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2017 - Year of the Bear

 
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elkhunterUT
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May-31-17, 
03:40 PM (MST)
"2017 - Year of the Bear"

2017 draw results were good to me right out of the gate. In January, my brother Chad and I decided to apply for General elk in Wyoming with plans to hit it hard on the bowhunt in September, and then return with a rifle later on if not successful. We applied and were successful in that drawing, so we already had one hunt to really look forward to right off.

I have also been acquiring bonus points for bear in my home state of Utah and with 14 points, I decided that 2017 would be the year to cash in my points & hunt. I knew I had enough points to draw a Premium/Multi-Season tag on several units close to my home, so I started my research by talking to previous tag holders and houndsmen that I knew hunted the various units I was considering. One particular guy I met from Payson (Bruce), who shot a great bear with his bow a few years earlier, was very helpful and generous in sharing some possible bait locations and ideas with me. He even offered to help me with my bait site setup and in keeping the bait stocked – what a great guy!! After a lot of positive input from him and other past hunters, I decided to apply for the Nebo Premium tag. I was beyond excited when I received this email from the DWR in early March:


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  Table of Contents  

 Subject   Author   Message Date   ID 
 RE: 2017 - Yea...  elkhunterUT      May-31-17   1 
  RE: 2017 - Yea...  elkhunterUT      Jun-01-17   2 
   RE: 2017 - Yea...  elkhunterUT      Jun-02-17   3 
    RE: 2017 - Yea...  elkhunterUT      Jun-02-17   4 
     RE: 2017 - Yea...  elkhunterUT      Jun-03-17   5 
      RE: 2017 - Yea...  elkhunterUT      Jun-05-17   6 
       RE: 2017 - Yea...  elkhunterUT      Jun-08-17   7 
        RE: 2017 - Yea...  elkhunterUT      Jun-12-17   8 
         RE: 2017 - Yea...  elkhunterUT      Jun-24-17   9 
          RE: 2017 - Yea...  elkhunterUT      Jul-10-17   11 
           RE: 2017 - Yea...  elkhunterUT      Jul-20-17   12 
            RE: 2017 - Yea...  elkhunterUT      Aug-22-17   13 

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elkhunterUT
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May-31-17, 
08:21 AM (MST)
1. "RE: 2017 - Year of the Bear"

Having drawn two great tags early on in 2017 that would require a lot of focus and vacation time, my big game application plans for my home state of Utah changed slightly. I opted for my 19th elk point and 17th Rocky Mtn Bighorn Sheep point and did not put in for general deer for the first time ever. I did put my 14 year old son in for general deer, youth elk, Limited Entry elk, and Mountain Goat. He was successful in drawing his first choice rifle general deer tag, which will allow him to hunt all 3 weapons as a youth. We are both really looking forward to that hunt and getting him a deer (hopefully with a bow this year).

With my Premium bear tag now in hand, my plans were to spend a little time during the Spring hunt in April and May glassing and getting to know the unit better and possibly going out with some great houndsmen (The Hone family from Payson area) that I met through my Brother-in-law. They told me the best time for hounds on the Nebo would likely be during the fall hunt, so I put most of my energy into researching and planning a couple of bait sites that I could hunt hard in early June during the summer hunt. I would hunt the bait sites and if a big bear was hitting, I would shoot him, otherwise I would wait until the fall hunt and try to get it done with the hounds.

I registered my 2 bait sites with the DWR in early April, and by early May I hiked into one of my bait site locations that was now accessible. I was very excited to find multiple piles of bear scat within 100 feet of my chosen bait location.

Over the next few weeks, I further prepared that location with a “crib” and hung 2 treestands to hunt out of

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elkhunterUT
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Jun-01-17, 
12:44 PM (MST)
2. "RE: 2017 - Year of the Bear"

On May 20th, with the much appreciated help of my brother, we hauled in a bunch of bait and got things finalized at my first bait location. On the hike out, I stumbled upon this awesome elk shed in the trail. 52” main beam and some serious mass – a real stud for the Nebo unit. I took this as a strong sign of good things to come!!

My 2nd bait site location was at a higher elevation and I could not access it yet due to the roads being gated by the Forest Service. Finally on May 24th, the gate to the road was opened, so I made a quick run up with my Dad, and Bruce from Payson who was helping me, and we got that site ready with a “crib”, bear crack burn, and bait.


