Utah Elk Hunting the 12 year Bull…
Utah Elk Hunting the 12 year Bull..
12 years ago I began applying for a limited entry bull tag in Utah never really feeling that I would draw, so when I received notice that I drew this tag it felt surreal. The last few years I had been applying for the Beaver and La Sal units but last year I decided to make a change. See my friend Derrick Kiesel invited me up to hunt deer in the central Mountains Manti and it was on this trip I recognized the potential for draw success and the chance to tag a mature bull sporting a nice rack.
Its kinda funny I never opened my Utah Bull Tag up the envelope sat sealed until a week before my hunt, I was all set to hunt the archery season, I had drawn an archery deer tag as well so I set my travel dates for late August hoping to score a buck in velvet and a bull just coming out of velvet. So to my amazement when I finally opened the tag and realized the tag was an any legal weapon Limited Entry Bull tag I freaked out! The tag was so much better than I hopped but it also meant I had to make some drastic changes to my schedule.
After working out the details I was on my way to UT my plan was to hunt with my bow and keep the gun in the truck in case there was a bull that I just couldn’t pass up trying for with the rifle. I hunted the first 3.5 days with my bow and had many encounters with satellite bulls and bulls that just quite didn’t make the mark. The 4 morning things seemed a little slower not as intense although the bulls were bugling there wasn’t as many and the intensity like I said wasn’t there. With bow in hand once again, Shane and I decided we would drop down in the canyon before light and chase bugles in the dark. My plan was to slip in as close as possible and wait till the sun to come up and then make my move. The plan was working perfectly We had slipped into about 175 yards from what I believed was the herd bull. It was getting light enough to shoot so we began to close the distance only using cow sounds. We were making up ground when I heard BOOOOOM! Then followed up by 4 additional shots. All the woods went quite. Crap!!! Someone just shot the bull we were chasing! Immediately crossed my mind, even though there were 15-20 other bulls in this canyon and I had no real way of knowing they had got him or any for that matter. But my heart sunk anyway. I waited some time before I let out a bugle to see if the big bull would respond all his satellite bulls called back but he did not answer. I was convinced or at least trying to convince myself he was dead. We spent the rest of the morning chasing bugles around hoping to get a glimpse of one of my 3 target bulls. The morning action was coming to a halt and I just didn’t have it in me to stalk through bedding areas and I could tell that Shane was dragging as well. I looked at him and said lets go get a hot meal and regroup, so we began the arduous 1,000 ft climb back up out of this canyon to the truck. It was the first afternoon we were able to take a nap and really it was just what we both needed to get revitalized and motivated to move on…
We head out that afternoon with the idea of going to look at a new area but something was tugging at me, we needed to get back to 100 cow canyon.. (which is what we were calling it now because in the archery deer season we had glassed up 100+ cows with one giant bull in there and I knew that this would be a hot spot for elk come the rut.) They shot 5 times something was telling me they had missed, and plus we knew there was 2 other bulls in there that I would be very happy to shoot a Tall 6 with giant fronts that we were calling “Fronts” and a super heavy 6 that had all the makings of a 370 bull but just had super short beams and short 3rds we were calling “Godzilla” because his bugle sound more like Godzilla than an elk.
“Tonight we are gonna make a change!” We simultaneously decided to glass from the other side of the canyon then we had been glassing from. Almost immediately we were finding elk it seemed as if they all switch sides and were hanging out on the opposite face. There were younger bulls all over the place….. It was getting to that time that we needed to turn something up so we could make a move on them, I was watching a 5 x5 bull bedded and I was describing his position to Shane when he said in an excited voice I’ve got “Fronts”… I quickly spun my binos to his direction.. He was working 10 cows in a shoot about 3/4 of the way down the ridge. I didn’t hesitate I told Shane ” you sit back here with the radio and keep and eye on him we don’t have much light left”… I grabbed my rifle out of the truck fearing I would run into the same problem I did the night before…. I had gotten to 150 yards of him and ran out of light.. I did not want to repeat that scenario.
After some stunt driving I made it to the other side of the canyon where I would begin my stalk. I left the truck and found myself running to make up as much time as possible. I still had to drop down one ridge go up another and than drop down one more time to get to them. I finally made it right above them and I was scanning below me to see if the path was clear.. I could tell there was a bench that was obstructing my view to the bull. I could hear his screams down bellow me I started downward when another bull pops out on the bench. I quickly assessed it was not the bull I was after but now I had a problem. I needed to get passed him to get to “Fronts”. I began to sneak down the hillside using the contour and watching the other bull closely when out of nowhere I could hear I giant bugle in the tree line 150 yards to my 1 oclock… Could it be? ….”Godzilla” Confirmation came within seconds over the radio as Shane muttered “Godzilla is below you” and his cows are close. I could hear the cows so I quickly made a few soft calf mews and within seconds the cows broken the tree line and headed in my direction 95,85,75,65 I watched my rangefinder spit back their yardage. The smaller bull began to bugle at the cows now in his site which infuriated Godzilla. He let out a name sake shrill that was almost deafening even at that range. I almost forgot I had a rifle in my hands I laid down on the one flat spot on the hill side tucked out of sight behind a large sage type brush. I knew he was coming for those cows he let out another monster bugle before he broke the tree line. Like a well written play I watched in my scope as he walked toward the cows standing now only 65 yards away from me. “Why didn’t I bring my bow” bounced around in my head in those final seconds as he approached. He got to the cows and as if on cue he turned and let out a bugle as I squeezed through the trigger holding tight on his vitals. Booooom! The first shot hit perfect but stood there as if nothing was wrong I quickly racked the bolt and loaded another… Booom! the 2nd shot hit its mark again now he was stumbling and heading down hill I quickly jumped up to a knee and racked another. If he made it to that ledge this crappy recovery would have become exponentially worst . Booooom! the third hit its mark I aimed between the shoulder blades and he hit the ground tumbling to the bench bellow me.
We did it! We got Godzilla! It was bitter sweet.. The hunt was over and I had waited 12 years to draw it.. I was feeling happiness for taking such a awesome bull, sadness that the hunt was coming to an end and regret for using the rifle… See I had gone back on my pact I had with made with myself 340″ with the bow or has to be at least 360″ to break out the boom stick. My only consolation was that I snuck within bow range and I am confident could have done it with my bow. I made peace with it before I made it back to the truck but one more thing was still nagging at me…. the giant bull from august…. was he really shot or was he still down there….
I decided to let Godzilla lay over night because Shane was 1.5 miles away and we would have never been able to get him out on our own.. Thank God my friends Jake and Hunter drove up from AZ to help us pack out this bull, we got to the bull at first light and began to process him and get him off the mountain.
11 hours later we finally made it back to the truck with the final load… With just a few minutes of light left we decided to glass the canyon one more time and wouldn’t you know it there he was the Giant from August laying there by himself on the hillside a crossed the canyon… LOL All I could do was laugh… So typical of me and my life but in the end I am happy with Godzilla and what we accomplished it just gives me fuel to strive towards the next adventure….
It’s amazing how many moving parts goes into a hunt.. I wanna say thank you to Derrick Kiesel for introducing me to the Manti a couple years ago and offering me his trailer to stay in, @shane_edgar for being there for me when no one else would.. @jakedomres and @hunter_mcgaughey for driving all night to come help pack him out , @penrod.cody for spending the first day and a half chasing bugles with me, @dommie44 for running my business while I’m gone and lastly @mariastallone for holding down the fort while I chase my dreams #elkhunter #elkseason #elkhunting #johnstallone #wapitiwednesday #rmef