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!