Utah, 2009, DIY, Public Land
I’ve always thought my chances of taking a mature branchantlered bull in Utah were slim to none, having spent years putting all my eggs in the mule deer bucket. I have 13 mule deer points after this year’s draw and zero elk points. In fact, I haven’t even taken a spike before. I’ve been involved in a few good hunts for bulls, but just as a helper.
My good friend, Mark, called me early in the year with an idea about hunting an over-the-counter area. He is a genius at what he calls “Hunter’s Psychology”, figuring out where people are least likely and willing to hike, pouring over maps and looking for a tiny piece of ground to hunt. He started doing his homework for this hunt early, talking to DWR biologists, conservation officers, landowners, other hunters, and anyone else who would answer the phone.
Late in the summer, when I was on a business trip, he took a scouting trip to get the lay of the land and returned with some positive signs. It was looking like it could be a great fall! When we pulled away from my driveway on Friday afternoon, we had very high hopes!
On the first day, Mark and I got up well before sunrise with a place in mind to be at first light. He had been there three weeks earlier and knew it was the best place to start. When we reached the spot, he set up while I booked it down the ridge to have a different vantage point. As the sun came up, we gave a few soft cow calls that went unanswered. After two hours of sitting and glassing, I explored the little point I was sitting on. I saw some old tracks, but nothing fresh. The rest of the day produced nothing different, and it was well after dark before returned to comfortable quarters.
On the third day, we got up early and found that it had turned cold. We headed up the bottom of a canyon to the end of the trail, and then we went nearly a mile farther. The plan was to get up on opposite sides of the canyon to where we could see, and then do a few cow calls to see if we could locate an elk.
It was just getting light as I reached a small bench, so I set up to where I could watch the other side. I cow called twice and heard Mark do the same. I sat and listened, and after a few minutes I heard some breaking branches behind me. I turned around, hid behind a rock and cow called again.
The trees were so thick that I could only see 15 yards. I tried to look through the trees with my binos, but couldn’t see a thing. I heard Mark cow call again, followed by some more breaking branches. Unfortunately, the sound seemed to be moving away. I moved slowly up to where I first heard the sound, and to my delight I saw big, fresh bull track.
I began tracking him through thicker trees, knowing that if I saw him it would be a quick and close shot. I cranked my scope down and kept my rifle in hand, scanning the ground and looking for the farthest track I could see. Then, as slowly and quietly as possible, I would make my way to that spot, glassing and scanning the trees ahead. When I reached that spot, I would repeat the process. I followed the bull for more than an hour, covering maybe half a mile.
For a full account of Nathan's adventure, go to page 28 in the August/September 2010 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.