Thursday, February 28, 2013

Wilderness Athlete

We would like to welcome our newest sponsor and partner, Wilderness Athlete!  In case you haven't already notices, their logo now appears in our right sidebar, where you will find it linked to their website.  We are excited about this new sponsor, as we seek to find ways to diversify our website to more than just hunting and fishing.  Physical fitness and well being is a highly necessary component to all outdoor activity, and we really feel that Wilderness Athlete will get us started down a road where we can combine physical fitness, exercise, and nutrition into our content.  So, just what is Wilderness Athlete?
well, let's back up to about 6 months ago.  I had first seen Wilderness Athlete on Facebook, as they followed our page there, and commented a few times on content.  Quite honestly I didn't know much about it, other than it looked like another one of those meal replacement weight loss programs, and I was already trying the Herbalife diet which seemed similar.  I had fairly good results with that diet, until a tighter winter budget and a bit of laziness set in this winter.  So I really didn't give it much more thought than that until New Years. 

At a family get together, my brother, Brett Madsen asked me what I knew about Wilderness Athlete.  I told him what I knew from Facebook, and how I had seen other hunters such as Kristy Titus, and Kelly over at i-Video Wildlife had been using it and seemed to like the results.  Brett informed me that the guy that kind of started it all was Mark Paulsen, who was Brett's strength and conditioning coach when he played football at the University of New Mexico.  Now Wilderness Athlete had my attention.  Brett said that coach Paulsen's weight loss and conditioning plans were amazing, and encouraged me to look into it.  I'm still not sure if that was a "hint" towards my condition, or if he was trying to help me out here on the blog!  Anyway, he suggested that I talk to Mark and see if we could work something out with Wilderness Athlete.

Well, considering I needed to loose at least 10 pounds, 20 optimally, I sent an email to them to see that we could work out.  The outcome, I'm going to be doing their 28 day challenge and recording my results in exchange for some sponsorship!  More to come on that in a bit.

Again, what is Wilderness Athlete?  I have found out that it is much more that just a weight loss program.  This is a nutritional program.  It's not just about loosing weight, although this 28 day challenge will accomplish that.  It's about taking care of your body.  One product that is highly touted in the outdoor community right now is the Hydrate and Recover product.  It focuses on getting vital nutrients, vitamins, and minerals back into your system to boost energy and metabolism.  From Mark Paulson (from the WA website):

The 28 Day Challenge is about providing people with solid nutrition,” said Mark Paulsen, the Founder of Wilderness Athlete and the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the University of New Mexico. “Exercising is extremely important when you want to lose weight but eating the proper diet is crucial.  Our 28 Day Challenge promotes a healthy diet by providing supplements and meal replacement products that offer sound nutrition. Combine these products with exercise and people can quickly lose weight.” From the great tasting Meal Replacement Shakes, the Multi-Vitamins that contain the vitamins and minerals a person needs, the Green Infusion’s 6 servings of fruits and vegetables, to the Hydrate & Recovery and the Energy & Focus drinks, this system contains everything a person needs to start eating right. This is the first step in living a healthier lifestyle.

This is a very complete package, everything needed (except exercise of course) to condition your body!  What I am excited to be hearing that if you follow Paulsen's plan, this product will provide you plenty of energy throughout the day, something that I have found other products to be lacking in.  I also like the idea of the green fusion supplement when we talk nutrition.  Guys, you can ask my family and friends, I don's eat a lot of fruits and veggies.  Truth is I don't graze much at all.  I can stay away from sugars and junk, but I love meat and pastas!  I don't have a very good nutritional balance and I know it.  I look at this 28 day challenge package; meal replacements, hydrate and recover, green fusion, lean life (for the weight loss) and the multi vitamin, this is a very complete package for great nutrition.  The energy and focus drink is also there to provide that energy that I can't seem to find in other weight loss programs.  This no-crash formula is not only intended to provide energy, but also contains vitamins and carotenes that aid in rebuilding damaged tissues, and acts as a natural anti-inflammatory your your joints and muscles.

This is just a handful of the many products available.  You will also find Joint Advantage, a product to help with cartilage, joint flexibility, and blood flow to those joints, Altitude Advantage to help you condition for those high altitudes, Omega 3 Fish Oil, Pre-Workout, Protein Plus and more.  Also be sure to check out the great looking apparel available there.  I can't wait to sport this fine looking hat they sent me as well!

These products are especially tailored for the outdoor athlete; hunters, fishermen, hikers, bikers, firefighters, and just all around athletes as well.  Mark Paulsen is not only an experienced coach and trainer, but also an avid outdoors man.  He developed these products with you in mind.  I see the successful athletes that came out of the UNM football program and I can't help but think a lot of time and expertise has gone into fine tuning these products for great outcomes.  I mean, he trained guys that went onto the NFL like Brain Urlacher.  Amazing!

