"Heaven Sent 6x7 - Part I"
Written by Clint Chamberlain
As filling out applications had become a yearly ritual, so had receiving a letter in April stating that I was once again "UNSUCCESSFUL." Though each year I read that fateful word, it still felt as if someone had just tattooed "LOSER" on my forehead.
To increase my odds of a successful draw, I had applied for a primitive weapon muzzleloader hunt while Papa had again applied for the rifle hunt. It seemed that April would never arrive; allowing us to find out whether or not one of us had drawn. Finally the letter had arrived, opening it with a pessimistic attitude; I was floored when bold letters jumped out at me telling me I was successful! The next day Papa received his letter and against insurmountable odds, we would both be hunting trophy elk in the fall.
After a long summer, I started off my fall by taking a small deer on the archery hunt. It was the first archery kill for me in several years of trying. This had to be a good omen!
September 12th had finally arrived. It was the day before Papa's hunt opened. Though in incredible shape for 84 years young, we knew he wouldn't be able to charge in on the elk. Our strategy was to find areas where the elk were working and position him where he could likely get a shot. That evening found my good friend Tim and I searching for bulls. We had split up thinking it would be more effective to cover a few different areas. It was unseasonably warm and the elk weren't as active as we had hoped. Nonetheless, Tim found a nice six point in the head of a canyon and had a few more bugling in the area. All I could find was a rag horn in a deep hole.
We left the mountain and met Papa, Uncle Larry, Steve and Hunter J. at the motel. We told them of our success and anticipation ran high. We figured to leave the motel at 4:30 am the following morning to give us time to set up on the bull. Papa needs a little longer to get ready these days, so I wasn't surprised when the alarm clock went off at 2:50 am. We definitely were not going to be late!
As we unloaded the wheelers, Larry had a flat tire. By the time he had it pumped up everyone was itching to get going. Papa, Steve and Tim took off while I shined my light on Larry's wheeler until he got things strapped on. When I thought he had everything buckled down, I drove down to the road leading up to our canyon and waited for Larry since he was unfamiliar with the area. After a few minutes he had not shown, we were already having problems! I drove back to the truck and found neither Larry nor his wheeler. I assumed he took the road directly behind us and I wasn't about to chase him down. Besides, it wouldn't hurt to have a pair of eyes in that canyon either.
Hunter and I tore up the road trying to catch up, finally seeing the other lights ahead of us. We made it to the ridge about 45 minutes before light and walked out into the canyon. We immediately heard bugles, but they were a ways off. We tried to call in a bull, but he was unwilling to approach us. We walked back to the wheelers around 10:00 am, thinking we better try to get Larry on the radio or go find him. As we loaded our packs on the wheelers, Steve noticed an elk across the canyon, it was the six point Tim had found the previous night. He pushed his cows all the way across the canyon and was heading right for us. Naturally he held up in some trees above us, answering our bugles but he would not budge.
After accepting the fact that he was most likely in the trees for the day, we thought it best to leave him alone and try him again that evening. Not wanting to spook him, I walked up over the ridge to radio Larry. For some reason I glanced up from the radio and saw an enormous set of antlers feeding away from me about 200 yards away. I ran back and got the attention of the other guys. By the time we got Papa up there, the bull was no where to be found. Steve and I walked down the ridge a ways so we could look into the trees and possibly spot him. In the process, Steve looked down into a clearing and spotted a nice seven point, however one side was simply a main beam with a brow tine. After an hour or so of glassing, we figured that the elk had probably retreated to the cool trees to spend the afternoon. We decided to find Larry and come up with a game plan for the evening hunt.
Just as we were starting down the hill on the wheelers, Larry called the radio. He wasn't exactly sure where he was but did have a trail number. I don't know the area by numbers, only names, so we decided it would be best to meet back at the truck. Once we had regrouped, we ate lunch and took a nap.
