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2010 on the San Juan

 
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utah450
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Jan-14-11, 
12:34 PM (MST)
"2010 on the San Juan"

I know the contest is over, but Founder agreed to let me use the HAC forum to share my 2010 Hunts. It seems like the best way to share my story. My hunts are over and many of you already know some or all of how it ended. Maybe a few of the details will make it more interesting. I am not much of a picture taker so my posts won't be as good as c3's. I do have some video that I will be linking to my story. I think that I will post in chronological order for the most part, similar to what those did in the HAC. I had a pretty good year and hope that you will all enjoy my story.

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  Table of Contents  

 Subject   Author   Message Date   ID 
 Background  utah450      Jan-24-11   1 
 The San Juan B...  utah450      Jan-25-11   2 
 24 Hours to go!  utah450      Jan-26-11   3 
 Opening Day Au...  utah450      Jan-28-11   4 
 Week 1  utah450      Jan-31-11   5 
 The Giant 6x8  utah450      Jan-31-11   6 
 Labor Day Week...  utah450      Feb-08-11   7 
 Back to Elk Ri...  utah450      Feb-11-11   8 
 Elk Ridge 6x9  utah450      Feb-15-11   9 

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utah450
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Jan-24-11, 
02:57 PM (MST)
1. "Background"

First off, I thought a bit of background on who I am and how I got here would be useful. I grew up spending my summers on a ranch in southern Toole County on what is now the Vernon deer unit. Our family hunted mule deer, but there were no elk in those days. In 1998, my work took me to a dam project on the Fish Lake. I had never really taken much of an interest in elk until then. The Fish Lake was probably at its peak for elk at the time and I spent most nights watching them. I bought my first spike elk tag and was able to fill it. The fire was lit for me and I earned my first elk bonus point the spring of 1999.
Over the next few years, my good buddy Dwight taught me everything I needed to know about elk and elk hunting. A few years and a couple more dam projects and I found myself married and living in Blanding. Even though I had hunted mule deer my whole life, I had never quite connected on a great one. Since I was collecting elk points I joined the dedicated hunter program in about 2000 to increase my odds of killing a good buck. I started looking at Colorado as another option and hunted it in 2009, but could not put it together on a great buck there either. I had chosen to put in for archery elk for about the last five years, as I was way behind in the bonus point game for the San Juan and felt that I had no other choice if I ever wanted to hunt the unit where I live.
To satisfy my elk hunting appetite, I started guiding in 2004 for Lyle Bayles, a local outfitter here on the San Juan. Lyle farmed me out to MossBack and I have guided for Doyle off and on for the last few years. I have had the opportunity to see and help others take some pretty great bulls off the San Juan in the last six years.
Long story short, I defied all odds and pulled a random tag from the draw going in with only ten points. Pretty lucky, considering that I would not be guaranteed a tag for probably another five years.

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utah450
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Jan-25-11, 
10:08 PM (MST)
2. "The San Juan Bull"

As soon as I saw the credit card hit for $280, the “Snake Bull” was at the top of my list of bulls that I wanted to send a wac’em broadhead through. I never really loved the name, but it was a name that had stuck. Over that last five or six years many had seen this awesome bull and even more had dreamed of hanging him on the wall. I can remember him from 2006 and his giant 8x8 frame was probably at its peak score wise. In 2007 and 2008 he had a giant split third on his right side.

In the spring of 2009, Orlando Torres picked up not one, but both sets with the split third from 2007 and 2008. I have to admit, it took some of the desire to shed hunt away for awhile. Just knowing that awesome bone was laying somewhere out in the hills seemed to provide extra motivation to go another mile. He was definitely getting older and in 2009 he lost the split third, but did seem to have added some inches in on other tines. I hadn’t spent as much time on the mountain in 2009 and had only seen him once briefly.

I couldn’t help but think what he might be like this year. Would I be the lucky hunter to finally get this bull? I could only dream about it, but it sure was motivation to shoot my bow as often as possible. As the snow started to melt, I was right behind it packing in Trophy Rock and trail cameras. It was fun at first and I had great hopes, but as the summer wore on I quickly lost interest in the trail cameras. It seemed as though there was always an issue. Dead batteries, bears, people messing with them, etc. I think that by the end of July I had more cameras in the basement than on the mountain and they had just as good of a chance at finding a giant bull.

I had a ton of help from family and friends and frankly was having a ton more success turning up bulls the conventional way of glassing. I collected some decent footage throughout the summer, although I am not much for filming and usually won’t turn on the camera until I am satisfied that I have seen what the bull is, so I sometimes miss the quick opportunities. Needless to say, I probably miss way more than half of the good bulls. Here is a link to the summer’s worth of scouting that I put together.

2010 Scouting Footage

The Snake Bull was true to form the summer of 2010. One of the reasons that this bull is so famous, apart from the fact that he is a giant, is that he is very visible during the summer months. Many guys can make a trip to the unit for just a couple of days and they will get a chance to see the snake bull. I hadn’t spent much time on the Blue Mountain in June and July and as a result I hadn’t seen the old bull. I was looking for some sleeper bulls, that I might be able to hunt away from the crowd’s. I felt like I knew the early patterns on the old boy and that I didn’t need to spend a ton of time with him.

