Saturday, April 19, 2014

More Cowbell

The stillwater bug has officially bitten.  I've got a fever, and the only prescription, is more stillwater!  Blake and I headed back up to see what we could do.  The fishing wasn't fast, but we did catch some decent tigers along with a good bow stuck by Blake.  Stay tuned, their will be more to come...

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Stillwater Time

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The ice is melting in many places, and it is time to pull out the fly rods with intermediate lines again.  It had been many years since we had fished this lake in Wyoming and figured it was time.  So Blake loaded up the drift boat and off we went.  When we arrived we found that about 1/4 to 1/3 of the lake still had ice on it.  This place is known for its tough days and brutal wind.  By lunch we had been blown completely off the water.  But before that happened we were able to get a few to scratch our ice-off itch, and a few really nice fish to boot.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Cow Time

I have been saving cow points for a couple years with the idea of drawing a Deseret cow elk tag and taking my oldest daughter out with me.  Well, 2013 was the year this was finally going to happen, and I couldn't be more excited than I was!  I made that arrangements to bring her up just shy of her 7th birthday and Blake came along to help out.  We met at the main ranch and got all the instructions and were matched up with our host.  We spend most of the morning trying to locate elk.  Sometimes things got a little "western" as we would be trying to get from one area of the ranch to the others.  I'm glad those roads were well maintained.   I was worried about bringing my daughter up because we were having an absolute cold spell.  When we arrived it gave a temperature reading of -5 degress with almost -20 degrees windchill.  It was cold!  But we moved along.

Finally late in the morning we located some elk and after switching me to the co-pilot seat and Blake driving we were able to get me into position to hop out and slip up a little knoll to where the elk were at.  I was able to get into position, sat down, put the scope out there and started from the back of the herd.  Bull, spike, good bull, spike, spike...COW!  There was a good amount of space between her and others that were all grouped together kind of tightly.  I held steady and squeezed the trigger.  I immediately knew I hit her good as she doubled up, but she took off sprinting into the herd and I got worried!  Then she came out the other side still sprinting and just folded, tumbling over herself after running about 30 yards.  It was game on to get her dressed out and out of there.  It wasn't a real difficult hunt, but exactly what I was looking for to get my daughter to be a part of it.  I couldn't have asked for a more perfect set up to accomplish that.  She had a ball and when I asked her if she wanted to do it again, she said yes.  When I asked her if she could change anything about the hunt, what would it be:  "Nothing, but next time can we shoot a big daddy elk?"  Your wish is my command, baby girl!  Let's get it done!  We have been eating well off this girl and the family is all fans of the elk meat.  I am certainly not complaining.

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Friday, November 29, 2013

Seeing Green

I took my annual pilgrimage to the Green River.  This year I was joined by a pair of brothers, Josh and Tyler and Brett and Jake.  I couldn't have asked for better guys to spend a day chasing trout.  I will let the pictures do most of the talking.  The fish are healthy.  We didn't catch anything huge, just a lot of really healthy fish.  The was one that I spotted while stalking that was HUGE but it wouldn't move for anything I threw at it.  Eventually I got tired and tried to wade out and poke it with my rod.  It still didn't move.  So I took off my backpack and went deeper and was able to slide this massive brown out that had probably been dead for at least a few days.  I'm not sure how long it takes a dead fish to start decomposing?  But this is the type of fish that fishermen dream about at night!  Too bad it was caught with my foot and not my fly, and was dead before contact and didn't give me a great fight.  Still very cool to see!  You can't complain about catching dozens of fish in t-shirt weather at the end of November.

Here is the big boy, Brett posed with him for the picture.  The rest of the pictures show it was a great day with A LOT of fish caught!
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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Deer Hunt

We had recently got back from a pretty taxing elk hunt for Trav this year and the deer hunt crept up on us without having much time to scout.  We decided we'd pack up the kids for a Ranger ride and see if we could get lucky.  We saw a lot of deer driving around but never saw a single buck.  The girls had a good time and it was fun to get out with the kids.  This was my daughter's first time getting out on a "deer hunt" with me so I was pretty stoked.

