"Prime Time Elk"
|Gayland Jones harvested this great bull in southern Utah in 1999. The bull is 44 inches wide,has 6 points on each side and scores 320 B&C.|
We arrived on Friday, the day before the opener. We spent most of Friday evening sitting around the campfire telling memorable hunting stories, and expressing our anticipation and excitement for the upcoming hunt.
We awoke early opening morning and began hiking into the area where we had seen the bulls before the hunt. After a four-mile hike, the morning light began to appear above the horizon. Immediately, we began hearing the bulls bugling, and it was music to the ears.
We began making our way towards the bugling bulls. As we neared the top of a ridge, we spotted the elk feeding in a high meadow. There were four bulls, a spike, a two-point, a three, and a good five point. I had my sites set on at least a six-point, so we passed on any shooting.
By noon, we found ourselves sitting near three heavily used wallows. It seemed like a great spot to just sit and what for the elk to come to us, so that's just what we did. Within a couple hours, we had a large group of elk moving right towards the wallows. There were several bulls, and one was a very good six-point. We watched as they moved closer, but then suddenly, they changed directions and began feeding up the hillside. My dad and I were angry with ourselves, thinking that we should have tried getting closer to the big boy and possibly taking a shot.
The elk moved into the heavy timber, then bedded down for the afternoon. They had congregated in a very good location, at the base of some very steep ledges. We attempted a stalk from above, through the steep ledges. Unfortunately, it was near impossible to remain silent and the elk went thundering through the darker timber below.
Because of work, I wasn't able to return hunting until Wednesday. I returned to the area where I had seen that big bull, but there was no sign that the elk were still in the area. I expected them to return within a few days, but I wasn't going to wait around until they did.
I hunted all day Thursday, but had no luck. On Friday, I moved to a new location where I found quite a bit of fresh elk sign. Two hours into my hike, I heard the bugle of bull; he was about 3/4 of mile up the canyon. My heart was pounding as I began hunting towards the bull. The timber was thick, yet I tried to be as quiet as possible. The bull would bugle every few minutes, so I could tell I was closing the gap between us.
Suddenly, there he was, only 30 feet away! He let out a nervous bugle and ripped down through the timber before I even got the safety off. I was a bit disappointed, but I quickly got over that when I heard another bull challenging the one that I had just come "face-to-face" with.
I quickly made my way down the ridge, hoping to head the bull off. I had just stopped near a fallen tree, when I spotted four cows only 40 yards away. I pulled my cow call from my pocket and did my best imitation of a lovesick lady elk, but no response. In my haste and excitement, I must have scared the bull away.
I decided to take a short rest, let the bull settle down, and then follow him in hopes of getting another opportunity. After following his tracks for about a mile, I decided to stop and bugle once. He answered, but he was up in a thick pocket of quakies about 400 yards away. I knew that if I tried to get close to him from this angle, he would surely hear or see me coming. I decided to try circling up, and around, then stalk him from behind.
As I approached a small ridge above him, I bugled again hoping to better "pinpoint" his position. He answered again, and I knew I was within 100 yards. I immediately chambered a cartridge into my .300 Weatherby Magnum. As I eased over the ridge, I could see the trophy bull in the bottom of the canyon. He was the bull I wanted, but the trees were too thick, I'd have to reposition myself or get closer.
I followed a little game trail down the hill, hoping not to make any noise. Suddenly, out jumped two deer. My heart was pounding, because they startled me, and because I thought, they'd spook the elk. Fortunately, the elk didn't even notice the noisy deer.
I continued down the hill, slowly closing the gap between the bull and me. The bull began scraping the ground and the nearby trees with his massive antlers. The echo off the canyon walls was incredible, and made the bull even more impressive. He was hot for the cows, and even tried mounting one, but she wouldn't allow it.
Finally, I was close enough for a shot. I flipped the safety off and took steady aim. The bull was quartering to the right, and I gently squeezed the trigger. With the blast, the bull lunged backward and then ran about 40 yards down the hill. In a matter of seconds, I was following the easiest blood trail I've ever followed. Then I saw him. He was down, but the fight had not yet left him. A final shot to the heart and he drew his last breath. The deed was done.
I hurried down the mountain and called my dad to tell him the good news. I told him to bring my brothers, because I had a brute laid down. They met me that evening and helped me get the bull back to the truck. My hunt was over, but the memories will last a lifetime.
Written by Gayland Jones
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