So I was lucky enough to finally draw my LE Utah Muzzy Bull elk tag this year on the central mountains Manti unit.
I scouted HARD this summer, putting a total of 28days scouting in, and was able to locate some great bulls. The rut slowly began to kick in late during the archery season and and was really getting going when the early rifle season started. As many of you know the weather/full moon made the early rifle a fairly difficulty hunt from what I had heard and seen from other hunters. I have seen pictures of 3 bulls 390+ taken during the early rifle, but for the most part a lot of the hunters went home eating some salty tag soup or settled for last day dinks. This got me kind of excited as 4 out of my top 5 bulls on the hit list had not been harvested. My final scouting trip was opening weekend of the early rifle, where I was able to locate #1 on my hit list (never could get a picture of him as it was always low light conditions when I found him. He is a 6x6 with no weaknesses G1-G5, good mass and MB length; a dream bull for me!).
The time finally came when the hunt was finally on! I arrived with my father to camp the friday before my hunt started and began to try to relocate the hit list.
Saturday morning was very worrisome as we didn't hear a single bugle, cow call, nor a sight of elk ANYWHERE. I began to get slightly disappointed because I had no problems finding hiding spots until then! We decided to remove trail cams Saturday night as we didn't want to have to worry about them during the hunt. During the drive to the camera location, we pulled off to glass and found about a 350 6x6 that had me itching due to the fact that my list had seemingly vanished
Saturday night while removing a trail cam I had set. When we got down the canyon after about a mile hike in, I realized that we had left the key to the lock at the 4-wheeler and I would have to hike back so that we could remove the camera. I began the trek back to the 4-wheeler while my dad "volunteered" to stay at the camera and glass the canyon.
When I got back to my father and started to remove the camera, he stayed fixed to his binos/spotting scope, about 100yds away from me, the entire time on one spot across canyon! After I removed the camera I packed it up and moved to go see what he was so fixated on. As I approached he pulls his head away from his binos and says "I've got a split 4th bull, come take a look." I threws my binos up to the area he specified and knew immediately that the previous hit list was on the back burner! The bull (as you can tell from the pictures) has length for days and both G4's have about 4-6 inches of inline extra's. We sat and watched this bull for about ten minutes and when he turned his body the opposite direction he revealed about a 14inch droptine off of his right side G3 (earning him the nickname "droptine"). It was at that moment I knew what I would be doing Sunday. My uncle arrived at camp that night to help because he has been hunting elk on this unit for the passed few years with friends and family and knew the area really well.
Sunday came and we spent the morning glassing a honey hole where I had found several hundred cows during summer and knew that's where a lot of bulls would flock to once the rut kicked in. We found a few small bulls and heard some faint bugles but still no promise elsewhere. We decided to return to the spot we had located Droptine. We got down the 4-wheeler trail to begin the hike and there was already a side-by-side parked there. We decide not to push our luck as we were unsure if they were rifle hunters and did not want to ruin anything for them. We decided to go claer across canyon and see if we could locate the #1 hit list bull (he was in the same canyon as droptine all summer). As we got to the other side of the canyon, I put my binos on the spot where the side-by-side had been parked, it was gone! I immediately turned around and booked it to my spot as quickly as I could while my father and uncle stayed on that side to try and locate some bulls on that side. I hustled down the ridgeline to the glassing spot we had seen droptine from the night previous and could hear bugles coming from where I had seen the 350 bull the night before and hoped that the rut was about to kick back in. After trying to locate the 350 bull for about 30 minutes with no luck through the thick pines, I moved on to see if droptine was still going to play nice. After hearing an anonymous bull bugle back and forth with what I had assumed was the 350 bull I decided to move on to better see the canyon bottom hoping I could see what was making the racket. Once i got into position, I looked across canyon and could see a singled out elk; with my bare eyes I could see antlers (about 500yds across canyon) and hurriedly tried to get glass on him. It was droptine! He had moved about 1 1/2 miles from the night before and had lost his cows along the way. I spent about an hour watching him feed and finally watched him lay down to bed. I packed out once dark hit and headed back to camp to tell my dad and uncle that I had put him to bed; and also to game plan how to make it happen on this magnificent bull!
With a game plan in place, I didn't sleep very well the night before the opener and 4:30 could not come early enough! We woke up, got ready and headed out to start our hike in the dark. We headed down the ridgeline and made it 70% down when I turned and looked behind me only to see 5 people in full camo trudging down the same ridgeline. I looked at them through my binos and to my surprise, not one of them had a gun or tag! they were only there as spotters for another hunter. Fairly begrudgingly, I continued the hike down with my dad until we got into position, we altered our game plan hoping to get to the bull before he winded us or the spotters up the ridge. OPening light came and went without a single bugle in the entire canyon and droptine was nowhere to be found! My father and I walked to where I had seen droptine lay down the night before and sure enough he had busted out with tracks, obviously hurried, heading down to an inaccessible area without a hover board, hooves, or rock climbing gear. We decided to throw in the towel on droptine for the day and go see what else we could find for the rest of the morning. We checked back in this location a few times throughout the next couple of days but only found a couple of dinks. We unfortunately never could locate droptine again...