Late afternoon again found us staking out the nice six-point we had seen earlier in the day. The elk were slow to get going, most likely due to the heat. Our six-point bugled in the exact spot we had left him earlier. Tim thought it would be best to see if he came across the hill in the same spot as the previous night, so Papa got set up with his shooting sticks for a dead rest. The shot would be a long one, nearly 400 yards.
Hunter J. was the first one to see the cows come out. The bull followed with caution, but did give Papa a few seconds for a broadside shot, however Papa was watching the clearing below where the bull was standing and Steve could not guide his focus farther up the hill. All in all it was an exciting opening day.
We came home late Saturday to attend Church the following day. There was no school that Monday, so Papa, Hunter and I were back down early. We chose to come into the same canyon from the back side which allowed us to ride a wheeler trail that bordered a private ranch. Though it was a scenic ride, we did not see any elk. We stopped at the top of our canyon to look into it from a different perspective. I had walked down the ridge a couple hundred yards and spotted a bull on the far side where we were Saturday night. He stepped off the ridge before I could get much of a look at him. I bugled once and he popped up over the top again, gave a little squeal and again walked over the edge. This time my bugles would not bring him back, but he did appear to be the same six-point we had been watching.
Larry had taken the afternoon off of work and had agreed to meet us around 1:00 pm back at the truck. This way he could hunt the evening with us and take Hunter back for school the following day. That evening found us once again camped out on the nice six-point. Again the elk were slow to get going but they did start bugling about 45 minutes before dark. As we were sitting, I noticed an elk walking up a little draw no more than 100 yards away. I could make out antler tips and told Papa to get ready. As he walked up the draw I was able to tell it was a very tall spike. It was exciting for a moment anyway.
That evening we discussed our plan for the morning. Papa wanted to try an area where we spend the general spike hunt. I was skeptical; having not seen many large bulls in that area, but Papa seemed to always see a few good ones, besides this was his hunt. I was just there to provide as much support and help as possible.
We walked out to the basin that we often spend time in, Papa has a rock that he loves to sit on, and it holds a special place in our heart where we spent our last hunt together with my Uncle Dennis before his passing away from cancer. I walked out to the North end on a place we call the windy ridge, because it's always miserable windy. It's also where I killed my first elk several years ago.
I had just sat down my pack and got comfortable when a bull bugled, he was probably within a few hundred yards of me. There were two other bulls in the area bugling as well. I radioed Papa and told him that I had some elk below me and he should come over. In the 20 minutes it took Papa to reach me, the bull had bugled non-stop, he was definitely fired up.
Again, with Papa not being very mobile considering the steepness of the hill, we waited him out from a vantage point hoping he would step up in the bench we were watching. Though he was close several times, raking his antlers in the edge of the trees, he never did show himself. He bugled steady until close to 3:30 that afternoon.
We waited him out all day and around 7:00 pm he started bugling again, this time he had worked directly below us and was in a pond. His bugling was consistent, just like earlier, but again he would not show himself. With only 30 minutes left of shooting light, I told Papa to get ready and we'd try to call him in. I cow barked once and he immediately raised the roof with a long growling bugle followed by grunts. After a few minutes I called again, once more he screamed at us, this time closer. By the time I had called a third time, it was obvious he was coming to find the lost cow. This was the first elk that I had actually called in, and although I was a nervous wreck, Papa was ice.
I could finally see the bull walking through the trees on a path that would lead him within 100 yards of us. I glassed him and verified he was a six point, whispering to Papa that I felt he was a shooter. As he emerged from the trees, he let out a bone chilling bugle, stepped broadside, and then Papa's 7mm Magnum barked. At the shot the bull was down and I was one relieved guy! Papa had finally killed his first bull elk and it was a dandy! The bull was caked with mud from rolling around in the pond and he was still drenched. We were able to use the flash and get a few pictures that night.
