- Category: Elk
- Published: Sunday, 28 September 2008 19:14
- Written by Greg
2008 Utah Elk Hunt
I'm back from the hunt...tough year…!
I never saw any great bulls while scouting on public land, from my talks with archery elk hunters there were no good bulls seen during the archery hunt (talked to several hunters who had been there for the last 2 weeks straight and they hadn't drawn on a bull because the bulls weren’t big enough), local guys from Monroe and Koosharem hadn’t seen good bulls this entire year and they are themselves putting in for a different unit other than Monroe (they said that 2 - 3 years ago, they were seeing several 380+ bulls, not now) because last year was the worst it had been in 15 years and now this year was the worst year they'd ever seen for elk! On the bright side, I got an elk and I had a great time! I saw elk, deer and coyotes (got to watch a couple of coyotes frolic around in front of me at 60 yards for about 10 minutes, they didn’t know I was there)! I'm kind of torn though, happy to have gotten a bull, but disappointed to wait 15 years (18 years when counting the 3 years that I put in before the bonus point system started) and land on a year where the big bull population had been so depleted.
During the hunt, I saw some ok sized bulls and passed on them thinking that I would shoot them later in the hunt if I never came across a huge bull, but most every bull I passed, someone else ended up shooting. It seemed as if everyone I talked to had the same story while hunting and scouting (except for the sighting of the “spyder bull” on private ground by a few people), no big bulls.
The morning that I shot my bull, my brother Rick and I had 4 bulls answering back to us just before dawn, it was awesome! Just as first light arrived, we narrowed our choice to pursue the 2 bulls that were just across the canyon about 400 yards away from us. The bull to our left had a deeper guttural bugle and grunt, he sounded bigger…we’d go after him. Not five minutes after we had started working our way left down the ridge toward bull number one, bull number two bugled. It sounded like he was making his way down into the bottom of the canyon. We knew the tree line ended about 50 yards from the bottom, so if he kept heading down hill, he’d pop right out in the bottom where we’d be able to see him!
We quickly back tracked up the ridge and headed off to our right instead. We had just reached a position where we could barely see down into the bottom of the canyon when almost immediately, I spotted movement in the early morning light! I threw up my binoculars and could make out the shape of 3 elk moving across the draw, cows. If they kept coming and if we could make our way over to the ridgeline another 100 yards away, the elk would walk right out in front of us! We hustled the 100 yards as fast as we could without making too much noise. When we were about 70 yards through our 100 yard dash, the shrill of a bull’s bugle filled the early morning air! Now we knew that there was a bull with his harem and they were working their way up our side of the mountain! Just as we crested the ridge, we spotted the 7 elk, with a 6 point bull leading the way.
Now this was weird, I’d never seen a bull leading his cows…but there he was 100 yards away, right out in front of them all. None of the elk seemed to be in a big hurry, they just steadily walked along. However, the bull did stop on several occasions to bugle and rake the ground with his nice set of 6x6 antlers, so we got several opportunities to look him over. He just wasn’t quite the bull I was looking for, so I let them continue on their way.
After 15 or so minutes of just hanging around, looking and listening, we heard bull number one bugle again. It sounded like this bull was making his way across the side of the mountain, up the drainage. We bugled back to him and he and bull number two were now both answering again. We decided to continue hiking up the drainage to see if bull number one would finally make his way another 1500 yards up the hillside to where the pines and quakies thinned out a little bit. After about an hour, we had made our way out onto a point that overlooked the canyon, we could see up, down and across the canyon. We glassed the area for several minutes and then let out another bugle. The bull immediately answered back… but he hadn’t come up the canyon as far as we thought he might. After ten minutes of calling back and forth, we could tell that the bull was making his way down into the bottom of the canyon, but he was still several hundred yards back down the drainage. We were almost positive that this was a satellite bull, following bull number two (or us), but we weren’t leaving anything to doubt. We started making our way back down the canyon where we were hoping the bull might make an appearance. The bull was on the move, bugling every minute or so!
400 yards later, we were in a perfect position to see our side of the mountain, along with the entire bottom below us. We sat in silence for a few moments…listening. Then suddenly, several cow elk appeared 150 yards below us! The cows were making their way, right up a small draw in front of us. Now we could hear the cows calling, they were very vocal, calling back and forth to each other. Then the sound that we were hoping to hear, the booming bugle of bull number one, followed by the low grumble of his grunt! This was no satellite bull, he had a harem! As eight of his cows made their way past us at 150 yards, the 6 point bull elk finally came into view. There he was…at the tail end of the herd of eighteen cows!
As we watched the elk make their way up the small draw, we had just enough time to size up bull number one before his decision to veer off the beaten path became a problem. I don’t know if the old bull sensed that something was wrong or if he just decided to make his own trail up the hillside, but he now was 50 yards further away from the point where the cows had passed by. So, why did his choice of a different path pose a problem? Well, because this new path would cause him to disappear from sight behind a small outcropping of rocks at least 100 yards sooner than the other elk. I had a matter of seconds to get off a shot or he would be gone! I quickly dropped to one knee and could barely see the bull over the small brush in front of me. In an instant, I decided on a high shoulder shot...I wanted to drop the old bull in his tracks. Note: In the picture below, I shot from the small opening in the trees between my gun barrel and the elk's right antler. As the crosshairs of my .340 Weatherby came to rest on his withers, I touched off a shot and dropped the bull that I had waited for, for nearly two decades!
A quick phone call back to camp with the news of our success caused our dad, Jerry, to drop everything and come help us with the real work! Eleven and a half hours later, we were back in camp with our elk hanging in the trees, enjoying each others company around the campfire. The memories of this elk hunt will be with our family forever!
NOTE: I talked to one guy that was down on the San Juan and he said that this was the absolute worst year for elk that he had ever seen. Then a good friend of mine (who took a nice bull elk on the Book Cliffs a couple of years ago) hunted the Book Cliffs on horseback for a week with one of his buddies and they ended up coming home empty handed. They passed on several bulls because they never saw a bull elk worth shooting. Sounds like a case where too many limited entry permits are being given out year over year…in my opinion.