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elkhunterUT
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Jun-02-17, 
03:01 PM (MST)
3. "RE: 2017 - Year of the Bear"

My plan was to return on Saturday, May 27th to the 2nd bait to hang my tree stands and be fully ready for the bait hunt to open on June 3rd. That plan changed however, when I got a text from Braxten, one of the houndsmen from Payson. He invited me to see if we could find a bear to chase on Saturday. I was torn on what to do because I knew I needed to finalize my 2nd bait location with that hunt opening soon, and I wasn’t sure how great the hound hunting would be this early based on what they had told me earlier. I finally decided “what the heck” and took them up on their offer to run the dogs. Hunting with hounds was something I had never done before, so I figured if nothing else, it would be good to at least see how they operated for later in the fall if we hunted together then. If we were lucky enough to tree a small bear, I could at least take some cool pics and video of the experience and bank it in my memory file.

My Brother-in-Law Bryon and I met Braxten and his Mom Marne and Dad Alan with their hounds up the canyon at 5:00 AM on Saturday morning, May 27th. Our plan was to drive some of the roads early and let the dogs “rig” up a bear. Braxten’s brother would come up from another canyon road with his dogs and we would meet up at the top at some point. I was beyond excited to be a part of a hunt that I had never experienced before and looked forward to seeing the dogs do their work. Just a few minutes out of the parking lot, the dogs on top of the box started going crazy. We pulled over and decided it was probably a raccoon that they smelled and decided to keep on going, but it was awesome to see the hounds get all worked up and sing their “music”!!

We met up with Riley at the top of the canyon – neither of us came across anything “hot” for the dogs, so we BS’d for a while. It was pretty cold that morning up the canyon with some low clouds and fog, so we felt it would be best to let it warm up a bit and then maybe take the dogs on a walk on one of the trails they have had luck on before. As we were driving towards one of the areas, we ran into a guy that told us about a big bear that had been seen the day before just a little lower down the canyon near a main trail. He said the bear was described as a “Belly Dragger”. That caught all of our interest, so with nothing to lose, we decided to give it a shot. Me, Bryon, Braxten, Riley, and their friend Kory, who joined up with us earlier in the morning, took several dogs on down the trail, while Alan and Marne took the rest of the pack of dogs down the canyon a ways in case we jumped a bear and needed them to let the dogs in lower. Fairly quickly into our hike, the dogs got onto the scent of a bear and were lined out and rolling on the trail pretty quickly.


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elkhunterUT
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Jun-02-17, 
06:15 AM (MST)
4. "RE: 2017 - Year of the Bear"

We listened and watched on the guys GPS units as the dogs did their thing, and it wasn’t long before 2 of the dogs appeared to have the bear treed a ways down the canyon. They ended up treeing the bear across the main canyon road from where we were. Bryon and I were so excited that we were going to see a bear in the tree with the hounds below and get some cool pictures and video footage. As we hiked back to the trucks to drive down closer to the treed bear, we all joked about how cool it would be to tree a monster on the very first time out with the hounds. We knew the likelihood of that was extremely low, but I did not care at all, knowing that we would, at the very least, get to see a bear up close.

The bear had treed not too far off of the main canyon road, but it was in some very steep country so we all started to make our ascent in the direction of the dogs. It was slow going, but I was full of adrenaline and excitement and I was moving at a pretty good clip. Everybody told me to move on ahead toward the tree. It was not hard to find the exact tree with the sound of the dogs barking and howling – the echo of that sound in my mind is something I will never forget. As I rounded the tree and looked up to where the bear was, my first sight was 2 very large front paws with what appeared to be huge pads. I knew from past experience that you can tell a lot about the size of a bear from his front pad. This was my first view of the bear (lighting is not the best in the pic-the sun was blaring down directly towards us as we were looking up at the bear):

After seeing the bear’s paws, I had to move out a bit from the tree to get a better overall view of him, due to the sea of pine branches. That is when I got my first look at his head.

