I thought I'd share a trip report from my LE bull elk hunt last month. It's been a whirlwind. By way of background, I got the Expo tag for this hunt. I only had my 11-yr old son (Cody) with me. I have five sons (ages 22, 20, 17, 15 and 11), but couldn't get the older ones to join me for lame reasons like "work" and "school." My cousin agreed to join me for the first three days. I figured I was going in really short-handed, but as the saying goes, all is well that ends well. Overall, it was the toughest and coldest elk hunt I've ever done. High's were usually in the teens or low 20s, and that was in the town of Panguitch. Up on the mountain it was often single digits or sub zero temps. I think I spent $50 on hand/toe warmers over the course of the hunt.
Day One - Saw a ton of sign in the AM, and two young bulls in the afternoon. I thought about shooting one that was a 4x5, but decided to pass in spite of Cody's begging me to shoot it. After the next 48 hours I started questioning that decision.
Day Two - Bumped 6-7 bulls right after shooting light in the morning, with at least 3 of them being good, mature bulls. I was stupid and took my ATV too far along a ridge. One nice 6x6 peeled off the group and fled back down the draw, while the others went up and over a saddle. I spent the next two hours trying to relocate the single bull down the draw, but no dice.
Day Three, Four, Five and Six - The next four days was the grind. We hiked, glassed, and covered tons of area on our ATVs, often sitting on a windswept ridge in 18" of snow. We found a lot of sign, but no shooter bulls. We saw a bunch of cows and a single raghorn with them on Day Six. They were walking across a ridge at 600+ yards. Again, Cody pleading for me to shoot the small 4x4, but no way was I going to lob rounds at that distance at a walking 4x4 with cows around him. And yes, I took that opportunity to teach Cody that shots like that are unethical. We tried three new areas of the unit, with the same result. I started to get really nervous at this point.
Day Seven - It was getting down to the wire. In the afternoon we went up the same area where we saw the bulls on Day Two and hiked up in some junipers and pinions. We saw tons of sign, but our visibility was terrible. We would only bump them out without seeing them, so we backed out and drove up onto a ridge opposite the one we were in. I was glassing up the ridge. It was super cold and windy, and right when I was thinking about packing it in Cody alerts me to two bulls coming out of the cover on the opposite ridge where we were an hour earlier, probably 600 yards away. It was 5:10 so I only had about 30 min of shooting light. We decided to make a go of it so we grabbed the bipod and rifle, and we hustled down the ridge to get closer. There were three bulls, and they kept going in and behind brush and trees, so I lost sight of them twice. Cody reacquired them both times and pointed them out. I sat down in the snow, set up my bipod and fortunately the biggest bull of the group presented a perfect broadside shot. I looked at my trajectory table taped to my rifle estimating he was about 400 yards away (it ended up being 430 yards). I held high 12 inches and shot. All it took was one. He only took a few steps and dropped. I set a waypoint where I shot and another where we found him and verified 430 yards. We went back and gathered our gear and walked back the the ATVs. It was super fortunate that there was an ATV trail in between the two ridges. I thought we’d be looking for him for a while in the dark, but Cody found him in less than 3 minutes after hiking up that opposite ridge from the ATV trail. I believe he was the same bull that split off from the group of bulls on Day Two.
After some celebration, then of course the work started. With the sun going down the temp was dropping rapidly. I’m glad I had a fire starting kit in Cody’s pack, and we quickly started a fire that gave us heat and light because field dressing and quartering a bull elk essentially by yourself takes a REALLY long time. We got to him around 6:00 and we got back to my truck at 11:00. The ATV trail was a mere 300 or so yards from where he dropped and almost all downhill. We packed out the head and the backstraps, which had the ATV bottoming out on a fairly rough trail back to the truck. The next morning we packed out the quarters in just two trips. Cody, who weighs only 85 lbs, packed out both front quarters that probably weighed 60 lbs each. Seriously, I could not have done it without him. The kid has a great set of eyes. It's as much his bull as it is mine.
The trip ended great, but honestly, if you were to offer me this tag again next year, I would have to think about it. I lost about 10 lbs and my body needed to recover for a week after this ordeal. While no one wishes for a brutally hard/cold hunt, it's often those hunts that create the best memories and where we learn the most. I learned a ton about my son, who is a legit, tough-as-nails, true hunting bad-ass. He went with me on every hunt (except a couple morning hunts where the day before I had taken him on a multi-mile hike in deep snow), often in single-digit weather. He never complained about hiking, the cold, getting up at 4:30, being tired. I’m sure in the future I’ll forget all the hardships and pain and only remember the good parts, but until then I think I’m going to plan elk hunts for October. After we got home my neighbor came over and scored him for me. A solid 325. The only rip-off is that I got this bull on Nov-18, we drove home on Nov-19, and my dad died the next day before Cody and I could go over and tell him about it. That's the only regret I have, I should've called and told him about it on the drive home, (I guess I thought it'd be better in person.)