Brent Nations' once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was everything he expected and more. He just wasn't sure whether he could brag or be humble about it.
"It's almost embarrassing to talk about how many days I went out and did it," he said. "I told people it was sort of a blessing and a curse."
Nations won the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's extra license in May. That license allowed him to hunt bull elk in any season, in any area in Colorado and with any legal weapon of his choice until Jan. 31.
He tagged his six-point bull in Area 2 on Jan. 9.
Nations chose his words carefully out of respect for all those who would never get the opportunity he had.
"People put in for 15 years to be able to do what I did and in just one area," he said. "I had the chance to spend 40 to 50 days out looking for the right bull anywhere."
Sounds like a win-win for any hunter. What was the curse?
"Everybody knew I had that opportunity," he said. "It was up to me to do it justice."
Nations had a 1-in-1,000 chance to win the raffle from the RMEF.
"I never thought I would win. I bought the ticket to help support the Elk Foundation," he said.
Although Nations had the opportunity to go wherever he wanted in the state he knew that his best chances were in Moffat County.
"There are three trophy areas up in the Elk Springs/Browns Park area that I knew I wanted to go to," he said. "That is where I spent most of my time. I learned a lot about those areas "
Nations has always made his hunts a family affair. His wife Debbie, and their two children, Molly, 9, and Casey, 7, frequently go with him.
This year they had ample opportunity to explore the wilderness.
They missed the hunt on which dad bagged the big one though.
"I was a little mad I wasn't there," said Molly, who is looking forward to earning her hunter's education card.
"But I was also excited that he got it."
Brent said that during his time hunting for the big one, Molly was able to see two bull elk fight and watched and listened as several bugled 20 yards away.
Casey was out with him the day before he shot his bull
"Most people might never see a bull bugle but Molly and Casey have already," he said. "Every good hunter is out there to appreciate nature in its true form and I was fortunate enough to have lots of that this year."
Nations moved to Craig 15 years ago from Cortez and now owns B & B Welder Supply.
"I came up here for business opportunities," he said. "But the hunting opportunities didn't hurt."
Nations is an archery hunter and has two mounts in his business that he hunted with his bow. He used a rifle for his biggest kill.
The abundance of not just elk, but trophy elk, in the areas Nations hunted amazed him.
"People who hunt around here go for four- or five-pointers and are happy with that," he said. "I saw six-pointers, but I had to hold off."
He said that he passed over more than a couple of trophies during his time out.
"I enjoyed every minute of it," he said "It was a test of patience and will power because of how many I passed up."
There was also one bull that got away.
Nations saw a bull that had a rack he predicted measured about 385 inches. The first time he saw it, the animal was too far away and there were too many cows between the hunter and bull.
"We would have had to scare too many elk to get to him so we waited," he said. "The next morning we found him again and he had broken off his main beam."
With three weeks left Nations saw the bull that he wanted.
"I was going down a small road and I saw him up on a ledge," he said. "He was about 400 yards out and about to go over the ridge when I shot. The shot dropped him."
His trophy rack measured 350 inches and the bull weighed between 800 and 900 pounds.
"Most of the time you enjoy a hunt just for the hunt," he said. "This was a time where it was about the animal."
Nations knows that the hunting season of 2004-05 has spoiled him.
"It will be hard to keep it in perspective because I could do whatever I wanted, and that probably won't happen ever again," he said.
"The way it works now, people draw one of those areas once in their life."
Nations' once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is up for sale again for the 2005-06 season. The tickets are for sale now for the drawing, which will be May 20. To purchase tickets, call Suz Syvertson at 824-3633.
Craig Daily Press reporter Lois Wymore contributed to this article. David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 firstname.lastname@example.org.