Like me, more of you than not, saw the “U Word” to the right side of our units of choice in Utah’s Elk draw meaning “Unsuccessful”. My mind shifted to a Montana elk tag I had drawn and was planning that hunt when I received a phone call from Utah’s DWR calling to tell me someone had turned in their elk tag and I was next on the list & wondered if I wanted it. DUH! I quickly said yes! The planning was underway but as the hunt neared I couldn’t turn up a good bull. Nothing on the actual scouting trip so I called the few people I knew in the area plus did some “social media scouting” It was looking grim! I was told by several people to turn the tag back in and keep my points, that the unit didn’t have a lot of BIG bulls in it. I heard the unit was “on it’s way down genetically” & this had me worried. I never thought I’d be contemplating turning in a Limited Entry Utah Elk tag after finally getting one! My gut said otherwise though, I honestly felt I could hunt it and make something special happen. I battled hard with this for weeks then decided 10 days before the hunt I was going with my gut & keeping the tag! I was going to push hard and have no regrets! Then 3 days before the hunt I had an inspiring, detailed dream of the bull I was going to kill.....
I was way past the point of knowing I was going to have to earn my bull when Monday, Day 6 rolled around. I’d had several close calls and failed for one reason or another. I was headed to camp to fix a flat tire running all the “could haves” through my head when Pat said wouldn’t it be funny if we spotted a big old bull from the road and it wasn’t a minute after Dave & I agreed when we spotted elk at 400 yards feeding in a tiny opening. Dave stopped the truck but they were all cows. I felt there was no way this time of year they’d be without a bull so I decided to make a stalk & find out. Pat & I headed in and Dave was to watch with his spotting scope. We made it through the first set of timber and had 100+ yards of open ground to cover before we’d be to the edge of the trees hiding these elk. It was just a sliver of pines that concealed them and we worried we’d get caught if we moved across the opening toward them. The wind was getting bad and we needed to get below them but there was just no way at this point. My gut told me this was my only chance & I needed to move straight at them NOW. I was half way there when an incredible bugle sounded out confirming a bull was with the cows! We got to the edge of the trees and I could see he was a 6x6 but couldn’t tell how big as his front tines & head were behind a tree. I knew this was going to be my chance on this hunt! He’s was at 45 yards but I needed to ease around a pine tree for the right shot when the wind hit me square in the back, the cows immediately bolted and the bull whirled to follow, I saw his massive front tines and in a split second completely instinctively as he turned my gun was up, hammer cocked, and sights were settled on the bull of my dreams. It was a severe quartering away shot when the smoke poured out of the TC sending my 295 grain Power Belt slug on it’s way. As the gun erupted the bull instantly hunched down & cut hard around a baby pine. I reloaded telling Pat I know I hit him good! We ran to where he disappeared but there was no blood! I couldn’t believe it, Had I just missed this bull? I was dumbfounded as I followed his tracks through the thick timber. I played the shot over & over in my head as I scoured the track, NOTHING! 100 yards of tracks & no blood! I met Dave back in the opening where we’d spotted them and gave 3 cow calls to Pat to let him know where I was. Dave’s face was indescribable when I told him I’d missed. Pat met us and we confirmed no blood on either of the herd’s exit trails. I must have pulled the shot just outside at the angle or high? I still couldn’t believe I missed! Then Pat saved the day when he said he could hear cows talking above where we had lost the trail in the timber, instantly confirming to me that I DID hit him with the shot. I knew there was no way those cows would be hanging around calling after all this. I decided we should get back on the trail & move slow, listening and looking for any movement of the bedded bull. We hadn’t gone 30 yards from where we turned around when Patrick motioned for me to come over to him. The look on his face was dead serious! He was seeing elk! I hurried over to him & said “what you got?” He said the elk was right there! The bull I asked? He pointed to where he was. It was so thick that even at 30 yards it took me a few seconds to see the bull. He was broadside & looking right at us. I could make out his distinct 3rd tines & then found his vitals. I raised my gun to put another bullet in him as Patrick ducked down on the ground