EVANSTON — “We always wanted to be in Wyoming,” Mississippi transplant Nate Clifton told the Herald on Thursday, adding that hunting elk was a big reason to move to Uinta County.
Clifton and his family moved to Bear River in November, following short stints in Idaho and northern Utah. The Cliftons spent a year in Fort Collins, Colorado, while Nate was working on his master’s degree at Colorado State University six years ago.
Meredith, Clifton’s wife, was born in New Orleans and moved to Jackson, Mississippi, as a child. Their three kids are 9-year-old Noah, 7-year-old Prentiss and 4-year-old Iris.
Earlier on Thursday, Clifton took Noah fishing for his ninth birthday.
“We went up on the Bear and caught some browns, probably caught 10 or 12 browns,” Clifton said.
Back in Mississippi, Clifton was an unofficial guide come alligator hunting season.
“In Mississippi, you can catch alligators with a rod and reel. You can draw a big gator tag and a little gator tag.” He said he’d help 20 or 30 gator hunters each year.
He’s harvested wild boar and alligators up to 13 feet long, he said. But after taking his first elk while living in Colorado, he’s hooked on mountain hunting.
“We just loved it out West, and always dreamed of hunting elk and all that,” Nate said.
Clifton used to work for the Army Corps of Engineers, and now works as a regional science coordinator for the United States Bureau of Reclamation. “I help manage a lot of the science projects throughout the entire Upper Colorado River Basin Region,” he said.
He started this year’s hunt like many in this area do, waking up early on opening day and heading off into the great outdoors.
“I had several tags in several states this year,” Clifton said. “[On] opening day of the season, I went south of town and killed a sandhill crane. The next day I was hunting elk — ended up running into Brandon Fitch and we decided to go hunting the next day.”
They saw an elk at 150 yards and Clifton took it at 23 yards. Then on to the next.
“Then I went to Idaho for five days, which was a little more strenuous of a hunt,” he said. “I ended up passing on about five different bulls, till I shot a 6x5 just over 300 inches.”
Clifton said his family joins him more on his Mississippi hunts, because he’s usually packing in when looking for big bulls. Noah and Prentiss have each killed three whitetail deer back home, he said.
What’s his favorite thing to hunt? “Anything with a bow,” he said. “I like high basin archery hunting. I grew up in the country, where we just lived off what we caught and killed — we do our own processing and everything. We don’t buy beef. It’s all we eat really ... wild game and fish.”