2022-Luck of the Draw

elkhunterUT

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I have learned over the years that you take tags whenever you can get them and feel blessed for the opportunity. Seeing the word "unsuccessful" so many times in many different states has helped me appreciate the few instances when "lady luck" shines bright. 2022 she certainly shined bright for our family. Below is the lineup of hunts we have drawn and what I hope will make a pretty good hunt adventure thread over the coming months:

August: Dad drew Utah archery antelope
August-October: 16 yr old Daughter and 13 yr old Son drew Utah General Season Any Weapon Deer tags (can hunt all 3 hunts-Archery, Muzzy, Rifle)
September: Nephew drew Wyoming Archery elk (type 9 tag)
September-October: Brother (@Silentstalker) drew Utah OIL Moose (25 points)
November: I drew Utah OIL California Bighorn Sheep (21 points)

Always a welcome email👍🏻
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elkhunterUT

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A little background on my sheep tag - I knew I was getting pretty close to drawing one of the California bighorn sheep units, so I started doing my homework a couple years ago by talking to previous tagholders and the biologists for all 3 Cali units (Stansbury, Oak Creek, and Newfoundland Mtns). I also scouted the Oak Creek and Stansbury units a couple times and watched some sheep there - they are fun to watch in November during the rut! I had never set foot on the Newfoundland mountains, but I knew that unit holds the most overall sheep/rams of the 3 units, and arguably has less rugged terrain with good access to the entire unit. Knowing none of the Cali units are "trophy" units per se, I opted to go with the unit that would give me the best chance to possibly shoot a ram with my bow. Newfoundland mtns it is!

I know how special and rare a sheep tag is and how important it will be to soak up the entire experience and make the most of it, so I was extremely grateful when a couple great dudes on this forum (@littlebighorn and @mtnrunner260) connected me with some Board Members and the President of the Utah Wild Sheep Foundation when they found out I drew this tag. The UWSF and DWR had planned to install a new water guzzler out on the unit just days after the draw results had come out. I had some work commitments on the day they were doing the project, but I knew I needed to reshuffle some things so I could lay eyes on the unit for the first time with some guys who not only know and care about wild sheep more than many, but have also hunted the unit and know it well. It was also a way to kick off my hunt in the absolute best manner possible by giving back to a herd and resource that I will likely be taking something from. Seemed like a no-brainer and hopefully a good omen for my hunt in November! (y)

The guzzler project was a lot of fun and such a great experience - a black hawk helicopter flew us and all of the guzzler tank supplies into the location by mid-morning. We got to work and finished the guzzler by late afternoon. I had never flown in a helicopter before, so that was cool and it was nice to see most of the unit from a true "birds eye" view. Can't thank the UWSF leaders and DWR biologist and guzzler crew enough for letting me tag along and help with the project. These people have devoted their lives to protecting and assuring wild sheep continue forever so others can enjoy such an amazing animal! I hope to do the same and immediately joined UWSF when I got home. Here are some pictures from our guzzler project:
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elkhunterUT

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I ran out again to my sheep unit this past weekend and put up a couple trail cameras and checked out a bunch of areas. Wish I could keep the cams up until November when my hunt starts, but I will run back out the weekend of July 30th and pull them.

The unit has had some good rains recently-there was standing water in all of the road ruts and the water guzzlers all had a bunch of water as well. Grasses and plants were very green-some good groceries for the sheep right now anyway.👍🏻
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elkhunterUT

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My Dad & I braved the 100+ degree heat and made another run out to my sheep unit to pull my trail cameras and to do some scouting. Friday night we saw a bunch of ewes/lambs and then glassed up a bunch of rams. Below are some of the pics I got using my spotter and phone skope.
It was so fun seeing and watching the rams-definitely got me excited even though my hunt is a ways out still.
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I have a ton of trail cam pictures to sort through and will share some of those soon.
I have been shooting my bow a fair amount and gearing up for my Dad’s Utah archery antelope hunt, which opens August 20th. It is almost on!!
 

elkhunterUT

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Hunting season is finally here! Tomorrow is opening day of my Dad's Utah archery antelope hunt. My brother ran out yesterday and got this blind set up on a good waterhole.
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My Dad and I will head out a little later today to get camp set up and will stay through Monday evening. If I have any decent cell service out there, I will try to provide a few semi-live updates. Just a little backstory on this hunt - My Dad is 75 years old and was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease a few years ago. This disease has taken its toll on my Dad's physical abilities, but he is still trying to get after it. I don't think he cares at all if he kills an antelope - he just wants to be with my brother and I out doing what we love. It will be a great 3 days no matter what happens.

