This year I was lucky to draw out a limited entry bull tag in Utah’s Central Nebo unit. This was totaly unexpected as I went into the drawing with no points. Utah’s draw system consists of points you get a point for ever year you don’t draw out the higher the points the better your odds. As previously posted Scott and Allen with Addicted also drew out this tag. As well as Scott father. So we had a big task before us 4 bulls in a very difficult unit to hunt.
Scott spent countless hours this summer up scouting. Allen and I got up there twice to scout and we were able to find an area that we wanted to hunt. We had an advantage on this area because the previous two years we had close friends draw out these tags and assisted them in their hunts. Last year Scott was able to call in a real nice bull for Mike the owner of TimberHawk packs. We have nicknamed this area the Hilton. We had all decided that we wanted to leave the Hilton alone until the last few weeks of the hunt. As I mentioned before Allen and I found a nice spot to hunt that had a stream running at the base of this bowl of heavy Pines and Aspens.
In Utah the deer hunt and the elk hunt open the same weekend and run the same 4 weeks. My father and brothers had not drawn out an elk tag and we have a tradition of hunting deer that opening weekend of the hunt. Our hunt starts mid August so still very early for elk hunting. So I opted to go hunt the opener with my father. Besides passing on a spike at 5 yards and Utahs first snow storm the hunt was uneventful. Allen on the other hand went up and hunted the spot we had picked out. Since it was still early he decided to set up on the water and see if he could catch anything coming in. It was a slow weekend no elk on the water. When we compared notes the next week I was not too optimistic on that area due to the fact Allen had not seen any sign. We had seen 3 bulls on the water during one of the scouting trips but Allen didn’t find any new tracks or sign of elk frequently visiting the water.
So My first weekend came to go and hunt the area. I decided that maybe we should look for another area to hunt. On Google earth I had found a body of water that was on a ridge that overlooked the Hilton. From what I could see there was good coverage all around so I thought that would be a good area to pursue. We bush whacked towards the area and eventually found this body of water that ended up just being a swamped out grass area. As soon as I got to the water I knew exactly where we were. We were closer to the Hilton than I had expected. Not wanting to turn the day into a wasted quest I decided to break the rule and go into the Hilton to see what kind of sign was in there and see if we could come across some elk. The day was quite, no sign or impressions that the elk were in there. Great the one ace we had in the back pocket was all dried up.
The next day Allen and I went over to the spot he hunted that opening morning. We glassed the area and came to the conclusion that we needed to get on top of the bowl. We decided to make a huge loop to the top and then drop straight down into the bowl. As we started into the bowl we ended up coming into an area full of fresh rubs and elk sign. We started to get excited. As we continued down the trail we had two cows cross 40 yards in front of us. We were excited because all of the elements of a good elk area were there. Cows, Water steep coverage, and fresh sign. It was still early and way too hot so the bulls were quite and no responsive.
We kept working this area and one morning as we came in we jumped a little 3 point, a spike and 2 cows on the water. I tried to tempt Allen into taking the 3 point but he passed. With 4 bulls to tag the goal was to try to get Allen done early so we could work on my bull. But this 3 point was crazy small we called him fork because the 3 point side literally looked like a fork stuck on his head. The spike was more impressive. We worked up the ridge line and got into a real nice area that had a trail that was well worked. I let out a bugle and nothing. We worked through the timber cow calling. We got to an opening and I bugled and we got a bull to answer and he was mad. He started screaming at us and moved up the hill quickly. We couldn’t agree on how to set up on him. Allen didn’t want to stay in the clearing and wanted to get back into the timber. We moved into the timber I stayed back while Allen went in deeper. Unfortunately the bull was quicker and had already gotten into the timber so as Allen moved into position the bull busted him and took off. It was a great lesson on letting the bulls come to you and being patient.