The kids bundled up.  It was a cold one first thing in the morning!
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The crew
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Me and my hunting buddy
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Almost ready for the 30.06
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Trav with his buddies
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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Duck Hunt Opener

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After finally getting my brother's LE muzzleloader elk hunt out of the way, it was time to start focusing on some ducks.  Duck hunting has always been my favorite hunting activity, although big game is making a strong push these days.  As you can see above, the pond was in great condition.  There have been some serious phrag reduction efforts going on here for the last few years and quite frankly, they are making great headway in this area.  The pond is a completely different shape and dynamic with a lot of the phrag gone and out of there.  It made it a little harder to set up and hunt, but it was still in great shape.

Although my brother has joined a club to hunt and was hoping to take part in the luxury and ease that situation offers, I am a sucker for nostalgia, and figured it was best to keep with my roots and battle the zoo in the old trusty pond.  I went with my brothers from another mother, the Coopers.  Ryan, Kelly, Brett, Jake, and Riley all were aboard for this one.  I was stoked because I was bringing Cane, my 9 year old lab, with me for the first time in a few years.  He started having seizures a few years back and I have been somewhat reluctant to bring him out into the marsh because of that.

We were set up a few (8) hours early and had exited the water and were on some higher/dry ground.  About 6:50am we decided we would head down to the water and get in position for the shooting.  As we were walking out into the water, the whole area lit up in a war zone!  People were blasting 35 minutes early.  I don't know why that surprised me, but it still never ceases to amaze me how dumb people are with that stuff.  Unfortunately for those of us that follow the rules, this pushed 75-100 ducks off our pond.  And while we were walking out and getting set up, we easily had triple or quadruple that many birds well within shooting range bombing us and the pond.

After getting set up and waiting for a while longer to get to legal shooting hours, the birds were still flying some, but not even close to what was happening for the first 20 minutes of ILLEGAL shooting.  I can't complain too much, because we still saw an enormous amount of birds and got our fair share of shooting.  It was a great time with great friends and I can't wait to do it again!

Old gray beard, enjoying another day in the marsh.
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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Wasatch Bull

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After accumulating 9 points my brother Travis finally was able to score on LE Wasatch Muzzleloader elk tag this year.  Our family has been involved in hunting for basically our entire lives but elk hunting is a fairly new thing for us.  I don't know who was more excited for this, him-or me.  (Well, I do was definitely me!)  It was exciting to be a part of this as I had never been on a bull elk hunt in my life, let alone a LE tag where we had a shot at a real good bull.  The hunt is detailed below, and a bunch of pictures we took along the way.  It's long, but I like to remember the details years later and this is the best way to do that.

Day 1: Monday

The hunt started in two days but Trav and I went up early to get camp set up and to scout some and try and find some elk.  We met in Heber and filled up the water in the trailer and headed up the canyon.  We set out later than we had hoped, which is pretty par for the course for Trav, but had all sorts of anticipation.  We had an area we had hoped to camp that wasn't too far off the beaten path and would provide decent access to the two general areas we had planned to hunt.  Driving up the canyon there was literally 2-3 (or more) trailers already in every single pull out or camping spot available.  We knew there would be a lot of hunters up that way because the general muzzleloader deer had the exact same dates, but didn't figure to find what we found.  We changed gears and decided that we would head over to the first area we were going to focus our hunting and just camp close to there.  We settled in on a nice camp spot up above Renegade near the junction to French Hollow Road and above Buffalo Canyon.  We got camp set up and set out for an evening of glassing and listening.

We were going to drive over to French Hollow and on the way over I told Trav to take a little off-shoot road just to see where it went.  It didn't go far before it was a dead-end.  As we were approaching the end we looked up and straight in front of us was a little rag-horn bull.  We were pretty stoked, not knowing what to expect.  We figured this would be as good of place to go hike a little and glass and see what we could find.  As we were walking up the hill we noticed over the other side of the canyon in the distance a herd of cows on a hillside.  We pulled up the glass and found two 5 points in there with them.  One of them was completely dark from rolling around in a wallow.  Neither were shooters for this tag, they were smaller 5 point bulls.  We figured there had to be a bigger bull around with that many cows but we never saw him.  We hiked a ways further and had a really good lookout over a few different draws and a couple drainages.  The bulls were screaming!  There was so much activity, it was pretty awesome to just sit there and listen.  We weren't seeing elk, but could hear them in the trees and on other sides of saddles, etc.  Just before dark I noticed a few cows at the top of a clearing across the canyon.  Right then a good bull came strolling through a little break in trees to the other side of the clearing.  I'm not great at judging elk, but based upon the 3 bulls we had seen that night this one seemed like a night and day difference.  With the bare eye you could tell he was just bigger.  He was a solid 6x6 I just din't get a good enough look at him to be able to tell how good he was.  He took his cows into the trees and screamed for about an hour straight as we sat and listened.  It was a very encouraging night.  We got back late and snacked on some smoked salmon to fill our bellies for the next day.

