Monday, January 13, 2014

An Elk Hunt That We Will Never Forget

2013 was an amazing year for elk in Utah.  Although this is typical of the state, something seemed a bit more special this year, like it hasn't been for a few years now.  Not only were several trophy bulls harvested, but they were harvested in each of the 4 elk hunting seasons as well.  Although the weather made the early hunts difficult, those that stuck it out were rewarded with great bulls, and left enough for those drawing later muzzleloader and late rifle hunts.

The muzzleloader hunt was one of the best I can recall in Southern Utah.  I personally know of 6 trophy bulls being taken off of 3 local units, and I have no doubt that there were more than that.  I was also excited to see several local friends draw tags for the hunt, which happens to be the same hunt I harvested my bull on.

In fact, when I was dropping my bull off at the taxidermist, I first heard of the first bull you will hear about in this story, taken by Derick Veater.  Another bull referenced, the 7x7, was also just caped out before my bull arrived.  Another very interesting connection to this story is that the bull taken by Rob had spent at least it's last 2 summers on the neighboring unit where a good friend of mine had caught the giant on trail camera over both of those summers.  Interestingly enough, he had made the trek off of the top of that unit, down the mountain and up onto the Dutton unit just in time for the rut the previous autumn as well.  It's interesting to see the photos of this bull in strikingly different habitat from the 2 units.

Well, let's get on to the story!  I want to thank Derick and Rob for sending this our way (written from Derick's perspective).  How often do a father and son get to harvest great bulls during the same hunt?  There's no better hunting memory right there!  Congrats to you both!

An Elk Hunt That We Will Never Forget

After our 11th year of putting in for Beaver Mountain muzzeloader bull elk and being unsuccessful in the draw, my dad and I discussed putting in for a different unit. When the time came for us to put in for the draw we had made a decision to put in for the same hunt but on the Mount Dutton unit. Once we made the decision to do that, we both felt pretty optimistic about drawing this year. A little while before the draw results were sent out we noticed that the bank account had been hit and as everyone knows the excitement starts there.

Even though we got some teasing from my brothers about how difficult it was going to be to get two bulls out, we knew that it was going to be a fun hunt. Although, I don’t think at the time we knew how fun the hunt was truly going to be.

Starting on the Monday night before the hunt started my dad, my friend Coby and I headed out to set up camp. Tuesday morning we split up and went out scouting for elk. My dad had a good idea of where he wanted to go because of some information that he received about a bull in a certain area. Coby and I went out and were able to locate some good bulls. Later in the day my two older brothers David and Dusty showed up and helped us locate even more bulls. We had seen some good bulls that Tuesday, but my dad never could locate the bull that he had heard about. That night we decided to come up with a plan for the opening morning. Although we had seen some good bulls we felt like the bull that David located was the better bull out of all, so the plan was set to go after that bull.

The next morning we all headed out to where David had spotted the bull. David and Dusty stayed where they could see the bull and my dad, Coby and I went in on the other side to get a good look at the elk. We were in contact with David and Dusty via radio when David told us that the elk were feeding out in the open. We were a little further away then what David and Dusty thought we originally were but eventually they were able to get us right above the elk. However, the problem was that we were in a pretty open area and the elk were feeding away from us. So we backed down off of the hill that we were on and dropped our packs.

We decided to move around this point to where we could head off the elk. As we headed over I realized my quick loads were attached to my pack, so Coby went back to our packs to get them for me. My dad and I decided we needed to get over to where we could see the elk before they got too far off. As we got closer, the elk were walking broad side to us at a little over 100 yards. I pulled out my shooting sticks and got set up. I hadn’t gotten the chance to really see this bull yet but I wanted to be ready just in case. As the bull walked out my dad and I were both watching it through our binoculars and my dad asked “do you want him?”  I took one good look and said that I did, so I put down my binoculars and as we watched him he gave me a good broadside shot so I took it. The bull humped up like it was hit. Neither one of us were sure if it was hit and if it was how well. So I grabbed my dad’s gun and took another shot and my dad was pretty sure that I missed that shot, so now here I am without my quick loads and my dad moving as fast as he can to reload his gun so that I could get off another shot, then sure enough I got the shot off and missed again. At this point the bull was out of sight and into the trees.