The last day of July one of my buddies from work called and said that he had found a giant 7x7 and had a few pics of him. That got my curiosity up when he told me where he was. As soon as I got back to town I took a look and knew it was the old snake bull. Well after that, I couldn’t get him off of my mind. I spent quite a bit of time keeping track of him as the hunt approached. Much to my dismay, he was staying even more visible than normal and there were quite a few others watching him. Below is a link to a clip that I put together of the Snake bull.

Snake Bull

Snake Bull in HD

Hopefully, I have the links working and you guys enjoy the story to this point. More to come.

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utah450
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Jan-26-11, 
09:56 AM (MST)
3. "24 Hours to go!"

Well, as you can see from the clip above, it was only 24 hours until my hunt was to start. I had met some great guys this summer. The two hunters that I enjoyed the most while getting ready for the hunt were c3 (Pete Carney) and muleyhunter413 (Brendan Robins). Pete is one of the best guys I have ever met. I began stalking Pete when he announced that he had drawn the San Juan archery tag in April. He posts on at least three internet forums that I visit on occasion. I had been paying attention to all of his posts. I noticed one where he said that he had found a trail cam on the ground on the north side of the mountain. Sure enough, I went in and checked and there is good old Pete’s nose right in the middle of a picture hanging my camera back up. I emailed him shortly after this event to see if he had noticed the two tree stands when he had been there. He acknowledged that he had seen where there had been some stands but that they had not been there when he was. I don’t think that there is drainage on the San Juan that Pete didn’t walk in while scouting for his hunt. I talked with Pete quite often from that point on, trading intel, both before and during our hunts. I am glad he killed an awesome bull. As a side note, I did finally track down the borrower of the tree stands.

That dang Brendan Robins was one of several hunters who seemed to take a liking to my snake bull a little too much. Every time I went up to check on the bull there Brendan was. Did he not know that I am a local and because of that he should back off? Did he not know that I had used a ton of points on this tag and that he had an expo tag and should back off? Why did he think that his tag gave him the same rights to hunt the old bull when I had been watching it for years and he had only been for a month or two.(please note that I am being sarcastic) And to top it off the old bull was not moving as I had expected him to. He should have moved a couple of miles by now and then I might have the advantage. No worries though, it would take one hell of a hunter to kill him in that steep rocky mess of an old avalanche slide anyway.

Fortunately, I had back up plans there was the bull that I now call the Nuclear 6x8. I didn’t call him that yet, but that story is for later. I was confident that no one else had been watching him, and it seemed as though he was kill-able where he was at. He wouldn’t score quite as well as the old boy, but I really liked his looks. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not one for hunting with the crowd. And this factored heavily in my decision as to where I might be on opening morning. I put a clip together of the Nuclear 6x8. Take a look and see if you think he looks as good as I did.

Nuclear 6x8

Nuclear 6x8 in HD

By noon, I decided that I would have my buddy Anthony go up and watch the old bull with a myriad of other hunters so we would know if he was still there. Burdett was headed to a favorite glassing spot to see what he could turn up, as was Chai. I was going to check on the Nuclear 6x8 as I had not seen him for a week. I figured that we would all meet back at camp after dark and I would make a decision on where I would be the next morning. I headed to CB’s to gas up, get a mountain dew and see what the latest buzz about local hunting was. I ran into my buddy Mason and my nephew Chavis. With those two, there are always big lies and stories to be told. Truth be known, they are both pretty good at finding some giant deer and elk and some of the stories just might be true. The discussion turned to a top secret bull that was so secret that I couldn’t even mention him in my story until now. The reality was that he wasn’t all that much of a secret. Those very two guys had been the first to find him in early July. And to my knowledge only one other guy had seen him since and it wasn’t for lack of quite a few trying, myself included. About everyone with a tag or an interest had heard about the bull. He was secret because no one could find him more than once, let alone keep track of him.

Everyone wished me luck on the Snake Bull as I left town and headed out. I hadn’t even gotten to the forest fence and I knew that the Nuclear 6x8 would have to wait. I was going to hike in the 2.5 miles and see if I could find the 8x8. I don’t think that anyone knew how he had finished out, but if he had put a little on the back to go with the front he was a giant. Sure he wouldn’t be wide and he was definitely compact, but many of the great bulls are that way. The evening produced a few bulls, although nothing special. About 45 minutes before dark I decided it was a bust and that I better head out before it got too late and see what the others had found. I didn’t go far, when something caught my eye. I pulled out the Swaro’s and there he was, the 8x8 with velvet hanging everywhere. My decision was made that instant. I liked his look, especially the way his thirds tipped outward. I would pass on the possible circus chasing the Snake Bull and I would hunt the 8x8. Check out what I saw as I watched him until it was too dark to see any longer. Of course he stayed in the oaks while the light was good and then he showed himself better as it got darker, but some pretty decent footage through the scope anyway.

San Juan 8x8

San Juan 8x8 in HD

All of you know the feeling and can appreciate how little sleep is actually achieved the night before the big hunt. It wouldn’t be fun any other way.

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utah450
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Jan-28-11, 
02:53 PM (MST)
4. "Opening Day August 21"

I was off to a very early start, as I had to get in about three miles to be where the 8x8 was at dark last night. Anthony was spotting from a good spot quite a ways away and Burdett went in with me and I left him to glass from where I had filmed the 8x8 last night. He was only about 600 yards from where I left Burd, but getting there was a whole lot tougher. I had made it about half way when Burd let me know that he could see the bull through his spotting scope it was still dark, but he could make out the bright white, freshly stripped horns and it was definitely him. I hustled and was closing the gap pretty fast. After about five minutes Burd let me know that the bull had gone into the dark timber.