in front of me. As bad as I wanted to kill this bull I just couldn’t shoot my gun over my friend! Yeah it was only five feet and what are the odds of something going wrong? Still I couldn’t do it! I tipped my barrel up and eased to Pat’s side but as I did the bull caught movement and took a few steps totally disappearing in the pines! I figured I’d just lost my chance at taking that bull when I caught just a little movement through a hole in all the mess we were in. I grabbed my bino’s and confirmed it was him! He was standing, facing me straight on. I could see his neck perfectly through the small opening. I raised the gun & settled the open sights in the center & touched the trigger. It was so loud we didn’t even hear him crash off! I hoped he was down right there! I reloaded again and ran to where he was standing to find a thick patch of black neck hair and some good blood. I told Pat we should give him a while where I shot him in the neck & I was unsure how long it takes for a bull to bleed out. He agreed but only seconds after we heard branches break sounding 40 yards from us. We both knew it was him and that he was down we just didn’t know if he was out. We waited 29 minutes before a storm hit forcing us on the blood trail but in 35 short yards I was standing over an incredible bull! My dream bull! Completely elated we called for Dave to come meet us and snapped a few photos to text to our family & close friends. As we looked over this majestic bull the first shot was confirmed a hit and a devastating one at that but strangely it just didn’t bleed out.
All the emotions of this hunt and the pressure I’d put on myself not wanting to waste a tag I’d waited so long to get raced through me. I was on top of the world, Dave & Patrick were too and I was glad to have 2 great friends there with me. We took a few photos and then quickly headed to camp to get some needed gear. At camp our emotional high quickly hit an instant low as we learned that Patrick’s cousin Joe Boehme who had been hunting not far from us was killed in a hunting accident. Camp went from smiles to tears in seconds bringing life and it’s fragility full circle. I hugged Patrick as he wept on my shoulder, I had no words, there are no words when a loved one is lost. This was tragic news nobody wants to hear but I’m glad I was there for a friend when he really needed one.
Knowing that I had a bull down & needed to take care of it quickly we made sure Patrick was okay and headed back in to work on my elk. Darkness was closing in on us fast having to break out the head lamps to finish quartering & caping. We were nearly done when my knife suddenly clamped shut on my hand the blade stopping quickly at the bone. I knew I needed stitches for sure as I opened the blade & pulled it out of my finger, blood instantly pouring out. Patrick hurried & cut his shoe lace for a tourniquet to slow the bleeding. The decision was made to hurry and get this bull off the mountain as the storm was upon us but I could do nothing! As soon as I’d lower my hand below my shoulders blood would just stream out of my finger. Dave & Patrick took over & finished the cape. We hauled all of the meat to a meadow as the storm was let loose on us! I finally told the guys I was concerned about blood loss & nerve damage. I felt I should get to a hospital. We were soaked to the bone & the storm was getting worse by the minute so it was agreed by all to get off the mountain. Dave had pressing work issues that needed his attention, I thanked him for his help and sent him on his way while I headed to the hospital where the Doc & some nurses seemed all to happy to stick needles in my finger. An hour later Pat & I were headed back up the mountain to finish the job but the storm was insane! We decided it was just too dangerous to attempt at midnight especially with the day we’d had and found a spot to sleep for the night.
At 7:00AM we hit it hard & finished just beating another storm. We were headed home with a bull I’d been waiting to crash into for a long time and some incredible memories of another hunt burned into my soul forever. It’s funny how it all comes together sometimes. After all the miles and canyons covered, hours of glassing, bulls passed on and stalks blown I’d have never thought I’d catch the bull of my dreams from a highway yet I have no doubt I was right where I was supposed to be when it all came together. I had pushed hard, gritted it out & killed my bull on the exact day & almost precisely the canyon I had dreamed I would. Call it what you want, I’ll call it Destiny.
I’d like to thank God above for the opportunity, my wife Nicole, and my good friends Rich, Dave, & Patrick for their help. Also all my facebook friends that gave me info on the unit as well, I appreciate your efforts.