Dusty Powers of Sandy, Utah, sent in his story and several pictures from his Utah archery elk hunt. Congrats on an AWESOME bull Dusty, and thanks for the great story! Dusty will receive an Elk101.com prize package for his story.
“After putting in for 6 years I finally drew the Utah Wasatch Elk Tag. Even though this is not a premium hunt the big bull opportunities are certainly good in this limited entry unit. This is one of Utah’s largest management zones and produces 350+ class bulls every year and occasionally homes the coveted 400 class elk. However, growing up in Northern Idaho and accustom to the thick alders and head high huckleberry brush the Utah landscape and elk population would pose some additional challenges for me as I started my quest for a mature bull. Open buck brush and pockets of park like timber produces some spectacular views from above.
I had been eying a unit in the southern part of the state the last 5 years, but turned to the Wasatch unit after bugling in some mature bulls the last couple years. Being able to hunt after work was appealing and the quality of elk that I had been seeing was enough to convince me to put in for the Wasatch unit. After drawing the tag I began scouting and doing some research on the local front. My first order of business was to get some trail cameras out in the areas that I had been frequenting. (If you haven’t used trail cams you are missing out!) I got some great photos of elk that I would have never gotten without them.
While putting up the cameras in late June I jumped a bull that I would devote my time to, but was not able to coax him back to the area to get a photo, or put a bead on. I guess that is why he has grown to be great trophy bull. Even though I was not able to get this particular bull on camera I was able to get some great pics. Early season scouting produced some good bulls and some young ones practicing for the upcoming mating season. Check out the little bull at the end of July. It is still a little early guy!
There were some comical shots at this location as well as some good bulls. I was intent on taking one of these elk, but after the opening week the hunting pressure elevated and this area would became a little crowded for me and apparently the elk. They vanished after being so comfortable during preseason. I had two cameras out in this area – one on a wallow, and one on an incoming trail across the draw about 400 yrds if you shot with a range finder. However, it took a little longer to walk down and up at about 10,000 feet. Below are some good bulls that liked hanging out at this muddy pool.
A couple good shots of a wide 6 point that probably had a little growing left to do. Early July and he is already looking tough.
A few more good looking bulls! Great 3rds on the first bull and a couple soon to be ex-buds hanging out….
With this location having the potential of getting to much pressure I set up another camera in an area that I had seen some good bulls in the past. This area didn’t produce any big bulls that I captured on film, but I was able to pattern a couple spikes in that area. A buddy of mine that was new to elk hunting had a spike tag for the area, so I showed him this spot and potential stand locations. He arrowed his first elk off the stand near the saddle crossing. It was great helping him get his first elk (and with a bow)…congrats Mark!
In addition to the spikes there were several cows that came into the area. One particular cow wanted to bed on the ridge and became a little upset with the trail camera after about an hour of getting flashed three times every minute. Crazy cow anyway.
Needless to say pre-season scouting was pretty fun and I saw a lot of interesting critters, but the real task at hand was getting a bull on the ground. I hunted hard for 6 days (after work and weekends) in the area that harbored the bull I had been watching during the pre-season. However, hunting pressure increased dramatically around the end of August and I decide to make a drastic move and change locations. I had the last 10 days of the season scheduled off and I fully intended on spending them in the mountains.
The location that I moved to was not totally new to me. I had scouted it some and spent one weekend in the area where I had bugled in a good 5X5 that I let walk. The pressure there was less but the pack would be much more difficult. With some help from friends one evening, we located the canyon that I would spend the rest of my time hunting. A beautiful 6X7 busted us that night at about 100yrds and he pushed his cows up the adjacent hill side. We had him pegged to score approximately 365 to 375.
With the picture of this great bull in my mind I was on my own again after that night’s hunt. However, a good friend and hunting partner, Jeremy, was due to arrive in the next couple days, but until then I would be hunting solo. I wasn’t too worried since I was accustom to hunting alone, but the open ground and relatively open timber pockets were giving me problems when trying to lure the wapiti the last 50 yards. I pondered the idea of using a decoy, but I was not familiar with them so I opted not to experiment (probably a mistake).
Not only was the terrain difficult, but the elk in this area were very difficult to call as well. The majority of the time they were very vocal but the shear quantity of bulls and cows kept them from being too aggressive (I am assuming). Any pressure on them at all and they were gone. I even separated a few from their cows and I guess they had enough since they would leave them behind and gradually work there way the opposite direction, bugling as they went. The action was great but these bulls don’t become old by being dumb. We were seeing anywhere from 2 to 9 bulls a day, but even with a shooter and caller the task of taking one of these magnificent Utah animals proved to be very difficult.
The morning of 9/7/09, after the 5th day straight and 11th day of hunting this would be my last day before Jeremy would show up to camp (I eagerly awaited re-enforcements). With daylight just 30 minutes away I headed down into the drainage with elk greeting me with there magical bugles that will pull a person into places you would never go at will. As I headed down the drainage three bulls were engaged with each other, so I jockeyed for position and decided to go after the bull that seemed a little more aggressive. Like clock work the bull pulled me back up the face of the mountain until I decide I wouldn’t be turning this bull today. With the first maneuver behind me I glassed back across the canyon and saw another bull that was echoing the bugle of the bull I was chasing. He was a little to far away to really size up, but his frame looked to be the bull that I had been after. With him in my sights I decided to employ some stalking skills and some general knowledge of the elk’s habits that I had discovered over the last few days.
With that thought, I saw his cows moving down the ridge to a crossing in the bottom of the draw, so I found some scarce cover and headed down to meet them. I managed to get set up in the bottom as they moved across in front of me at 35 yards and I waited patiently for the big bull to step out. I then waited some more and then some more… the bull never came. I decide to head straight up the other side to a small patch of timber that I last saw him go into. The wind was good and I was able to break into the dark timber with some decent cover. As I breached the timber I moved cautiously and was about to move across an open park-like stretch when something told me to take another look around.
I saw the bull standing up hill from me. I determined the angle to be 30+ degrees (so an extreme up hill shot). I estimated the range to be about 50 yards but I had good cover, as the adrenalin started pumping, so I opted to double check the distance with my range finders. They confirmed, 52 yards. With many years of 3D shooting and practice I figured a 50 pin placed at the bottom of the vitals would find home. I glassed again to size up the animal and as his head turn I could see his massive frame and 20+” swords. There was really no decision to make whether I would attempt to harvest this animal. There were a lot of obstacles in the way but I had a small shooting lane that exposed his side right behind the shoulder. If I could make it though without hitting one of the many large branches that lined the shooting lane, the bull was mine.
I was confident in my shooting ability and my Alpine Ventura, so I took a few more seconds to calm my nerves (if you really can) and drew. I settled in and the shot broke good. I heard the 5575 gold tip pointed with a shuttle T broad head strike home. The bull whirled and went out of site. I waited just a few minutes and went to the last seen location to check for blood. It took a few small circles and I found blood. As I was marking the spot another hunter from across the canyon yelled over and told me “the bull is down just 40 yards ahead of you”. There would be no waiting time for this one as I moved in to take possession of the mighty bull. This was certainly the hardest and most satisfying hunt that I have experienced. I worked the rest of the day to take care of the animal and start packing. I packed until night fall, and went in the next morning at daylight to get the last two packs. The bull was not the one I had spotted earlier but it is still a great bull that should eat well.”