Utah Youth Any Bull Hunt

npaden

Active Member
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920
Well, I think this may have been the worst luck I've had in the last 10 years of applying for tags. Between my son and myself, we applied for 74 tags in 9 different states. The only tag either of us drew was the Utah Youth Any Bull Tag.

This tag is a very hard draw for Utah residents, but really not that tough of a draw for nonresidents. It runs around 20% drawing odds the last several years and with the 50% price increase next year the odds may even get better.

I wasn't even sure that we wanted to apply for the Youth Any Bull Tag. It has a reputation of being a fairly tough hunt and for sure is not a trophy hunt like the Limited Entry Tags are in Utah. While you are applying you don't get to build points like you would if you were applying for an LE tag. Last year I thought my son was too young to do one of these hunts, but even with the pretty good odds for a nonresident there is still luck involved to draw one in the short window you can apply for it, so I went ahead and applied him this year and of course he drew in his first year applying.

Looking at the harvest stats for the last several years, Ogden, East Canyon, Chalk Creek and Kamas have about the best average success rate but looking at the maps it sure looks like a lot of private land to have to deal with. I'm guessing that those high success rates are inflated with quite a bit of private success numbers. Right now the plan is to focus on the South Slope and see if I can find some decent sign and maybe even a few actual elk.

I just booked the plane tickets for our scouting trip next month. I've been spending time searching the interwebs and looking on google earth and am hoping for a great hunting experience for my son coming up in September.

Right now I just have 2 days of actual scouting planned. Flying in on the 12th, scouting the 13th and 14th then flying home on the 15th. That is before the archery hunt starts so I shouldn't be messing anyone up that is actually hunting. I think it will be more of a checking out the roads and potential camping spots than really looking for elk, although I hope to at least find some fresh sign.

We upgraded him to a Christensen Arms Mesa in 7mm-08 and have been spending some time practicing with it. We are also spending time with the 10/22 just trying to get better at quickly acquiring targets and shooting from different positions.

We are planning on pulling our camper trailer up in September and hopefully hear some bugles and at least see some elk. He really wants to shoot a bull but I told him he won't be able to be too choosy.

I wasn't really planning on doing an adventure thread with the one out of state tag that we have but I have been reading a lot about the Utah Youth Any Bull tag and thought I would go through the process of documenting our hunt. There is a very good chance that this will end up without an elk making the trip home with us, but there is no chance that it will be unsuccessful as it will be my son's first elk hunt. Looking forward to some quality time in the woods with him and if we can get some up close and personal bugles ripping through the trees that will be the icing on the cake.
 

npaden

Active Member
Messages
920
We have been continuing to get some hiking and shooting in. Went for a quick trip to the mountains in Wyoming and got some elevation to add to the hiking. Also trying to get his new boots broken in now rather than during the hunt. Longest hike so far was to Heart Mountain in Wyoming. 8 mile round trip and 2,500' of elevation gain.
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He's been shooting his new 7mm-08 some and the Ruger 10/22 quite a bit. Working on shooting as much as possible off the bench. Had a little spinner target setup that I bought last year but hadn't ever used and we tried that out last night and it is going to take some modifying to make it work the way it is supposed to. It was still fun to shoot at something other than paper for a change.

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Still working a bit on his form and getting those elbows on the knees but he is doing pretty well on his shooting. Accuracy has never really been his problem, speed has been. I've been running a stopwatch on him and we walk around and I say "there's an elk" and start the timer. He has to get the gun ready, chamber a round and get setup to take the shot. He already knows where the target is and the target isn't moving and right now it takes him about 45 seconds to fire the first shot and I've been having him chamber another round and take a second shot and that runs about 15 seconds. We've discussed that accuracy is more important than speed and if he isn't confident in the shot not to pull the trigger, but we are still working on speed.

He is getting better. Still plenty of practice ahead of us though.
 

npaden

Active Member
Messages
920
More shooting, still technically breaking in the barrel on the Christiansen Arms Mesa. Also stepped up from the reduced recoil rounds we started with to regular loads. These were the cheapest ammo on the shelf at Cabelas just to break in the barrel.

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He is getting faster. He got one of his first shots off in 20 seconds and was routinely getting the 2nd shot off in 10 seconds. Generally he was getting the first shot off in about 30 seconds which is a pretty big improvement from where he was.

This was his best 5 shot group at 100 yards off the shooting sticks. 8 1/2 x 11” sheet of paper, A little over 3” group but the 4 good shots are just under 2” and this was on a freshly cleaned barrel with no fouling shot. Every shot he took tonight would have been a slam dunk kill shot on an Elk.
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We will be working on some standing up shots using a tree for a rest and using a backpack for a rest as well. Once we get the barrel fully broken in and figure out it’s favorite ammo we will start stretching the distance a bit.
 

npaden

Active Member
Messages
920
We have been continuing our shooting and hiking around the property. Working on getting a little off trail work in with some elevation gain and loss mixed in. This is about as good as we can do for where we are.

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About 150’ gain and loss each time up and down but it actually does take a bit of effort.

We did see some decent bucks on our property earlier this week, a group of 9 bucks moved though. Took a bunch of pictures but this was a good representation of them.

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Took this picture through the spotting scope from our house. They were about 400 yards away when I took the picture. We can each shoot 1 buck on our property here in Texas. The trick is finding them during the season on our 75 acres around our house. We also have 160 acres about 100 miles away that we hunt on and we can shoot 1 buck each down there. There was a couple bucks in the group that we would consider to be shooter bucks if they are around during the season.

