I’m sitting on a ledge overlooking a big valley sloping west. A lot of Mahogany, quakes’ in spots, along with canyons of green pines going up opposing slopes to my right, some cliffs are there and we have a view point off one of them. Tom Dowland and I have tied our four mules to trees behind us deciding to watch this area for a while. Tom is my guide hired to help me find a nice trophy elk on the Monroe Unit in southern Utah. I have a premium elk tag which I have been excited about ever since I obtained it. I am thinking about Kyle my second son, who told me that he was coming to stay with us and hunt with us tomorrow. I enjoy hunting with my sons which I’ve done since they’ve been big enough, and I relate to the poem “I’ve Hunted with My Sons” by Bruce Lemon.
The Premium elk tag allows me to hunt with a bow from 8-21 to 9-17, then rifle 9-18 to 9-26, then muzzleloader 9-29 to 10-7, and then late rifle 9-13 to 9-21. That’s a lot of hunting time.
I think about my shoulder being dislocated last year on 9-1, operated on 11-5 which seemed major. I had stretched nerves, torn rotator and torn biceps along with other issues. I think the horse won! This was on my right side. I had fallen this summer hitting my left elbow which caused grief to my right shoulder add to this a bulged disc causing my sciatic nerve to give me no strength in my leg may have caused my problem in falling hurting my left shoulder. It had been a lot of hard work to get in shape and develop as much strength as time and my 62 year old body would allow. People had told me the fish and game should allow me to use a cross bow due to my injuries, but my efforts failed because my doctor never called my injuries permanent.
I had just ended the bow hunt portion of my tag, which the day before Tom and I had ridden the mules hunting, but never got a chance to use my bow. Kyle had come a few days prior to hunt with me since Tom was out on other obligations. We had a blast bugling in three good bulls, but due to my tag and my weakened arms we didn’t shoot at them, but the experience was great. We found this Monroe Mountain is a trophy elk area, but four wheelers were everywhere. Tom told me a four wheeler jamboree would be running all week and was the biggest congregation of four wheelers ever. I don’t enjoy large quantities of people while I’m hunting, but that was out of my control so why be concerned I thought. A lot goes through your mind as you watch a mountain for elk. Earlier that morning Tom and I ridden several miles, I could tell from muscle pain and stiffness. We had spotted a nice bull that Tom though was a good one, but I wasn’t in position to see him so we were hoping to get a better look by waiting here.
Prior to bow hunting here Kyle had a bow tag the same time frame on the Manti unit. He kept telling me about the fun he was having seeing elk and getting shots. My guides told me don’t worry the rut only gets better. I am retired and had a lot of time and wanted to be out amongst the elk. Being anxious I brought my trailer down to Greenwich, parked and went to the Manti to hunt with Kyle. We stayed with Guy Mills (Gooch). Gooch was a guide service that we had used in 2005 when I got 360 bull hunting with Rick Stockberger and Gooch. The first day with Gooch, we went on a short hike and found that I hadn’t acclimated to the elevation and ran out of oxygen. Our house is at 6400 feet elevation and we were around ten thousand. Being 62 and the boys late 30s to early 40s I couldn’t keep up. A large bull bugled and they were forced to leave me and stock and chase the bull we named Boomer for his weird eye guard. Kyle thought it looked like a boomerang. They chased bulls here and there all day. I drove the truck to them save steps meeting them where I guessed they would come out. I t was fun hearing the sounds of them then the bull.
That night we talked about the next day. We were going in the area with flashlight leaving the house at 3:30 am hoping that I had acclimated to the elevation. We hiked 4 miles up and up my ears were equalizing as we climbed, happiness came to me ’cause it was working and I was keeping up ok seeing Gooch’s taillights all day keeping ahead, but making sure we could see him. Just at first light bugling started and it was interesting to hear the bulls’ gonkel, I had heard for the first time and it sounds like a plastic ball in a tube burping back and forth. We chased several bulls one herd had four bulls in it and we found the herd bull too worried about the other three to care about an outsider like we must have been. We left that herd and headed up to the ridge to get ahead of them. It never came together so we went up and over the ridge to another canyon where eagle eye Gooch spotted several cows below us. They were in a thick group of quakes bugling was working. I was staying in behind the other two so my movement wouldn’t interfere.