Slightly depressed from what had happened opening morning; we decided to try our luck in the area that #2,3,&4 on the hit list had been sighted last and had an absolute blast for the next 3 mornings getting into some good bulls, missing a few shots (one through some thick pines at about 50yds where I caught a tree limb and the bullet deflected. a few shots (unspecified amount haha) at another bull 175-300yds due to some crazy nerves (I definitely underestimated how big these animals are through a scope and became a shaking MESS of excitement)). After watching the bull trot off into the trees unharmed, I turned my attention up canyon to avoid the reminder. To my surprise there was a LARGE harem of cows(~35). after further inspection I located the herd bull and had to lift my chin off the ground! He was everything #1 on the hitlist was with double the mass! He looked like he had 4x4's for main beams! I immediately knew where I was going to spend the next morning!
After some personal reflection on shooting technique and identifying where it all went wrong, I realized that the time had come for my uncle to leave. I also realized that the next day was my father's 56th birthday and had a feeling something special was going to happen the next day.
We got into position before daylight that morning and bulls were screaming in virtually every direction! We headed off in the direction that we last watched the big bull from the night before. We located the big herd bull from the night before across canyon and put a move on to get within frontloader range (I had practiced/ felt comfortable with 300yds as my ceiling). We worked into the bottom of the canyon and noticed that the herd was moving up the draw and we would need to cut them off if we had any chance. We began to parallel the herd with a strip of pines between the meadow we were hiking and the draw that the herd was grazing. We got into position where the meadow and the draw come together and waited for them to move into view. A few short minutes later we heard what sounded like a grizzly "barking" 3 times in a row. Having never heard this noise before I was getting very anxious at what was going on on the other side of the pines. Following these barks, the entire herd went SILENT; including the 3 satellite bulls. Feeling a bit discouraged we decided to go check where we knew they were last and it was like the entire 40 elk had disappeared! We kept hearing a cow call about every 5 seconds in the treeline above where the herd last was, thinking that they may have left a cow behind we started trying to find the culprit. It didn't take long at all to notice blue jeans and snow white cowboy hats sitting about 30yds in the treeline cow calling every 5 seconds at my dad and I. I had completely forgotten the General Season deer hunt had started that morning to my dismay. About ten minutes later we began to hear bugles again, only this time they were coming from where we had just hiked in on the other side of the canyon, the herd had given us the slip and was 1000yds away and still moving. We watched where they were moving to and decided to make a play on them that night.
That night came and elk were everywhere! My father and I began the hike to get within shooting range and hopefully be able to locate a shooter bull. As we approached the bottom of the canyon we found a LARGE 5x5 and the contemplation was on, I looked him over for a few minutes and decided he was a shooter even being a 5x5. I eased my gun up and he caught the motion and started moving towards the main herd. We had been in the same exact place the night prior (where i had missed several shots) and told my dad that it was redemption time. We eased around a patch of sage brush and mountain mahogany and watched as 3 good 6x6's each escorted 6 or so cows away from the main herd. Knowing that there was still a bunch of elk around us we decided to slowly sneak and peak to get into a better shooting position with more shooting lanes. As we did this we watched as another 2 good 6x6's chase after where the previous 3 had escorted their newly acquired cows to. That is when it went silent, becoming slightly discouraged that we had been given the slip yet again, we started working back towards the 4-wheelers. After walking about 150-200yds up the canyon draw, I looked in the bottom where a small creek was running and there was a harem of at least 30 cows grazing their way in the same direction the others had gone not 15 minutes earlier. My mind immediately went to earlier that morning and the MONSTER bull we had seen, at that moment it struck me that this may very well be the same harem of cows.
I got my frontloader into position and waited for the herd bull to show himself while my dad lasered some targets for distance reference for me. Just then he stepped out, the largest bodied bull I had seen all year. My father ranged the herd at 255yds and I placed my 250 recticle about 3" above my aiming point, went through my shooting mechanics internally to calm myself down and when I felt comfortable, squoze off a shot and watched the impact directly behind the front shoulder. His cows took off like lawn furniture in a hurricane and he was nowhere to be seen in the group. I looked back to where I had last seen him to find him standing still at 310yds where I attempted 2 shots unsuccessfully. The bull went another 15 yds and tried to hurdle a couple of 4"diameter fallen aspen trees and hit the dirt for the final time. I got to about 150yds and watched patiently for any sign of life. A slight twist of his head convinced me that he was not going to last long, however I made the choice to shoot again to end the ordeal for good. After the shot, I again watched as the bullet impacted; the bull laid his head back and didn't twitch afterwards.
I firmly believe that the bull is at least 8.5yrs old due to the fact that he had completely work away the enamel of almost all of his teeth and his hooves were worn fairly thin. I can't wait to get the results back from the DWR! I had an absolute blast on this hunt, even though we weren't able to connect on one of the monsters I am just as pleased with the bull I harvested as I would have been with any other bull I found this year.
Here are the only photos I was able to get of droptine. They are very blurry because 1000+yds + 60x scope + low light + shi*@y camera= these pics
Sorry for the novel!
Thanks to those who read it all, I didn't want to forget any details and what better place to save them than here?