We will be headed to Utah next week to get some scouting in for my sons elk tag. I will for sure update with the results from that trip. Hopefully we find some promising spots!
 

npaden

Active Member
Messages
920
Well, our scouting trip to Utah was a pretty good success overall. It started out pretty rough with a late flight and getting to SLC after the rental car place was closed for the night. We debated trying to get an uber to a close hotel but ended up deciding for the few hours we had left we would just try to catch a little sleep in the rental car office.
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It wasn't a very good choice as there was activity all night long with public address announcements every 15 minutes and the big ride on floor cleaning machines beeping and the end result was very little sleep. They were supposed to open back up at 7 am but someone showed up at 6 so we were able to get the car rented and get on the road about 6:15. Not the best start for the trip!

We got to the area that I had been looking at for our scouting mission and we hit the trail about 1:30 that afternoon. Things started out pretty good, and then we hit some extensive blow down and it didn't take my son very long to decide that he didn't like climbing through blow down! We did get a feel for the area and saw quite a bit of sign. The biggest negative for the area was that there were quite of few moo cows in the area. Not sure when they will be clearing them out but it did seem that might have been keeping the elk up higher.

We were hiking along a ridge and I caught some movement and we held still and a calf elk came trotting to within about 20 yards of us before it decided something was wrong and needed checked out.
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I took this picture with my cell phone so you can tell how close it was.

We ended up hiking about 7 miles and 1,500' of elevation gain/loss that first day and 6 miles of hiking and 2,000'+ elevation gain/loss the 2nd day of scouting. I was pretty proud of my son because it was not easy hiking with only about 2 miles of the first day on trail and everything else off trail and he did well. Was packing a fairly heavy pack the 2nd day also and we never touched a human trail on day 2. I think we have his boots officially broken in as he didn't get any blisters.

We did find a small older shed on day 2.
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Nothing special, just a small 4 tined elk shed that had been chewed on a bit. I just always feel that when you find a shed it means that you are putting in the extra effort and going places that other people weren't willing to go.

I didn't get any pictures when we were going through the thickest deadfall and blow down areas but took this picture of him going through some easy stuff.
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There were quite a few nice aspen stands that looked pretty promising for during the season. Lots of sign in this one. Picking out a spot to setup for a shot would be a little tough though.
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Last picture from the trip that I'm going to share. Took some others that would be too easy to tell exactly where we were at.

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This is from the bottom of our hike on day 2. We started at 8,000' and ended up just barely under 10,000' where we stopped and came back down. This option was much shorter than the area we had looked at on day 1 but a lot more elevation gain/loss. Not terrible but coming down with a pack loaded with elk would have been a pain. Thinking through the fact that I will be packing out about 75% of whatever gets knocked down for sure has me thinking through how far back in we are going to be hunting.

Last part of the trip to share is that I think we may have stumbled into some local help if we need it. We had moved camp and were on the road glassing a promising spot right at dark on day 2 and a guy stopped and asked us if we were seeing anything. Right about that time a cow elk had actually come out into the open and he thought we were crazy for even thinking about hunting the spot we were looking at. It would have been about a 2 mile hike with probably 1,500' of elevation gain. Plus we would have to cross a river. We talked a bit and he showed us some trail camera pictures and some pictures of a bull he said he helped another youth hunter get the year before. Gave us his name and phone number and said to call him and he would see what kind of help he would be able to give based on the timing on the hunt. Gave us some good tips on the area and confirmed some of what we had already learned.

I've had that happen before when it was actually an outfitter and when I called he talked about booking something with him so I'm not sure yet, but I do plan to call and at least talk to him this week and figure out who he is and what kind of help he is talking about. If nothing else the information we got from him in the 10 or 15 minutes of talking along the highway was very good to have and it sounds like he will be willing to share additional information as well.

It is going to be a hard hunt. I think this scouting trip was VERY good for my son to see what the days are going to be somewhat like and that there aren't going to be bull elk behind every tree. I thought the trip was a success, he was disappointed that we hadn't seen several different bulls that we could pick which one we were going to go after next month.

We have talked about if the would be happy with a cow elk or if he is dead set on a bull and previously he has said he was dead set on a bull but after this week I think he realizes that any elk will be a success.

Still lots to do to get ready, hopefully we will be back out shooting this evening.
 

npaden

Active Member
Messages
920
Nothing too exciting lately. Continuing to hike and shoot. Thought this was a good picture from the other morning when we were hiking around the property.
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I forget sometimes how blessed we are to have some property with some real elevation changes in an area known for being flat.

I picked up a used Stone Glacier pack from the classifieds here and passed mine down to my son. It is amazing how adjustable they are as I was able to adjust it to go from fitting me at 6’3” and 220 pounds to fitting my son at 5’5” and 110 pounds. Hopefully we get to use the load carrying capabilities on them in just a few weeks.

Shooting has been going well. This weekend we shot at 260 yards off shooting sticks and he had one flyer to the right but otherwise shot about a 4” group. Still working on the clicks.

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Seeing some decent bucks on trail camera around the property but nothing too exciting. This one is blind in his right eye.

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A decent mule deer, nice tall backs but crab claws on one side on the front and just a main beam in the other.
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The hunt is coming up quickly, less than two weeks to go!
 
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npaden

Active Member
Messages
920
Well mother nature loves to change plans on you. The area that we had scouted and planned to be hunting is now completely closed due to the East Fork Fire. Roads are closed and I doubt they will be open in time for the season.

Looks like we are going to be looking for alternative spots on the drive up there!
 

npaden

Active Member
Messages
920
Got to a spot yesterday after lunch and got some quick scouting in but didn’t see anything.

Got out this morning and saw 4 cows and watched them for about an hour. Bugled a few times and cow called and they would look our way but nothing ever responded or showed itself.