For all of you getting out tomorrow, I wish you the very best of luck! Take time to soak it all in - smell the flowers, admire the sunrise, and enjoy every day you are given!!
 

elkhunterUT

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Well, Dad is on the board and made short work of his antelope hunt. Made a great 40 yard shot this afternoon on this buck and he did not go far. Good too, because after he killed his buck it has been raining almost nonstop, so sitting water is not going to be very effective for a bit.
2022 is starting out very well-hope it continues!!
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elkhunterUT

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With my Dad tagging out early on his Antelope hunt and having a general archery elk tag in my pocket and a vacation day to burn, I decided to hunt elk yesterday. Good decision!!

I sat a treestand over an active waterhole in my brother's moose unit, mostly to scout for his hunt, but we knew there were elk in the general area with a few bulls. I figured if nothing else, it would be fun to get out and enjoy a day away from the grind with my bow in hand in case a bull elk stumbles by. I climbed into the stand about 2:00pm. Around 4:00pm I hear some soft grunting and trees breaking behind me. A cow and calf moose work their way directly below my stand. I watch them for a long time when another cow moose comes in. Eventually a 4th cow moose worked its way to the pond and pushed the other cows/calf out.
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Around 6:15pm, the 4th cow moose was still at the pond when I saw her looking intently up the draw. I looked that way and caught antlers and the tan body of an elk working its way to the pond. With the cow moose in the water, the bull skirted the edge of the pond and looked like he might leave. I ranged him, drew my bow back, settled the pin, and pinwheeled him behind the shoulder. Sounded like a watermelon popped when the arrow hit him and he had no idea what happened. I let out a soft cow call and he stood there looking sick for about 30 seconds. I kept softly calling and he slowly worked his way away from the pond.

I gave him 30 minutes then went to where he was standing when I shot. Found my arrow and good blood right where he was standing - started following good blood on the trail and about 30 yards later looked up and saw him laying there. Pretty awesome night for a 1 day hunt!! My brother saved my butt and came to help me pack out the bull. We started packing around 9:30pm and after 2 full trips of HEAVY loads we were finished at the trucks by 12:30pm. I am hurting badly today, but it was all worth it!
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elkhunterUT

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Currently in Wyoming with a little cell service and some time while helping my nephew on his archery elk tag. We started our trip Saturday morning in Utah for opening morning of my brother’s moose tag. We called in a small bull to under 15 yards and my bro passed on him:
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After the morning hunt, we burned up to Wyoming to start my nephew’s elk hunt. This morning and afternoon, we have been into elk thick. Called in a good 6x6 to 32 yards, but he needed to take a couple more steps for a clear shot and he got nervous and walked back the same way he came. This afternoon we got into a bunch of different bulls in a bugling frenzy and had a giant 350+ bull at about 70 yards but couldn’t get closer for a shot. My brother and nephew are still chasing him as far as I know. I am headed back to the truck to meet up with them later. Will update as I can with very spotty service. Couple pics from this morning:
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elkhunterUT

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If there is such a thing as Elk Nirvana, we just experienced it. Greatest single day of elk hunting I think I have ever been a part of!! We were in a rut fest of bulls and non-stop bugling from the minute we dove into the canyon until well after dark.

