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"Two Kings One Canyon"
Written by Justin Freeman

Two Kings One Canyon
Elk and mule deer hunting has been a passion of mine since I was a young kid. I start preparation every year in July, planning where I will hunt and how I will hunt a certain area. This season I decided to concentrate on a canyon where I had seen great elk and mule deer during extensive scouting trips and seasons past. In the past, however, I had not been so lucky as to harvest anything in this canyon. But, I would spend all of my time there for a chance at a trophy bull during the general archery season and a trophy buck during the general rifle deer season.

On September 23rd, I headed to my hunting area to setup camp. I had planned on staying until the 30th or until I harvested a bull. It was starting to get overcast and there looked to be a storm moving in. I retreated to the camp trailer early that evening to get a good nights rest. The next morning, I woke early and prepared myself for the day, and the tough two and a half hour hike up the mountain.

I began my hike in the fresh four inches of snow the storm laid the night before. It looked to be clear skies as I could see the huge array of stars above. I neared the head of the canyon at dawn and was excited to hear faint bugles and cow calls in the distance. The sun started to rise as I moved my way down the sparsely timbered hillside to the heavily timbered bottom. The fresh snow made it ideal for sneaking through the trees.

The bottom of this canyon is prime rutting grounds for the elk. The deep scattered wallows and many rubbed jack pines give this canyon away to the few people that make it all the way back in. Every hundred or so yards I moved, the calls grew louder. It sounded as if there were around five bulls and a small harem of cows. I closed in on the herd and began to setup in the deep timber tucked along the bottom of the canyon. The elk were calling heavily and went quiet after about an hour. They seemed as if they were going to go silent for the day, but one bull was moving in and bugling heavily. He sounded like the more dominant bull of the group. I prepared myself for the shot as I caught a glance of the bull coming out of the timber and down through the drainage in my direction. Moving quickly, he disappeared over the hillside. As I came to full draw the bull popped up over the slight roll in the hill. There he was seven yards looking straight at me. I put my twenty yard pin low in his jugular and released the arrow burying it to the fletching. The bull went one hundred yards back down through the drainage and back up the other side of the canyon before falling over.

I gave the bull time to expire and then headed up the other side of the canyon to retrieve my trophy. As I neared the bull it sunk in that he was a great bull, a 6x7 that rough scored around 330. After collecting my emotions I started the process of caping and boning the bull out. I was alone and it was a lot of work taking me around three to four hours. I packed as much as I could out at the time. The next morning my dad, brother, a friend, and I started in early to pack the rest out. It was a full day and a ten mile round trip, but worth every minute to harvest such a great bull.

Two Kings One Canyon
October 9th I set camp and prepared for the general rifle deer season. The next day I started the same hike I did during the archery elk season when I took my bull. I broke off the ridge in the same area slowly working my way around the head of the canyon skirting the scattered cliffs stopping to glass every so often. I saw some does and a few smaller bucks across the canyon, but they were not what I was looking for. I had seen the bigger bucks in the past on the cedar covered fingers that run off the cliffs. I concentrated on those as I slowly moved along making sure I was glassing everything in detail so I would not miss one of these smart bucks.

In the cliffs above me were around seven sheep, a couple nice rams, and a few ewes. I kept glancing up at them as I moved along. Out of the corner of my eye there looked to be two of the sheep out of place and moving up, so I took another look with my binoculars. They were two nice mule deer bucks. I guessed the bucks at four hundred yards straight up. Comfortable with the shot I took rest with my steady sticks and picked the larger buck out. Squeezing the trigger, I hit the deer in the front shoulder putting him down in his tracks. The buck slid down the rock slide about one hundred yards.

The mountain was very steep and rocky, but my adrenaline helped me to get to my downed trophy. As I approached the buck, I realized that he was a real good buck. The buck is a 26-inch wide 4x4 with about three and a half inch eye guards. He gross scored 173.

This past season I had great luck and have increased my love and addiction for hunting. I have learned that dedication, hard work, and persistence pays off. There were many times I either got tired, cold, wet or frustrated and wanted to head back down, but I kept pressing on and I think that greatly helped me in harvesting these animals.