My son wants to hold out for a bull at least for a while so we just watched them. Did some more scouting/hunting and saw some pretty nice looking spots but no elk. Saw 5 other youth hunters out this morning so more hunters than elk. Sometimes seeing quite a few other hunters is a good sign, but I’m not sure this spot warranted that much attention.

I think we are going to pull stakes and move to the next spot. Probably not giving it enough time but I usually hang out too long and I’m trying not to make that mistake this time.

Some pretty country though!
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npaden

Active Member
Messages
920
Didn’t realize this was going to be a telling picture.

Moved to a different spot this evening at the recommendation from a very nice forum member here. Got in and got setup a couple hours early and sat. Nothing going at all so at sunset I decided to leave my son setup and move downwind and downhill from where I expected any elk to come and started calling.

Started with just some cow calls but after a while threw in a few bugles. I had moved downhill about 50 or 60 yards and decided about 10 minutes before shooting light to move back up to where my son was.

As I started that way I saw something light colored up near where my son was sitting and looked through my binoculars and it was a raghorn bull standing there maybe 20 yards from my son. The problem was that I had moved him from his earlier setup that I took a picture of him to another spot that had a better overall shooting lane but there was one clump of pine trees smack dab between where he was sitting and where the bull was.

The bull busted me and left although I’m not sure how busted I was. I called a bit more but gave up at the end of shooting light. My son said he heard the bull “thud, thud” as it ran off but he was thinking it was coming in instead of running off. He was pretty pumped although he hadn’t seen him.

I’m really hoping he gets to hear a real bugle at some point during the hunt. This little bull came in completely silent.

Hoping to get into a group of them in the morning. I’m afraid a nice cow might be in danger if it presents a nice easy shot tomorrow!
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npaden

Active Member
Messages
920
Well, we were at a good spot at about 15 minutes before shooting light and just after shooting light we heard a good bugle maybe 400 yards away. In retrospect we should have just gone after it, but we had a good setup so I thought I could back off and call him into my son.

A little back and forth but he was getting farther away instead of closer so I went back to my son and we gathered our gear and headed that way.

Heard another bugle and closed the gap. Cow called and another bugle and really closed the gap. Some real thick trees between us but I wanted to keep the wind in our favor so we went through the thick trees (some as close as 6” apart) and finally broke into more moderate tree cover. A couple more cow calls and a bugle reply and we crept in on 2 guys calling for a young lady youth hunter.

They asked if we had been bugling and I had only bugled 3 or 4 times and tried to sound weak and small and they said they had heard a few decent bugles so there is a chance there was an actual bull elk somewhere in here but it is always a bummer to get called in by other hunters. You go from thinking you are about to make it happen to feeling stupid the second you see that first flash of orange.

We talked for a bit. They had a cow elk at 70 yards the night before and she had passed on it. Eli said that if the same cow was 70 yards from him it might not live to tell the tale.

We are just a little over a mile in, we will probably wander around a bit and head back to camp for lunch. Might get farther back in for sure tonight so we have a little better opportunity at seeing them before dark if they are where we think they are.
 
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npaden

Active Member
Messages
920
Well this evening was a complete bust.

Nothing seen and nothing talking. I started cow calling about 50 yards downhill and downwind from my son about an hour before the end of shooting light and with 30 minutes to go I threw in some weak bugles. But nothing showed or talked. Going to give this spot one more morning and then I think we are going to try somewhere else.

Did find a deer that I’m assuming was wounded during the archery hunt. Couldn’t see any obvious broken or cut bones and didn’t see an arrow though. There were still flies on it so relatively fresh.

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We have had some very nice weather and been able to enjoy some quality time in the woods together. Hiking out in the dark off trail through some thick timber was a new experience for my son, the last couple nights we were hiking out in the dark on trails and he thought there was a big difference. He asked me if there were any animals that would be desperate enough to try to eat us and I told him there was plenty of food for them right now so we didn’t have to worry about it.

This was one of our shooting lanes tonight, maybe tomorrow will be the day.

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npaden

Active Member
Messages
920
We got to where I wanted us to be about 6:10 this morning with shooting light beginning at 6:30 and waited until about 6:50 before we couldn’t take it anymore and threw out a few cow calls. Nothing responded though.

We hung out trying to decide what to do and had pretty much given up and all the sudden at 7:45 we hear a bugle! Then another!

The blood started pumping and we got everything setup and I didn’t call hoping the bull was headed our way. Then I saw 2 orange hats. Then a 3rd. 😕

I think they saw us and they hiked off to our East about 150 yards away.

We waited another 30 minutes and gave the spot up. We had a tip that there were as many as 30 elk and 2 bulls in that drainage on Friday but I don’t think they are there anymore. I guess with the warmer weather they must have moved back higher up.

Switching spots again. I don’t think this spot has cell coverage so probably a while before you hear from us again.
 

npaden

Active Member
Messages
920
Well we are still at it. Been out of cell coverage but got the story pretty much caught up this afternoon and am sitting on a ridge waiting for elk right now and have full bars so I will try to get it caught up.
 

npaden

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Messages
920
Day 3 - We moved back up the mountain to try out a different spot.

I saw a few places on the map that looked promising and we got the trailer parked and pulled the RZR out and headed up a forest service “road” to check out a lake. Didn’t look very promising so we went back and decided to check out another spot and were a little over a mile into a 4 mile one way hike when we got cell signal and I had a message from a guy we had be trading private messages with and he told me not to bother with the spot I was heading to and to gave me a several different spots to check out.

We hauled back down the trail, jumped in the RZR and got back to camp, unhooked the pickup from the trailer and drove the pickup about 45 minutes back the same road we had just come in on to check out one of the spots.

We got there just in time to get setup and waited until it got dark but nothing showed up except a bunch of mule deer does.