I look forward to starting my 28 day challenge on March 11th.  I'll be holding off until I can give it 100% for 28 days, and with sitting in meetings all next week I didn't think now is the time.  This isn't easy for me; I admit I am not in the best shape right now, and I am uncomfortable sharing pictures of myself and the scale results.  I have committed to doing this though, not just for Wilderness Athlete,  not just for the blog, but mainly for myself as I need to get in better shape and take care of my nutrition.  So, I will be posting once a week during the 28 days on my progress.  I realize there may be some "whoas" or even some laughs, but that's OK.  We have great viewers and as a friend pointed out, our fans are probably one of the best support groups a guy can ask for.

Be sure to head on over to Wilderness Athlete's web page to see all they have to offer, and check out more about the company.  I'll try to highlight the individual products I am using as we go along as well, and I'll share some exercises, cooking (recipes and tips) and more with you as well.

Thanks again to Wilderness Athlete in sponsoring SUH&F!  We are excited to have you aboard!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Getting Back in Stride After a Crazy February

I know it has been a good week since you have seen a post from me.  I apologize, the last couple of weeks have been very crazy and stressful.  Just over a week ago, I was devastated to hear that a co-worker, and one of my best friends had passed away.  Willie and I worked together as Wildland Firefighters over the last 4 years.  He also contributed quite frequently to the blog here, and he was a part of a close circle of friends that I consider my "pro-staff", if were are professional enough to call ourselves that now.  Willie had been a part of a few fishing trips and shed hunting adventures, times I will never forget!  We will miss him as we prepare to head to Arizona in two weeks, and well, every time we go into the hills, or I strap my fire pack on and head out on the line.  I know we will have more adventures to come.  For now, here is one of my favorite pictures of Willie, and one of the most recent I have of him.  He told me often of his trips to Otter Creek Reservoir ice fishing this winter, I could just never arrange the schedule to meet up with him.  This was one of his best trips this winter, where he and his son were able to pull in several nice rainbows.

I want to dedicate this outdoor and hunting season to your memory buddy!  I hope you feel free to tag along with the boys and I in all we do in the outdoors this year.  Rest well my friend, and God speed!

Who's getting excited for shed season?  It's been a long time coming it seems.  This point of the winter can be tough in finding material to write about, and I look forward to the photos and stories to share.  Ice fishing gets tough in late season, and after a few months I am ready (and needing) to get some boot tracks on the ground!  Well, as you know, we have been out a few times, as others have as well.  It's so very close now, and maybe in full swing where you are.  Check out these photos we snapped on Friday of a few bucks still packing!  Please excuse the pictures, we had a little troube with the low light.

I am seeing a few photos of browns on Facebook from all over the country!  The good news is that I did see a buck tonight that looks as if he has just dropped.  So, tomorrow afternoon it's on, as good weather and a friend to go along with means a few hours of pounding the ground in search of some antler!  Even if it's not brown, check out this white found by my friend Clayton Carter!  Not a bad find for early on in the shed season!

Remember as you hit the field to submit your photos for our shed contest!  You could win a pair of Vortex binos, a Magpul sling from Dixie GunWorx, or a Garmin Rino GPS from us!  Enter your photos by email at or post them to our Facebook page,  You have until the end of April, plenty of time to get at it during not only the deer, but the elk shed season as well!  We hope to add more prizes from other sponsors before the close of the contest as well!  Check out the details on the prizes on our "contests" page.

Finally, we gave Fish Lake a try today since the weather was cooperating.  The Fish Calendar also forecast a 100% day, I mean, who can pass on that?  So, we hit the road at 5:30 AM, and after some time spent digging the truck out of a snow drift (don't try the south cutoff road from U-24) we arrived at the lake at 8:30 AM.  We tried the north end this time, on the advice of a few people.  Setting up in 20' of water we had no trouble catching a dozen perch to use as bait, it actually only took as about 30 minutes to get the perch.  Moving around we had trouble locating anything else on the fish finder.  We pulled in a few rainbows and 1 splake in about 45' of water, from various depths.  Moving out to 90' I was able to hook up with a couple of what I felt were nice macs, but I was unable to land the fish.  Setting our poles only 15-20' under the ice however, we were able to catch several nice rainbows and small lake trout.  On the day we had only 1 splake.  I'm not sure what we are doing wrong there this year, as we have never had trouble catching them at all in years past.  We will be making another trip there on Saturday with a group of youth to see if we can get this "funk" I'm in figured out!

Monday, February 18, 2013

President's Day Outing

Today we decided to take advantage of the day off of work and school to get out and enjoy the good weather together before the next snow storm rolls in this week.  Although we had a lot of things that we should have stayed home to do, the combination of a couple of very busy weeks, the time spent studying/working towards 12 credits this semester, and the tragic loss of a close friend and co-worker this weekend, we knew it was probably best to get outdoors to unwind and get our minds off of things.  It was long overdue!  What a great day spent with the wife, kids, and the dog. 