After the smoke settled I told my dad that I just knew that I had hit on that first shot, so once Coby joined up with us again we headed over to where the bull was standing and we could not find any blood spots or sign of a hit. At this point I was disappointed but we kept following the tracks and looking for blood, if anything it was to confirm that I had missed. David and Dusty called us on the radio and told us that they saw the elk and the bull didn’t look to be hit. That added to the disappointment then Coby ended up finding a spec of blood but that wasn’t too assuring, and we figured that I had either grazed the bull or it got a cut from a stick. Shortly after that David and Dusty called again on the radio and told us that the elk were running across the flat in the direction of our camp. Knowing the area we figured they would hit a tree patch and maybe bed down for a bit. 

My dad, Coby and I met up with David and Dusty at their four wheelers. We decided at that time to head back to camp and get a truck to help with shuttling the four wheelers. My dad and Dusty were ahead of me David and Coby.  When we looked up, the elk was between us and my dad and dusty. I bailed off of the four wheeler and took a shot at the bull and I knew that this time I hit it. With all of the excitement of finding the elk again and a few more shots the bull was down. I had killed my first bull elk and after I had confirmed that it was a good 6x6 bull and as good or even better than what I had my sights on I looked up and saw that we were 150 yards away from our camp. I remember my dad telling me that when you kill a bull next to the road it automatically increases by 50 inches regardless of what anyone says, so my first thought was well how big does it get when it falls right next to camp? 

Needless to say this was a pretty exciting morning for all of us but especially for me. I had my dad, both brothers and a good friend there to help make this day happen. To top it off, I was able to walk over to the trailer to get my cell phone and call and share this experience with my wife immediately after it took place. I think she appreciated the call but I’m pretty sure she couldn’t understand me because of how excited I was. The excitement went all the way into town as we took my elk in to hang it in the cooler.

Now for most people this would be where the great hunt ends but we were only half way done because we still had to fill my dad’s tag. After grabbing a bite to eat in town we all headed back out on top. Once we got there we weren’t exactly sure where to go, so we split up and decided to go out and try and locate some more elk. My dad still had a bull in mind that he had heard about prior to the hunt and he knew the general area where that bull had been seen. The wind picked up a lot that evening so rather than trying to spot the elk from higher up my dad Coby and I decided to walk up in a canyon near where that bull had been spotted. After not seeing a whole lot of sign and checking a few springs we decided to walk out and get up higher to see what was moving as the sun was going down. As we got out of the canyon we saw some ATV’s parked near where we were at. We weren’t positive but we thought that maybe it was our cousin who had to same tag as we did.
 That night we had gotten back and talked about what we wanted to do the next day, and discussed some areas to go to maybe find the bull my dad was looking for. The next morning as we were getting ready to go back out my dad came over to my trailer and told me that the 7x7 bull that he had his sights set on was killed that night before. I could tell that he was disappointed. David showed me the picture and I will admit I was disappointed and it was hard not to get upset because it was our cousin who killed the bull, but at the same time who couldn’t be happy for him because it was a great bull. Knowing the person my dad is and even though he was a little down that the bull was killed he couldn’t have been happier for our cousin.
 From day two on to about day six we were seeing some good bulls but my dad had waited a long time for this hunt, and I knew he wanted to kill a big bull. During these six days we did a lot of hiking and scouting, we were able to get closer than I have ever been to elk.  Each day it seemed that we would hear of someone’s success story even to the point where we ran in to some people who killed a good bull on their way back from eating lunch out at Ruby’s Inn. It became a little frustrating for all of us, but I think it was especially frustrating for my dad. Also, during these few days Dusty and Coby had to go back to work so we lost some of our help.
On Wednesday the second to last day Coby was able to come back out and hunt with us for the last two days. We decided to split up again and me, Coby and my dad decided to go back up on a ridge where me and my dad had followed some elk earlier that morning to see if we could get a better look. David went back over to where I shot at my elk the opening morning to see if he could find anything. We ended up going for a long hike and didn’t see much until a few hours before it got dark. We spotted what we thought was a good bull. We headed down after and made a pretty good stalk on the herd. It was pretty difficult due to the herd being spread out and a few smaller bulls down further off of the hill. When we got closer we were able to range the distance to a good bull and it was just over 200 yards. I’ve seen my dad make this long of a shot before and knew that he could do it. He hesitated for a minute not sure if it was what he wanted but it was a good 6x6 and he made up his mind that he at least wanted a good 6x6. He took the shot with Coby and I watching through our binoculars and we both confirmed that he had missed the bull. I was surprised and I think my dad was a little shocked as well, but we made our way over to where the bull was standing and sure enough no blood spots or any other sign of a hit. It had gotten dark on us so we made our way back to camp.
When we had gotten back to camp, David told my dad that he had seen another good bull over where I shot mine opening morning. So we made a plan and turned in for the night. That next day, the last day of the hunt started looking a lot like the opening morning. Same location and same plan of attack. David stayed where he could see the elk and my dad Coby and I headed up after the elk. First thing when we got up higher we saw a collared cow, not sure if it saw us or not we kept heading in, then shortly we were spotted by other elk and before we knew it the herd was on the move. We saw the bull and my dad was able to get another shot off but with him being rushed and not a lot of time to set up it was another miss. We were sick as we saw the herd move over the top of the 3rd ridge away from us. David got on the radio and told my dad that he had spotted the elk again so my dad kept with them while Coby and I went back to the four wheelers. My dad was able to see the elk a few more times but never was able to get a good shot off. The morning was pretty much over and the elk had moved to cover and bedded down.