We stopped and talked to a couple different folks who also were helping youth hunters and got a different spot to try the next morning.

45 minute drive back to the trailer hoping that day 4 might turn out better.

Some pictures from the day.
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npaden

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Messages
920
Day 4 - Another 5:00 wake up call, another 50 minute drive in the truck back the same way we had come from, we obviously shouldn’t have hauled the trailer way back in where we had it but it was too late to change that now.

Got to the spot we wanted to be but there was a truck parked at the first trailhead and a UTV parked at the second one so we went down another couple miles to a third spot. We got out and up the trail to a large meadow or “park” here in Utah in time to sit for just a bit before it was shooting light.

Shooting light came and nothing was in the meadow and nothing was talking. It was just below freezing and there was a lot of frost on the grass and several of the puddles were iced over. We watched the meadow a bit, made a few cow calls and then decided to hike to the meadow we originally planned on and thought maybe the people who were there first might have pushed something our way.

No such luck. A nice 2 mile hike and the other meadow was as empty as the first one. I decided to leave my son there just in case while I hiked back to the truck and brought it around to the original spot we had planned on that morning. 2 miles back to the truck for me and about 3/4 of a mile for my son to cross the meadow by the time I got back. Nothing happened.

We ended up driving around a bit and checking out some spots we had been told about. Got back to the trailer for lunch and hung out for a bit then decided to go for an afternoon stroll just to see if we could change our luck up a bit. We had my wife drop us off and then were were going to do a 3 1/2 mile one way hike and have her pick us up on the other side.

We got dropped off and were thinking the entire way was going to be on trails but about 50 yards in the trail disappeared. In retrospect we should have suspected something because there wasn’t any kind of trail marker or anything when she dropped us off but the trail actually looked pretty good right at the start and thing disappeared.

Starting out the terrain wasn’t too bad and we zig zagged back and forth trying to pick up the trail but never could find it. Another tip off should have been was that the trail was perfectly straight on the map and the chances of that are pretty slim.

About a mile in I caught some movement and spotted an elk in the trees in front of us. I saw it was a cow but we were about ready to shoot any elk but my son said “maybe there is a bull” and by the time we got it figured out that it seemed like it was a lone cow it trotted off.

We hadn’t made any plans with my wife for what to do if we didn’t show up at the other end of the planned hike so I wasn’t too disappointed because I would have have to hike out to her then come back and get the elk packed out. It was nice to see something though.

We got to a big meadow that was 1 1/2 miles from any road and it looked really nice. All of the meadows looked really nice. Evidently the elk don’t think much of them though. We cut the other trail we had planned on meeting and after a bit of searching found it to be a pretty nice trail. We were running late since we had 2 miles off trail to start so we kept a pretty good pace to get to where my wife was going to pick us up. Lots of good looking country and a decent amount of sign but nothing extremely fresh.

We got to my wife a little late but not too bad and headed back to the camper. We had just enough time to go back over to the spot we had been to the night before and thought we would give it a second chance.

We got there and got setup in a little different spot and waited for it too get dark. Evidently that’s exactly what the elk also had in mind because shooting light was over at 7:58 and at 8:03 five elk came running into the water we were sitting on. They splashed around and drank and then left almost as quickly as they came in. We grabbed our gear and got back to the truck and made it back to camp at about 9:15.

Some pictures from that day.

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npaden

Active Member
Messages
920
Day 5 - We talked it through the night before and we were running low on fuel with all the driving back and forth so we decided to hunt the big meadow we had been in the afternoon before for the morning hunt because it was only a 2 1/2 mile drive from camp to get to that trailhead.

We got up at 5:00 and left the trailer with breakfast and lunch packed at 5:15. Got to the meadow about 15 minutes before shooting light and settled down to wait.

Of course as it started to get light it became evident that there weren’t any elk in the meadow. We sat a little bit, I cow called a few times and then I decided it wouldn’t hurt anything to throw out a few bugles so I did. And actually got a response! Of course where we were setup it had a kind of echo and I thought I heard it to the southwest and my son thought it was to the northwest. I got another response and we both still heard it from different directions. Got a third response and my son was right, it was from the northwest.

We grabbed our gear and headed that way and I was cow calling and bugling a little but no response. We got into the timber a ways and maybe 10 minutes later got another response. He wasn’t sounding too interested but if we could keep him talking we had a chance. About 10 minutes later we got one more response and that was it. We were in fairly heavy timber with no openings so we didn’t think we had much of a chance just blindly heading after him so we hung out and called a few more times and then headed back to camp.

I had a line on some private property to hunt and we had actually talked to the guy about hunting it the day before but we were still hopeful to find something on public but we were out of gas (technically the truck was out of gas but we were both getting pretty beat as well) so we decided to break camp for a third time and head that way.

Our trip down was another fairly eventful trip down the mountain on a MUCH steeper gravel road with 2 stops to cool off the brakes. I should have done it earlier but I finally put some wheel chalks on the trailer so I could put my truck into 4wd Low to let the engine braking work on such a steep slow road. My truck has to be in neutral to go into 4wd Low and that’s pretty hard to do on a steep decline pulling a trailer. Once I got into 4wd low that solved all my issues and the rest of the way down was a piece of cake. I just don’t spend enough time in the mountains to think through not just relying 100% on my brakes whenever I want to. I don’t think we ever got in a true dangerous situation but I’m pretty sure I accelerated the useful life of my brake pads quite a bit.

Okay, back to the hunting. As we get about down the mountain I get cell service and the guy that had the private property had responded to a couple voicemails I had left and let me know that there was going to be another youth hunter hunting his property that night. We had originally talked to him about hunting it on day 4 and he had told us that there was another youth hunter going to be hunting it later in the week so we were not surprised that it wasn’t available that evening. We had also just seen some elk the night before and decided we would try that again.