We decided to head to a favorite shed hunting spot in hopes of finding some "brown on the ground".  We have been watching a herd of nice bucks in this area all winter, along with a couple of really good muleys.  This is also a spot that has paid off for me very well in past years, and although I know a lot of bucks were still packing, maybe, just maybe I would have similar luck as last year.  An early trip yielded an amazing 5-point set just a short distance from the truck.  After a rough morning of dealing with more phone calls and messages about my friend, I was finally able to put the phone away for a bit and get out of town.

As we left the pavement and started down a dirt road, it was no time at all and we were spotting deer, including this nice 4-point! 

Although we were stoked to get a good look at this buck, and some video, this is not what we came for.  I hate to get in among the deer before they drop, first of all, because I don't want to push them out before they drop, and second, I hate to pressure them this time of year when the winter feed is about gone, and they are really giving it their all to survive.  This wasn't quite the spot we were heading to anyway.  So, we made our plans and made a wide swing to stay away from them  We did jump a few more small bucks, still all packing head gear!

As we were getting into deer, I thought maybe it was time to turn to a new area, where I was fairly sure the deer had moved out of the week prior.  So we shifted our search to this new bench and began to grid.  The sign confirmed that while a few deer lingered, most had moved on.  After nearly 2 miles things were looking bleak, so we decided to turn back.  Just as we approached the truck I looked down and nearly stepped on our find for the day.  It still had a bit of blood on the base.

Well, it's not much, but the season has to start somewhere I guess.  I have high hopes that a planned trip in 2 weeks will turn out big!  It just amazes me that a big buck can be carrying antler still, and a buck as small as this was already shed, at least on one side.  Oh well, it was great to get out and about on such a nice day. 

It was an excellent opportunity to get my future TV show host on the camera!  I heard Dallin telling his bothers about the day, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to let him sum up our experience of shed hunting for the day.  Looks like he needs a bit of practice, but it's probably better than Dad can do!

On the way home, my very observant 5 year old pointed out a road that I had promised to take the family down once the weather got better, the area is called Spencer Flat.  Jackson had been eager to see the area, since I spoke of the "Moqui Marbles" that covered the area's sand dunes and sand stone features.  Well, it was a good day, so why not?  We turned south from the highway into the desert country south/southeast of Escalante. 

I have been wanting to take the family to a awesome feature known as the "Cosmic Ashtray", but today we would not have enough light to make the nearly 5 mile hike.  That's a story for another day that we hope to share within a couple of months as we try to showcase more of the awesome country around our home.  So, we settled for a ride into what was new country for the family, and explored the Moqui marble deposits.  The kids were amazed as they sorted through the piles upon piles of these unique rocks located on the surface of sandstone and even in the sand of the dunes.  From little "BB marbles" as Jackson called them, to the flying saucer looking ones, huge ones, doubles, and more the kids had a blast discovering all they could.  We even found a few that had been cracked, revealing the multiple colors of sand frozen within the hard shell.
Moqui marbles are actually iron oxide concretions, created by changes in chemical compositions within Navajo Sandstone during the weathering process (can you tell one of those 12 credits is Geology?).  They are also commonly called "sand bombs" due to the sand contained within the hard shell.  The name Moqui marble comes from the Hopi term Moqui (meaning "the dead"), as pertaining to the ancient Moqui Indians (Anasazi tribes) that inhabited the area.  As a kid I was told that the name came from the idea that these Indians played marbles with these natural marbles.  Enough for the geology lesson, the short story is I was fascinated with these rocks as a kids and can remember buckets full of them at people's houses around town.  Today however, with the designation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument it is now illegal to collect these rocks.  Heck, it probably was when I was a kid anyway, we just didn't know it back then.  So after a fun while of hiking and playing with rocks in a massive sandbox, the kids returned their toys to the sand and we headed for home.  It was a perfect day, even if we only had a 2-point antler to show for it.

So, we will weather another storm this week it looks like, and another busy weekend to come.  Hopefully, we start to see more photos roll in for our shed photo contest once these guys decide to start to drop!  March and April will be fun no doubt!  We look forward to seeing your pics!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Dixie GunWorx

We would like to welcome aboard our newest sponsor to SUH&F, Dixie GunWorx!  We are excited to have Dixie GunWorks as a sponsor, as it brings more diversity to our outdoor network, our first firearms dealer, gunsmith, and customizing business to be associated with.  We have high hopes that our viewers will share that excitement as we bring Dixie GunWorx into our family.  We will be sharing their updates on our Facebook page, as well as here on the blog.  We also have one more exciting announcement about this partnership at the end of this post, so be sure to read on through!  First, let me tell you a little bit about the company.

From their website (from "About Us"):

Dixie GunWorx had its start at none other than a family get-together. Along with the normal talk of sports, family matters, and the usual, it was brought up that there was no good gunsmith in the Southern Utah area; no where you could go to have all your needs taken care of in one location. It was then that Chris Michel, a man trained by the Department of Defense and Energy and who had been tearing guns apart for as long as he could remember, had the idea for Dixie GunWorx, a gunsmithing store that focuses on meeting the needs of Southern Utah.

