Patience to the Third Degree

By Devin Sweeney
Utah, DIY, Public Land

Devin Sweeney - Patience to the Third DegreeJune/July 2013 EHJ (Issue 137) - I started poring over aerial photos and topo maps and picked out a few spots that were likely to hold unpressured elk. Then my son and I spent every other weekend from June to September putting boot leather to the areas, hiking, running, exploring, and glassing in the early morning and fishing mountain lakes and ponds. Along the way we learned the lay of the land and wrapped it up with more evening glassing. It was a great summer. Together, my boy and I made a whole summer’s worth of great memories. Knowing I would need to be in shape when the hunt came around, I spent my off weekends playing pickup basketball, football, and doing more hiking.

When time for the hunt finally came, the anticipation was nerve-racking. The night before was spent listening to bugling bulls, which didn’t help me getting to sleep any earlier. Despite the late night we had no problem getting up the next morning ready to go. We finished our hour hike and made it up close to 10,000 feet well before first light. It was a cold morning and there was plenty of frost on the sage.

From all my summer scouting I had narrowed the unit to three main areas I knew the elk would be in, and of those, this was my favorite. My buddy Jed and I sat under a pine tree and waited for the show to start. We weren’t disappointed. The mountainside erupted with bugles and we were on the move to get a look at the sources.

By 10 a.m. we had already passed on four bulls. I knew there were at least two bigger bulls in the area and those were the ones we wanted to find. We decided to leave the smaller bulls behind and hike around them as high as we could go on the mountain to glass down into the bedding areas and water holes and maybe catch the bigger bulls with their cows on their way to lie down for the day. We never got a shot at the bull we wanted, but the day’s experience was invaluable as we learned their habits and their bedding, water, and feeding areas. Better yet, we learned each bull’s unique bugle.

The next morning things got rocking early. The bulls were screaming like crazy before first light. We were only halfway up and we were already right in them. Jed spotted a big bull in the dark, silhouetted through the aspens a few hundred yards away. We circled around to set up for a shot at first light.

Devin Sweeney - Patience to the Third Degree

For a full account of Devin's adventure, go to page 30 in the June/July 2013 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.