never seen anything like it, and he had just come straight off of the mountain. It didn't take much convincing after that. I asked him what he wanted [for his fee and expenses] and he told me not to worry about it. I figured there would be some kind of catch."

Moss guides a large percentage of the hunters who place the winning bids on Utah elk and deer conservation tags. He had finished his guiding work for the year and was looking for some trophy mule deer for 2003 hunters when he found the bull in Spanish Fork Canyon. Moss knew the other elk tags in the state had either been filled or expired by that point of the season, but he had heard that Didericksen was still looking for an animal.

"You kill giant animals the second you find them. You don't wait for next year," Moss said of the bull he had been watching mature for three years before he led Didericksen to it. "With the numbers of lions killing bull elk right now and with 300 more hunters allowed to hunt in 2003, there was no way I was waiting for another year - not when I knew there was a guy with a tag still looking," Moss said.

The Wasatch Mountain Unit, where Didericksen would shoot the trophy bull, has been opened to an extra 270 resident and 30 non-resident hunters in a special limited-entry archery hunt for 2003.

Didericksen was anxious about hooking up with Moss - and rightly so, as Moss gets paid handsomely to guide winners of the statewide conservation tags. But because he knew Didericksen had paid just the $5 for the Sportsman's tag drawing and $180 for the elk tag itself, Moss realized the hunter probably could not afford his guiding fee. Moss has benefited from the influx of trophy animals in Utah over the last 10 years, and he figured it was time to help the other side of conservation tag program.

"I guide because I love it. I also guide for money because I have to support my family," Moss said. "I knew he was the only one with a permit, and I called him. He hemmed and hawed about the money deal, but I told him: It was not about the money."

Moss did, after all, receive a form of payment in the publicity and notoriety of guiding a hunter to the state record, although it was the fourth time Moss had helped a hunter take a bull over 400 gross Boone and Crockett points.

Once the money issue was cleared up, they agreed to meet in Spanish Fork Canyon two days later on Dec. 20 to find the bull. Of course, the bull had moved since Moss shot the video three days earlier.

"By the time he got me up the hellacious ridge through 1 1/2 feet of snow, the bull had moved on," Didericksen said. "My nephews were laughing at me because I was down on my knees from cramping up. Doyle said he knew where the bull was going and would find it the next day and call me." Didericksen, who says he is about 30 pounds overweight, wasn't sure he would be ready that soon.

"I thought to myself that there was no way I would be ready if he found it the next day, and that I would need more than one day's rest," Didericksen said. "He called me the next night and said he had watched it bed down. That's when all the crazy stuff started happening."

Didericksen went to bed sore and excited, but woke up rejuvenated and disappointed.

"I woke up at 4 a.m. and saw 4 inches of snow on the ground. I figured if it was snowing in Grantsville that it must be coming down big time in Spanish Fork Canyon," he said.

When his brother and nephews showed up at 4:45 a.m. Didericksen shrugged his shoulders and said that he was sorry, but it looked like they wouldn't be going hunting.

At his brother's insistence, Didericksen called Moss to see what the weather was like at his house in Salem, which is close to Spanish Fork Canyon.

It was clear.

"I'd been moping around figuring we weren't going and all of a sudden we were in a hurry to get out of there. It was a scramble with all kinds of confusion," Didericksen said.

During the mayhem, Mike Didericksen began to tell the young hunters how Jeff had once forgot his gun on a hunting trip. Hearing the story and the laughs that ensued, Didericksen figured his brother was putting the rifle in the truck.

He was wrong.

"We got on the road, and he asked if I had packed the gun. I told him, 'Don't give me that crap,' and he said he was serious," Didericksen said.

After turning around to collect the gun, they made the more than 100-mile drive to the meeting point.

Moss and Kalan Lemon, one of his assistants, had already headed up the mountain and Didericksen found himself in a hurry once again. In the hustle to get on the trail, Didericksen left a box of bullets for his 7mm behind the seat in the truck.

It was a fact he realized 90 minutes into the hike, but failed to share with the rest of the party because "I had six shots, three in the rifle and three in my pocket [because they were next to his hunting tag when he got dressed] - and I figured I could get away without telling them because I would either kill it in six shots or I would miss it and it would be gone."

At one point he glanced up to see where they were headed and a branch caught Didericksen in the eye, knocking out his contact lens. "I was looking around for it when Doyle turned around to see what was going on. I told him, and he asked if it was my shooting eye. I told him no, and he said, 'The heck with it, then - let's go!'"

After 3 1/2 hours of hiking, they came to the area where Moss had bedded the animal down the night before. Moss went up alone to check on the bull and came back with a huge smile and wide eyes. "He is even bigger than I thought he was," Moss said.

Now in shooting position, Didericksen sat down and watched a group of bulls. He was focusing on one that was larger than the others in the group, but then another emerged from the bushes. "I

was impressed with that first one - and then the other one walked out. Doyle asked if I knew which one to shoot, and I was like, 'There is no question,'" Didericksen said.

The bull was uphill and about 300 yards away when the first shots were fired. What could have been a vital shot glanced off a tree branch and ended up completely missing the bull. Before he dropped over the ridge, the bull had taken a serious injury in the front leg. "If that bullet had gone clean, this whole story about running out of bullets would have been buried in my memory as a possibility instead of being on everybody's minds," Didericksen said. "When I fessed up about not having any more bullets, the bull was walking over the top of the ridge. There were quite a few words said that had to be deleted from the video. After the fact it was kind of funny, but at the time it was not funny at all."

Moss had a radio and called down to his nephew, Eric Moss, to get the bullets. He asked where the keys were. Of course, they were in Didericksen's pocket.

The truck window was broken and the bullets were ferried to the site by Eric Moss and one of Didericksen's nephews, Ryan Dana. The bull had not gone far. The group was trailing the bull, which they expected had laid down, when it emerged 45 yards away. "It was a sight I will never forget. It looked like a freak, it was so big. I can't describe it. You had to be there. I have no idea how that thing was hiding itself from us. It was so big," Didericksen said. "One of the guys said he looked prehistoric, and that was a pretty apt description."

Didericksen fired four more shots, all the while praying he didn't happen to hit the bull's antlers. The bull finally dropped after Didericksen's 10th shot. During the celebration, Moss took a minute to razz the successful hunter. "He said, 'You put me through hell.' I told him I was sorry - that I am kind of a slow learner," Didericksen said.

Once off the mountain, the rack was taken to Moss's home for a measurement. Lemon, an official measurer, said the bull would easily go over 400 B&C points and break both state records of 395 typical and 390 non-typical. He was right. Boone and Crockett's records rank Didericksen's bull at the 18th largest non-typical of all time, scoring 412 points.

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