After the shop opened in 2010, several gun stores and pawn shops in the St. George area immediately contracted with us to help us meet your gunsmithing needs. Since then, Dixie GunWorx has grown in size, services, and partners to better serve our customers. We can now modify, buy, sell, trade, find, fix, or transfer firearms using our extensive network of dealers and manufacturers.
As a company founded on meeting the needs of customers in Southern Utah, our goal is simple: we are here to provide the best products and services to our customers at the lowest possible price. We take great pride in our customers’ satisfaction. If you’re not happy then we aren’t happy. Satisfaction is guaranteed!

So if you are looking for that all in 1 stop when it comes to firearm purchase, customization, or supplies, be sure to hit up the boys at Dixie GunWorx!   For those repairs, you are going to find quality gunsmithing by some of the best in the business!  Also be sure to check out not only tactical firearm customization, but services such as Cerakote finishing, and talking with the boys they are also looking into other firearm stock hydro dipping features to come!  I am hoping that when I get a new shotgun for my wife I will be able to take it down to them to get the stock dipped in the "Muddy Girl Camo" design, which the boys told me they are looking into getting setup to be able to do! 

You will love Cerakote as well!  Be sure to check out the Dixie Gunworx website where you will see projects that they have completed!  Great looking stuff for sure.

The best way to keep yourself up to date is by following Dixie GunWrox on Facebook!  Head on over there and give their page a like to keep up to speed on new products, ammo shipments and specials in the store, gunsmithing and customizing photos, giveaways, and so much more!  This company is gaining a lot of popularity quickly on Facebook right now, be sure to check them out!  Be sure to tell them that Southern Utah Hunt and Fish sent ya!

Now the exciting news, Dixie GunWorx is excited to join in on sponsoring a prize for our "Shed Photo" contest!  How about a Magpul MS3 sling?

This sling is great for your tactical rifles, and is a nearly $50 value!  To be eligible to win this prize in our photo contest, be sure to like their Facebook page!  We will continue to share with you updates and more about Dixie GunWorx on our Facebook page as well.

Again, we are excited to have Dixie GunWorx with us, thank you guys so much for partnering with us as we look forward to expanding our network and sharing your amazing, high quality work with our readers!  For our readers, you will also notice their logo in our right sidebar, which is linked to their website for a convenient way to navigate to their page when you need to. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Quick Ice Fishing Stop With My Son

It's been a busy week, and I want to start off by apologizing for a lack of posts over the weekend.  Between family commitments and homework (12 credits online, what was I thinking!) it has been a busy weekend.  I was able to put some boot tracks on the ground towards the end of last week, and it looks like we are still a week or 2 away from the bucks dropping their antlers down in my area.  A few browns have been reported, but most have been small, and the bucks still appear to be packing from what I have seen.

Have you checked out our shed photo contest yet?  We have a couple of great prizes, and that list is growing!  Stay tuned this week as we look to add another great sponsor to our list, along with another prize to add to the pot for the shed contest!  We are excited to pick up this newest sponsor, which adds a little diversity to our sponsors!  As we finalize things with this sponsor we will get information posted here about them and the new prize!

 Yesterday I made a trip north to take a couple of ATVs to the shop for repair.  My youngest son, Jackson (he is 5) has been begging me for a few days to take him ice fishing.  I will have to say, when it comes to the outdoors Jackson is the most enthused and desirous to get out and fish out of all my kids.  The weekend brought bad weather and poor travel conditions, so I made arrangements to drop the bikes off early so that we could get in some fishing on the way home.

I had no trouble getting the little guy out of bed at 5:30 AM!  We loaded up and picked up my grandpa, then hit the road for Richfield.  After completing our tasks and getting some breakfast, we headed back south towards Otter Creek Reservoir.  Otter Creek has had a great ice fishing season this year, and though we have talked about going there several times, things always seem to get in our way.  Today would be a short trip as we needed to get home in time for a basketball game, but it would still be worth it.  We were anxious to see if we could tie into one of those fat, football-shaped rainbow trout that folks were talking about!

We decided to fish a point near the middle of the lake where only one other person was fishing.  The ice looked real good, in recent weeks the shoreline had been melting, but the sub-zero temperatures for the last 4 or 5 days had again formed ice along the edge.  We geared up, and eased out.  The shore ice was obviously thinner for about 2-5 feet of distance, but it did hold us, cracking and settling slightly.  Once on the ice we found ice varying from 14-16" in thickness.  We drilled a few holes and started fishing in about 8-10' of water.  Grandpa was quick to hook up with the first fish of the day, shortly followed by fish for myself and then Jackson.  We thought we had a good thing going, but fishing quickly turned slow.  The highlight for sure was Jackson receiving a tail slap to the face as he tried to pose with one of his catches for the camera!  I wish I would have had the video camera rolling on that one instead of the still shot.