Day 2: Tuesday

We woke up early and wanted to see if we could watch that bull come out of his bed the next morning to get a better look at him.  Unfortunately that bull never showed himself again.  We thought we heard him on the other side of the saddle from where we saw him the night before, but he never showed himself.  Again, there was a TON of bugling and elk activity in these draws and drainages, so we sat and glassed.  We saw a lone 5-point bull working in and out of trees and a clearing and watched him for a while.  He was a younger bull that looked to have good potential for the future if he is allowed to grow up a little bit.  We also heard two bulls fighting down in the trees below us but could never get an eye on them.  Went back and forth for about 5 minutes or so.  We decided that we needed to hike down to the next saddle and see if we could lay eyes on that bull we had seen the night before.  We needed to know if he was a shooter for sure to know if we would be going after him in the morning or not.  We went on a pretty decent hike down into a steep, deep, and thick canyon.  We got to the saddle and really couldn't see anything off the other side.  It was just too thick.  We hiked around down the canyon, looking over draws, down ravines, and just getting the layout of the area.  On our way back up to the lookout point we busted a small herd of cows with a calf.  Above them we heard crashing in the trees and figured it was a bull with them, but never saw the bull.

We got back up to the vehicle and figured we'd spend a little time driving an area that we had not ever been.  As we were driving around a loop we got a flat tire.  A can of fix-a-flat got us back to camp where we decided we would change the tire and wait for Paul and Cory as they would be up in a couple hours.  We ate a late lunch and took a little snooze and Paul and Cory got there.  By the evening the wind was blowing like crazy and the indications were that the weather was not going to cooperate with us much.  We all went back to the place where we had been spotting elk to glass and listen.  While glassing we spotted a bull through the spotting scope about 1.5-2 miles away.  Best we could tell is he was a 330+ bull.  He was a bull that Trav would have been happy with at first light on opening morning.  He wasn't really in the game plan for opening morning because we simply just didn't know how we would get over to where he was based upon the lay of the land.  We put him in our back pocket and figured we could find other bulls like him as time went on.  Cory showed us another place where we could get a great vantage point of a solid drainage after a little hike and that is where we spent the rest of the evening.  We spotted two cows over there but no bulls.  We went back to the trailer, grubbed on some french dip sandwiches, and game planned for the morning.  Since we had been seeing and hearing elk in the canyon we were in, we thought we might as well see if we could hike to them, call them, and get them to play.  So that is what we went to bed thinking about.

Day 3: Opening Day!