I told my wife we were going to go back up top for that evening hunt and she looked at me like she wanted to kill me. She thought I was going to drag the trailer back up and down with us but I had had enough of that as well and we were going to leave to trailer at the bottom just drive to truck up and down the mountain.

We got to town, gassed up and headed over to a state park and got checked into the campground with electricity, water and everything! The drawback was that the camp spots were just a big parking lot with lines to divide up the spots and they were right next to each other.

We got the trailer parked and unhitched and headed back up the mountain to the same spot again for that nights hunt. The crazy thing was that because it was mostly on pavement it took less time to get there from the state park at the bottom of the mountain than it had from where we had the trailer parked way back in there the last couple nights.

We actually got there early enough we were able to drive around a little to get a somewhat better feel for the overall lay of the land. Some very good looking spots, but since we had actually seen elk there the night before we would go ahead and stick to the same spot.

We got setup in the same exact spot as the night before and this time we didn’t get distracted by the deer coming into water or the odd sounds behind us, we spotted the first elk up in the treeline just before sunset! A group of 6 or 7 were just hanging out waiting for it to get dark.

We spotted another group of 5 or 6 much closer and 2 of them were actually headed down toward the water with about 15 minutes before shooting light ended and a truck comes driving down the road, stops, then starts driving again. The elk zipped back into the trees. That is the worst part about the spot, it is right off the road just a few hundred yards. There isn’t a lot of traffic but the traffic that there was was at almost exactly the wrong time for us.

Dark starts approaching pretty rapidly and I’m seeing some elk moving our way but it isn’t looking like they are going to make it fast enough but it is going to be close. Then they hang up in a small group of trees about 600 yards away and just stand there. Shooting light ends and they come racing down the hill to the water again. Shooting light ended at 7:56 that night and the elk hit the water at 8:01! It’s like they had a stopwatch up there on the hill that went off the second shooting light was over.

It was tough to talk my son out of shooting one again as visible light was still pretty good out there in the open with good optics. We could very clearly see them as long as 15 minutes after shooting light. I guess I don’t hunt the earlier seasons enough to notice it because once you get into November legal shooting light and visible shooting light seem to match up pretty well, but in mid September you can see pretty darn good well past shooting light.

So here we are again, sitting 150 yards away from 7 cow and calf elk splashing around in the water. But this time it didn’t stop with them leaving about as quickly as they came in. This time another 6 came in about 5 minutes later, then another 12 a few minutes after that and then a few more then a few more and I am pretty sure there were 40 head of elk within 200 yards of us for over 45 minutes. It was a very cool experience for both of us as they were cow calling constantly and the calves were running around and splashing in the water and a coyote showed up at one point and we had a few elk on our side of the water less than 100 yards away!

There was one bull that bugled 5 or 6 times but he didn’t seem to come to the water with the rest of them, he hung back on the other side of the road even though by then it was pretty well full dark.

We gave up on letting them all leave before we pulled out and decided to leave almost a full hour after dark when there was still a few elk down at the water. We crept out and I don’t think we spooked them because we still heard a few cow calls down by the water as we were walking out.

It was a very cool experience, but my son is really looking forward to actually connecting on one instead of just watching and listening to them in the dark.

We headed back down the mountain and made plans to be back at it before first light the next morning.

Didn’t get many pictures that day for some reason. Here is one showing the smoke from the fire to the west where we had originally planned on hunting.

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npaden

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920
Day 6 - We decided to try the big meadows we had been to on the morning of day 4 again just in case things had settled down and they were back in there. Another 5:00 alarm, another 50 minute drive and we were out on the edge of another meadow at 15 minutes before shooting light. Another empty meadow. I cow called and bugled a few times but nothing happened. Instead of sitting and watching an empty meadow for an hour we decided to pick up and move. We found a spot we could look over some other meadows and guess what? They were empty too.

We drove around to the water spot and there was a truck parked at a crossroad pretty close by. I haven’t mentioned it much but I’ve been pretty surprised at how many other youth hunters we have been seeing. I would say around 5 or 6 a day at least. Nearly all of those are mid morning or mid afternoon as we are driving too or from hunting spots but it is more than I would have expected since they only give out 500 tags for the entire state. Thinking through how it must be when the regular season is going with 17,000 tags available the pressure must be unbelievable.

One other thing to mention is how nice everyone we have talked to has been and how willing people are to help out. It actually seems like people are nicer to us because of our out of state plates instead of the other way around. I’m sure a lot of it is because this is a special youth only season so people seem a lot more interested in helping a kid out but it has still been very refreshing at how nice everyone we have met has been.

We ended up going back to camp and getting cell signal and talking with the guy with the private land again. The other hunter hadn’t seen anything so she was going to be back again tonight so that meant we would be back on our water spot. We had suspected this might be the case so we had spent some time really looking over the land around the water spot and where the different groups of elk had staged in the trees before coming out at dark. We pretty much decided that we could setup about 50 yards apart and be able to see at least a couple of the areas the elk had staged out of the night before. We are hoping that will give us the extra time we need.

That gets me caught up to where we are now, sitting on the side of the mountain hoping some elk show up the same place they did the night before!
 

npaden

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920
Of course a calf walked within 10 yards of me instead of my son with about 10 minutes of shooting light. We miscommunicated and my son started heading my way and we spooked it off. Nothing else seen.
 

npaden

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Messages
920
Day 7 - My son is having a pretty hard time with the 5:00 wake up calls. But that is hunting to me.