We were able to land a few more fish, not a horrible day for just 3 hours of fishing, but not the best either.  I'm beginning to be a big believer in the "Fishing Calendar app" on my iphone this year, which said it was only a 26% day.  We have noticed this year, if it says it's bad, it is, and when it's good, fishing is great.  Maybe I need to look into it more and come up with a post on it!  Anyway, we did catch some great fish, probably 2-3 pounds.  Most importantly, Jackson had a blast, we told some good stories, shared some laughs, and had a great drive home, even spotting a few large groups of deer.  A day well spent for sure!  The only thing that would have topped it off would have been a stop by the Antimony Merc for a burger, but time was against us this day!

As the days grow longer, and the temperatures rise, the ice will probably leave the lake near the end of the month.  Get out to Otter Creek while you can!  Spring fishing just after ice off can also be amazing at Otter Creek, from a boat or from shore.  Be sure to add it to your list this spring.  

As far as technique, we were again using various colors of paddle bugs, tipped with shrimp or meal worm, shrimp working best.  They seemed to hit it better still fishing instead of jigging.  This link talks a little more about the gear we use and the techniques that work well for me:


Friday, February 8, 2013

Justin Christensen 2012 Archery Elk

 2012 Limited Entry Archery Elk Hunt on the Boulder Mountain
By Justin Christensen
I sat up in our home made ground blind and looked out through the pine boughs to see a giant bull dropping into the wallow! In an instant he was consumed by the mud and water. All I could see sticking out of the mud was his ears and this GIANT set of antlers!!

That was the beginning of the greatest day I have had elk hunting. It all started back in the early part of the year. As the deadline drew near for the for the 2012 Utah hunts I was still undecided on where to put in for my favorite species, elk. Everything about hunting elk turns my crank! I had been lucky enough to draw for limited entry elk twice and have harvested two more great bull’s on open bull areas. I drew a permit in 1992 in the Bookcliffs and in 2005 I drew a limited entry rifle tag on the Boulder Mountain.

So the decision was a big deal for me. I didn’t want to wait 20 years to draw but I also wanted to hunt in an area that I knew had the potential to harvest a whopper of a bull. After hunting the Boulder Mountain Unit in 2005 I knew that this would be my top choice and that I would try for an archery tag. I had been talking to my dad about which unit he was going to put in for. He didn’t feel that his 5 bonus points were enough to draw a Boulder tag. A few days before the deadline my oldest daughter, who was 18 at the time, asked me where I thought she should put in for elk. I told her that we should put in together. I told her that it would lower her chances of drawing because I had only one point to her 5, but if we did it would be a blast hunting together. So I applied for the archery tag with my daughter not expecting to draw.

As the date got closer for the draw results to come out my anticipation grew. I was visiting my parents and we were discussing the draw. I found out that my dad had also put in for the Boulder unit. My dad had checked his account and it had not been hit with any withdraws. I asked them if I could check my card account and noticed a withdraw for $560.00. At first I couldn’t figure out what that could have been and I was starting to panic when I realized I had drawn another elk tag!!!
I immediately called my daughter and we celebrated! Two tags in 7 years!! My dad couldn’t believe it. He was excited and disappointed at the same time. His disappointment didn’t last long though, he found out he also drew an elk tag a few days later.

Now the work would begin. Three tags and all of them archery. I had just taken a job offer in Escalante and had moved there. That would make it easier to go scouting and hopefully find a bull that I would like to chase come the hunt. I told my dad not to worry and that I would do the scouting so he could save his time for the hunt.

I could not wait for the snow to melt so I could get on the mountain. The first of June found us on the mountain checking some of the places that I knew held elk. We set up some trail cameras and couldn’t wait to see what was coming in. On the 12th of June I got the first of many pictures of big bulls. There were two bull’s that caught my eye and I was very excited to see how they would develop. My daughter quickly named them, Thing One and Thing Two, due to them being almost identical.  They both were already out to their 5th and 6th tines. Both of them had inline extras but on opposite sides. I was only able to get one more set of pictures of these two bulls on June 26th.

Thing 1 and thing 2
Over the next few months and many trips on the mountain I was ready to for the hunt to open. I had decided to just hunt the first few days and save my time for later when the elk would be bugling. My dad was planning on staying the whole hunt. One week before the opener found us hanging tree stands on the spot where we had seen Thing one and Thing two. There had been at least 5 other big bulls visiting this spot. My daughter was unable to come up the opening weekend and my dad wanted to sit with me on my number one spot. We decided the night before that if the two big ones came in who would get the shot.

Opening morning found us sitting in our stands waiting for Thing one and Thing two to show up. The morning started off great with some does and fawns coming right in but that was all the excitement for the day. We stayed in the tree until after dark. Sunday morning was pretty much the same. Around 6:00 pm I spotted antlers coming through the trees and whispered back to my dad letting him know what was coming. I knew right away that this was not a bull I was interested in. The nice 6x6 came in to 17 yards and hung out for about 10 minutes. We whispered back and forth estimating what we thought he would score. He then moved out to 42 yards and stood there for almost an hour. My dad decided to pass on this bull. Then he moved back in to 17 yards for 5 more minutes before leaving the same way he came in. What a great time in the tree and I got to share it with my dad!!