Opening morning we hiked down to bottom of the draw we had been glassing and were sitting, waiting for light to come.  We wanted to be close enough to close the deal but away to not bust any elk.  We figured we'd wait for it to get light, listening to where the bulls were in the canyon that morning, and then go after them.  As I looked at my watch and saw that we were at the exact time for legal shooting hours, I looked at the mighty hunter and this is what he was doing:
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I got a kick out of this because I think it encapsulates Trav's personality perfectly.  I had barely slept in 2 days because I was so excited, and here he was snoozing on the job when legal shooting rang in on his hunt.  Classic Trav!  He provides us with a good amount of laughs, so we'll keep him around.  We had heard a few bulls working down a canyon hadn't hiked to so we set out on foot to get over there to see if any of them would play.  We had to hike around and then drop down into a very steep and nasty canyon.  By doing so we put ourselves right in line and in the middle of 4 bulls that were being very vocal with one another.  We sat and called to them and they would respond every time.   We simply couldn't get any of them to get closer.  Trav and I set out to hike further down the drainage to get on top of two of the bulls that seemed the most interested while Cory called up above to keep them distracted.  Not long down the canyon bottom we discovered that simply wasn't going to happen.  This was thick, nasty, deadfall, and just not a place we could ever sneak up on an elk.  We hiked back up to Paul and Cory and talked about what to do next.  The bulls would talk to us, but seemed skittish and wouldn't come to us.  We never got to actually see any of them.  We decided to head back up to the vehicle and to go grab a decent lunch.  After lunch we snoozed for about an hour and decided to hike into a totally separate drainage that Cory knew about from previous years.  This hike was a beast as it just kept going up, up, and up again.  We finally crested the summit and dropped down into a couple different basins on the other side of the mountain.  We sat and waited the bulls out and wouldn't you know it....Trav snoozing on the job again!
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Once we got him woken up and a little excited about elk hunting, we all set up and just were seeing if there was any activity on this side.  We had a pretty decent basin there.  We couldn't see a real long ways but it was an area where if we could get an elk to come to us, Trav would have a pretty good shot.  Here is the crew sitting, and waiting.
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The weather was showing signs that it was going to get nasty.  But eventually we heard a bull that was bugling some that seemed to be within a few hundreds yards of us.  Cory gave him a cow call and he immediately responded and seemed like he wanted to come to us.  After a minute or two Cory gave this bull another cow call, he immediately responded with a big old bugle, and about 3 seconds later we hear "boom!"  A couple seconds after the "boom" we heard shoots and yahooos!  Someone had smoked the bull from down below.  There is a trail that you can hike in and around the mountain from the bottom and this hunter must have done that and shot the bull from the bottom.  We never saw him, but hopefully it was a good one!  Either way, he was dead and we needed to move on.  The weather was getting a little worse and we wanted to get out of there before it got too bad.  On our hike out we busted 2 more cows as they crested a ridge.  We never saw if there were more elk or any bulls with them.  But we figured there was and we just saw the front two cows.  Fog and a little snow was settling in so we got off the mountain and got back to the vehicle right about dark.  We called it a night and headed back to the trailer.

Day 4: Hiking day

Day 2 of the hunt we split up.  Paul and I went to glass at the lookout point and Trav and Cory went down into the canyon again, just not as deep as we did the day before.  The goal was to have them close to elk if any would come and play, and Paul and I up higher so we could spot the other areas of the drainage.  Paul and I immediately started seeing elk.  We saw the same 5-point Trav and I had seen before and we also saw a small 6x6 with a group of about 10 cows.  We called Trav and Cory back up to us to show them that we were seeing elk, and hearing a ton of other bulls down the canyon that we couldn't see.  They came back up and met us and planned for Trav and Cory to hike down into the other canyon we'd been watching for 2 days to see if any of the elk would cooperate.  They hiked down and got down into some seriously nasty, awesome elk country.  The terrain was thick, steep, and just perfect for elk.  The stumbled across some crazy wallows and areas where the elk sign was just intense.  Here's one they came across:
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They couldn't get any of the elk to come to them, once again.  By this time the elk had been hunted for a month and a half straight between the archery and early rifle.  You could tell the elk were skittish and hesitant to come running like they may have been a couple weeks prior.

While glassing I found a really cool looking bull.  He was in a draw I had looked at probably 25 times. There was a light colored rock in the middle that I had seen and thought it could be a rump every one of those 25 times.  This time though, there was a big, black spot next to the rock I hadn't noticed before.  Without my binos I thought it may in fact be a bear.  I pulled up the binos and realized it was a bull completely covered in dark, almost black mud, from head to toe.  He wasn't a monster by any means but the character on him was pretty cool and I felt comfortable telling Trav I had found a shooter.  I called this bull "Webster" based upon his back end and how he looked.