That weekend I went back in that area and found out that the bear hunt was going on and there were a ton of hunters with their dogs running all over the place. There were no sign of the elk and I had the impression that the activity in there moved them out. We hunting that a few more times but never saw or heard any more elk in the area. Running out of options due to our lack of scouting. We ended back at the Hilton in hopes that the elk had moved into the area. One evening we were working down the trail occasionally bugling when we had a bull answer a little lower than the Hilton. We pursued the bull but he would only get within a couple hundred yards and would hang up. We never got to see him. A couple came through on the trail riding horses and he shut up. So we started back down the trail to the truck. We got down to the bottom when all of a sudden we hear a bull bugle 50 yards from us. At first we thought it had to be a hunter because we were only 10 minutes away from several camps. We answered back and heard the bull crashing in the trees and knew we had a bull on our hands. Allen started working towards him as I continued to bugle. I never saw the bull but saw a few cows moving through the trees. While I was bugling with this bull all of a sudden I had 3 more bulls bugling behind me. Unfortunately the sun was setting and the light was fading fast. Allen was unable to close the distance on the original bull bugling before the light ran out so he came back and we started heading out. But one of the bulls behind us was really going at it in the trees only 40 yards from us but it was so dark we could see him. We decided to sit down and just let the bulls go at each other and see if he would come out into the clearing. Sure enough he popped out 10 yards in front of us all we could see was the white tips of his antlers and the outline of his body. We were bummed that it was to dark to take a shot but it was nice seeing him and experiencing these magnificent animals in the wild. We end up nicknaming this area the Motel 6 just down the trail from the Hilton.
Labor day week end we headed out for the last push we planned on being out there for 10 days until the end of the hunt. Friday evening we headed to the same area we had all the bulls bugling. We decided to get up a little higher and just cow call until we got a response. We split up and started cow calling. After an hour of this I heard a bugle at first I thought was Allen so I ignored it. I went down to where Allen was and asked him if he had bugled but he said he hadn’t and that it was a bull. So I started bugling. It was almost a replay of the previous night. We had several bulls bugling. There was one in particular that came across as aggressive so Allen started working towards it. All of a sudden I could hear a rustling above me. I kept at the calling and then a 4 point bull walked out up the hill from me he was only in view for a few minutes and then ducked back into the trees. At this point I would have shot him so I kept trying to get him to come down the hill. I kept hearing him moving into the trees. It was getting closer and I knew he was coming down. I got ready to shoot I had my lane picked out I knew exactly where he should come down. When all of a sudden the trees parted and this nice 6 point bull comes out of the trees. I sized him up as a 340 class bull definitely a shooter. He dropped right down to the spot I had ranged earlier and I knew he was at 35 yards. I drew back and he stopped right at the 35 yard mark. He was quartered to me slightly so I placed my pin tight behind the shoulder and let it fly. With the luminocks I watched my arrow crash into his chest and saw the instant blood. Everything went to slow motion at that point because the bull started to run directly towards me. I thought I was going to get smashed so I jumped to the side and this startled him and he cut right. I could see a lot of blood coming out and knew I had a good hit even though it was a little back from where I wanted it. I cow called and he stopped with a tree between us so I couldn’t get a second shot. He walked off slowly down the hill. Part of me thought he would go down within a 100 yards but at the same time I knew that I hit him back a little further than I wanted and I didn’t get a pass though. So I decided to wait it out. It was 7:30 PM when I shot him and I wanted to give him at least 4 hours but the light was going fast so I thought lets leave him overnight. We went back to the truck and went to camp. We got back to camp and I could not stop thinking about the shot.
At 11:30 it started to look like it was going to rain. We had 6 guys that were willing to go up and track him. So I wasn’t about to turn that down. We went up and started tracking. He was leaving a consistent blood trail and it was fairly easy considering we were doing it with flashlights. We tracked him for a couple hundred yards when the blood trail ran dry. We searched and nothing. So we decided to give up for the night and head back and try some more in the morning. As we went down the hill towards the truck we got to the bottom of this hill and one of the guys saw blood on a log. So we kept at it. We ended up tracking it for another couple hundred yards and he was headed right back to where I shot him. We ended up tracking him until about 2 in the morning and nothing which was shocking because we were finding blood with tissue in it and we could see that he was bleeding out of the side I shot him on as well as his nose and mouth. Allen and I went back in the morning and thank goodness no rain. So we picked up the blood trail and tracked him up the hill for several hundred yards. He went through this area of oak-brush and you could see 20 inch areas on trees where the blood was wiped of the left side of his body. I was sure we would find him but the blood trail dried up again and we could never pick it up again. We continued to hunt that area for the rest of the week and chased several crows but never found him.
All I can say is what a hunt. It was so fun being up there with a great bunch of guys and at the end of the day I can’t complain I didn’t harvest an animal but had some amazing experiences.