A few years back several of us drew out a Limited Entry tag here in Utah called the Nebo Unit. It was a crazy 3 weeks of hunting resulting in my shooting a really nice bull that we searched all night and the next day for and could never find. You can read that story by clicking here.
A reader named Alex came across our story when he had won a muzzleloader tag from the same unit. He reached out to me and after some emailing back and forth was able to point him in the right direction. I was unable to get away and help on that hunt but he was able to tag out you can find that story here.
Well as luck would have it he used his points and was able to draw the same tag this year. He reached out to me and I was able to join him for his first day of the hunt. He had only 4 days to get it done and on two of them, we had a large snowstorm coming through the area.
I got up at 4 am and headed down to meet him at the bottom of the mountain. We met up at 5:30 am and drove up to his camp spot. It was still dark so we waited until the sun started to break and then headed down a trail that Alex had discovered on his last hunt. We worked our way down the trail and up onto one side of a horseshoe ridge. With the storm coming in the wind was blowing in every direction. As we were on this ridge trying to decide how to best approach the wind I heard a faint Elk bugle down at the bottom of the horseshoe. I answered the bull with a quick locator bugle. We decided with the wind situation that staying on the ridge would be our best bet. There was a trail that ran across the top of the horseshoe ridge over to the other side. So we got up on that trail.
Meanwhile, we still had this Elk sounding off from below. I would throw out a bugle here and there so he could track our movements. We cut off the trail and crossed over the opposite side of the horseshoe ridge from where we started. I let out a bugle and got this high-pitched call back it really wasn’t even a bugle kinda a weird scream. But that was soon followed by multiple other bulges down below us and another way behind us. We had 3-4 bulls 70 yards below us in the trees. It was either a bachelor club or they were all down in the bowl and were tracking my calls and we had brought them together as we moved around to the other side of the ridge. We could see them at the bottom of the hill and two of the bulls started fighting with each other. Alex dropped down the hill to set up for a shot but they seemed content with staying down at the bottom. They were really quick to bugle and I had one of them screaming at me.
I decided to move further down the ridge about 20 yards and got Alex set up down the hill. I raked a tree and kicked around some branches and then ripped off another bugle followed by a melody of cow calls. This got their attention and the two large bulls came charging up the hill. I barely had time to move and get out of the open. The smaller of the two bulls came charging right up to Alex I would say he was 7 yards away from him. He ripped off a bugle right in front of Alex. Alex had his gun up on him I was worried for a moment that he was going to fire. This bull was a 5×5 and smaller. Luckily the larger of the two bulls had marched up the hill right toward me and was 15 yards to Alex’s right. The larger bull fired off a scream and Alex turned and saw him. Alex fired and we all thought the hunt was over 45 min. into the opening morning and it was like watching the Avengers full of action. So we met up where he had shot the bull and were talking about it. We decided to go find first blood and then wait it out and then go find him. We started searching for blood but could not find a drop. Then Alex’s brother-in-law said he was right there. And sure enough, 10 yards away laying in some baby quakes was the bull. But he was still alive and moving his head around. I told Alex that if he is just laying here while we are 10 yards away talking and making noise that he is hit well and will be done soon. I went to sit down on a log and the bull stands up and gingerly starts to walk away into the thicker woods. The crazy part was as we looked through the binoculars we could not see any blood on either side of his body. I sent out some cow calls and got him to slow down a bit. Alex went after to attempt a second shot but lost sight of him as he walked into the thick timber.
There is something strange about the genetics of the Elk up there in the Nebo. We call them Super Elk. If you read the story about the bull I shot I got a real good hit on him and he was bleeding good. We tracked him that night for 5 hours. He was coughing up lung chunks and at the last point had walked through a thick patch of brush and had left a blood smear 18 inches wide. And we could never find him. I know of two additional stories of Bulls that were hit real well up there and the same thing happened after a really strong blood trail it all of a sudden disappears like they simply flew off and vanished.
We were able to find a really small amount of blood where the bull had laid down and was able to find some blood higher on a branch indicating he was hit somewhere in the body. So we felt like he would simply go lay back down and we just needed to wait it out. I honestly think this is the hardest thing for a hunter to do. So we waited it out longer. Eventually, we got back on his trail but he was not bleeding at all. We got to the last point Alex was able to see him and there was a bull standing in the trees. Alex got off another shot but it was in some really thick trees and a small window. The bull took off running but this time there were some cows up above him that also took off. For a brief moment, there was some concern that it was a different bull because up to that point, the bull Alex had shot was not running with any cows. Again we started searching for blood and could not find any. I could hear noise up above us something was moving through the trees. As we were hiking into the spot we walked by this thick group of old pines in an area that no longer sees a lot of daylight. I had a feeling that the bull was headed to this area to lie down. So I walked over to this area and sure enough at the base of the trees was the bull laying down still alive and kicking but obviously injured enough to not want to get up and run. I grabbed Alex and he swung around to get in a good position. The bull stood again and Alex made another shot. The bull went 15 yards and dropped. The hunt was over.
When we were skinning it the first shot was a pass it was low and for some reason did not bleed much. We later found out he was bleeding pretty well inside. The second shot was a miss and the third shot was on the money. I was able to follow his tracks from the point that we found him laying down to the location of the second shot so we were sure at this point there wasn’t a second bull.
It was an action-packed morning. I love hunting Elk. They are amazing creatures. There are two things that I enjoy as much as shooting an Elk. One of them is calling and communicating with them. To hear an Elk bugle in the wild is one thing. To have him bugle 7 yards in front of you will make the hair on your neck stand up. The other is to watch them fight or rub a tree. Being able to witness that up close is a rare experience. Its then that you can truly see their raw power. Congrats to Alex. He is now on the waiting period unless he can pull out some of that good luck and draw again at one of the Expos.