I radioed down to the fellas and told them where he was at.  He was a LONG ways away from me, but not too far away from them.  The bad part was the terrain wasn't easy and it was going to be a tough go at this guy.  They took a long time deciding the best way to attack the situation.  All the while Paul and I watched this bull with his cows for close to 45 minutes.  By the time Trav and Cory decided what to do, we had lost him in a deep draw.  They eventually got into the draw but never saw him and we did not see him again that day.  While they were hiking over I saw another 6x6 that was a possible shooter.  He was a nice, mature bull that would have gone between 320-330 and had some cows.  I watched him for a while as well.  Seeing where Trav and Cory were it was clear they were not hiking back to where we were.  There were 2 other areas that would be an easier hike out but we would have to get a vehicle to them.  Trav took the only keys down with him, so Paul hoofed it back to camp to get his vehicle while I sat and spotted more elk.  It was pretty amazing because it was snowing off and on all day long.  The snow was really wet and the ground was still warm so very little stuck.  But every time the snow would stop the mountains would come alive with elk.  I saw a ton of elk up there, including 8 different bulls.  Right before the fog settled in thick I spotted a bull I called "Wide 5."  He was a mature 5x5 and his 3rds were pretty good.  They almost went straight out and curved up.  He was a super wide bull.  His front end was great but his back end was just a little "v" on the 4th and 5th.  He was a bull I put in my back pocket to see if we could go after him towards the end of the hunt if we couldn't seal the deal on a 6x6, he could be a late-hunt possibility.  The fog settled in so thick you couldn't see right as Paul got back with his vehicle.  Trav and Cory actually were able to hike out and get back to the vehicles about the same time.  They had put some serious leather on the mountain and were beat.  We figured there would be no more hiking in the last hour and a half of light, especially since we couldn't see anything anyway, so we headed back to camp to rest up for the next day.  Cody arrived at camp not long before we did and Blake arrived late that night.  We had a good crew and figured we could split up a little to see if we could find some more elk.  It had started to snow on us again by the time we hit the sack.  Trav, Cody, Paul, and Cory stayed in the heated trailer while Blake and I slept out in the Jumping Jack trailer.  It got down to 18 degrees that night.  I'm thankful for a good sleeping bag!

Day 5: Snow day

We woke up Friday to snow.  Not a lot of it, but enough to cover everything.  I went over into the trailer to see what was going on and Cody was ready to rock and roll.  Trav and Cory were still feeling the effects of the crazy hike the day before and Paul was liking his sleeping bag a little too much.  Cody, Blake, and I went out on our own to look at a new area that Blake wanted to check out.  It was a ways away but we figured if we didn't have a hunter, it wouldn't matter anyway.  We were hoping to find a nice 350 inch bull and throw rocks at it!  On our way to our area we saw two smaller 6 point bulls out in a field.  They were decent bulls but nothing to be too excited about at this point in the hunt.  We went and found a cool basin but the fog was just too thick.  We couldn't see anything.
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Blake and I decided to hike down a canyon from the basin to see if we could spot anything.  It was cold as cold can be as the wind was blowing like crazy.  The snow was a few inches deep and everything was clean and fresh.  We saw a lot of deer sign, including an area where about 10 had bedded the night before.  We saw some elk tracks and thought we heard some cow calls but never got close to them.  We decided we better head back up to the truck.  As we were hiking back up it dawned on us we had traveled a lot further down this draw and canyon than we had thought.  It was a beautiful area and we were surprised we had not seen some animals.  The road going out was a little nasty but we were able to get out in Cody's truck and meet back up with the guys back up on the mountain.  The fog would roll in and out and wasn't giving us too much of a vantage point.  Some of us felt that we should just head back to the place we'd been seeing elk and not worry about the fog.  Look when it was clear, relax and rest while it was not.  After driving to different drainanges, hoping to glass without fog, over and over again, we figured we better go gas up the vehicles.  We busted and drove down to Heber quickly, got gassed up, and finally decided we should go and look where we were seeing the bulls and lots of elk.

We busted back up the mountain and the weather semi-cooperated with us.  The fog wasn't as thick but it was still windy and overcast.  We set up on multiple places to get a good vantage point of area and started glassing.  We were seeing elk.  We saw "Wide 5" again with is cows.  We saw a couple spikes, which was the first spikes we'd seen on the trip.  We saw another smaller 5 point.  Not long after all this we saw another good elk coming out of the trees.  It was Webster!
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He was back, only this time he was about 4 ridges closer and had 3 times as many cows with him.  He was unmistakable with the back end semi-webbed up and that very unique G1 on the right side.  I brought Trav down to get a look at him.  After talking for a few minutes he decided he wanted that bull.  We decided that Cory, Blake, and Trav would hike down and get into position while Paul, Cody, and I sat up high in different places to keep an eye on this bull.  Cody went up on the ridge and Paul and I stayed a little lower to keep our vantage point.  We couldn't lose sight of the bull.  We planned and the wind was perfect.  As the crew hiked down and over to the other side of the canyon we kept watch on Webster and his harem.  We watched him for a good hour.  It wasn't long until it was going to be dark and the bull and his cows seemed pretty content to be where they were.  In fact, after a while the bull and every one of his cows except one had bedded down and were not moving.  We got the 3 in position to put a stalk on and eventually got them to about 150 yards away on top of the ridge.  From that point Trav went solo and Blake and Cory stayed behind.  I had given him instruction about which exact tree the bull was under and he was in perfect position.  He was going to go through one more stand of trees and come out and the elk would all be right on his platter.  The plan went to perfection!  Trav ended up about 50 yards away from the bull and then all the sudden they all busted.  No shots fired, nothing.  The bull ran down the hill in to the clearing, got his cows in a line, and they high-tailed it to the trees.  I couldn't figure out what had gone on but I was a little heart broken.  After getting them back on the radio I guess Trav only ever saw one single cow and never saw the rest of the harem or the bull.  From our vantage point it looked like he was looking right at them.  But the ridge rolled off pretty good I guess and he couldn't see down into the clearing at all because of that.  We were discouraged, but partly encouraged when we all met back at the vehicles.  Cody had a good view of the herd as they went into the trees and as soon as they reached cover, they settled down and stopped running.  We thought we may have a chance to get back on this bull in the morning because he didn't seem like he was going too far.  Third time is a charm, right?