We saw a few other bulls that morning, but nothing I was going to chase. I waited a couple hundred yards from where we had last seen the 8x8 for several hours, hoping that he might come back out to feed. One thing about hunting archery, and anyone who has done it can relate, the days are long and if the elk are only active for a half an hour in the morning and a half an hour before dark, they can be real long. This was the case right now. I was scared that if I tried to follow the bull into the timber that I might blow him out of the country. I decided that patience might just be the best thing; after all I did have four weeks. I did not have enough vacation to hunt the entire four weeks, but my boss had agreed to be very flexible with me, and living right in the unit made that a pretty sweet deal.

Before the hunt, my brother advised that I make myself some ground rules. I knew he was right so being the “enginerd” that I am I decided to establish all of the constraints and consider all of the variables that would influence the outcome of my hunt. Over the years I have watched a couple bulls over 400 inches drop and several others not far from that mark. This added some unwanted pressure, as I wanted to take a giant bull too. On the other hand, I have seen a fair amount of archery hunters eat tag soup. This was not an option for me. I wanted to take a mature bull with my bow. I have taken several bulls on the spike hunt with a rifle but never killed a mature bull. Having chosen to hunt archery made the task a lot more difficult.

In the end the rules that I came up with were that I would hunt for giant bulls the first two weeks and the last two I would do everything in my power to take a mature bull. Hopefully, that mature bull would be one that I liked the looks of. Bottom line, I truly hoped to be able to take a 350 plus bull that had some great features. I wanted a bull that someone would say “holy cow look at those thirds or holy cow look at those beams”. If I couldn’t kill a giant bull, I guess I wanted something unique rather than a bull that was just average everywhere. Because I was hunting archery, I knew that closing the gap from rifle to archery range would be tough and then you still have to have everything come together to get a shot off. I decided that during the first two weeks of hunting for a giant that my other rule would be to not pass on a legit 370 bull, even if my spotter could see “the bull”.

Well about ten or eleven in the morning, Burd and I decided to head out and see what we could find to eat at the cabin. As we hiked out, we talked about the Snake Bull and wondered what had happened with him this morning. We met up with Anthony at the famous San Juan “rock pile”. The cell phones were working and it didn’t take long to find out that that dang Brendan Robins with the sportsman tag had slipped a broadhead through my old Snake Bull. It took an incredible hunter to kill that old bull in that nasty steep rocky avalanche slide. Congratulations Brendan on the trophy of a lifetime!

Wow, these limited entry hunts sure can have some highs and some lows.

We had a good break with the wives and the kids back at the cabin. Re-focused, we headed back after the 8x8 early in the afternoon. Figuring that he may feed out where he had headed into the timber. It was a quiet night. We didn’t see too much. After a long walk out, we talked with Chai on the phone. He had been seeing a really great bull the last two nights. I decided that I was not yet ready to give up on the 8x8. Before hitting the sack I decided I had better call Brendan and congratulate him. Brendan said that Doyle had thrown a rough tape on him down in Monticello and that he added up to 399 and change. I think I will call him a 400 incher, the old bull deserves that and so does Brendan.

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utah450
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Jan-31-11, 
10:48 AM (MST)
5. "Week 1"

I hit it hard on day two looking for the 8x8 to no avail. It seemed as though he had disappeared into thin air. What now? My buddy Lyle had gotten home from his daughter’s wedding and had seen the video of the bull that his son Chai had been telling us about. He felt that I ought to give the bull a chance, so I decided that I would do just that. I headed out early Monday morning and hiked through the steep dark timber to get to the park that the big guy had been in consistently. I had been in there before, so I had a pretty good idea what it was like. I didn’t remember there being as much down timber, though. The bull was still with a bachelor group and hadn’t really changed his patterns.

At first light, Anthony had him in his spotting scope and told me that he thought I would like the bull. For whatever reason, he walked into the timber at first light and my opportunity vanished with him. I determined to hunt him again that evening as he had been in the same park every night for the last three. The evening was quiet, and the bull appeared to have changed his pattern.

I decided to head to town and sleep in my own bed. The fourth day I spent at work and took care of my duties that evening by attending the City Council meeting. One of my buddies was gracious enough to spend the evening looking for the 8x8 while I worked. Some of those finer details seem to be lost though, as I don’t remember which one. I also, worked Wednesday and then headed back to the mountain in the early afternoon. I hunted in the area that the 8x8 had been from Wednesday through Saturday.

I did change it up a bit by chasing a great bull that we call the short fifth bull. He was in a tough spot to get to and when I got there, I found that I had company and that the other archer for whatever strange reason was covering a ton of country in the wide open and seemed to be making sure that anything within a mile could see him. Needless to say, I didn’t see that bull after a tough hike in. I was starting to get a little tired both physically and mentally by the end of the first week. My brothers, Tracy and Gary were able to make it down that weekend and that gave me a shot of energy as I enjoyed having their help. The first week went by pretty quick and there were some pretty great moments. So far it was everything that I had dreamed of.

