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"What A Great Hunt!!"
Written by Bud Latturner

What A Great Hunt!
Bud shot his big buck at 25 yards!
It was Saturday night, Labor Day weekend 2002 at about 8:15 p.m., when I noticed movement about 100 yards up the hill. I was getting excited!
My step-son, Troy, and I were on a combo archery deer/elk hunt in southern Utah. We had been trying for 8 days to get a good shot at a big bull elk, and there were only 2 days left for us to hunt. Troy had drawn a Utah archery elk tag (AR301), and we both had statewide archery deer tags.
Drawing these elk tags is a bit tough, so our primary concern was finding and harvesting an elk. We figured we had plenty of time for deer, as we are both part of the dedicated hunter program here in Utah and would be able to hunt with a muzzleloader and rifle in addition to our bows.

Troy and two of his buddies had applied for the elk tags together, but after drawing, the boss at their work couldn't let them all go at the same time. So, Troy opted to go early in the hunt, in late August, and asked if I would join him. Of course I wanted to join him, and I had an "Ace in the hole!" You see, each year while deer hunting, we see a good number of good bulls and I was sure we could find one again this year.

We arrived on the first Saturday of the hunt and immediately headed to a spot where we planned to hang treestands and wait for a giant bull to come in to one of the wallows. On the way, we saw 8 or 10 elk with one good bull, but couldn't decide exactly where to hang the stands. So, the next morning we went around the mountain to another spring. Two big bulls were just leaving as we arrived. There were beaten trails and droppings everywhere, so we decided to place our stands about 200 yards above the spring and give it a shot.

Our first evening in the stands, we had a spike bull swing wide of us. The second night, we startled a good bull on the way in to our stands, but nothing came close enough to shoot. Troy suggested that we get closer to the water, but that meant a ground blind, as there were few good treestand trees around the spring itself. I was nervous about that, but we decided to give it a try anyway.

The first night in our ground blind, we had a raghorn slip in about 60 yards below us and then several cows gave us a visit, but no big bulls. The next morning, nothing came in, but that evening a good bull came within 60 yards before winding us. I told Troy that I thought we should give this spot a rest and try another spring that I knew of. So, the next morning we took off up to the new area.

As we approached the edge of the opening, we spotted 3 spike bulls feeding in the meadow. We watched as they filled their bellies and finally meandered away. After they left, we looked the area over. There was plenty of elk sign, droppings, fresh rubs, etc., so we decided to hang our treestands and give this place a try.
The first night we had a small 3-point buck and a doe feed right beneath us, but no elk. And, the next morning was the same, a big zero on big bulls!
As we ate lunch, I told Troy that I couldn't believe we don't see any bigger deer by that spring. I had hunted there numerous times and it seems like it's always that same small 3-point that shows up each time. Don't they ever get bigger!!

That evening at about 7:30, 2 large bucks appeared moving down the sidehill about 100 yards away, heading straight into our meadow! The lead buck was big and blocky. He stood at the edge of the meadow studying the situation, then the other buck joined him and they began moving toward the water. I could see that both bucks had only 3 points per side. One was dark red with a heavy, tall rack that I estimated at 25 inches wide. The other buck was totally gray, not as tall, but wider. This one impressed me the most, but both were very nice bucks.

They were feeding about 60 yards from Troy when 2 other, smaller bucks, joined them. For about 15 minutes, the bucks drank and fed along the spring. The big gray buck was clear up on the other end of the meadow, about 120 yards out. I was hoping he would feed my way, but what are the odds?
Suddenly, he decided to come my way, and he was walking fast! At 40 yards he stopped, but was looking in my direction. Then, he began walking fast again, almost at a trott! At 25 yards, I drew my bow. He must have heard something, because he stopped broadside. I couldn't have asked for a better target!
I released the arrow and watched as it hit him square in the chest. He bolted for timber, crashing and gasping. It was over in just a few seconds, as he only went about 50 yards before expiring.
We waited in our stands until dark, hoping that maybe one of the other bucks would come back and Troy could take a shot, but none did.
We found the deer with our flashlights, gutted and hung him to cool. Troy was so excited for me that I think he forgot that we were really there looking for elk. Measuring 31 inches at the very widest points, this was one of those rare occasions when the buck turned out to be larger than either of us had guessed.

What A Great Hunt!
Troy shot his big bull at 11 yards!
The next morning found Troy sitting in the same stand, but again, no elk. We agreed to try the other spot one more time. It was almost dark and we had been sitting there since 6:00 p.m. and nothing had moved. We both thought we were going to be skunked and were already trying to figure out how Troy could get out of work and we could come back the next weekend. Then, I caught movement and seen the big bull move his head from left to right. I whispered to Troy, "Big Bull". From the position I was in, the bull vanished. I couldn't see or hear anything! Then I heard a thump. OK, I thought to myself, he must have jumped the fence heading for the water. Everything was quiet as I strained my eyes trying to see the bull. I couldn't see anything, but I knew Troy could as he shifted his position to draw the bow. I thought to myself; don't shoot until he gets close enough. Then he appeared, right in front of me! 11 yards away, walking still closer!
He stopped, put his head down to drink facing directly toward us. Troy drew the bow very slowly, trying not to alarm the giant. Right on cue, the bull shifted his position to nearly broadside. "Shoot him!", I whispered.

"Thunk!", went the arrow, but to our surprise the bull just lifted his head and started walking back the way he had just come. Troy tried to get another arrow from his quiver, but the bull walked directly away, not allowing for a good shot. Back over the fence and nearly up to where I had first spotted him, he stopped and stood there. Only his antlers were visible in the small aspen trees. We watched him until it was too dark to see.
I asked Troy, "Where did you hit him?" "I think it was low, but I couldn't tell for sure", he replied. He then said, "It was out of the bow and into the bull so fast! What now? Do we go after him now or wait until morning?" I responded, "I'm afraid to go after him now, if he's only wounded, we'll scare him and may never find him".
We agreed that it was best to wait until morning, give him a chance to expire somewhere nearby.

What A Great Hunt!
Troy shot his big bull at 11 yards!
What a long, miserable night! It's funny how the mind works. That bull was only 11 yards away and he was the size of a horse, yet before we went to bed Troy wasn't even sure if he had even hit the bull. It seems that a bull that had just been shot at 11 yards would atleast trott away, not just stroll away and then stand there!

The next morning we were there at first light with Troy sneaking around the hill and coming from above where we had last seen the previous evening. My wife and I remained below, watching in case the bull tried to slip away. All of a sudden a warhoop sounded! Troy had him! A dandy 6x7, 300+ bull.
We later found that his arrow had hit perfectly, right behind the front legs, midway up.

It's a rare occasion when a hunter takes an animal he dreams about. Troy and I feel very fortunate to have each taken such exceptional animals and to each witness the others success. What a great hunt!!!