Last year we received a phone call from Colorado resident, Eldon Rizzi. He was in the process of gearing up for not one, but two, hunts of a lifetime. During the process of applying for a nonresident Wyoming wild bison tag, he opportunistically purchased a raffle ticket for the mule deer Super Tag – as luck would have it, he drew both the bison tag and the Super Tag!
The coveted raffle was created in 2013 by Governor Matt Mead and the Wyoming Legislature to provide residents and nonresidents an additional opportunity to apply for each of Wyoming’s big game species. The lottery-based tags are issued on a species by species basis and only nine winners are chosen each year. The coveted prize also provides much needed supplemental funding to Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
Here’s the story of Eldon’s Wyoming Mule Deer Super Tag experience, in his own words…
By Eldon Rizzi
“In early 2016, my good friend Aaron Thompson asked if I wanted to apply for a Wyoming buffalo hunt. The idea of a new adventure made me agree without hesitation. While applying for the buffalo tag, I discovered that Wyoming offers a super tag drawing and I decided to throw in a wild card for the Mule Deer Super Tag. I knew my chances of drawing either the buffalo tag or mule deer super tag were slim to none, but I thought why not try.
When the buffalo draw came out I was awarded a double surprise – I AND my friend had both drawn our cow buffalo tags. We were thrilled to think we’d be embarking on this adventure together. Fast forward a few weeks and I was absolutely speechless to get a call from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department telling me that I was the lucky winner of the super tag drawing! Being my first time applying out of the state of Colorado and getting to hunt a new place, my desire was doubly rewarded and I felt extremely blessed.
Once the reality of it all began to set in, I quickly became overwhelmed with logistics and decisions and felt it starting to consume my life. I knew the buffalo hunt wouldn’t take quite as much planning as the buck hunt, and so I began putting more effort toward my deer hunting opportunity of a lifetime. With the opportunity to hunt the entire state, I knew I had a lot of research and decisions ahead of me.
With this opportunity, people I had never met before provided me with insight, tips, and encouragement. Brendan Burns from Kuiu gave me wise advice: treat it like any other hunt, give it my best, and to not let it consume me. I was extremely pleased by the genuine helpfulness of the folks at the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Advisors from Huntin’ Fool magazine were also a great resource for contacting hunters in the specific units I was looking at hunting. Everyone seemed eager to see me succeed.
“Research, resources, and advice – a plan was in place.”
From my experience as a guide in Colorado, I knew one of my best resources would be to talk to outfitters. I called up Dick Ray, a friend and an active leader in the Colorado Outfitters Association. He first questioned if I had sufficient tools in my optics bag, and that if I was lacking anything, I should contact a great new company in Wyoming producing top of the line optics. I took his advice and called up Maven. I was pleased, once again, to find genuine helpfulness and a supreme opportunity to get my hands on some of the best optics I’ve ever gotten to use. With limited funds and Maven’s support, I was able to acquire optics that proved to be very valuable in the months to come. Research, resources, and advice – a plan was in place.
I wanted to involve my family as much as possible and use every opportunity I could to share this experience with them. From videos to maps, shooting days to scouting trips, my wife and two boys accompanied me and supported my every move.
Our first venture to southern Wyoming was the first of many adventures. It was a turbo trip, but my family and I scouted the road system, topography, and watering holes. My boys were very helpful in driving ATVs while I helped navigate with the GPS. We didn’t turn up much for deer, but learned the area.
The end of October found me once again embarking on the long drive from southern Colorado to southern Wyoming – this time with my rifle in the back seat. I was joined by good friends Kevin Hanson and Aaron Thompson who both came to help me find the buck I dreamed of. Jeff Bates of Wyoming also assisted us for a couple of days glassing and discovering new areas to hunt. Jeff was very knowledgeable and helped us glass deeper into areas we may have otherwise missed. After 7 hard days of glassing and passing on numerous average bucks, I returned home and began preparing for my second and final chance to hunt in mid-November.
“This hunt proved to be the most challenging – hard weather, limited access, and countless hours behind the glass.”
Two weeks quickly passed and I was on the road again. With limited knowledge of the unit, I ventured farther north and encountered a whole other realm of challenges. Logan Hedges of Wyoming was knowledge about the unit I was in, and helped direct me into some places he felt were good prospects. My good friend Aaron Laske finished up his last outfitted hunt for the year in Colorado and gladly joined me on this last hunt.
This hunt proved to be the most challenging – hard weather, limited access, and countless hours behind the glass. Having the opportunity to pass on so many deer was one of the highlights of this hunt! It was a very neat experience to see so many deer, but with this came the challenge of finding THE buck I wanted. Finally on the last evening of the hunt, I chose to harvest a beautiful 170″ deer at 460 yards. I thought I’d be disappointed if I couldn’t harvest anything over 200″, but between the challenges I had faced and overcome, an amazing stalk and a finale with a good friend by my side, I couldn’t have been more blessed.
As I’ve gotten older, the idea of harvesting an animal is not my driving force. For me, it has become the intrigue of new country, the challenges of the hunt, and a desire for the unknown. In the end, the size of the deer wasn’t the heart of the memory – it was only a piece of the story. God had masterfully designed my quest for this deer from start to finish…”