Before the hunt started, I asked a ton of hunters and especially archery hunters for tips and advice. Brayden Richmond, ladyshooter’s husband, a Blanding native who hunted the San Juan archery two years before advised me to make sure that I could get on bulls and draw my bow so that towards the end of the hunt I wouldn’t find out that I didn’t have what it takes to make it happen. I took some video of a couple bulls that I was able to get on during this first week. The first one I did draw my bow on. He had a cool devil-tine and a pretty good front end, but fell apart from there. The second bull was an inline 6x7. I didn’t draw on him, as I was scared that I might pull the trigger, but I did have him at 35 yards and he had no clue that I was there.

You might have noticed that I put a few seconds of a big buck in my scouting footage. When I say big, I mean huge. The body on this guy is enormous. In the scouting clip, he is with another buck and makes him look like a fawn. My buddies named the buck “Fat Bastard”. This buck plays a big role in the 2010 hunt for not just me, but for many of my buddies as well. I first found him scouting in very early august. Several of us were keeping track of him. The video in this clip Anthony grabbed through his spotting scope. He had hiked in with me to look for the buck while I looked for elk and found him just before dark. It was too close to dark for Anthony to make a stalk, so he just filmed the fat old boy. Keep in mind, that this is a general season area and not limited entry.


Week 1


Week 1 in HD

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utah450
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Jan-31-11, 
10:40 PM (MST)
6. "The Giant 6x8"

Week 2 started off pretty slow. The elk were not talking much yet and I hadn't seen a real great bull for awhile. I took the opportunity to get a few hours in at work on both Monday and Tuesday. Since the elk hunting was slow I decided to get work and conserve my time off for the end of the hunt. I figured that I would hunt from labor day weekend on, until I was able to fill my tag.

Mickey, my awesome wife, and I had gone on the youth conference in the early summer as a ma and pa for one of the groups of kids. We had an after party for all of the adults on Tuesday night. I drove separate from my wife, so that I could go directly from there back to the mountain. I was actually looking forward to spending some time with Mickey and not thinking about the hunt for the evening.

Well, that didn't happen. Just as we started to eat, my phone started vibrating. I ignored it at first, but when I realized that I was getting multiple texts, I couldn't resist checking them. First it was Cordell and Dave. I work with Cordell's Dad and with Dave. I figured the bull might be worth looking over, but then Lyle started texting me too. I have guided long enough with Lyle to know that 99 times out of 100 he will be pretty close on his assessment of a bull and is usually conservative.

Lyle said that the bull had some cows and that I would just have to see the film. I kept pressuring him and he would just say big, really big. He did tell me that the bull was a 6x8. He had an extra brow and a big kicker. He also mentioned that the bull wasn't weak anywhere. I knew that I had not seen the bull before. What is the deal with all of the 6x8's this year anyway, seems like there has been quite a few on the San Juan. I felt bad that I was so distracted at the party, but my wife was patient. Thanks Mickey for being patient throughout the whole hunt! I busted out of there and made record time to the mountain as soon as dinner was over.

It was dark by the time I got up there. I met Lyle and his wife Cindy at the cabin. He let me look over the film and we discussed the best way to hunt the bull. He was in an area that I had hunted with elk hunters before, so I felt confident that I would have no trouble walking in in the dark. Wow, I was back on a giant high. There would be little sleep tonight. We didn't break the bull down, we all knew what he was. When you see the great ones, you don't have to hesitate, you just shoot. I hoped to be in that very situation in the morning.

I was off and hiking in the morning at least a half an hour earlier than I needed to be. Forty minutes to an hour later I was at the bottom of the big park. I got in position with some good cover and waited on the sun. Not too long after that I heard Burd and Anthony on the radio, making sure I was in place. It was still too dark for them to make out anything on the high slope. Before long, I was able to make out elk above me. First it was cows up feeding. I couldn't see a bull anywhere. After a quick reposition, I could see a bull bedded and then I could see horns. It was him and he was more impressive from 300 yards than he was on camera.

Anthony is a pro at hunting this area. He has guided quite a few hunters and taken some nice bulls in this drainage. I couldn't have had a better spotter on this morning. Experience told us that the elk would do one of two things. They would either feed up and bed in the timber at the top, or they would head off to one side or the other. The bull seemed content to just lay out in the open as the cows fed toward the top. I decided that I had better get moving, as it was steep and if I had to cut him off, it would take some fast climbing. Also, If they went north I would be way ahead of them.

The bull finally got up and decided to gather the cows and take them down and to the south. Dang the luck, I can't catch a break. I had to backtrack and fast. The problem was now that it was getting light, I had to circle further than I had in the dark. I couldn't cut the herd off quick enough, but another bull that was around 350 came from a park to the south and both bulls were bugling. Anthony predicted that they would meet in the timber. Now, luck was back on my side. They would fight and leave the cows above. All I had to do, was slip into the timber and get an arrow in him while he was distracted. At this point, I was running to close the distance. I could hear the bulls locking horns so I felt pretty safe that I couldn't make enough noise to phase them.

Well, turns out that the big bull is a lover and not a fighter. No sooner than the fight started it was over. The giant 6x8 was headed right to where I had been 20 minutes earlier without any of his cows. I debated on following him, and figured that he would want his cows back, so I decided to wait and kill him tonight. After all, I did not want to blow him out of the country.

Take a look at the footage that Burd picked up through his spotting scope this morning.