When we got back to camp Coby and I packed up my trailer and took it in to Panguitch. My dad had also told us that if we needed to we might as well go home. The hunt was pretty much over. Both Coby and I felt that we wanted to come back out and hunt the last evening with my dad and David. When we got back out on the mountain David and my dad had split up to see if they could see anything.  I was able to radio David and he told me that if he saw some elk that he was going to fill his cow tag. After a while Coby and I decided to go meet up with David and see what he had found. On the way to his location he radioed us and said not to come any closer because he had found some elk and there was a five point bull with them that he was going to let my dad know about. So we pulled off of the road and started glassing the hills around us when Coby looked up and said “there’s your elk”. We figured it was a the herd from this morning and Coby through his high powered spotting scope was able to confirm that there was a six point bull up there. I radioed David to let him know and he said that he would pass it on to my dad when he reached his location.

About fifteen minutes later I got a call from my dad asking about the elk. I told him that both Coby and had looked at the elk and saw that there was at least one 6x6 bull if not two. He made his way over to where we were and took a look for himself. Where these elk were at wasn’t going to be an easy hike, but my dad decided to go in after them. He asked if Coby and I wanted to go up. We will probably argue this for several years, but the reason we had chosen to stay was because without us he would be able to sneak better and he says that we were too cold and just wanted to stay in the warm truck.

After my dad had been hiking for about 45 minutes David had made it over to us and my dad had just called down to say that the terrain was way too steep and he wasn’t sure he wanted to pack anything out in it. I told him that he at least needed to get a good look at the elk and see what was there. About another 20 minutes had passed and my radio was dead so my dad started texting me. He sent a text saying he found the elk and the one 6x6 wasn’t worth it. I assured him that we would help him get it out and that this was the last chance he was going to get. Then nothing for about 15 minutes. We were watching the elk through our scopes when we saw one of the bulls hump up and then spun down. We were a long ways away so we didn’t hear the shots but I told Coby that I thought he had shot. Sure enough I got a call on my cell phone from my dad saying that he had hit the bull but it wasn’t down. He told Coby and I to head up to where he was at and for me to bring my muzzleloader. I was still able to pack my muzzeloader because I had an open deer tag. He also told us that this bull was bigger than the first bull he saw.

We headed up to where my dad was and while we were hiking in we heard a couple more shots, then my cell phone died so here I was without a phone or a radio, but luckily Coby had his. We eventually could hear my dad yell so we started making our way to where he was at and then we heard one last shot and then a loud “yahoo”. We knew he had killed it but we weren’t exactly sure how big it was. I still remember the big smile on my dad’s face as I looked over the hill and saw this great 6x6 bull that I believe exceeded all of our thoughts of what it was. It was a beautiful bull! We immediately radioed David and after that, phone calls were being made and pictures were being sent. I could really tell how excited my dad was when he called my mom to talk to her about it. Like the title of this story this is a hunt that I will never forget.
To add to all of the fun that we had with my two brothers, my dad, a good friend, and myself; we were able to include my uncle Jeff, cousin’s Shawnee and Dakota because they were awesome enough to come over the next morning to help us pack it out. 

Throughout the 9 days of hunting we ate a lot of good food, hiked a lot of miles but mostly we made a lot of good memories that we will never forget.