We kept the wind right and skirted the herd and I held back calling while my brother and nephew stayed close to the nearest bull. Within all the craziness of the day, we had 4 different opportunities at 320+ bulls, but a good shot never materialized. Around 5:00pm, I got separated from my brother and nephew while they were in tight on several raspy sounding bulls. They moved towards one specific bull and finally caught a glimpse of him in the pines as he walked towards them and came to about 35 yards. As my nephew drew back his bow, the bull caught movement and took off. My brother hit the cow call hard and the bull stopped at about 50 yards and my nephew released the arrow. Hit him back angling forward into the offside shoulder and he only made it about 100 yards.
What a great first bull for my nephew and an amazing experience in the elk woods!

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elkhunterUT

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With elk bugles still ringing in our ears, we burned back to Utah with sore backs and legs to focus on my brother’s moose hunt. We were on the mountain Wednesday and seeing moose and small bulls every time out-it was just a matter of time before we found a more mature bull. On Thursday, my brother and I covered some serious miles trying to uncover a good bull. At around 11am, we set up a calling sequence with cow moans, bull grunts and raking a dried out scapula bone on the brush. After a couple calls and some raking, we heard a faint bull grunt. Then the bull crested the ridge nearest to us and was on his way to us in a hurry. He popped out of the oakbrush at 10 yards!! He was a beautiful bull, but with only one brow on his left side, my brother opted to pass on him😳. I was amazed at the self control!!


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elkhunterUT

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Friday night we decided to split up to cover more country and to hopefully find a shooter bull. I went to a great vantage point to glass and Chad went to an area to get a better look at a bill we saw at last light the night before. At around 6:30, I caught a cow and calf pop out into an opening and by the time I got my spotting scope set up on them, there was a BIG bull in the view. This bull had noticeably better palm width than any bull we had seen yet and he had 2 brows on both sides-finally a shooter bull and he was hot after the cow!!
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elkhunterUT

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Chad loved the bull and we determined he was one of the top few bulls he had found scouting, so we decided to be in that same spot Saturday morning at first light with the hope of getting the bull close enough for a shot with his bow. We set up for a calling sequence close to where I had seen him the night before, but did not hear or see anything. We huddled and decided the bull most likely followed the cow and calf up a different draw towards water.

That hunch proved to be spot on. We made it to a pipeline cut above where we thought they might be and started calling and raking. Then came a familiar bull grunt just over the ridge. I kept calling and raking and very quickly we could hear the bull plowing through the oak brush toward us on a string. Chad set up for the shot and I kept grunting. The bull popped out at 20 yards with that look of frenzy in his eyes and I had such a cool angled video shot with Chad and the bull in the same frame as Chad drew his bow and placed a perfect arrow behind the bull’s shoulder. BUT I DIDN’T HIT RECORD!! I was sick, but was redeemed a bit when the bull came back in to my grunt calls after being shot the first time and Chad placed another perfect arrow behind the shoulder.


The bull ran 30-40 yards and piled up. What a RUSH!!! Such a great bull and another amazing experience shared with my brother!!
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With some amazing friends and family who dropped everything to come help, we were able to pack the bull out in one trip.
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What a way to end our week of elk hunting in Wyoming and moose hunting in Utah. Man, I LOVE September!!!
 

elkhunterUT

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Took my two youngest out on the Utah rifle opener yesterday. Saw a bunch of deer and kicked up a good mature buck at first light, but he was moving too fast and the kids couldn’t get him in the scope. Later that morning, we got on a herd with a decent 2 point buck and my son wanted him. We got him set up on the shooting sticks with a solid rest and he took the shot. The buck showed no sign of being hit and we didn’t hear the typical sound of a hit so we hurried over where the buck was standing and found no blood or other sign. Confirmed miss.

Not sure what happened and my son is torn up about it, but I keep telling him if I were to ever miss, it would keep the fire burning to come back and get it done next time😂. He only took one shot last year (his first year hunting) and killed a buck, so some bad with the good is always a good lesson 👍🏻

We had a great time as a family and with a couple good friends until it started to storm and snow like crazy!
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elkhunterUT

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Heading out in a couple hours for my first sheep hunting trip. Will be joined by my Dad, Brother, and my oldest son. This will be a shorter trip through Saturday evening, as my boy is leaving on a 2 year church mission starting Monday, November 7th, so we need to get back for that. Really looking forward to spending one last hunt with him and my Pops and Bro.
If I don't kill one on this shorter trip, we will head back out Nov 9th - Nov 15th.