We loaded up our ATV in the back of the pickup and brought it along so we could drive some ATV trails if the morning sit didn’t turn out. Got up the mountain and started what looked like a 1/2 mile easy hike along an ATV trail to get to a meadow. This was back behind the water spot we had been hunting in the evenings. About halfway into the hike it became pretty evident that the trail in real life didn’t match up very well with the trail on our map so we decided to bushwack over to the meadow we had originally wanted to get to for shooting light. A bit of a pain with some deadfall but we got there about 10 minutes before shooting light.

It was a relatively small meadow and it didn’t take very long to see there wasn’t anything in it. I got him setup and I had agreed to walk back and get the ATV and come pick him up. While we were sitting there we heard an ATV going up the trail behind us.

I started up to the truck to get the ATV unloaded and tried a different route that looked like it might be easier but it wasn’t. Just as I was getting back to the truck a shot rings out what seemed like 100 yards in front of me. I come into the clearing I had parked the truck in and there is now a UTV parked there as well. Evidently they had driven right by us, walked maybe 100 yards off the road and 30 minutes later they had a shot opportunity. Based on the sound of the shot a very close shot opportunity that ended up with a solid hit.

I went ahead and unloaded the ATV and rode it back down the trail to pick up my son. I again tried a different way and this time it actually was easier! Just as I’m about to get back to him 2 shots ring out. The follow up shot sounded too quick for it to be my son but I actually wasn’t sure. I get the the meadow where he was set up and it was obvious he hadn’t been the one doing the shooting. He was pretty dejected hearing all those shots so close around us.

We headed back to the ATV and rode around a bit. Had to go back to the truck and you could hear voices up the hill not very far and it was pretty clear that they were taking care of an animal. We rode around some and then went and hiked to the spot we had been the night before from the back side of the hill and there was a lot of sign back there, but no elk that we could see.

We heard another couple shots, then a sting of 4 very rapid fire almost like a pistol, we decided those must be someone target practicing and not shooting at an animal.

We ended up going back to the truck loaded up the ATV and headed back down the mountain.

We really need to catch a break. I’m super proud of my son, I’ve been trying to be positive for him but it has been a very tough hunt, not so much physically, although the waking up at 5:00 and going to bed at 10:00 is starting to wear on him, but mentally it is tough to have so few opportunities although I did tell him I’ve had a few elk hunts where I didn’t even see any elk so at least this is better than that.

We were camped at a state park and the spot we had was reserved for the weekend so we had to move the trailer anyway so we decided to make a change of scenery.

One of the people we had talked to mentioned that the youth hunters can hunt the wildlife refuge with a rifle tag and it had the potential to be really good or really bad. He said to just call the refuge and ask if any elk are on the huntable part or not. Well with COVID getting anyone to answer the phone and return a voice message was almost impossible, so we drove down there pulling the trailer to see if there was anything happening. There wasn’t!

We decided to go ahead and go back to the area we were at on opening morning and see if we could shake things up a bit. Got the trailer unhitched and drove over the other side of the canyon and climbed up to 150 yards from were the elk were on opening morning.

We are sitting here now hoping they show up before dark!
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npaden

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920
Nothing tonight.

Just more miles on the boots and hiking out in the dark.

Heard my son say exactly what I didn’t want to hear, “Dad if all elk hunts are like this I don’t think I want to elk hunt”
 

npaden

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Messages
920
Day 8 - we decided to sleep in and take it easy so the alarm was set for 5:45 and left the trailer just after 6:00.

We drove the truck to some open spots along the road and waited for it to get light just in case we could spot something and make a plan on intercepting them. Tried a couple spots but no elk, just deer.

Decided to go back over by where we were the day before and look from up high and low and behold, 5 or 6 elk were making their way up to the spot we had sat the night before.

We quickly decided to go ahead and make a play on them and the game was on. It was about a 10 minute drive then a 30 minute fast hike to get to where we might have a chance to see them but it was worth it.

We crested the ridge with the wind in our favor and there was a bull elk 331 yards below us in some thick brush. He was moving uphill slowly and my son wasn’t comfortable taking a shot over 300 yards so we decided to move up a bit and wait on him to come to us.

We got setup in a spot that should give us about a 150 yard shot if he continued in the same direction he was heading and waited for him to show up. And waited, and waited. I moved back to where we had first seen him but couldn’t spot him anymore. I cow called a few times but nothing happened.

We moved up farther on the ridge and I’m pretty confident that he had skirted around the bottom from where we were setup and came up the next draw over. It would have most likely been a 220 yard shot if we had continued to that spot. This is one of those instances where being more familiar with the area would have paid off and we would have more than likely moved on up to that point right from the start. I cow called a few more times but still nothing.

We hiked down into the area we had last seen him and he was gone. By this time it was too late to go back up after them, I’m sure they were in the timber and getting bedded for the day. We talked it over and decided to head back to the truck.

A couple lessons learned. First, really think he could have made the 331 yard shot. We could have probably got it closer to 300 with some minor closing instead of going up to try to intercept him much closer. Second, we should have moved up much sooner instead of waiting on him so long the first spot. I just didn’t realize the next draw over would have allowed a better field of view than where we setup at first.

Our 4th good opportunity of the week and a swing and a miss again.

Heard a few shots off in the distance, not sure what they would have been. Did see a tribal member coming out with a medium sized mule deer buck as we where headed back to camp and he had a rifle. I guess they don’t have to follow the open season rules even on National Forest. Talked to him a bit and he was a nice guy.

On the way back to camp we picked up cell coverage and got a message that we could hunt the private property this evening so that’s where we are going to be tonight.

It just feels like we have been so close all week to getting it done, but just haven’t pulled it off. The bull we saw this morning was actually a medium sized 5 point. I sure wish we could have gotten it done.
 

npaden

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Messages
920
One lesson that I think I learned from this is that it is probably better to just stick with a spot as long as you are at least seeing some elk there.