We were running out of daylight, so we quickly made our way to the bull. Upon inspection we saw he was a very nice six by seven. Later measurements would reveal a 290 bull. What an experience to be with my favorite hunting partner and be a part of his trophy hunt. Though we knew the hard part was still ahead of us, we had no idea what the evening would bring.
We had hiked out in the dark the previous night and I could tell it had taken a toll on Papa. As we climbed up the ridge after field dressing the elk, Papa had become light headed and had lost most of his energy. Past experience told me that the excitement along with nerves had just gotten the best of him and after a few minutes he would be fine. We had about a mile walk back to the wheelers.
I first sensed that we could be in trouble after having only gone about a hundred yards in 45 minutes. Papa was still dizzy and needed to rest frequently. I had called my wife on the cell phone from the elk and let her know of our success, promising to call her when we had made it off the mountain. I called again to let her know that we were going slowly and not to expect me to call her again until morning. I tried to encourage Papa along the way, telling him that in a week we would have a laugh over the entire evening.
After about an hour and a half things were worse. Papa had become a little disoriented and had begun to throw up. I tried to keep him hydrated, but it would just come back up. Sensing the situation turning serious, not to mention we were both beat, I suggested that this was turning into an emergency and the best way out was to let me go ahead and bring a four wheeler in to get Papa. We stay on designated trails and try to set a good example by riding responsibly, however I felt it best to break the rules. Papa was adamant that I not try to get a wheeler to him. I again called my wife and told her that we were really struggling and asked her to say a prayer for us.
We had made it about half way to the wheelers and it was after midnight. Again I tried to be supportive and help Papa along. He finally told me to run ahead and unload his gun and pack which I was carrying along with mine, and then come back and help him. I had made up my mind as soon as I set off that I would bring in the four wheeler. Although I didn't want to go off trail, I really thought this was the best decision. I believe Papa was relieved as well when I pulled up on the wheeler. I finally felt as if we'd make it off the mountain in reasonably good shape.
We went slowly down the trail as Papa was using all of his energy to steer the big Polaris Sportsman. As soon as we arrived at the truck I told him to go lay down while I loaded the wheelers on the trailer. Just as I put the first one on, I saw a four wheeler approaching me. I glanced at my watch and wondered what in the world someone was doing on a wheeler at 2:30 am. He drove up to me and informed me that he was with the Sheriff/Search and Rescue. Though we had made it off the mountain, I was extremely relieved to know I wasn't out there by myself. The rescue group was extremely nice and very concerned about my grandpa. They even followed us off the mountain and to the motel to make sure we made it. As I stepped out of the truck, Tim and his son Hunter T., Brett, Larry and my Hunter J greeted me.
Evidently my wife had called them and told them we were in a jam. My uncle works for the Utah County Sheriff Dept. and he was who called the local Sheriff and explained where we were. Once again I was relieved to know that the packing chores that lay ahead would not be entirely on my shoulders.
The rescue group called one of their buddies who is an EMT, to come and check out Papa and be sure he was alright. We had concluded that the major factor was altitude sickness. We made him drink a Power Ade before he turned in for the night. I remember glancing at the clock when I went to bed; it was 4:00 am on the money.
Six thirty came far too quickly, but I was rejuvenated and ready to get the elk off the mountain. The packing chores went quite easily with an incredible amount of help from Tim, Brett, Hunter T. and Hunter J. We quartered and caped the elk. Hunter J. packed both of the front shoulders while Hunter T. packed out the loins, not bad for a 14 and 10 year old respectively. Tim and I each packed a hind quarter while Brett packed the head. We were able to do it in one trip.
Papa was feeling much better after a good night's sleep and some liquid. It was great to finally get home and show off his trophy to everyone. Once home, my aunt told Papa that he needed to name the elk. After some pondering, being known as a poet, he came up with "Six by Seven Straight from Heaven." He didn't give an explanation, but I assume it was a tribute to the twinkle eyed grin that we had seen so many times before on that same hill in the past, knowing that Uncle Dennis was sitting right there beside us that night.
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