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The General Utah rifle season is known for the amount of people and sometime the lack of numbers of deer. Besides that it is a good time to get together in the hills with good friends and family.
Some family and I left on horse back the evening prior to the opener of the hunt. We got to our destination that we would call camp for the night. We we pleasantly surprised with the low number of people
October finally came around and it was time to focus on my elk tag. With all the time I spent on my previous hunts, I didn’t step foot into my elk unit until the day before the hunt started. But my brother in law, Doug, and I have hunted the unit regularly for the past decade, and we had an opening morning plan in place. We planned to go into an area where just the year before we had a heartbreaking hunt where Doug narrowly missed an opportunity on a great bull.
The evening before the hunt, we were only able to glass up one small bull trailing a few cows. But knowing the size of bulls the canyon usually holds, we went to bed optimistic. On opening morning, I hiked through the darkness to get to my chosen spot while Doug stayed behind to glass the country and see what he could find. I hadn’t even made it to the clearing when I ran into my first bull, a respectable 320 class bull. It was an easy call to pass on him in the predawn light, we knew the country held bigger bulls.
Just as I got to the area I wanted to hunt, I heard a shot ring out below me. Knowing the escape route any elk would likely take, I hustled over to a small meadow. Sure enough, the elk were already pouring through the meadow. First in line was a decent 6 point, but as I put the crosshairs on him, I heard a bugle ring out below. It was that deep, raspy bugle that you love to hear echoing through the pines. So I held off on the 6 point. After him, several cows, calves and raghorns came trotting through. A few seconds later, another 6 point trotted by. But the big bull at the back of the herd bugled again. I knew I had to wait and see how big he was, even if it meant passing on the bulls trotting by me. As soon as he trotted out though, I didn’t hesitate, I took one look at the huge tops and whale tail and I knew whatever he was, he was plenty big enough! From the time I first saw him until I pulled the trigger probably wasn’t much more than a second. I didn’t take time to count points or add inches, I just instantly recognized that he was a bull that you don’t hesitate to shoot! Giant #4 was on the ground!
2019 was a year to remember. Any one of my hunts would have made for a great year, but everything came together, and topping it off with a giant bull was just icing on the cake.
For those that may be interested-
Only 36” main beam on clubbed side.
Has an entire tine broken off on clubbed side
Yet still gross scores 384.
If you doubled his strong side, he would go 404”
So there I was, already 2 weeks into the Archery hunt and nothing to show for it. Opening weekend I was able to get out but it was hot, and the animals were quiet. It bothers a hunter like a burr in your boot, having a General Season deer and a Limited Entry elk tag for the same year and not being successful at filling either tag when you had hoped to by a certain time. But I wouldn't let it get to me, or at least I wasn't going to show it. Between my Dad, brother, and brother-in-law, I had a small convoy of horses and seasoned hunters to help me spot some good elk for the hunt. Over the previous weeks, we had seen some good sized elk in the canyons my father and I were now camped in. I was in the same situation 7 years earlier when I drew the same combination of tags, but wasn't able to fill either tag. So this year was personal. The animals were able to evade me once, and I was doing everything I could to make sure I wouldn't make the same mistakes twice. This year was about going the extra mile to hunt secluded areas, and this meant miles and miles. Miles on horseback and miles in the boots, and it ended up being worth every minute in the saddle and every step on the ground on August 31, 2018. My dad and I woke up early that morning, like we did the previous mornings. I remember waking up and heating up some water for my morning coffee and my freeze dried scrambled eggs and bacon, and just being tired, sore, and hoping something would happen today. I had gotten close to a couple of bulls the previous days but just didn't have the ability to make any shots happen. I remember the feeling of mental numbness, a "whatever happens, happens" mentality, trying not to get my hopes up but also trying to gear myself up for the possibility of a successful day hunting. I loaded my pack with my supplies for the day, gave my bow a quick once over and had a quick chat about the day's game plan with my dad. I was headed to hunt a canyon I had a close encounter with a bull the previous day, and he was taking one of the horses up the ridge to look for more potential shooter bulls down further the canyon I wouldn't be able to see from where I was hunting. We had radios with us, but they were hit and miss in the country we were in so my dad said he would turn his on as soon as he got to the spot he was going to glass from. I start my descent down the trail, which connects to the middle of the canyon I wanted to hunt for elk in. While I'm making my way down the trail I'm going through my check list, making sure I have everything I need for the day. I make my way to the makeshift, spring fed trough we had been watering the horses in and I see movement. I see three bucks walking on another trail over to my left. Two 2 points but the third is a good enough 4 point that it gets my attention. They have no idea that I am here, let alone anywhere so I load my bow and watch. The deer just keep leisurely walking up the trail so I range one of my few windows I have through the trees. 