We saw elk here opening morning (4 cows) but then ditched it based on a tip we got where there were 30 elk. We actually got an opportunity that evening, but then that spot dried up. We then moved to another spot based on a tip and again, we saw elk but after dark. Then we did some looking on our own then checked another spot based on someone else’s suggestion and didn’t see anything there. We spent all our time chasing spots that for whatever reason didn’t end up panning out. We ended up with opportunities on most of them but I think if we had just stuck to our original spot that we ended back at last night and this morning we could have gotten it done by now.

Everyone has been SUPER helpful and wants to help a kid out but in retrospect I think we might have done better just sticking it on our own.

Of course I’m still not following my own advise because we are going to try the private ground tonight with the hopes of at least getting some meat for the freezer.
 

npaden

Active Member
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920
We just pulled into the driveway and are headed to bed. 2,748 miles on the truck since we left the house ten days ago.

We have work and school tomorrow but I do have some more to add to the story as soon as I can get it posted.
 

npaden

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Messages
920
Okay - back to the hunt. Evening of Day 8.

We had talked back and forth with a guy who had offered up his private property to hunt on that was in the general tag area. We really wanted to get one on our own, but we were literally down to the wire now and this was going to be our last evening to hunt. The other youth hunter that had hunted the property earlier in the week didn't see anything at all one day and saw some the next day but wasn't able to close the deal. We knew this wasn't a slam dunk, but thought it was going to most likely be our best opportunity to get him an elk.

We met up with the guy and he took us to his house first and showed us his trophy room. There were at least a dozen very nice elk mounts including one just over 400"! There were dozens more not mounted in the garage. A bison, a moose, and a bunch of other stuff. Very impressive. We didn't have much time as he was trying to get out on a hunt of his own or I could have spent some time looking around.

We then followed him out to his property about 15 miles out of town. The property is in a creek bottom with some irrigated hay fields that the elk come down to at night. The trick is much like where we were hunting the water the previous evenings, having the elk come out before dark is the key. The guy showed us around his property and where to setup and wished us good luck. He was a little concerned about the wind as it was blowing pretty hard and he said that the elk don't really like the wind there and sometimes won't come up if the wind is blowing very hard. He also said that they would blow out of there if they smelled us so be very aware of our scent. SUPER nice guy!

A whirlwind drive around the property, talked to us about most likely areas the elk would come out and where we should setup and the combinations to the gates and before you know it we were there on his property all by ourselves. It was mid-afternoon but we didn't have anything else to do so we decided to go ahead and get our gear and get setup. We parked just over a 1/4 mile from the blind and went over and got setup. I would have never, ever expected to be hunting elk out of a elevated box blind but here we were, setting up in a box blind just as if we were back in Texas! ;) I didn't feel too bad though because we had for sure put in the effort over the last week.

It was somewhat warm in the mid 70's and the wind was supposed to let up that evening but it wasn't really happening. We messed with the windows in the blind to see how loud it was when they opened and what the wind did with different windows open. We settled on leaving one of the windows open and all the others shut to keep the wind from blowing through the blind right out to where we were hoping the elk would come up. We settled in for a long sit since we got there so early and we had packed our supper and snacks and my son even brought a book to read. I'll be honest, it was kind of a let down sitting in a blind to close the hunt out, but it is what it is and we were VERY thankful to have a chance on at least bringing some meat home with us.
 

npaden

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Messages
920
The wind was not following the forecast and it was still blowing pretty good a few hours later. We hit the magic hour and I made my son put away all his stuff and we were on high alert. Where the elk were supposed to come out was difficult to see from the blind so if they did come out it was probably going to be a quick deal with the wind still bad and blowing right to where they were supposed to come out. Sunset came and went and several deer were out in the field including one nice tall narrow buck. I should have taken some pictures of him but it just never crossed my mind. I did have my spotting scope and a small camera that I was messing around with trying to figure out if I could actually film the shot but didn't think to take pictures of the deer.

I was looking all around and ranging different spots and the guy had told us that sometimes the elk will come out of the south or east into the field that was south of the one we were setup on so I was checking that out as well. Some more deer were out in that field as well and I was coaching my son on spotting them and as I scanned back around on the field in my binoculars I see a cow and calf elk walk into the field from the northwest. They were not following the script! A couple more came out then another for a total of 5 and then I saw another light colored one for a second before it went behind a rock. My son was already up and had the gun and was ready to go after them! I told him that the last one might be a bull and lets wait just a second and see. Less than a minute later and it comes out into the field and sure enough, it was a small bull! They were right at 800 yards away, but it looked like we should have a decent chance of putting a stalk on them. The wind wasn't in our favor but we had some topography and some brush that should help out.

So we play fire drill and end up just grabbing the gun, the shooting sticks and I was wearing my binoculars. We get out of the blind and move around and get into some trees behind the blind and start heading toward them. We should have just enough time to get to them, but not unless we walk at a pretty brisk pace. As we got to where the elk were supposed to come out into the field we were watching from the blind we did stop for a second and look back into the area they were supposed to come from but there weren't any there. We keep moving through the brush and sage that was taller than my son and checking to make sure the elk are still there. We then drop down into the creek and we are going to have to cross it and it is about 5 feet wide right where we want to cross it. I moved a bit and found a spot that it looks like we can cross without getting too wet and keep on going. The brush and willows are over our head and pretty thick in the creek bottom but we plow through and find a spot up the other side. By now we are getting pretty close to shooting range I would think but we have been out of sight of the elk for several minutes and as we climb out it is going to be the moment of truth. We clear the tallest brush and the elk are still out in the field just under 300 yards away. We work on getting him setup for the shot off the shooting sticks but there is some tall grass on the edge of the field that is too tall if he sits down to use the shooting sticks. We extend the sticks and he tries kneeling and he is high enough but doesn't feel confident enough to make the shot. We are going to have to move closer.