I remember thinking that Kyle had hunted last year hard and never had it come together for him. He told me when he was ten he had been at his little league coach’s home and noticed a large elk mount when the son of the owner had told him that his dad had shot it with a bow. Kyle told me his goal ever since then was to get one for himself with a bow he is now 36. Gooch bugled and we got an answer. Gooch said he knew the area and said below the elk was rugged with wallows with steep rocky bushy side hill. We don’t want to go there if we can avoid it he said. Gooch said I’d like to see him see if he’s worth pursuing. He bugled, cow called more frequently -the bugle got him to show. He was a nice 6 x 7 deep in the quakes.
There was 60′ of open side hill between us. Then came to the edge started raking a tree. Gooch sent Kyle left of us. I could see the bulls’ horns as he started to approach us. Gooch had called a herd bull from his cows and here he comes. My hair on the back of my head felt electric with tension. The bull came to Kyle got close was downhill turned broad side to Kyle at 15 yards. Now Kyle had had four shots earlier in the hunt and it made me think his mind is working on him stressing him out having an internal battle. He had told me he found himself keeping both eyes open so he could keep one eye on the bull. I have seen him shoot at a target and hit the bulls’ eye at 50-60 yards.
Gooch and I had had a discussion and advised him to pick a spot and close his one eye. I see now he has drawn back but isn’t shooting. The bull walked a little Kyle pivots and follows. I say to myself shoot and just then he did and it sounded like a hit, but the bull just walked towards Gooch and stops. Second arrow flies hits the ground bounces hits the elk. The bull moves down the hill to where he had racked the tree and lays down. Kyle had done it so we were so quiet that Gooch said he thought we were unhappy with his size, but that was not the case we were humbled by it all and were very happy with the 327 bull we found when we scored him.
We had cell phone service so we called Rick Stockberger asked him to bring 3 packs due to the fact we couldn’t find anyone free to bring pack animals so we became pack animals. After a hard de-boning, capping, heavy weight packing and hiking the 4 Or 5 miles out with heavy packs in the dark four tired but happy men made it to the truck smiling but dragging. Rick and I rode to town together and he mentioned that Kyle thought it was special that I had been able to see him get this elk. I told him it was an honor for me that only a dad would understand.
Next morning I headed back to my unit and Kyle headed to SLC where he wanted to check work and try to come to my hunt later then back to work and come down Sunday to hunt with the rifle which is where we are now. I being retired was going to be out among them on my own unit. I text Kyle knowing he was maybe driving down telling him we may have found a nice bull. He comes back with “did you get him?” I respond “hope to but not yet.” This is 1 pm or so. Tom tells me to watch the shadow when the sun goes down to where the shadow falls where they’re bedded they may get up and move feed and so forth. He said they don’t seem to like the sun when they get up maybe exposing their whereabouts I assumed. I kept hoping we could check out this bull of this morning.
About 5:30 pm Tom said some cows just showed in a clearing about 1200 yards away. I glassed them and thought no bull yet. Tom said “there’s the fourth one!” He went back into the timber, but then came flying out. Tom said “that’s a nice 6 x 6, but not the one I seen.” Tom then said a 5 point at 1000 yards just stepped out and then started to tell where cows were showing up close to him. To the right 50 yards of the 5 point cows started coming out of the pines. Tom said the bull this morning had 8 cows so he started counting cows. There is a bigger bull coming out below the cows and it looks like him Tom says.
I spotted him and glassed him, but being far away it was hard to get details of his rack I had a 338 ultra with a great scope so I grabbed it and it helped me see this bull looked huge. Must be king of the mountain Tom says. He was strutting his stuff. He worked the cows chased other bulls away he finally reached the ridge and turned broad side what a rack what body size I thought. I glance to his left and down the ridge spotting two hunter orange finding two hunter sitting 125 yards from all this. “Tom there are two hunters to his left 100 yards or so I think we may be going to lose him not getting a chance.” Tom agreed and pondered things. I looked right of the bull and spotted another herd coming down the ridge 200 yards from the big bull. “Tom if I don’t shoot those two hunters will get this elk, but I’m not confident at this long range,” I said.
