Friends Don't Let Friends Turn in Tags

By Drew Whiting
Utah, DIY, Public Land

Friends Don't Let Friends Turn in Tags - Drew WhitingSeptember/October 2013 EBJ (Issue 79) - "How big of a bull should I shoot for you,” I asked my five-year-old son Mason on my way out the door. I had been putting in for this tag longer than he had been alive, and would be heading out in pursuit after work.

With both arms and both legs stretched out as far as they’d go he replied, "This big,” before he ripped off the biggest kid bugle he could muster. Given his 40-pound stature, anything bigger than a raghorn would fill the order.

Rewind two months. I had a problem on my hands. I had drawn a competing Wyoming antelope tag which required as many points as my Utah Wasatch Mountains bull elk tag. Wyoming doesn’t allow the returning of tags, but Utah does for a $25 fee. I had made up my mind on several occasions that I would return my Utah elk tag, not wanting to squander a good elk tag by not being able to put in the due diligence. I also figured I could draw it just as easily the next year.

To many, this thought process was very backwards. I struggled with it myself. I could have gone out and knocked down a nice speed goat with a rifle after my Utah elk hunt, but bowhunting is where my heart is.

As if the stress of poor tag management wasn’t enough, I had recently left a dream job in pursuit of an opportunity. This opportunity found me working much longer hours, wasn’t affording me the opportunity to scout or shoot my bow much, and left me with limited vacation time to spend on the mountain. I committed to my boss that I would forfeit my tag and make this whole thing easier on everybody. That night I told my buddy John Simper that I was going to turn in my tag.

"Well then, I guess there is no point in showing you these trail cam pics.”

After I convinced him to stop being irrational we viewed the pics repeatedly for over an hour. Our early season scouting had paid off. There were lots of good bulls with some in the 300 to 330- inch range, a couple between 330 and 360, and one we were confident would pass 380. There was no way on earth I was turning in that tag! It was good to have a friend who had my back.

Repeat with me, "Friends don’t let friends turn in tags!”

Wednesday, August 15th found me sitting in a ground blind over a water hole in Wyoming, just three days before the opener of my elk hunt. Five hours into my hunt I made the call and arrowed the first buck that came in to water, recognizing that he was right at my benchmark. I was glad I let instinct take over because 72 2/8” later I was headed down the road back to Utah, knowing that my 50-yard pin was dialed in.

My plan was to save all my days away from work for the last week of the elk hunt when the rut would be under way. Until then I was only able to make it out on weekends. It was hard hunting with hot temperatures and bulls that weren’t vocal. We had some fun, yet frustrating encounters. The wind killed us on a really nice bull at 40 yards. We passed on a medium 6x6 at 20 yards and logged lots and lots of miles along the way. Then the rut kicked in the last week and everything changed.

Unfortunately, my boss informed me that I would be required to work Monday and Tuesday of the last week of the hunt. I was devastated. If I could have turned the tag back right then I would have. I would not be able to experience 40% of the last week of the hunt, when it finally gets good.

Friends Don't Let Friends Turn in Tags - Drew Whiting

For a full account of Drew's adventure, go to page 52 in the September/October 2013 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.