Crouched on a tall ledge overlooking a wooded forest in Colorado, Nate Watson, freshman in wildlife and outdoor enterprise management, set his gaze upon a bull elk grazing in the distance. He continued watching the animal for a minute before raising his rifle and lining it up to the elk’s heart.
Watson quivered with anticipation, but forced himself to breathe in and out and murmur a quick prayer. And with that, he let his finger pull the trigger.
“There’s this thing called buck fever,” Watson said. “It’s when you’re lining up, getting ready to pull a trigger on an animal, and it’s just like this surge of adrenaline that gets in you and you just start shaking. I remember with my first buck I missed the first shot at it because I was shaking so much, but I knocked it down on the second one. I always pray before I shoot, and I always take deep breaths and try to get in the most controlled and relaxed position as I can.”
Watson, an avid hunter, grew up in a family of hunters and fishermen in Albuquerque, New Mexico – so it was only natural that he took on the trade and hobby, as well.
“Back home, my dad manages an indoor shooting range and a gun store so I kind of grew up hunting and fishing my whole life,” Watson said. “I love the outdoors. We had a cabin in the mountains in Northern New Mexico, and so every chance I got I went up there or went on a backpacking trip with buddies.”
Watson traveled all across the country to states including Colorado, Montana, Texas, New Mexico, Wyoming and Kansas. Through his travels, Watson was able to experience all sorts of terrains and wildlife.
“Being from New Mexico is kind of cool, because we have all these strange exotic animals there that a lot of people don’t get to hunt,” Watson said. “I’ve gotten to hunt a broad range of animals like ibex, barbary sheep and oryx. What I love to hunt the most though is probably deer and elk. I’ve gotten to hunt a variety of birds too and I also shoot a lot of wild pigs.”
As a frequent and consciously respectful hunter, Watson said he makes sure that no animal he hunts goes to waste. He uses as much of the hide and meat of the animal as he can, because of his beliefs and general respect for nature.
“I think that God gave us animals to rule over and it says that in the Bible, so I believe that,” Watson said. “There’s a lot of different ethics out there for hunting. I have the utmost respect for every animal I hunt and so every animal I kill, I use as much meat off the animal as possible. I don’t think it’s respectful to shoot an animal just for the sport of it. We skin the meat of everything we kill. If I shoot something and it runs, I do everything I can to recover that animal.”
Watson hunts with his family and friends often, even though he lives hundreds of miles away. They plan trips together every year that also helped them keep in touch.
“(Nate’s) so passionate about hunting,” said Tim Madrigal, a close family friend of Watson’s from Dripping Springs, Texas. “He maintains his physical ability so he can hunt hard. He’s not an armchair hunter where you sit and wait for something to come by; that’s not the boy. He’s hunted elk deer and that’s tough. You can’t use vehicles and you have to keep moving. He’s a skilled huntsman.”
For six days last December, Watson and three of his peers in the wildlife and outdoor enterprise management program had the opportunity to experience firsthand the ins and outs of managing a hunting operation and be featured in an episode of “The Boddington Experience.” Only four out of more than 100 students in the program were chosen, one from each class. They drove out to Elk City, Kansas where they stayed at Timber Trails Ranch.
“There’s a lot of different ethics out there for hunting. I have the utmost respect for every animal I hunt and so every animal I kill, I use as much meat off the animal as possible.” – Nate Watson
Each day, the group would go hunting and film footage for the show. Afterwards, they attended lectures given by prominent figures in the industry, including Craig Boddington himself.
“It was really cool to see a different aspect of the hunting industry,” Watson said. “I’d never been a part of the filming part of it before. It’s a lot different. Something I learned is that it’s hard when you have a camera crew with you. You have to be able to get the shot on camera. There are a lot of circumstances that will arise that will prevent that so a lot more things have to go right when there’s a camera crew with you to make it successful.”
Marchant Starr, sophomore in wildlife and outdoor enterprise management, was also chosen to go on the trip, and said she appreciated the value of everything they learned.
“I had a great time throughout the trip,” Starr said. “We interacted with hunters that didn’t treat us like college students. They treated us as hunters. It was a good hands-on experience of what to expect in owning your own hunting operation. We were able to see how to treat future clients because we were the clients in this situation.”
Starr also saw the value in strengthening the relationships with her peers.
“Nate and I are in the same class, so we already knew each other,” Starr said. “As we spent time with the other students on the trip, we all got closer and became friends.”
Watson also realized how important it was to learn as much as he could from the trip and later apply those skills and information when he had his own business.
“If I could choose what I do in the future, it would probably be managing a hunting resort or outfit somewhere,” Watson said. “I would totally be open and love to have different camera crews run it, come in and film hunts there; that’s great publicity and (public relations) for your company to have that.”
The trip only made Watson even more excited for his future in hunting. He said he saw the beauty in nature every time he went out and plans on continuing to respect it in the many years to come.
“Just being out in God’s kingdom to me is really special and it’s like a different kind of contentment and joy when I’m outside,” Watson said. “It’s what I’d love to do for the rest of my life.”