Day 6: Crunch Time

Day 4 of the hunt we figured we'd get back on Webster and his cows and see if we could kill him.  The pressure was starting to mount.  We were on day 4 of the hunt, but day 6 of being up there and Trav was starting to feel it.  We all were starting to feel it.  Cody had to leave that day at lunch and Paul and Cory were leaving that night.  Blake was with us until the next day, so it would be just me and Trav after that.  We needed to kill Webster!  However, there were multiple bulls we had heard right around camp all night, every night.  And Trav thought he should at least try and get a look at them.  So Cody, Blake, and I went to go try and spot Webster (or any other bull in there) while they played around the camp area hoping to spot one of the bulls.  On our way driving over to the area we saw some elk a long ways out in a basin that you could glass from the road.  Cody pulled out the spotting scope and we saw this nice 6 point.
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The picture is grainy as he was a LONG ways away, but we knew this was a good bull.  Trav finally arrived after he had taken his cows into the trees and he and Cory went for a hike to see if they could get him.  This bull had about 8-10 cows with him that morning.  We saw another satellite bull that was another good 6 point that may have interested Trav follow the herd into the trees as well.  We saw another 6 point with his cows go into the trees on the other side of the basin.  So we saw what we figured could be 3 legitimate shooter bulls hanging out in one basin.  It was worth a try, even if it deviated from our original plan to go back and chase Webster.  They went for the hike but never got close to seeing the elk.  We all went back to camp and had a good lunch of pronghorn jalapeno summer sausage sandwiches and decided what we wanted to do the rest of the evening.  We decided to go to Webster's hangout for a short time and if we didn't see any elk, get Trav set up in the basin under a tree where we saw the 3 other bulls.  We drove and hiked to the lookout, spent about an hour there and saw nothing.  So we set out to the basin where the 3 bulls were and made a plan.  Trav finally decided to go Duck Commander and put his game face on for this one:
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Trav took Blake with him on this little jaunt and Cory, Paul, and I stayed up and spotted.  The hike down was pretty steep, and again, ended up on the bottom with some thick and nasty stuff.  Trav took this picture on his way down to show the angle of the terrain:
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We had planned for them to set up under one of the pines out in the opening and simply just hope for the bull to come out where he was in the morning.  We found a different place away from the road where we were a lot closer than we'd seen them in the morning and could see the basin more fully.  This was our view of where we were hoping to kill an elk:
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The bull had gone into the trees on the next ridge over at the top of the basin.  We were hoping he'd come back out.  It was a lot nicer for Paul, Cory, and me as we sat up on the hillside than it was for Trav and Blake.  Paul was in his camp chair, Cory was watching the A&M-Arkansas game on his phone, and I had a nice comfortable area to sit.  We each had spotting scopes and took our time disecting every square inch of that hill side.  We spotted a nice 3x4 buck that was probably 25 inches wide or more.  After being there for a couple hours, and many false alarms on what we thought (or at least hoped) was elk, Paul finally said, "Guys, top of the ridge, at the very back of the clearing at the top of the hill."  It was the bull we had seen that morning, and he was walking RIGHT at Trav and Blake!  This time he was alone, not a single cow with him.  I radioed to Blake and Trav that the bull was walking at them and within a couple minutes he would be in sight for them if he continued his path.  I told them I was going silent and that it was game time....kill this sucker!  It was amazing to watch as this bull walked over the ridge and was coming towards the direction of the tree they were hiding under.  The wind was terrible, blowing straight up the hill toward the elk.  It was a good thing he came out alone and not with his cows because they would have totally busted them.  But things were just perfect, and he just kept coming, and coming, and coming.  This was easily the most intense hunting situation I have ever been a part of, even more so than when I shot my 34" Pauns buck last year, and I was 1500 yards away from the action!  As the bull kept coming, going broad side to them, and coming, and coming, we were all wondering, "What the heck is he waiting for?!?!?!"  As we sat and watched, the bull finally busted and started running down the mountain, and then we heard the shot.  We thought he had waited too long and then missed.  Again, for a few short seconds, I was heartbroken!  But then, about 20 yards down the hill, the bull started limping, and stumbling, and looking like he was having a hard time.  We sat up there and watched every step, begging and pleading with the bull to fall.  "Fall.  Fall!  Please fall.  Fall!"  It was actually probably quite hilarious if you were watching the three of us up there.  After 10-15 seconds, the bull stopped, turned back up the hill, and sat and looked back at Trav and Blake.  Our pleading to fall then turned to, "Why the heck has he not sent a 2nd shot yet?  What is he doing?  Trav....shoot again!"  After about 5 seconds of just standing there looking at them, the bull busted again and ran down the hill and into the trees.  I got on the radio wondering what the crap had happened.  Blake informed us that Trav had reloaded quickly but had forgotten to load another cap!