Giant San Juan 6x8

I hunted hard for the giant 6x8 on Wednesday and on Thursday. I may have caught a brief glimpse of the bull once, but I am still not positive, it was pretty dark. This bull was killed about four weeks later. He had moved about 12.5 miles as the crow flies through some of the roughest country that the San Juan has to offer. Congratulations to the muzzleloader hunter who killed this magnificent animal. the giant 6x8 is supposed to be at the expo in the same display as the Snake Bull. That ought to be reason enough to get there, I know that I won't miss it. The bull was also on a recent cover of the Sportsmen's Voice.

I needed a change of pace at this point. As luck would have it, I go camping with all of my in-laws on elk ridge every year over labor day weekend. I was excited to spend some time with my family and of course hunt elk on elk ridge. My brother Gary was coming back down. Anthony was going to camp with his family and try to fill his spike tag and Burd was being mighty sneaky, I think he was hatching a plan to chase Fat Bastard. It will be good for them to have a break too.

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utah450
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Feb-08-11, 
02:22 PM (MST)
7. "Labor Day Weekend"

Friday morning started off with me in the area that I had hunted the giant 6x8. I couldn't turn him up. I did get on a bull that was about 330 with some cows. I had him broad side at about 45 yards. It was tempting. At sundown, it would be the end of the first two weeks and I would be halfway through the hunt. I had a trail camera in my pack and took it to some great wallows in the area. I figured after a weekend of relaxing with the family on Elk Ridge, that I would be back in this area hoping to turn up that giant bull.

After setting the camera, I headed out to the trailhead. From there it was back to the cabin to gather everything that I would need for a weekend of hunting. I raced off the mountain and stopped by CB's to shoot the bull, about bulls, and fuel up. A few hours later, I had the trailer hooked on, the family loaded and we were off. My bro in-laws Tate and Cole already had their trailers on the mountain so I knew right where I was headed. There were quite a few camps for the big weekend, so we didn't get one of our preferred spots. I got to camp a few hours before dark. I had a small problem, as I tried to unhook the trailer from my truck, the jack gave up the ghost. The rest of the crew would not be up until after dark, so It looked like I would be hunting within walking distance of camp.

My buddies Troy and Brent had seen a good bull in this area a week before while scouting for Brent's wife's upcoming deer hunt. So off I went, bow in hand to look for a bull. I checked the only water that I knew of in the area first and found a couple mediocre glassing spots, but never saw an elk that night. About an hour after dark, there were close to a half a dozen bulls bugling within earshot of camp. My brother Gary showed up pretty late that night.

I had something else on my mind this night, I had gotten a text after dark from Pete. I can't remember now, exactly what it said, but it was something like "bull down at wallow a half mile below pond, it was awesome". I wondered if he had help and when the text had been sent. I tried texting him several times that night, but couldn't get through. I thought that I should probably be looking for him, but I didn't even know where his camp was. Fortunately, My buddy Deen and his friend Shad had come through for Pete. If you haven't checked out Pete's story, he is c3 here on the HAC, and he killed an incredible archery bull.

Saturday morning found me and the family all over south elk ridge trying to turn up a shooter bull. It didn't really pan out. After lunch, my brother and I headed to a favorite pond to sit water for the afternoon. I had had a trail camera on the pond early in the year, but moved it when others felt the need to mess with it. As we slipped into the pond from the down wind side, I noticed that someone had set up a double stand. They were not in it at the moment. I made a makeshift blind below the pond bank and waited for a thirsty bull to make his afternoon appearance. I wondered whose stands were here. An hour before dark, we gave up and decided to hit a glassing spot and see what we could find.

The rut did not seem to be going out here and I had hardly seen an elk in the last twenty four hours. Little did I know, that was all about to change. From the road looking into the brush infested steep nasty hole, we could see him running cows and chasing two other bulls away. It was dark, but we knew that he had a good frame and was worth another look. That next morning I was sneaking along the rim listening for elk. I had Tate and Gary glassing from where we had seen the bull last night and a herd of nephews too. It didn't take long before I could hear the rutting action below me. I tried to hustle and close the gap, but this was the thickest brush that I could ever remember crawling through. Tate was telling me that the best bull had super cool beams, great thirds and fourths, a devil tine and a funky back end. Sounded good to me.

Another 6x8 to chase. Maybe it was my lucky configuration after all. I worked my way around and below the elk. They were everywhere. I didn't have a ton of landmarks to go from and I had never hunted here before, but Tate finally got me right to the bull. I had already had three smaller bulls in archery range this morning, but I wanted to see this one first. The oaks were so thick, that I couldn't see the bull, but he had to be within 60 yards. I let out a few soft mews on the old MossBack widowmaker. It made him crazy! He was screaming and came crashing through the brush. He couldn't have been further than 40 yards, if that, but I still could not see the bull. Then another bull started after his cows again. He ran the bull off and then pushed his cows towards the timber. I did get on another couple bulls but I couldn't keep up with the herd bull and his cows.

Finally everything started to quiet down and I made the hike back out of the nasty hole. On the way out, I did discover that I had gone in the worst possible way. I have never seen so many choke cherry's laying down underneath the oaks and aspen. It was going to take some doing to get this bull killed.

I kept at it that night and then again Monday morning. Each time my spotters could find the bull and each time I was close, but there was always another bull messing me up and it seemed like his cows were always between he and I. I just couldn't quite get it done. It was nice to be hunting a bull for longer than just one morning. My brother talked to some hunters on the road and it turns out ladyshooter and her husband are the ones hunting the pond. They have spike tags and would let me know what they see over there. I knew that my bull wouldn't likely cross the main road, but they might turn something else up.