Picking up my cell I dialed Jared Peterson who had worked with me and now worked with Kyle. He had set up the scope and shot it so it was hoped he could give me where to hold the scope. Getting him I told him we had a 360 plus bull at what we guessed was 1000 yards asked where to place the scope for elevation. He said he needed a minute and got on his computer and while he was checking the bull went over the ridge. Two hundred yards from where he went over a bull come running towards us being a long ways off. Tom said I can’t see him leaving his cows, but it looked a lot like our bull headed to the bottom of the canyon.
Now bull elk seemed to be appearing in a lot of places. Two smaller bulls ran where we thought our bull had just gone. The wind had been blowing all day from the south and bothered us. Tom did not like the wind and felt it caused a lot of grief hunting elk. Swirled and you couldn’t hear bugles he said. Up on the ridge where he had went over the bull came flying back up scattering the cows all over. He took his eye guards roughed up the dirt, pawed, and then rolled in the dirt and bugled. We could see a cloud of dust come up it was too bad I couldn’t video this. Tom was laughing and commenting. Jared gave me an answer of where to shoot saying he wasn’t sure what propellant we had, but good luck and left. I smiled never dreaming I would be hunting and call someone asking advice.
The bull now worked around the cows, bugled and headed right for the two hunters. Tom said he couldn’t believe they hadn’t moved. He thought we might want to leave before dark gave us grief. I asked if we couldn’t stay hoping the bull might come our way. Tom went along hoping it could happen. We started checking distant to different objects below us in case we needed it and would have a better chance closer to us with a shorter shot. I was hoping minimum Of 500 yards. Now the bull must have caught the hunters scent because he was headed to the bottom of the canyon. He went through the bottom and up our side now 800 yards I measured.
Moving to our left a small 5 point headed up the ravine towards us. “I can’t find him,” said Tom as he glassed where we thought they were. Put the 3rd shell in your gun Tom said and give me the other shells so I can feed them to you. I’ll get behind you and spot where you hit and advise where to move your sights. We may run out of time so get ready. There he is he’s coming our way an excited Tom said. I spotted a bull broadside checked the range finder 580 yards. That’s not him don’t shoot Roger Tom made sure. I could see his horns behind and downhill from the smaller bull. Looking at the smaller bull he’s a nice bull though. The big bull came towards us moving into view to the right of the other bull his hind quarter’s downhill horns and head looking downhill where he had come through the bottom. I aimed boom ears still ring way high Tom says. After 5 more shots and adjustments Tom firmly says aim 6″over his shoulder and drop him.
I wasn’t gaining confidence, but I fired. He went down and I saw roll and his feet up in the roll you got him. I was reaching for another bullet still in disbelief. Tom was excited and elated me I was stunned and maybe shocked. Now I’m excited and said Tom I’ll inch down these cliffs and go start processing him. Hold on let me think. While he was thinking I texted Kyle telling him we had got him and asked how close he was to camp. Kyle said I just pulled into camp and it’s getting dark. Tom says we need to find out how to get in there with the mules and I don’t like you in there alone. It’s an hour to come as the mule flies I laughed. We were on the mules Tom raised his right hand and lets out a big yessss. I am now doing somewhat the same. It’s now dark thirty. I called Kyle told him to chill we were heading in see him in an hour.
When we made camp Kyle grins and says you always have fun, but it is always an adventure. I smiled but I knew he was right. I have little fear and love to have fun. We found our way in after much time and effort. It then took what must have been 2 hours more to find the bull. Tom had taken some reference points and when he found him he bugled and said he hasn’t shrunk after hitting the ground. I didn’t get it right off, but then I thought he must be good. We spent a lot of time staring at the bull marveling at him. We did what any elk hunter would do at 2 am. We took pictures. After butchering our boy we hear Tom say it’s too dangerous to go out in the dark should we sleep here? Tom had been most patient with this and I was grateful for how good he had been and thought it special that Kyle had returned to help and enjoy this.
The stars were great we didn’t sleep much the wind was blowing and the ground hard but I had a happy short night. We got the last meat out at 9:45 am unloaded the mules we were red faced tired beat, we loaded the mules in the trailer and did what all elk hunter would do we took more pictures. Even though we were hammered we still had trouble taking this in and believing it. I was happy Kyle was involved we made memories that we can draw from when things aren’t their best and smile. I named the bull short eye one eye guard was short and blunt, one broken sward, and one whale tail much shorter than the other. He still grossed 373 band c. I don’t need the rest of the hunt days of my premium tag thank goodness I’m beat… but I’m thinking about next year.