LAST EDITED ON Aug-11-17 AT 06:22 PM (MST)
I have followed this site for a long time, but haven't posted much. With the hunts about to start I thought I would share the story of my elk hunt from last year. Good luck to everyone this year!
The excitement and anticipation for this hunt had been building for years. When the charge finally showed up on my credit card in May of 2016, I couldn't believe it. The excitement boiled over as I talked with friends and family about finally hunting elk with my bow in one of Utah’s premier units. I immediately knew I wanted this hunt to be a family affair.
Following three scouting trips with the family, opening day came faster than expected. Due to a recent shoulder replacement for my dad, I had to go solo for the first trip. The night before the hunt, I watched seven bulls and a bear at a water hole I had been scouting. The bear watered 20 yards from a couple of the bulls that night. I decided to sit the water hole opening day. As the hours ticked by, I was bored out of my mind, when a bear came in at 1:00 and watered at 20 yards. The bear started walking up the trail where I was sitting. When he got to 10 yards, I stood up to make sure he didn’t run me over!
About a half hour later, I saw antlers coming up the hill. They were huge! I watched as a giant 6x7 came into the water hole. My mind was racing. Was I really going to shoot a bull six hours into the hunt, after waiting sixteen years? On top of that, I really wanted to include my family on this hunt. I also wanted to experience the rut and had dreams of shooting a giant bull as he bugled and came to our calls. I knew this was the caliber of bull I was looking for, and estimated him to be around 350”. I was able to video him for a few minutes as he rolled around and threw mud in the air with his antlers. I could have easily shot him while he wallowed at 25 yards, but couldn’t make myself pull back my bow. The wind finally switched, and he blew out of there. I was sick. I couldn’t believe I had let a bull like that walk away.
https://youtu.be/YjKYsQGZ5Io (Opening day 6x7, set to 1080)
After such a successful opening day, I thought shooting a great bull would be a slam dunk. My dad and brothers now joined me, and we hunted hard for twelve more days. We had a ton of amazing experiences, but couldn’t get a shot at the right bull. I passed a lot of smaller bulls and had some great chances at some awesome bulls which didn’t work out. On the afternoon of the twelfth day of hunting I was stalking a decent 6 point. I was 100 yards from the elk when I looked to my left and saw a bear coming straight at me. I stood there motionless, not wanting him to run off and scare the elk. The bear then walked right in front of me at 7 yards and never knew I was there. I ended up calling in the 6 point, but passed him, hoping for a little better bull.
We were having the time of our lives, but hunting for so many days in a row was taking its toll. I was mentally drained and was starting to feel the pressure of having only five days left to fill such a great tag. My dad and brothers had to go home on day thirteen, but luckily my cousin Chris was able to come and hunt with me.
On the fourteenth day, we decided to hunt about an hour from our original camp. We bugled in the early morning light with no response. We hiked around the hill for about a mile and started hearing bugles. We closed the distance and saw a 5x6 that was missing his second on one side. He was still a 340-350” bull, which I would have gladly taken. As we approached, there were eight bulls going crazy all around us. As we followed the 5x6, another bull stepped out. He was a giant! He was chasing some cows in the oak at 80 yards. We started cow calling and bugling to try and get him to come closer and had a small 5 point almost run us over. The big bull wouldn’t leave his cows, but the 5x6 got too close, so they started fighting. With the fight underway, we tried to quickly close the distance, but the cows saw us and took off. The bulls followed the cows and the chase was on.
The herd went about a half mile before stopping again. We could hear them bugling on top of the ridge, so we went up the backside of the ridge. We heard a bull bugle right above us, and then saw his antlers coming over the ridge at 40 yards. It was the giant bull from earlier! We were in some very thick oak, and figured he heard us walking and thought we were either cows or another bull. He closed the distance and came above us at 30 yards. The oak was so thick that I didn’t have any lanes to shoot through. I was at full draw following him trying to get a shot. I finally found a lane in front of him that was about five inches wide. Chris cow called and the bull stopped. I put my pin on him and started to squeeze. Right as I shot he turned to go around an oak bush. It was like my arrow was in slow motion as I watched him turn. I thought I heard the arrow hit, but couldn’t see the impact. I wasn’t sure where it hit him, but we heard him run about 80 yards through the thick oak and then there was silence. Chris kept cow calling while I went to the spot where he had been. I couldn’t find any blood or my arrow.
All of a sudden we heard another bull bugle on top of the ridge. A big 360” six point came over the ridge and stood at 40 yards bugling in my face. His cows came by at 10 yards and finally saw us and took off over the ridge. It had been about a half hour since I shot, and I still didn’t know if I had hit the big bull. We started following his tracks and finally found a little blood about 40 yards from where I shot at him. We decided we needed to back out, since we weren’t sure where the arrow had hit. As we stood there discussing our game plan, I suddenly spotted him lying in the deadfall 30 yards below us! It took us most of the day to get him boned out and packed the mile and a half back to the truck. This was truly a hunt of a lifetime.
The depth of the lows and the height of the highs were incredible on this hunt. It lived up to everything I had hoped for. We were able to hunt together as a family, and made some incredible memories. On top of that, I was able to harvest the largest elk I have seen in person in the wild. He ended up gross scoring 384”. I want to tell my dad, brothers and cousin, “Thank You!” for all their help. I couldn’t have done it without you guys. Even bigger thanks to my incredible wife, for her understanding and support. She definitely wins wife of the year for putting up with me, and for being a single mom for a month! I was able to meet some great people on this hunt, which included some of the guys from BTO, who were were very friendly and gave me some great advice.