That was all I needed to confirm that this was a BIG Boar and I knew I probably should not pass him up with a Premium tag in hand. It was very early in my hunt and I hadn’t even hunted over my bait sites yet, but this was obviously a big bear. The more I looked at him, the decision to notch my tag was a “no brainer”. By some miracle, the dogs had found and treed the jumbo “Belly Dragger” on our first trip out!! As the rest of the group got to the bear, we all agreed this was a shooter and laughed at our earlier conversation about the unlikelihood of this happening right out of the gate. Not being one to tempt fate or lady luck, I made the decision to shoot and started looking at shot angles and ranging distances.
(Bear is in the tree directly above my hat brim in this pic - notice no Flatty This was approximately where I would take the shot from)


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elkhunterUT
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Jun-03-17, 
11:11 PM (MST)
5. "RE: 2017 - Year of the Bear"

My best shot was out about 17 yards from the bear with a bit of an upward angle into the tree. The bear was very slightly quartering to me and a branch was hanging down blocking the back end of the vitals, so I would need to thread my arrow between that branch and his front shoulder. The sun was also blaring down on us, so I was a little worried about glare and being able to see my sight pin through my peep sight. Coupling that with the nerves of having a bear this size so close, I was a bit of a mess to say the least. I am glad I had plenty of time to assess the shot and work through my nerves a bit.

As I drew back my bow, I did have a tough time seeing my pin through my peep sight against the dark color of the bear, but luckily the tree branch that I thought was going to be a problem for my shot, actually gave me a solid reference point to guide the placement of my sight pin. I put my 20 yard pin just to the right of and below the branch, and slowly executed my shot. I heard the “thump” of the arrow hitting the bear over the barking of the dogs, and he quickly jumped around to the side of the tree. Within seconds he was falling to the ground, dead as he made contact. So much anticipation, preparation, and hard work was over just like that, but I was beyond happy with this animal. As I walked up to him, I could not believe how big and pretty he was. His head and body were huge and his coat was a beautiful mix of chocolate, blonde, and cinnamon color. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome with my tag!!




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elkhunterUT
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Jun-05-17, 
09:04 AM (MST)
6. "RE: 2017 - Year of the Bear"

We gave the hounds their just reward for a job well done-they each got to check out and “bite” the bear. Alan protected the head of the bear while the dogs did their thing, which I was grateful for

A Huge thanks to the Hone Family & Kory for their help and the awesome work of their dogs – it was a special experience for me to see all that goes into the chase. I can now easily see how people get so passionate about their dogs and chasing cats and bears. Such a cool memory for me!!

Also a big thanks to my Brother-in-law Bryon who was also able to share in the experience with me and for his help in getting the bear off the mountain. I wish my Wife, 3 kids, Brother, and Dad could have been there as well but it didn’t work out this time and truth be told, I never expected to shoot a bear so quickly. Sometimes it is nice to be lucky!!


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elkhunterUT
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Jun-08-17, 
04:45 PM (MST)
7. "RE: 2017 - Year of the Bear"

With my bear hunt being over so quickly and somewhat unexpectedly, I will shift my focus now to scouting and getting ready for my son's Utah General deer hunt during all 3 seasons, and for my Wyoming elk hunt.

I am also signed up for a half marathon down on the Tushar Mountains near Beaver Utah at the end of July that I am really looking forward to for the scenery and to help me maintain top shape for my hunts. I have been grinding for the past while running and lifting to stay in shape. It definitely helped me on my bear hunt and I have no doubt it will be an asset on our backcountry Wyoming archery elk hunt coming up in September!!

Just this past Saturday, my Brother and I took my youngest son and one of his friends out to pull one of my trail cameras. We had this cool bull on camera with some pretty funky growth on his right side. Would love to see him when he finishes growing:

Pic of my son and his friend on our fun hike with some snow in June!!

Looking forward to some more camping and scouting this summer and finding some good bucks and bulls for the hunts!!

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elkhunterUT
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Jun-12-17, 
07:52 AM (MST)
8. "RE: 2017 - Year of the Bear"

Having killed my bear earlier than expected, I was not able to hunt over my bait sites. I did, however, leave my trailcams out for a little bit just to see what bears were coming into the bait. This past Saturday, I pulled those cameras and had a bunch of pictures of different bears to sift through.

None of the bears hitting the bait were near as big as the bear I killed, so no regrets there, but it would have been fun to see them up close from my treestands. Still fun to see them in the trail cam pics!! Here is a sampling of some of those pictures at the bait:

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elkhunterUT
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Jun-24-17, 
10:36 PM (MST)
9. "RE: 2017 - Year of the Bear"

Spent the last week camping, scouting, shooting, and fishing with my family. It was nice to get out and relax and see some awesome sites. We also found some great bulls and a lot of deer with a couple decent bucks!! Overall it was a great summer trip to get the excitement level even higher for the upcoming hunts:

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elkhunterUT
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Jul-10-17, 
09:28 AM (MST)
11. "RE: 2017 - Year of the Bear"

Getting caught up at work and home after spending the long 4th of July holiday camping and scouting in my 14 year old son's general deer unit. We saw a lot of deer with some good bucks. My boy is not going to be picky on the bowhunt, and I will also encourage him to shoot any legal buck for the experience. Judging by the amount of bucks we saw, he should be in for a good time I hope!! We also placed a trailcam in an area we want to check out and hope to find some good stuff there in the coming weeks.

