Utah Wildlife Forum banner
1 - 20 of 23 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
68 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Ok technically I'm a second-timer as I hunted Idaho last year with a brother. But this is my first time going ground-up in my own area.

The snow was a game changer. I was going into this hunt feeling a little discouraged. My hunting partner backed out at the last minute. In all my scouting trips, I had failed to see a single elk (aside from trail cam pics). I wasn't seeing much sign and, even though the trail cam proved there were animals in there, I had very little confidence I could find them.

The snow changed everything.

I camped as close to the trailhead as I could. My original plan was to hike in as early as possible and glass from one of the high ridges as hunters poured into the drainages. With the snow, I felt that getting on the ridge in the dark was a bad idea. It has some nasty terrain that could easily lead to a broken leg or ankle, so I slept in. Maybe a little longer than intended. I hit the trail just before dawn and 2 groups had already gone in ahead.

The snow had stopped around 6 or 7 am, and I made it to the base of the ridge at 9. I topped up my water at a small lake and started up the ridge. I saw a few interesting tracks, and then about 2/3rd of the way up I came across a fresh set of tracks in the snow I thought might belong to a smaller bull elk. Larger, solo tracks. I started following them.

At some point he cut up a boulder field to the top of the ridge. Surprising. I had climbed those boulders during the summer and figured an elk would never use that route. I knew there were beds just over the ridge top and hoped he was leading me to one of them. Not the case. He continued along the ridge top, never stopping or slowing, just making a bee-line for wherever he was headed.

After following him a couple miles we were nearing the back of this particular basin. I realized he was bailing out and heading to the next basin. As his tracks continued above the tree line, I figured I'd at least climb up the next ridge and see if I could glass where he'd gone.

Suddenly I saw a cow and calf come tearing across the mountain in front of me from my left above the tree line. They crossed in front of me and went out of view behind a clump of shrubs. I sent a cow call their way just for fun. They didn't care. They were spooked and high-tailing it off the ridge. I watched them go out of view a final time to my right and then continued on.

Not two minutes later a young bull came trotting from the same direction the cow had come, looking right at me. He disappeared behind a shrub clump and I dove behind my own shrubs and pulled off my scope cover. He trotted into view about 300 yards away and stopped, quartering towards and still looking at me. I scoped him but the adrenaline and distance made it impossible to get a steady shot. He stood there for a few more seconds and started trotting away. I cow called. He stopped and turned.

I dropped to a knee for a steadier shot. This was not great but better, and I squeezed the trigger. No bang. I forgot the safety.

Cursing, I watched the bull turn to leave yet again. I sent another cow call. He stopped and turned broadside. My kneeling stance till wasn't steady enough. I needed to go prone. The bull stood there looking at me while I unbuckled my pack, dropped it to the ground, laid down and put him in my cross hairs. I squeezed. BOOM. Thwack.

I hit him right through the vitals and I thought he was done on the spot. He staggered for a second, then turned and started to run. I cow called. He stopped yet again and looked at me. I put two more rounds in him. After the 3rd shot his back legs buckled and he laid down. Then he stood and tried to walk. I cow called once more, he froze, I put one more round in him and he dropped for good.

Hands shaking, I put 4 more rounds in my magazine while I waited for him to bleed out. After 15 minutes, I walked up the hill to where he laid and sized him up. What a gorgeous animal. He had a jaggedy 4x4 rack and a smaller body. Just perfect. Time of death: 11:30 am.

I got to work quartering him out with the gutless method. This is my first big game kill, ever. Youtube has been my sole teacher for butchering, so you can imagine I struggled a bit. I think I did ok for a first-timer. Quarters, back strap, tenderloin, rib and neck meat all went in the bags. 4 hours start to finish. The weather had turned snowy, and I couldn't see the tree line down below. My water bottles had mostly frozen. I was getting antsy to get off the ridge. I hauled the bags down the hill to a stand of shrubs, knocked away the snow and set the bags on top for good air circulation. I put a front quarter in my pack and started down.

Back at camp I unloaded and drove out for reception. I had contacted my dedicated packout buddy coming down the mountain... but I had yet to hear back. No answer to text messages and my call went straight to voicemail. Uh oh. I'll be a little vague with how far in the elk was, but let's say between 5 and 10 miles. I decided to drive home for the night so I could stay in cell reception.

The next morning I went in alone and retrieved another game bag. I moved the remaining bags under the shrubs to keep them in the shade. That night I made contact with my buddy, and we went in the next day (yesterday) for the last 2 bags.

What an incredible experience. I'm exhausted, sore, and elated. 10/10 would do again, although next year I need to figure out how to shoot one below the ridge. And nail down a more reliable hunting partner. The snow laid out a roadmap to elk activity in the area, and I'm much more confident I can find them in the future.

Elk was taken with a Savage 10 in .308 with a Leupold 3.5-10x VX-3i. Shooting Core-Lokt 180 gr PSP.

 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,998 Posts
Congrats on finding some success! Thanks for sharing. Honestly one of my favorite parts of this forum is hearing the stories and successes.

I'm sure you'll never forget that experience. Nice work!
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
3,861 Posts
Congratulations, thanks for sharing a great story.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
458 Posts
So cool. Thanks for sharing.

That's awesome to see your hard work all spring and summer paying off. Good for you. You're a better man than I!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
655 Posts
Nice work! You now know where they head when pressured. If you can find where they started, it could save you some miles....but maybe not effort. They can come from a long ways away, or from some nasty, nasty cover.

That's a lot of work, but it was well worth the effort. Snow can be an equalizer, but it can also make it tough to walk in. Glad you made it in and out safely. That's some great eating right there. Probably a 3 year old bull.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,322 Posts
You put in the right amount of effort. That's further than most would want to go with that weight. Good job.
 

·
Administrator
Joined
·
21,518 Posts
Yaay!
 
1 - 20 of 23 Posts
Top