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Wellington residents share their passion, share their home

Sun Advocate reporter

This mountain lion, taken in Manti by Gary Norton with a bow and arrow would score in the Pope & Young record books.

When Eric and Casey Norton left their parent's home to begin their own families, Gary and Jody Norton didn't suffer from an empty nest very long.

They just filled it back up.

For the last five years, 10 to 12 foster kids have called the Norton's wildlife retreat home, all of whom the Nortons remain in touch with to this day.

Each has been affected by the outdoor enthusiasm that exists at the Wellington home.

Gary got his passion for the outdoors from his father, Carl. His wife Jody learned to love it, too.

For the Norton's, most of the best family memories took place in the outdoors, where they fish, hunt and enjoy spending time together.

A large building behind the Norton's home stores many animals such as bears, wolves, deer and sheep and a variety of other preserved wildlife. At one time the building was a museum open to the public.

"I figured I best join in or else I got left home a lot," she joked.

"It's not about hunting. It's not about killing. It's about family," Gary commented.

Larry Georges, who has been with the family for three weeks, and Jason Farrell, who has been with the family for a year, are both experiencing that sense of family with the Nortons.

Georges recently went on his first fishing trip with the Nortons, where the group bagged a 21 pound, state-record rainbow trout.

Georges said he is hooked on fishing and can't wait to go again.

In addition to unbelievably big fish, many other record setting animals line the walls of the Norton's home and the nearby building that was at one time a museum.

The Nortons even have a buffalo that was taken from the herd on the movie "Dances with Wolves".

However, none of them can be found in the record books of Pope & Young or Boone & Crockett.

Gary said the family would rather keep the secret of great hunting in southeastern Utah to the locals.

"We've got a little paradise here and I'd just like to keep it that way," Norton commented.

Even collectors offering hundreds of thousands of dollars for the wildlife have been turned down by the Nortons.

"We just can't sell our memory book," Gary concluded.

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