After lunch, I headed to town with my brother. I wanted to download the little bit of footage that he had of the 6x8, as I had only seen the bull from a distance. I planned to head back to the blues and see if I could turn up one of the bulls from earlier in the hunt. While still in town, I got a text from a buddy telling me that there would be a crew on the mountain trying to turn up a bull for the governor's tag. I hardly wanted to compete with a rifle and I had been able to hunt the 6x8 both morning and night. He was looking better all the time and since I was waiting for parts to fix the trailer, it was still on elk ridge. I was headed back for the 6x8.

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utah450
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Feb-11-11, 
10:45 AM (MST)
8. "Back to Elk Ridge"

Now that my decision to hunt the elk ridge 6x8 had been made, I was in a hurry to get back out there. One thing that we picked up on after looking at the film was that the bull was actually a 6x9 and maybe a 6x10. Lyle agreed to spot for me that night, along with Cindy, his wife who has the rifle tag right after my hunt. He got set up and I headed over to the rim and waited for him to pick up the bull. As the late afternoon turned to evening, the 6x9 hadn’t showed up. Lyle picked up a good 6x6 not too far away and I decided that I had better give him a try since the 6x9 wasn’t out. I humped it back to my truck and drove a ways to close the distance. As I dropped off I grew concerned that I couldn’t make it to the bull before dark. Lyle let me know that my 6x9 was out and easy rifle range from the road, at least for the new 7mm ultra mag that he had built just for Cindy’s hunt. It didn’t matter, because I didn’t have a rifle tag nor the time to even get to Lyle, let alone the bull before dark. At least the bull was still in the neighborhood.

Anthony and Tiffany were helping me on Tuesday morning. Tiffany is pretty awesome to say the least. She had been cooking for Anthony and I for most of the hunt and made it a ton easier for all involved. I continued with all my focus on the 6x9 and hunted him again all day Tuesday but I could not quite get it done. As I went in, to the hole on that night, I bumped a bull with some cows right as I dropped off the rim. It was not the 6x9, but a really cool 6x6 that had just showed up. He had a giant front end with thirds, as big or bigger than Pete's bull did, and with great big fourths that both were split. Then the beams dropped making giant whale tails. He had no fifths at all. Too bad I blew that chance.

I put a clip together of the 6x9 from my brothers footage. It is not the best video, but it is all that I have. Check out the HD version, as it is a little easier to see.

6x9 Footage

6x9 Footage in HD


Sometime while I was hunting the 6x9, he decided to cross the main road in the middle of the day and go see ladyshooter and her husband Brayden while they were hunting spikes. Check out their footage.

Richmond's 6x9 Footage

Late Tuesday night, the weather finally changed and the fog and rain moved in. Wednesday morning I was slipping over the rim at first light in a light rain. It was foggy and cool. As I crossed the bench before dropping in the hole, I heard a familiar bugle and he wasn't far. Anthony would be no help this morning as it was fogged in and he couldn't see anything. Just as I started to drop in the brushy hole, I decided to hit the widow maker. I had never been able to call the 6x9 away from his cows but I figured that I needed to keep him talking. That was the first mistake of the morning.

He was less than a hundred yards away and was coming fast. I headed around a little cedar tree on a game trail, dropped to my knees, slid off the trail to put the tree behind me and knocked an arrow in what seemed like two seconds. I am pretty sure I broke some kind of world record with that move. In that same amount of time, the bull closed the distance to within 20 yards of the cow he thought he had heard and was on the very same game trail. It was the 6x9 and I had him at 20 yards. Wow, the adrenalin was flowing now. He took a step and looked up the hill, I had a pretty good quartering toward me shot. I pulled on my release as hard as I could and nothing. I thought that adrenalin was supposed to make me superman, but I couldn't draw the 70 pound Hoyt.

I was shaking, as the bull moved along the trail from 20 yards to about 12. He noticed that there was something he didn't like about that cedar tree. Flash, buzz, bang! That lighting hit way too close. He didn't notice me jump three feet, because he jumped three feet at the exact same instant. I was left with two choices now, wait for him to move up around that funky cedar tree that was making him nervous while looking for that sexy cow and shoot him broadside at 12 yards, or try and draw with him staring a hole through my Kings rain gear and shoot him straight on. Well, I chose number two. Somewhere between drawing and him turning a 180 and hauling butt out of there an adrenalin crazed, sore footed, tired archery hunter punched the trigger on his release. Perhaps not the best choice, but nevertheless it was done and I couldn't take it back no matter how bad I wanted to.

Still on my knees, shaking, I whispered into the mic "Anthony, you got a copy". He came on. I said something like "I just pulled a dumb move you better get over here. I will meet you below the rim just off the pond". His first thought was that I had shot a little bull. I quickly explained that I had my chance and had probably blown it, but I wasn't sure. I left my pack where I shot from and set my bow where that huge 6x9 had been standing only moments earlier. Did I mention that he looked pretty awesome at 12 yards? He did. I started looking for what I hoped would be a bloody arrow and a river of blood. The rain had turned from a drizzle to flat out raining hard.