The weather and cold could get a little western :oops: , but we are prepared for it! Wish us luck(y)🤞
 

elkhunterUT

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Had a fun few days seeing a bunch of sheep and putting a few stalks on rams. No luck yet.
Thursday night we found sheep immediately, including one good ram. Friday morning we found a really good ram and put a stalk on him but couldn’t close the distance before he moved up and over some very rugged stuff.

Later that day we found another stud ram with a smaller ram way up high. Attempted to put a stalk on him, but he was constantly on the move and never got close. He was a ram I really would have loved to kill-here is a bad pic from a long ways away:
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Found another band of sheep Friday night with 2 small rams and 1 borderline shooter ram and a bunch of ewes, but opted to pass on the stalk as he is not a ram I want to kill just yet.
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Today was a bust with all the rain and weather. We are seeing a lot of sheep, but they are holding way up high in the nasty stuff and the bigger rams are not showing much rutting behavior yet. Most of the bigger rams have been alone.
Hoping they move down a bit and get a bit more active with the ewes when I get back out on Wednesday👍🏻

Had a great time with my oldest son, brother and Dad on this first trip!
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I borrowed a wall tent and stove from a good friend for this hunt and it has been awesome for a warm and cozy home base
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elkhunterUT

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Jack O’Connor’s famous quote rings very true to me having now experienced my first ever sheep hunt:
“There is no half way. After his first exposure, a man is either a sheep hunter or he isn’t. He either falls under the spell of sheep hunting and sheep country or he won’t be caught dead on another sheep mountain.”

Frigid cold, wet, muddy miserable conditions, and gale force winds that ripped the stakes out of the ground on our wall tent and flipped it over exposing all of our gear to water (see the first pic below) made me wonder if I would ever want to be caught dead on another sheep mountain for sure, but there is something about that animal that will push a hunter to endure all kinds of Type 2 fun! We certainly faced some challenges on this hunt but it delivered in every way and is an experience and memory that will be seared into my mind forever. During the tough weather, we found it hard to turn up sheep in stalkable terrain and were really struggling. I was feeling the pressure of the tag and starting to worry about the clock running out on me.
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elkhunterUT

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Finally yesterday we had a sunny (don’t mistake that for being warm 😂) and wind free day and started seeing sheep lower on the mountain and more active. We found a group of ewes very low and then spotted a good ram all alone. He was a bit higher up the mountain, but worth going after so we put a game plan together and I started my stalk.

As I was working my way toward the first ram, I spotted what looked like sheep much closer with the tell-tale white “long-john” rumps popping in the early light. I pulled up my binos and sure enough it was a good ram with six ewes. They were about 200 yards away but there was a nice rise between us that would give me some cover to get even closer. I worked my way to that rise and the sheep continued to mill around and do their thing. Once I got to the top of the rise, I took my backpack off and readied the gun (I originally wanted to kill a ram with my bow but wussed out with the tough hunting conditions-I’m good with it 👍🏻). The ram was under 150 yards slightly quartering away when I touched off the bullet, which found its mark with a perfect heart shot. He fell forward and I added two quick follow up insurance shots to anchor him, and suddenly, my long awaited once in a lifetime sheep hunt was over.

Lots of emotions and feelings with this one, many of which I am still processing, but I can now say firsthand that I get why sheep hunters are so obsessed with this animal. It was an unreal and tough experience but so worth it and so unique when compared to the many other hunts I have been on. I am slowly becoming a sheep hunter I guess!!
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elkhunterUT

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Got my sheep horns plugged and checked in with the DWR
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That wraps up my 2022 hunts-what a year it has been! Lots of days in the field and a lot of great memories, but spending it all with those I care about most (Dad, brother, kids) is the ultimate highlight. I love hunting because it is the fabric of my life and has provided something for me to look forward to every day of my life and provided meaningful experiences, trials, and life lessons that can’t be replicated any other way. That is good for the mind and soul!! Looking forward to 2023!!👍🏻
 

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