Outdoor Channel host Jim Zumbo is arguably the country’s most prominent big game hunter. In his 40 years as an outdoor writer, Zumbo has had more than 2,000 articles and 3,000 photos published. Although he’s hunted and fished on five continents and all 50 states. his first deer hunt remains etched in his memory.
With great detail, Zumbo describes his first of many deer hunts, which occurred more than 50 years ago while he was attending Utah State to study forestry.
“My first real deer hunt that amounted to anything was in Utah about 1961. I was hunting mule deer with a couple of friends. I’m a New Yorker, upstate New York, and I’m used to trees.
“Out on this hunt, I arrived in the middle of night and didn’t realize the landscape. As morning grew, I saw there were no trees, just sagebrush. I couldn’t believe there would be a deer living out there.
“The people who took me there sat me down halfway down a canyon and told me to watch the bottom of the canyon, which was about a 200-yard shot. I was sitting there thinking, ‘What am I doing?’ All of the sudden, this big old buck comes walking down the canyon.
“I had a borrowed Enfield from a fraternity brother. I shot the deer and ran down the hill and found, to this day, the biggest, heaviest bodied mule deer I’ve ever shot I my life. I think he dressed about 245 (pounds).
“Here I was, now a believer in the fact that mule deer live in a whole different part of the world than I was used to.
“That was truly my very first deer. A lot of people ask, ‘Why were you 21 years old before you got your first deer? Why didn’t you shoot one when you were a kid like we see on TV?’
“In those days, there weren’t a lot of deer around. Seeing a whitetail anywhere in the East was a really big deal. I spent most of my time hunting birds.”
Zumbo was asked if he remembers more details from his first deer kill than any of his other hunts.
“I remember exactly walking up to it. I remember the guy I was hunting with running down and going, ‘Oh my, I’ve never seen a bigger buck in my life!’ And he was a veteran, a Utah rancher.
“I’m talking about the body. The horns were nice. It was an old buck -- he only had three by four, but there were really gnarly and short-tine. He was way beyond his prime. I remember every second of it.
“It’s just the fact that it was such a thrill to make that happen. It was such a unique experience. I’ve forgotten many, many more of my deer hunts. It’s like your first of anything. It’s just a part of what makes memories special. The very initial events stand out.”