Anthony joined me and we spent the next hour scouring the country for an arrow or any other sign. We chose not to push too far downhill, knowing he could be poorly hit and not wanting to bump him. Eventually, we headed out to give him some time. I figured, given the situation, it would be best to call for help and give him four hours. After a few texts, I knew that Burd and Chai would be up to help look mid afternoon. My brother in-law Punk would be up early evening to help to and he is part blood hound. Anthony and I went back to camp and Tiff hooked us up with something to eat once again. By eleven, I was so antsy that I had to get back and see if the fog had lifted so I could glass that brushy hole.

Anthony and I sat in the truck for quite awhile looking at the fog. When it started to lift it would come and go. First we saw a two point bedded in the open and then the fog rolled in. Then it rolled back up. Holy cow! The 6x9 is chasing cows in the middle of the day. I felt a little let down, but mostly I felt fortunate to know quickly that the bull was alive and well. I did not have to waste any time looking for him, the hunt was on. Anthony dropped me off and I headed back into the brush hole. When Burd and Chai showed up, they relieved Anthony and he joined me to set up and call. We knew that he would be call shy now. The 6x9 was on the run all afternoon, he must have lost his cows because of or just after our morning encounter and he was going crazy trying to gather some again.

With the cool weather, he was active all day long. We had a hard time trying to catch up with him in the thick brush. Before dark, he had worked his way over to where he had been two nights before, just below the road. Anthony set up behind me on a knob and was calling. The 6x9 was above us about 200 yards. Anthony coaxed him to within 100 yards several times but he just would not come closer. I felt it wise to not press the issue as he didn't seem to want to leave the area and I liked it like that.

Thursday morning was the fifth day chasing the 6x9 and like clock work Anthony picked him up at first light. Just like everyday before, I chased him up and down through that thick nasty jungle and like every day before I was so close but could not quite get it put together. I was living my dream and chasing a big bull elk in my own backyard. Anthony had to work at 1:00pm and I had some work issues to take care of, so I followed him to town.

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utah450
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Feb-15-11, 
06:14 PM (MST)
9. "Elk Ridge 6x9"

I took care of a couple of pressing work issues, fueled the truck and headed back after the 6x9. I was almost three weeks into this hunt and the pressure was mounting. I had had some real highs and right now, I was pretty low. Anthony had to work the swing shift for the next few days, so I wouldn't have his help. I was tired both mentally and physically after hunting this long. I was beginning to realize that very soon I had to go into panic mode If I did not want to eat tag soup on this hunt. There were a ton of things on my mind, as I climbed back onto elk ridge bouncing over the washboards. At least tonight, I had a spotter lined up. My nephew Tanner was headed up to help out. He had seen the bull, so he knew what and where I was hunting.

Once again, I found myself flying by Shawn's camp at the little notch. I wondered if he had been able to find the bull he had hit. I had stopped by and introduced myself before. Shawn had told me his story of getting on an awesome bull and everything had gone perfect. The best part, was that his son had been right there with him. As things go with archery, he was not able to recover his bull. I silently wished him luck as I cruised past, he seemed like a super guy and I hoped he could get the bull of his dreams.

I parked my truck in the same old spot that I had been in for the last five days. I cruised past the pond dropped down off the rim into the brush hole. It seemed like my own backyard now. I knew the best ways to move around and be unnoticed. I had found a great spot to glass a little bit of the area and be ready to move when I needed to. Tanner showed up not long after I was in position and started glassing. There was one bull bugling off and on, but Tanner could not pick him up and he did not sound like the 6x9.

I had my cow decoy with me, thinking it may make the difference in bringing the 6x9 into range. After awhile, I decided to set it up and call a little. Before long, I had company. A yearling cow came in. She had seen the decoy and was looking for company. I found myself messing around with her a little just for fun. I grew tired of the game before she did. I even stood up once and moved around, but she was here to stay. At that point, I figured that two decoys were better than one and that I couldn't get one more life like than her. Unfortunately, there only seemed to be one bull in the area tonight and Tanner could not get a visual.

I was a little too tired to want to drop into the brush and have to hike back out of that steep hole if it was not the bull. Besides that, I had to be honest, the light was fading too fast to get to the only bull talking anyway. I was pretty bummed out, as I packed up the decoy. I had chased that bull for five days and this area had been full of elk every night and morning but it was pretty quiet now. The young cow spooked off, when I raised Tanner on the radio and told him that I was going to hike out and hit the pond right before dark to see if I could catch anything coming in to water.

As I came over the rim, I checked with Tanner to see if he had seen anything. He confirmed what I already knew and said nothing was moving. I guess out of frustration I headed across the flat in the open right at the pond to get there quicker. Just then, I heard what sounded like a young bull not far away and it sounded as though he was headed to water. There were only two little ponderosa's between me and the pond. I hoped that I could use them as cover before the bull came out of the timber. I hustled and got there just as I could see antlers through a gap in the trees.

I crawled from one tree to the next about twenty yards to close the gap to the pond. I moved around the tree on my knees, until I could see, just as the bull got to the pond. A few minutes quicker, and I would have been in the blind at the pond and I would have a twenty yard shot. There was nothing between the bull and myself, except for wide open meadow. I did not have anything to really break up my background and didn't dare move a muscle. He was looking right at me.