We also saw a lot of elk, including one really great bull that I got on video in a bachelor herd (see the end of the youtube video below).

Here is a sampling of the bucks we saw and a video of the scouting trip, all taken through my Vortex Razor 65mm scope and phoneskope adapter. We are getting excited for the bowhunt in a few weeks and also looking forward to shooting the Total Archery Challenge course at Snowbird this weekend- fun times!!:

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elkhunterUT
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Jul-20-17, 
07:59 AM (MST)
12. "RE: 2017 - Year of the Bear"

Scouting for my son's deer hunt has been going very well & has us very excited. We went & pulled the card on one of our trail cameras & had over 2,400 pictures of elk & deer. No monster bucks, but some good ones & a bunch of little bucks. They are all in danger with my son behind his bow, so hopefully a few stick around during the bowhunt. Here are a couple of the trailcam pics:

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elkhunterUT
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Aug-22-17, 
08:27 PM (MST)
13. "RE: 2017 - Year of the Bear"

We have been highly anticipating opening day of the Utah bowhunt for awhile because it would be my son's first attempt to hunt big game with archery equipment. He killed a small two point his very first year of hunting with a muzzleloader 2 years ago, but he couldn't pull the minimum 40 pounds on his bow then. He worked really hard this past winter and early summer pulling his bow and shooting with me at the range and at 3D shoots throughout the summer to get to a higher draw weight and to be more effective at 20-30 yards.

Here he is at the Total Archery Challenge 3D shoot at Snowbird this past July honing his craft:

With good results from his preparation & hard work, we were also encouraged by what we had been seeing all summer on trail cams in his hunting unit. The night before the opener was exciting times for both of us and neither of us slept much. I think I might have been more excited than he was, and I didn't even have a tag We got into our ground blind opening morning about 20 minutes before daylight and checked our trail cam as we waited. We had this good buck in not 20 minutes before we arrived so things were looking good:

About a half hour after daylight, we had a cow and calf elk walk within 5 yards of us - that was an exciting experience for my boy to have them so close. Next year we will add an elk tag to his pocket!! Later we had a doe and 2 fawns come right in to 25 yards, but no bucks came in. We decided to move out of that area around 11:00 AM.

Later that afternoon, we decided to go for a ride into an area we have historically always seen deer to pass some time. We saw several does right off the bat and after a few minutes came around the corner to find a spike by 2 feeding in a meadow. He saw us and moved towards some cover. I told my son to get out and sneak up a ways around some thick pines & sure enough the buck was standing near those pines about 25 yards away. I went to range the buck, but before I could read him the range, the arrow was on its way (I think he had a little buck fever!! ). I heard the distinct sound of a solid hit and as the buck turned to run, I could see my son's arrow right in the buck's side at the perfect height.

We gave the buck 30 minutes and then started on the blood trail. The blood was solid and I knew he had a killer hit. Within 60 yards, we looked up and saw the buck laying there. It is hard to describe how excited & proud I was for my son at that moment. One of the best moments in my life thus far and far better than any of the animals I have been fortunate to take personally. Such a cool experience that I will always cherish!! The buck was quartering away when he shot and his arrow entered near the last rib and was stuck in the opposite shoulder taking out liver, lungs and top of the heart. It is always amazing to me how lethal a 40 pound bow and 75 grain Muzzy broadhead can be with proper shot placement. We cheered and high-fived and took lots of pictures with his first archery buck:

You will see bigger bucks taken this year, but NONE will mean more than this one. Our experience together on opening day of Utah's bowhunt define what bowhunting is to me: a father and son spending meaningful, quality time together lighting & fanning a flame that will be passed on to many future generations to come. The bowhunting fever & tradition continues!! I couldn't be prouder of my boy for his hard work and dedication to be able to make the shot when it counted. I am excited for the many future opportunities I will have to hunt with him and my other 2 kids in the future - it is as good or better than hunting for myself.

In a couple weeks I will be off to Wyoming for an archery elk hunt over Labor Day weekend with my Brother. We will then return on September 18th and have until September 27th if needed to get it done. Hopefully some prime time rutting big bull action awaits us!!


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