There are about 5 or 6 deer in the field closer to us than the elk are. I'm worried about spooking the deer off which I would assume would spook the elk off as well. The wind is not great and I'm as worried about it as anything else. We crawl up to the edge of the tall grass and get setup again. This time he can sit like we have practiced and have a clear shot over the grass. The deer haven't spooked and the elk are in the field eating. I'm still concerned about the wind but there isn't anything we can do about it. They are 200 yards away and we are really getting close to the end of shooting light. Of all things the bull has decided to lay down out in the field in a small swell and all we can see of him is his head and antlers. The cows are up and feeding. I'm starting to think that he really needs to just shoot a cow and be done with it. I'm thinking about trying to do some calling to see if that might get the bull to stand and my son has the same thought and looks back at me and tells me to cow call. I let out a couple cow calls and the bull is still laying there. It is getting very close to the end of shooting light now and I'm really thinking my son should just go ahead and shoot a cow but he is holding off. I cow call a couple more times and they are all looking our way but the bull is still not getting up. The wind is blowing their way and I'm still thinking that they may catch our wind any time and bolt. In the scramble to get over to them I didn't bring a bugle tube so I just cupped my hands together and tried to make a decent bugle. First one was a little weak so I did another a bit louder. That got his attention enough to stand up. Of course right then a cow walked behind he so we didn't have a clear shot! The cow moves by and I whisper to my son to take him. He isn't perfectly broadside but I thought he was good enough at 200 yards. Then the bull takes a couple steps our direction and he is pretty much facing us straight on. We have discussed shot placement quite a bit and I whispered that a frontal shot was good if he felt okay with that. He is still setup but not pulling the trigger. The bull then turns nearly perfectly broadside and I whisper much louder "shoot him", still nothing, I whisper again "shoot him!", and I was about to whisper again and the gun goes off and the bull drops!

I start cow calling immediately and the cows ran off about 20 yards and then stopped. The bull is on the ground and trying to get up but can't. We both look at each other in shock and relieve and amazement that it finally all came together and he was able to get a bull elk! I forget the exact words but we talked for a little bit about the week and how good it felt to have finally gotten an elk.

The truck is about 3/4 of a mile from us, nearly all our gear is in the blind we were sitting in and it is getting very close to dark now. I can see the bull laying on it's side through the binoculars and it doesn't look like it is moving anymore. I left my son with the gun and my binoculars and told him that if the bull gets up to shoot it but not to walk any closer to it until I got back. It took a bit longer than I expected to get back to the truck, drive over close the the blind, hike to the blind to get our gear and get the blind all closed up, get back to the truck and then drive back over to where he had made the shot from than I thought. We had asked about what to do with one once it was down and the guy whose property it was said that if one was down in the field he wanted us to drag it out of the field before doing anything with it. I clarified that if we did the gutless method if it was okay to leave the carcass and he said that was fine as long as we got it out of the field. So we drove the truck out to the elk, tied a rope to him and dragged him out. We tried to take a few pictures but the wind was still blowing and where we had drug him there was a lot of fine sand and getting a good picture in the lights of the truck or with a flash with the lights off was a challenge in the dark.

My son joked that this was his hardest pack out ever and it was by far my easiest pack out ever for an elk! I'm sure I will think of a bunch more things to add to the story but I think that concludes things for the most part. We had the elk cutup and in coolers in the back of the truck by about 10:30 and after a trip into town for ice were back at our trailer campsite just before midnight. Didn't set the alarm but were up at 6:30 the next morning and hooked up and pulling out of the campsite at 7:00. Just under 17 hours later we were pulling up to our house. Very tired but with a sense of accomplishment for sure. Lots of work ahead of us still getting him butchered and packaged up and LOTS of stuff to get done at work but it was for sure worth it. Not sure we have spent that much time together in a long time, from before sunrise to after sunset 11 days in a row if you include the time in the truck.

I think he is turning out to be a pretty good kid, just hope I can help keep him pointed in the right direction.

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npaden

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Messages
920
Well you often hear that the hunt isn't over with the shot because you still have the packout. But after the packout you still need to get the animal processed and in the freezer.

We process our own game and our freezer was getting nearly empty so this was a much needed addition to it.

My son has shot 4 deer in the past but this was by far and away the most help he has been when it came to processing the animal. He actually helped out quite a bit.

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And when we had our first taste of it for super on Saturday night he was more than willing to go back for seconds on elk tenderloin.

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We also recovered the bullet and it performed just like it was intended. It hit the shoulder bone hard and made a perfect mushroom and 99% weight retention.

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Hopefully we will get a chance to get after some deer on our property and possibly some dove and quail. I will update a little here and there as we go if we are successful on anything.
 

npaden

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Messages
920
We’ve been hitting the dove pretty hard the last week or so. My son got his first ever limit last night and was pretty excited about that. I got my limit as well and the dog got a workout!

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Some from earlier. We’ve shot 70 so far this year between the 2 of us.

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npaden

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Messages
920
Was able to get down to our hunting property and check one of my trail cameras. Have a couple decent bucks on camera. I think both of them look like 3 1/2 year olds so they still can get bigger but it is going to be hard to let either one of them walk.

My sons biggest buck so far is 119” so I think either one of these would probably be a slight improvement on that.

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Here is his buck from last year.
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Had a ton of pigs on the trail camera as well. For sure need to thin some of those out.
 

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