I headed home and I sent my dad into another area that had a few good bulls coming in. He spent the next week in that spot chasing big bulls but was unable to connect on anything. I headed back on the mountain the first of September planning on staying until the hunt was over. After arriving on the mountain and talking with my dad, I was a little disappointed. The elk were being quiet and had stopped coming into my tree stand sites. The next few days found us covering lots of country and chasing every bugle we heard hopping to catch up to a big bull but things just wouldn’t come together.

We decided to try and sit a wallow due to the bulls not being very vocal. In our travels we had found a spot that looked promising so we built us a ground blind in some pine trees. The blind was awesome! Only 30 yards to the wallow. It could easily hold two people comfortably and provided great cover for a shot. We sat in our blind the rest of that day and the next with no luck. We hadn’t heard even one bugle so we decided to split up and I would go check some of the cameras I had out to see if the elk were visiting these other spots. One of the camera’s showed that there had been some nice 6x6 bulls visiting every other day. That night it was decided that dad would go sit the spot where the bulls were coming in and I would go to a spot where it had been productive earlier in the hunt.
The next morning found me listening to a bull bugling right next to were I had parked the truck. As I was getting ready I discovered that I had left my range finder in camp. I decided to go after this bull anyway but he just slowly moved away and then quit bugling. While trying to coax this bull in I did manage to call in another hunter. At that point and with the elk being quiet I decided to return to camp, have a good breakfast and decide where to go from there.

After a big breakfast of Blueberry pancakes and eggs I decided to grab a good book and return to the ground blind for the afternoon. I arrived in the blind around 10:30, quickly got everything ready and settled in for the afternoon. Around 1:00 I moved to a spot in the blind where the sun was shining to try and warm up. As I was laying there I heard a faint elk bugle. I sat up and waited to hear it again but nothing. Around 2:00, as I was laying there in the sun, I heard footsteps. I sat up and looked through the pine bows that made up are blind to see a giant bull dropping into the wallow! In an instant he was consumed by the mud and water. All I could see sticking out of the mud was his ears and this GIANT set of antlers!!

Instinct kicked in as I grabbed for my rangefinder. After trying to get a reading through the limbs and not getting anything I realized I already knew the distance and I just needed to calm down! I reached for my bow and slowly stood up. The bull had just gotten up out of the wallow as I drew back. He was standing, slightly quartering away, at 35 yards when the Bowtech Invasion kicked loose a 450 grain Easton Axis tipped with a 1 3/4" cut Grim Reaper.

The next few seconds went by in slow motion! I watched the arrow impact behind the front shoulder with a "Whack!!" that I will never forget! The bull just flinched! He stepped slightly to his right and I saw the arrow fall out! I couldn’t believe it! It didn’t pass all the way through and out the other side! He then staggered to his right and went down.  He hadn’t gone 10 feet and was down!! I had just killed a monster bull!!  I ran out of the blind to get a closer look! I got up next to him and couldn’t believe what had just happened. I was quickly adding up tine lengths in my head. I figured his shortest tine in the first 4 was at least 18 inches with 50 plus main beams and great mass! I couldn’t believe it!!!

I must have ran back and forth to and from the blind 5 times not knowing what to do first so I grabbed my cell phone and headed for camp. I couldn’t wait to tell someone!! My dad was going to flip! I ran as fast as I could back to the 4 wheeler, drove like a maniac back to camp and when my dad’s truck wasn’t there I just kept going. I headed out across the top towards my dad. I hit a spot where I had cell service so I stopped to call my wife. She didn’t answer. My daughter that had a tag was working so I called her. No answer!! I called my other daughter and she answered! I told her that I had just killed a giant bull that I thought would be close to the 380 mark! She got very excited and told her co-worker and good friend of mine, Kaedon Murdock. They said they would be on their way!! I had her call another friend of mine from town to see if he wanted to come up and I was off to get my dad!

I arrived at the spot where my dad was hunting, ran as fast as I could into the area and then hurried as quiet as possible the last 100 yards. I snuck right in on him and got his attention. I explained what had happened and he just sat there and looked at me! He didn’t believe me! When I finally was able to convince him that I had killed a giant bull his first words were, “You killed him in my spot?"
He took what seemed like forever to get out of the tree! I replayed the whole events of the morning up until the bull going down as we walked out of the area and back to the truck. I couldn’t go fast enough back to camp. I couldn’t wait to share this great bull with my dad. He was with me when I got my first big bull in the Bookcliffs, my last big bull on the Boulder and now my greatest bull!!