He would lower his head like he was going to drink and then jerk it back up, all while staring right at me. I wondered how long this gig would last. I slowly removed the wac'em tipped easton arrow and knocked it. The bull looked good, but I wanted to make sure. I moved my hands for the bino's and got them on him as he started to drink. Split fourth, giant third, little points, holy cow, it is the 6x9! Unlike our encounter from 36 hours before, I was calm. I slowly lowered the bino's as I contemplated the range. Jerk, his head was back up and looking right at me. I froze and waited. He again relaxed, took two steps out into the water and started drinking again.

I eased my range finder out of my pocket and slowly brought it up. It read 71 yards. I did not want to shoot past 60 yards. I had practiced some at 70 off and on since April, but not with the intent of shooting that far during the hunt. I knew that with him looking at me every time his head popped up, that he likely would go any direction after watering but mine. I also knew that I could not get any closer at this point. I decided that If I wanted to kill this bull, that I would not likely get a third chance. I eased my hoyt from its resting place on its lower cam and drew it as I brought it up. His head was still down. As I felt tension in my back and the 60 yard pin rested on the top of his back, I slowly began to squeeze the release.

SMACK! The sound that every archer loves. He jumped out of the water spinning to the right, ran twenty yards, did a 360, fell down, then jumped up ran 50 yards to the left across the pond bank and into the trees. The adrenalin was flowing now, I threw up the bino's and could see his legs through the trees. He took two more steps and vanished. Was he staggering or was I just imagining things. I radioed Tanner and told him that I had just hit the 6x9 bull and explained where I wanted him to meet me. I didn't want him to drive all the way up the road and take a chance on bumping the bull. I then realized that I was still on my knees and that it was more in thanks than anything else. I took in the moment and re-played what had just happened in my mind. I was sure that it was a hit and felt confident that it was on target.

I got up and was sneaking away putting distance between me and the bull. I wanted to give him some time. As I got to where I knew I could talk, I turned my radio from the talk around channel so I could hit the repeater. My in-laws have a construction company and there is a base radio at my mother in-laws house. I wanted to let the world know that I had filled my tag and I wanted Mickey and the kids to be the first to know. I whispered into the mic and raised my mother in-law. To my surprise my family was there eating dinner, so I told them that I was pretty sure the hunt was over. I was happy to be done, and my wife was probably happier.

I met up with Tanner and let Chai know what had happened. He was in the area trying to fill his spike tag. We headed up the road so that I could call Anthony. I was bummed that he and Tiff couldn't be there when I killed, after all the help that they had given me. We gave the bull two hours and then headed to look for him. We parked the trucks at the pond and walked right to where I had last seen the bull. There he was, I had witnessed some of his last steps, as he had only gone a few more yards. I was pumped. To think that I had hunted him for five days in that steep, brushy, miserable hole and now I could drive a truck right to him. It is better to be lucky than good.

Elk Ridge 6x9


Tanner and I


Chai and I


We found my bull about 9:45pm. Some of my in-laws showed up about 10:30pm.

Tanner, Tate, Myself, Punk and Quinn


Anthony got off work at 10:00pm. He and Tiff showed up at 11:45.


I have been involved with enough hunts to have seen some great pics and some not bad ones, or even no pics at all. I figure that this could be my only chance to ever hunt limited entry elk in my life. I wanted good field photo's. In my opinion, there is no such thing as good photo's in the dark. I opted to go to a ton of extra work and gut my bull, put rocks underneath him and sticks to prop him open so that he could cool and i could get some daylight pictures. Some would probably cuss me for it, but the pictures of this bull were more important to me than the meat. That being said, the meat was just fine and none of it was wasted.

Now I knew how Pete had felt less than a week before as he showed me his bull. It felt pretty good. I headed off the mountain behind my buddies late that morning just enjoying the trip. I did stop at Shawn's camp to show him and his family my bull. Just as a side note, Shawn worked his tail off for four weeks and missed out on hauling his trophy home, but was fortunate enough to have his bull found by some muzzleloader hunters. The DWR brought his horns to him later in the fall. The way I remember him telling me, he must have walked within 30 yards of his bull several times while looking for it. Good things happen to good people.

I always like to see horns strapped on for the ride home. I don't have a subaru, but I thought the picture turned out fine. I headed to town, knowing that my first stop would be CB's. I had a ton of texts and voicemail's all wanting me to let them know when I got to town. After that, I headed to the house to show the family. Lyle met me there and threw a tape on my bull. He came up with 365 and some change. I knew by watching him that he went too quick and that I could get a few more inches by taking my time, lol. After taking the cape to my buddy Kurtis at Ridgeway Taxidermy, I got the horns back and decided to throw a tape on them. Somehow I could not replicate the beam length that Lyle had gotten, but ended up 365 and change. Not bad for an archery bull and a ton bigger than that monster spike with eye guards that was my best bull to date.

Check out the thirds in the pics. This bull has something that I have never seen before. His third on the left is just over 20 inches. His third on the right is just over 16 inches. The interesting thing is that the one on the right has a stick in the horn. You can see it in the last pic that has me alone with the bull. He must have jammed it in the horn when it was soft. Anyway, something different than I had seen before.

Stay tuned, if you have the patience. I have had a few comments that I am long winded. I will try and post up some more video and story. My 2010 hunts were just beginning. Lyle's wife Cindy hunted the early rifle elk. Lyle's nephew/Anthony's cousin Chad from Nevada hunted the muzzleloader elk. My fourteen year old Ashton and I both had deer tags to fill as well.

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