December/January 2013 EHJ (Issue 134) - Excitement and doubt crept into my mind when I found out that I had drawn this special bull elk tag on the Paunsaugunt in southern Utah, and with only four bonus points. Lucky me! I was so excited, but nervous at the same time. My son, Dan Hatch, had already stated that he would take the time off work to help me out. I have always been out on hunts, but never was serious about them, until now. I was telling everyone that I was going to bring something home, not knowing what it would be. I felt confident that it would be something, but unsure of how big. I just knew in my heart that it would be something.
My husband and I traveled to southern Utah to set up camp on Friday night and get ready for the next big day— the hunt! Dan and his wife Jordan joined us for the evening, as well as other family members that came out. We went up on a point to glass down into the field where the herd of elk was feeding. There were two shooter bulls in the herd. We were now getting excited for the morning to come.
In the morning, Dan and I went off into the darkness to get set up. No kidding, this kid of mine, 20 years younger, was taking me right into the middle of the bugling bulls. I was scared to death. I would walk a few 100 yards and then tell my son that the elk were surely going to come after me.
Off we went into the most amazing adventure of my life. With the beautiful sounds of the elk surrounding us and their bugling back and forth, my heart started to race. I was ready for the shot of a lifetime. We got all set up and waited for the sun to come up. The sights and sounds were breathtaking! Between the beautiful sunrise and the animals bugling and chasing each other around, it was amazing. It was so cold you could see the steam coming out of the bulls’ mouths when they bugled. I was ready to harvest my big bull!
As the sun came up and I got in position to shoot, I became scared to death. I could not get the scope to find the elk. They were about 400 yards away. Shots were fired all around us and off the elk went. Dan and I tracked elk all day long. I thought that my legs were going to fall off. However, I survived the first day, but did not get a shot.
My husband went home and back to work, leaving me in the hands of Dan. Dan and I hunted sun up to sun down throughout the week with a lot of help from my brother-in-law, Brent Hatch, and his son, Kelby. I had a few chances to shoot during the first of the week. The elk were within 50 to 100 feet, but I wanted to get a big one. I wanted to wait until Thursday to start taking shots at little ones.
When the alarm went off and it was still dark, I would think to myself, Why in the world are we getting up so early? I know this is what all hunters do. I also learned that you do not slam the doors, you do not clear your throat, you do not sniffle, you do not snap twigs, let rocks roll or talk out loud. Rules and more rules. Boy, did my son teach me a lot. Lesson learned.
Thursday morning we decided we were going to shoot any bull we saw. In the end we were lucky we didn’t see any that morning. That night we decided to go to a spot where we had heard some bulls bugling the day before. We got set up and started calling. Instantly we had a bull bugling back at us. It was getting dark, but he finally made an appearance about 150 yards away. It was a small raghorn. Dan told me to shoot. I got the bull in the scope and shot! Dan yelled, "miss!” and the bull was gone. I was very upset and there may have been some tears of frustration and disappointment. (Lucky to miss #1)
On the Friday evening hunt, we decided to leave our stand early in case there was something to see on the way back to the jeep. We rounded a bend in the trees and there stood a cow and a calf, and right behind them on the edge of the trees was a small six-point. We got the Bog-Pod set up and Dan said, "shoot!” I shot and missed again. At that time, I was an emotional wreck. I knew that I only had two days left to get my elk down and the way I was feeling and shooting wasn’t good. I needed a good night’s sleep so that Saturday morning I would be ready to go. It is crazy how you can feel like you have been defeated. (Lucky to miss #2)
Dan and I got up around 5:30 a.m. and headed out Saturday morning. Brent and Kelby said they were coming up but hadn’t showed. So, we left without them, with our radio on, just in case they did arrive. We went to an open field and started working our way back to where we had spotted the elk. We were hiking and to the west of us, a truck came barreling down the other side of the ravine right toward the elk that we were tracking. Now, remember, I was in my orange gear and in the middle of a field where I was sure that the guys in the truck could see me. They did not care and started moving toward the elk. They bolted in a hurry. Thanks a lot hunters, I thought to myself and a few other words that I will not mention.
Dan and I were trying to think of another plan for the late-morning hunt when we got a call on the radio from Brent. He had spotted a big one and we needed to get there ASAP. We told them that we were not close to the truck and that we would be a while. Dan, knowing that the elk would be heading for the trees soon, set his camera equipment and backpack down and started running to the truck. In the meantime, I loaded the camera equipment, gathered his backpack and off I went to meet up with him. Dan met me in the field with the truck and off we went like bats out of hell. I have never gone so fast on a dirt road in my life. Hanging on for dear life, we finally arrived at the site.
We unloaded from the jeep and slowly started toward the elk. We could see the cows, but needed to inch closer to see the bull. As we snuck closer, we stopped in an opening and got my Bog-Pod set up and gun ready to go. With my heart beating outside my chest, we watched as the cows moved up the side of the mountain. Just then, Dan spotted movement, seeing the bull move his horns in the trees just below the cows. The bull was in a small opening and wasn’t going be there long. Dan whispered to me, "Mom, take your time, but hurry up and don’t miss!” I steadied myself as best as I could and pulled the trigger. Dan said, "You got him! You got him!” We waited for what seemed like forever, and then we started to walk towards where we had seen him go down. One shot right through heart. The bullet entered the front shoulder on one side, and was lodged in his other side. I just stood there and could not believe how big he was and that I got him with only one shot. I was impressed with Brent for spotting the bull, and thanked all those that helped me have a successful hunt.
It was the hunt of a lifetime and to take a bull that scored 369-4/8 B&C was the icing on the cake. I was able to spend time with my son and create memories that will last forever. I am so grateful for all those that came out and helped us during the week and for supporting me in this adventure.