We were just about to head down to the bull when my daughter, Jaquel came racing into camp with my good friend Kaeden. They had flew up the mountain to come and help. She told me that another one of my good friends, Terry would be up as soon as he could and his friend Reed from Loa would meet him in camp. As we were getting close to the area where the bull was laying my daughter Jaquel couldn’t take the anticipation any longer. She took off on the run down into the meadow where he was laying. As we came into the meadow she was standing by the bull, holding his antlers up with a huge smile on her face!
The hour or so that followed was chaos! . We were standing there admiring this great animal and bull started bugling right above us on the hill and my dad had left his bow in camp. It started raining. None of us could focus. The bull bugled for about 15 minutes. as we were trying to figure out the best way to get my bull out of there. Terry and Reed arrived and we were able to get the bull loaded up and back to camp. In all of the excitement I was unable to get the pictures I would have liked. I was able to get one with my dad and daughter and a few with my friends.

We were able to get the elk back to camp whole and in no time at all we had him caped out and cut up. Kaedon had fresh steaks and potatoes cooking on the Camp Chef. Everything finished up at about the same time so we all washed up and had a great dinner! I cannot thank my friends enough for their help that afternoon! You can never have enough help when it comes to a big bull on the ground. Thank you dad for being there and sharing the hunt with me.
My dad and daughter were able to have a few close calls but were unable to connect. Next time it’s your turn and I hope I can be there to share it with you!!

Written by Justin Christensen, Photography by Justin Christensen

We shared a photo of this bull back in October here on the blog, and have been anxiously waiting for the rest of the story!  Justin has put a lot of time into this piece, we hope you all enjoy it, and we want to thank Justin for sharing it right here on SUH&F!  Justin's bull ended up scoring 376 5/8.  What an accomplishment! 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Trail Camera 101

Trail cameras are really catching on in the west, and I have had many of our friends from other areas of the country ask me how we use them out here in the west.  This is a response to those questions, as well as a little info for you from the west about camera setup, and even a couple of my favorite models.

Planning on hunting in the west?  Trail cameras aren’t just for food plots anymore.  Here are a few tips and reasons why trail cameras can be vital to a successful hunt in remote areas out west.

It’s a dilemma of many of us every fall, you have finally drawn that coveted tag that you have spent years applying for, and now your boots are on the ground in the hunting unit.  Problem is you only have a couple of days of scouting before you get right into hunting.  If you are fortunate to have a guide, no worries, you will be taken care of.  If you are like me, entering the area on a “do it yourself” hunt, you have your work cut out for you.  The only option you may have is prying information from locals, which is a risky game.  You may find a very honest response, or you may be pointed to an area with informant’s intent to keep you as far away from a trophy as possible.

Even in the mountains right out the backdoor of my house, I struggle with this dilemma.  Being a wildland firefighter, my life gets busy very quickly in May, and doesn’t ease up until September or maybe even November in a year like we had this year.  This really puts a damper on my plans to get out and scout during the summer.  In fact, I skipped out on a couple of fires in Idaho this year just to be able to go on an elk hunt, basically heading out to hunt right from work, with no time to scout.  We still had a very successful hunt, all thanks to our trail cameras.

This bull scoring over 400" was discovered by a trail cam, and later harvested by a good friend of mine.
Trail cameras have been popular on game ranches for years, especially when it comes to whitetail hunting in the Midwest and South.  I came across my first trail camera in the mountains of Utah about 7 or 8 years ago, and at the time I was convinced that it had to be owned by the state Division of Wildlife, as the cameras were so expensive most of us couldn’t afford them.  I was surprised to find out a few weeks later it belonged to another hunter I know, as he teased me about being in his hunting grounds!  The craze has really spread and caught on all over the West, along with it the selection of cameras as well.  Naturally, I had to get in on the action, as everyone was raving about how it was helping their hunting success.  

So, I bought my first camera, and placed it on one of my favorite elk wallows and deer watering holes.  Going back to check the camera, I was very disappointed!  Good news is it only took a couple of seasons to figure out where I had went wrong, and now the investment is paying off big time!  Here are a few tips and tricks, a little “trail camera 101”.

Before going too far, let me caution that a trail camera doesn’t usually bring me success in the spot of the camera.  More than anything I will just catch photos of the animals passing through.  It at least helps you know that a good animal (or maybe nothing) is in the area.  I myself have never harvested an animal on a camera location, and know very few people who have, even on a heavily used water hole.

Choosing a trail camera:  This used to be fairly easy; there were only a couple I could afford!  Now you will find dozens, if not hundreds of makes and models.  So where do you begin now?  This is where it is really up to you.  Above all, how much do you want to spend?  Cameras range in price from $50 to over $500.  As the price goes up, you will find more features available to your disposal.  Probably one of the most important items to consider, where are you placing the camera?  In the open, more range is a plus, but more range is not always good, such as in more closed timber or brush.  We will talk more about that in a minute.  Do you want night pictures, or only day?  Different models also allow you more options such as video modes, customizing how many photos per minute are taken, and how many photos per sequence.  Picture quality (megapixel) and battery life are also important considerations.  You are also going to need an SD card to store those great shots for you.
One of the most helpful tools I found was the great reviews at  This site has reviews on about every trail camera on the market, and they are easy to browse through, as well as easy to understand.  You will find that the reviews are completely unbiased, as the site does not promote any particular make of trail camera.  Let’s talk about a few more considerations to think of before choosing a camera.

