The Last, Best Hunt

By Kent Hoffman

The Last, Best HuntKent Hoffman
Utah, 2009, DIY, Public Land

I watched the man who had been so strong his entire life struggle to get down the hill silently. A look of wonder appeared on his face like that of a child about to open a present. I had trees in my way and couldn’t see the bull that had caused such a stir in his eyes. I watched as Lisa pointed out the bull to Dad. He took a kneeling position and raised his rifle. At that moment, Dad was not a 67-year-old man who had recently had back surgery. He was once again young and strong. He was the man who had taught me how to hunt and love the mountains. For that moment, he was in his prime. His aim was steady; his expression confident. It was one monarch looking at another. I told Tyler to plug his ears; dad was going to fire.

About 23 years ago, my dad, Kent, and I got bulls on opening day of the general elk season near Strawberry Reservoir in Utah. That was the first time either of us had taken bulls. His was a spike and mine a morphed two-point. There have been lots of successful hunts since that fi rst successful year, but Dad and I had a dream of hunting big elk together for years since.

Dad’s doctor had told him he needed extensive back surgery, and the whole process was tough on him. Even though he is still in pain and can’t get around like he to, big elk.

When the draw for the limited entry elk tags came out, Dad and I were unsuccessful. In June, I received a call from the DOW. Someone had turned in a Paunsaugunt elk tag. Three weeks before the hunt my Dad also received a call; someone else had turned in a tag! We were elated that we were finally going to live our dream.

I made calls, studied maps, and shot twice a week, dragging Dad out, too. With gas prices at record levels, my VISA was smoking. However, I was determined to stack the deck in our favor. Scouting made me a wreck. You couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a monster mule deer, but elk were scarce.

The Last, Best Hunt

For a full account of Kent's adventure, go to page 14 in the April/May 2010 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.