Now, before I proceed, I feel I must set the record straight that the one thing I told Trav he had to do was to become an absolute master at quickly and efficiently getting a 2nd shot ready in his muzzleloader because elk are tough and even if you hit him good, you may need a follow-up shot.  He blew me off, like always, and said he was already a pro at that.  Travy....your life would be so much easier if you just start listening to your little brother!

Anyway, back to the elk.  We had lost him in the trees and we figured he was in the bottom of that thick stuff in the canyon.  Next thing we know the bull pops out on the other side of the trees in a clearing, offering me a clear shot of his left side....the side facing Trav when he shot.  I started at the head and went back to see where the bull was hit, because it was clear he was hit hard.  Nothing at the neck, nothing in the front shoulder, nothing in the gut or along the ribs.  Finally, on the hind quarter, there was a large, dark blood spot right in the middle of the back quarter.  I was worried because even if he was hit good, that may not be a lethal shot.  And if it was lethal, it may take even a couple days to do its work.  We got Trav positioned to walk though the trees and get a 2nd shot.  It worked out well to where he did so, got the 2nd shot off, and then the elk ran off and disappeared into the trees.  Blake radioed back up to see if we could still see it.  We couldn't.  He reported that Trav didn't feel great about the 2nd shot.  So they went to where the elk was at the 2nd shot and there was blood.  Not a lot of blood, but at least blood.  I told them to follow the blood until light ran out (maybe 10-15 minutes more is all was left in the day) and to plot the last blood in the GPS and we'd come back in the morning.  We didn't want to bust him out if he was going to go bed down and die that night.

Paul and Cory went to break their camp and I drove around the bottom side and told Trav and Blake to just walk out to the main road.  It would be a long walk, but at least it was down hill, unlike if they tried to get back up to me.  They walked out in the dark.  On the way out, about 10 feet from the road, Blake took a tumble in a hole he didn't see and completely jacked up his ankle to the point he had trouble walking.  They reported they followed the blood and it seemed to be getting bigger as it went along, not less.  They even saw a couple places where it appeared the elk was coughing up bloody stuff.  This was encouraging to me because that meant Trav must have hit him somewhere better than the hind quarter on his 2nd shot.  We got back to the truck and decided to go to Heber and see if we could find anyone that could come back up the next day and help us track and also get some tape or a brace for Blake's ankle.  Although Trav told him he should probably sit this one out, he toughed it out and said "No way.  We're finding that elk."  I had already texted Cody and he immediately said he was on his way back up first thing in the morning to help us.  Blake put out some texts and some people just couldn't do it until later, not in the morning.  Blake had an idea to call Rob, our friend that has a blood tracking drahthaar named Drake.  Rob was game to come up and said he'd meet Cody in Heber that next morning and be at our camp by 9am.