Camera placement:  First things first, what are you hunting?  For mule deer I have much more success with my cameras on trails to water than on water itself, unless it is a dry year.  For elk, wallows are almost always best, or the trails into those wallows.  Look at the sign in your site.  My best results to date were where I placed a camera just off of water where 3 main game trails converged.  I had the camera on the water for a short time, but did much better on the trails.  I think this was due to the critters watering in different locations each time, but obviously using one of the 3 trails every time.  Mount the camera to the tree of choice, fire it up, and take a few photos of yourself.  Make sure you have it secured to the proper height and angle.  Also, check with the division of wildlife and land agency (Forest Service, BLM, state, etc.) to ensure that you can use cameras.  For example, in Utah you cannot use a trail camera 1 week prior to a hunt.  At this time the Forest Service has no restrictions, but some land management agencies are talking about implementing regulations to trail cameras, and even talking about having individuals register their equipment.  When you check your camera, be ready for some surprises, especially with elk!  I have tons of shots of eyeballs, tongues, and antlers as these guys like to lick, rake, and adjust my cameras for me.  The more secure the better.  This summer a curious bull had no trouble moving one of my cameras a short distance for me.  I’m glad I found it in 1 piece!  

My camera collection is small, under a dozen in comparison to friends that have dozens of them.  I add to it each year, scattering them out as if not to place all my eggs in 1 basket.  As the year progresses, I pull my less effective cameras, and place them around others that are paying off.  Scatter them out, try a variety of cover types, elevations, and water sources.  

Vegetation:  This is where a camera’s sensitivity really comes into play.  I have a Wildgame Innovations camera that took great photos in one particular spot.  However, when I placed a Moultrie camera in the same spot the next year, I had 200 pictures of trees when I checked it 2 weeks later.  Pay close attention to your camera’s range!  If it has a 30’ range, make sure there is nothing in that range (branches, bushes, flowing water) that can set the camera off.  I had to move the Moultrie to more open ground, and use different tactics than the trails to water.

Seasonality:  You will find that starting out early in the year you will be met with great success in getting great pictures.  It never fails that I will quickly get onto great bucks and bulls.  A lot of the time, the bucks will move on as temperatures climb, however elk seem to stay pretty consistent, up until about a week before the first hunt!  It never fails for deer and elk; once the velvet starts to come off, everything changes.  Patterns change, new animals show up, and the ones you were after flat out leave.  In fact, the 2 best bulls we were watching this year up and vanished about a month before the rifle hunt.  One of these bulls was taken not far from where the camera was.  He moved about a half mile away and stayed there for that month.  These cameras won’t always put you onto a trophy, but at least they can help narrow down the search!  Another worry in the West is free grazing cattle on public land.  Two years ago one of my best spots was taken over by cattle, and 100 elk photos a day turned to 200 cattle photos, with no elk at all.  The more remote a location, the better you are to escape this problem.  Also, don’t be surprised to see predators frequent your camera.  If the prey is there, so is the predator.  Use caution checking your cameras, I see more bear and cougar when I check trail cameras than any other time in the hills!

Security:  It is really unfortunate that we are talking about this.  Every year I hear stories of people loosing hundreds of dollars on stolen trail cameras.  There are ways to protect your investment.  Security boxes provide security from theft, as well as from animals.  Yes, I have seen what a bear can do to a camera, not pretty!  These boxes are very affordable, and simply allow you to screw lag bolts from inside the box into the tree.  The camera sits in the box, and you simply shut the lid and lock the box.  You can also attach a cable lock around the setup for added security.  Check out bestgamecamera, they have a wide selection for various cameras:  Remember, you will need a box that custom fits your camera, in order to fit to your camera’s lens location.

So, what do I use?  In closed timber and brush I prefer my Wildgame Innovations “Red 6” camera, with a 30’ range.  This camera can be found under $100 and is very simple to operate.  It has given me spectacular shots in close quarters, where I have worried about trees setting it off.  Check out my full review of this camera:

For more open country, and great night photos, I love my Moultrie “GameSpy M100”.  At about $150, this camera has many more features than the Red 6, such as video, shot sequence, greater range, and better infrared photos.  Check out my review:  Both of these cameras are great on the battery life, a plus for me as it is often over a month between checking cameras.

Now you are ready, happy shopping!  You are going to love it!  I get just as excited checking cameras throughout the summer as heading into the field to hunt.  It is also a thrill to see the change in your trophy throughout the year as the antlers grow and the velvet is shed.  You will find that it turns more into a hobby than simply scouting.  Whatever you benefit from it, enjoy, and good luck finding that next trophy!