Length & Mass = 400"

By Casey Johnson
Utah, Guided, Public Land

Casey johnson - length & mass = 400June/July 2013 EHJ (Issue 137) - Midsummer arrived and I started scouting hard in the unit Casey had a tag for. It was looking pretty good and I was turning up some bulls in the 350-class and a few that looked promising to break 370. One or two bulls looked even better.

In August we decided to recruit the help of fel low guide Kasey Edgehouse to help us on the hunt. Kasey was going to be spending lots of time on the mountain with his cousin’s archery hunt and we knew he would have valuable information. Kasey was lots of help and they chased some big bulls. Two weeks before the archery hunt ended I found a bull that looked pretty close to 380. He had great fronts and giant 23-inch thirds and had a solid back end - I was hoping nobody would find him. As luck would have it Kasey’s cousin did, but he was unable to harvest the bull and ended up not filling his tag. Still, Kasey and his cousin saw many great bulls, including one that they were only able to see for a short period of time – although they did get one quick picture of his back end. This bull was incredible, but we never imagined the hunt that was about to unfold.

It was now our turn to hunt and we had our eyes set on the great bull with the big thirds that I had found. I had about an hour’s worth of video of this bull and we had a great plan in place to try and get this bull on the ground.

Opening morning, we showed up at the spot we had planned on hunting. After a couple hours of sitting and waiting and glassing and not seeing or even hearing any elk we made the short hike back to the truck. Then we drove around for a little bit just to see where the pressure was and see if we could spot something moving around or being pushed.

The next few days were pret ty uneventful, with failed morning hunts. With the hot weather the bulls were not bugling much later than 8:30. We had moved from hunting the big thirds bull because of added pressure to the spot and started hunting another bull our friend had told us about.

Tuesday morning we waited patiently in the dark for light to come. We listened to a few bugles but most were coming from the other side of the lake. As light approached we spotted a raghorn bull feeding up the sidehill, followed by a cow a while later. As we sat there glassing we never did pick up the big bull and never did see any other elk.

That night we got up on a flat, hoping the bull would come out. He never showed himself but a few satellite bulls put on a good show for us. As we sat there waiting for the big bull these two young bulls fought and sparred for 20 minutes just 30 yards from us. The hike out was depressing, as we knew the big bull was right there close.

Thursday night found Casey and me sitting up on the ridge waiting patiently for the big guy while Kasey went to another spot. By 6:30 we hadn’t heard any elk and had not seen anything so I pulled the bugle off of the pack and let one out.

Casey johnson - length and mass = 400

I heard a faint bugle clear back up in the trees and it sounded like a mature bull. As we waited for 10 to 15 minutes I let out another bugle and he quickly responded. He was still far off but now a little closer. I waited a few minutes and bugled again. Just like we expected, he let one out and he was coming fast. As soon as he finished his bugle we could hear crashing trees coming down the ridge. As he came closer I would give him a challenge bugle and he would give it back. This went on for about 10 minutes as he made his way to us.

Light was fading fast and we could hear the bull breathing. He was still above us in the thick trees under the rim of the hill we were on. That’s when we heard the noise to send him running the other way – a cow chirp, then another and another. It would not shut up.

As the big bull was making his way to us some other hunters had heard him coming and they had walked right in between us and the bull. The cow chirp did not sound real and almost sounded a little distressed. The bull ran back up the hill as fast as he had come down.

The next morning we had another guide, Kevin Christensen, come up to help us look since he had finished on his uncle’s elk hunt. We sent Kasey to one spot and Kevin to another. Casey and I headed back to the ridge we were on the previous night.

As we were walking in that morning we stopped to listen with bugle. As we looked into the flat, the bull from the night before was standing there right smack in the middle. I told Casey to get to the stand and get set up. I set up the scope right behind Casey and told him this bull is the one we want.

I ranged the bull, told Casey and then got on the spotting scope and said, "Let him have it.”

The shot rang out and I watched the vapor trail of the bullet make its way right into the bull’s lower chest. The bull hunched up ran downhill 10 yards and stopped broadside. I told Casey to hit him again. The shot rang out, and I watched the bullet strike him in the front shoulder and the bull piled up.

We let the bull lay for about an hour. While I waited for Kevin, Kasey took Casey up to his bull. After Kevin showed up, the two of us waited to hear a confirmation that the bull was down for good.

As they reached the bull Kasey got a hold of me and said, "I think we misjudged this bull.”

I asked what he thought it would go and he quickly responded, "340.”

My gut sank and I started to question myself. I wondered if we had rushed it and shot the wrong bull.

After a minute Kasey got a hold of me and said, "Don’t worry, Casey is still happy.”

Casey johnson - length and mass = 400

Kevin and I could hear the tone in Kasey’s voice and knew he was joking, so I asked, "Before I get up there, how big is the bull?”

He said, "I have him at 358, but I don’t have a tape; I’m guessing with my hands.”

I continued to hike with the frame packs. As I got within speaking distance they were standing in front of the bulls horns so I couldn’t see them. That’s when I heard the words I will never forget, "I have him a 358, but that is without mass measurements.”

They stepped to the side and that’s when I could finally see that this bull was way bigger than the 370 I had said he was earlier. His mass was a lot bigger than I thought and there was also a 19- inch extra that I could not see hidden on his other side.

After pictures were taken and we were hauling the bull out it dawned on Kasey that this was the back end of the bull he had taken the picture of. At the taxidermist we were able to put a tape on the bull and he ended up being 411- 6/8 gross. Congrats to Casey on his once-in-a-lifetime bull and it will definitely be pretty hard to top this one.