Day 7: The Finale

We woke up, Blake's ankle was still sore and he was limping around like crazy.  Trav was discouraged.   But Blake and I were convinced we were going to find this bull.  I don't know why, but I just felt good about this.  Cody and Rob arrived and we got saddled up and headed down to where we were going to go start trying to track this bull.  Rob explained to us how the dog works and that he would be holding onto the lead and running with the dog and it was up to us to find and call out the blood.  He would try, but it's tough when you're handling the dog at times.  He said that if we could get him a 50-100 yards of decent blood he was positive his dog would find this bull.

We set out and started walking up the hill.  Our plan was to swing out wide and not bust the elk if he had not died that morning, but wanted to get to the last marked blood spot and go from there.  On the way out and around Drake started getting hot, and Blake noticed blood on the hill.  It was a pretty good blood trail but according to the tracks (which looked a lot like deer tracks and not elk tracks) seemed to be going up hill.  So we started tracking.  The dog would get off line every once in a while but always seemed to get back on track.  He kept wanting to go down hill, but Rob got him going back up.  I was a little discouraged thinking that it was not a good sign if the elk was going up hill.  After about an hour of following a fairly decent blood trail, I had fallen behind some making sure I was making blood, I heard them say they had got back to the last place they'd marked the night before.  We were tracking it the wrong way!  I was now heading back down hill following the blood that was getting thinner and thinner.  I got near the bottom of a draw and the blood went dry.  I couldn't find anything.  Rob got Drake back down there and he went all crazy running across a small meadow (40-50 yards) in the bottom of a draw and into the trees on the other side.  Rob was running behind holding the lead and all the sudden yells out "Blood!"  Trav ran up with Rob and Blake and I started tracking the blood Drake had followed and got for us.  Cody was up the hill working his way back down.  Something had changed from the blood on this side of the meadow versus the blood we had been following.  On the other side of the draw it was all dry.  On this side, it was all wet.  I even picked up a leaf and the blood dripped off it.  I said to Blake, "This bull is still alive and we're pushing him right now!"  We could hear Trav and Rob up ahead trying to keep up with Drake as he busted his way through the deadfall and trees.  We continued marking blood when we heard some barking up ahead, then some yelling, and then a loud "Boom!"  A few seconds after the boom I heard Trav start yelling out "Waaaahooo!"  Blake and I immediately just started sprinting towards the noise, jumping over deadfall, weaving in and out of trees, and Blake limping the entire way.  We came up over a little hill and Trav was down on one knee, Rob was next to a tree with Drake, and the bull laid in his bed, finally expired from the finishing shot.  I can't begin to tell you the emotion and sheer joy that raced through me to see that scene!  It is one that is etched in my mind and I will never forget.  We had spent 7 days looking for, hunting, and searching for this bull.  It had been hard physically, but even more so mentally.  We were all getting to our last nerve with the hunt and with each other, but we did it!  Travy was finally able to kill the bull he had came to kill.  Here is where he finally took his last breath:
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Below will be many more pictures of what transpired next, but I have to give a huge shout out to Rob and his pooch Drake, because I am firmly convinced we would have never seen that bull again with Drake on the case.  The blood had gone dry and it would have simply been just a matter of luck for us to ever get the blood on the other side of the draw.  It was a good 70+ yards away from the last blood and in a totally different direction.  It would have been like trying to find a needle in a haystack.  This dog is worth his weight in gold!

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A big thanks to Cody for heading right back up to help us find him and haul him out.  A big thanks to Paul for...well, for being Paul.  He kept me sane dealing with my crazy brother the whole week.  Without Paul, Trav or I may not have come off that mountain!  Cory was a total stud the whole hunt, doing the vast majority of the hiking and working his tail off with Trav every step of the way.  And to Travy, thanks for letting me a part of an awesome hunt I'll never forget.  It was a blast, and I couldn't have asked for anything more as a tag-along to have such a great time.

This bull was earned.  It was a tough hunt to finally close the deal.  But we did it, and hopefully Trav is pleased with his bull for years to come!

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And then the work started....

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And finally, when Trav wasn't sleeping, he was on his phone.  Glad he was able to stay awake long enough to finally put the bow on a great hunt!

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Until next year when Paul has his Wasatch muzzy tag....then we get to do it all over again!