67 yards, that's a far shot but one I had become very comfortable with after shooting all summer long preparing for a moment like this. I stood in the middle of the trail and waited, as soon as the 4 point was about to step into my window I drew my bow back, and as soon as he stepped into it, I let out a kissing noise and he stopped in his tracks, broad side and at 67 yards. I let the arrow fly and watched as it struck the deer and heard the familiar "whack" hunters hope for. He took off, veering from his original path and ran directly away from me for about 20 yards before he tumbled. I was in disbelief at what had just happened. I only left camp 10 minutes prior to this and now I have a deer down! I called my dad on the radio and he was down to me in a matter of minutes. About an hour later we had the deer quartered, caped and back to camp and I was ready to continue hunting for elk.
I set out on the same trail I previously started on that morning and made it to the canyon I wanted to hunt in. At this time it was early afternoon and had plenty of daylight left to hunt. I lucked out because the elk were talking, they calmed down a lot during the day but they were still talking. So, I let out a screechy, short bugle and got answers from the bottom of the canyon to my left and the top of the canyon to my right. I let the wind decide my direction and decided I would hunt uphill. I walked slow, and deliberately. As if any twig that broke would release a thunderous sound that would send the mountain running for cover. I covered ground though, in my own time. Checked the wind frequently and let out a little bugle every now and again to make sure that bull was still there. He answered me less than I liked, but still enough for me to know I was headed in the right direction. His bugles get louder as I close the gap between us and when I knew I was only a couple hundred yards away from him and my adrenaline started pumping into my veins. I made it to the bottom of a clearing and tried to spot him, but he was in the trees above. I was unable to see him but I didn't want to give up this perfect vantage point of pure openness directly in front of me. I hear something to my left and see a couple cows coming up the draw I was in. Then over to my right I hear cows chirping and walking around. At that point I knew he would be coming down from the trees to gather his harem at some point. Once I suspected I was clear from detection, I moved to a small bush and set up behind it. I took my rangefinder out and ranged the other side of the clearing, 100 yards. I see a small bush in front of me and range it, 35 yards. Perfect. Now to just get this elk out of the trees so I can at least see him! Before I even begin thinking if this is going to work I see him make his way out of the trees toward me. He's a good bull, one I know I am going to take a shot at given the chance. He makes it to the clearing and stands there, facing me with his head up and to the left and screams. My adrenaline has got me shaking and tense in every direction and every place of my body. I focus on my breathing, not to calm me down but because I knew I would pass out if I didn't tell myself to breathe. Then he starts coming right towards me, head down and right at me. It was amazing but I had absolutely zero shot at this point. He takes a few more steps as I count down his estimated yardage. 70, 60, 50, then he stops and looks to his left and lets out another bugle. While he's in mid stride of his scream I hunch behind the bush and draw my bow. He continues on toward me, 40, 35, he's made it to the bush I previously ranged and he turns his head to his left again. In a fraction of a second I knew that he was heading into the trees he was looking into and if he went in there, the hunt was over. So with his head turned I took the shot I had and buried my arrow into his chest. He wheeled around and went to the top of the clearing, noticebly struggling. I watched him climb the slight hill to my left at about 200 yards away. Then he disappeared down the other side. I sat in complete disbelief at what had just happened that day. I was in complete shock and couldn't have had it come together any better. Since the sun had set, I marked the bulls blood trail and hiked back to camp and gave the play by play to my dad, who obviously wished he was there to see the events unfold. We got a good nights sleep and found the bull the next morning and packed the bull and the buck out that night. I coudn't have felt like more proud of a hunter, packing out a nice buck and nice bull I got on the same day!
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