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"A Great Elk Hunt"
Written by Kevin Bradford

A Great Elk Hunt
I am a letter carrier with the post office in Salt Lake City. After 13 years of applying for limited entry elk tags and receiving only rejection letters, I jumped for joy when my wife called to let me know there was a $180 charge to our credit card from the DWR. My son Kyle turned 14 this year and was in need of a hunting rifle. I decided to give him my Ruger M-77 .30-06 and buy a new rifle in anticipation of the hunt. I chose a Remington model 700BDL chambered for a .338 Remington Ultra Mag.

Opening day of the hunt found me and my friend, Tom Kudla, in a basin where we had seen quite a few elk in the past. It was a cold morning, in the mid twenties, as we headed down into the basin to see if we could bugle any bulls. I cow called every few minutes as we worked our way down the draw. As we reached the bottom, we heard branches cracking and the loud, low sound of hoof beats coming in our direction. We hurried to find cover to set up and just as we concealed ourselves, a cow came into view twenty yards away and stood broadside. Not being what I was hunting, I reached for my digital camera to take a photo. I tried to click off a picture and found that there was no memory card installed! Two days before, Tom had taken a bull with his bow and we had taken the camera home to download the photos of his elk and I forgot to reinstall the card in the camera. Waiting 14 years to draw this hunt, I was reluctant to take an animal without the ability to capture the memories.

After the cow had left, we continued deeper into the pine and quakie basin. About five minutes later, a 5x5 responded to our cow calls. It wasn't a dream bull by any means, but it sure got our hearts pounding and our spirits lifted. We continued on and 10 or 15 minutes later we got another response. As we crouched behind a large dead pine, a bull and I had a bugling contest. I tried to match the length of his bugles as closely as possible. After 3 or 4 minutes, the 6x6 showed himself about 25 yards away. We admired him for the few moments he allowed before retreating.

We had only moved another 150 yards or so when we heard another elk bellow us in the heavy timber. It took about 10 minutes before I saw the 6x7 rack moving through the forest. He was very tall, but didn't have the width or mass I was looking, so I let him pass.

Another short distance later, we got a response from another bull and man was he mad! He sounded like he was 3 or 4 hundred yards away, but he closed the distance in no time. We were well concealed and he stopped 30 yards above us and commenced to turning a pine into a pile of shavings. Tom was to my right and a couple of feet ahead of me. I watched as he put his fingers in his ears expecting me to shoot. We saw the large 6x6's antlers heaving back and forth for a full five minutes as he tore the tree apart. What a show! But, I didn't shoot.

That evening Tom had to leave, but my buddy Sheldon would be showing up late that night with his video camera and digital still camera to document the hunt. I went to a peak where I got a cell phone signal and had him stop by my house to pick up my camera's memory card.

The second day of the hunt found me and Sheldon heading back to the same basin where Tom and I had called in the four mature bulls the day before. We were surprised to get our first response just a couple hundred yards form the truck. After bugling and cow calling while moving toward the bull, the wind shifted and we caught sight of the 6x6 as he headed away form our scent. I saw one other 6x6 later in the afternoon, but not long enough to touch off a shot.

We decided the area was prime for large bulls, but we decided to change strategy on the third day. The big bulls hadn't started herding cows yet and were still keeping to themselves. They had responded well to cow calls, so I decided to bugle less and rely on the cow calls. We had been hunting for about an hour without any response and were wondering if maybe we had spooked the animals out of the area. As hope for a good day was dropping, we heard a bugle to the east. It seemed too distant, so I pressed on cow calling as we walked. We had only traveled 50 yards or so when a bugle came from ahead and to the left. It sounded very close! I bugled once, let out three quick cow calls and got an immediate response. Another cow call and he stepped into a small opening. I saw the mass and width and knew I had to have this bull! One shot with the .338 and he stiffened, his legs wobbled and he dropped. I couldn't believe how quickly he went down!
Then the work began!

After field dressing, Sheldon helped me move the bull to a spot that would be shaded for the job of quartering and then headed to the truck to get the bags and other equipment we would need to haul out the elk. I asked him to take my rifle back with him so we wouldn't have to carry it with the quarters. I began the task of skinning and quartering when I heard a twig snap below me. I turned to see a black bear moving toward me 50 yards away! I move away from the meat and did the only thing I could think of….I sang the theme from the Brady Bunch at the top of my lungs. I guess my singing is awful, because the bear turned and trotted away. I continued singing off and on until Sheldon returned. Ten hours of hauling and the elk was in the truck.

I'd like to give Tom and Sheldon my heartfelt thanks for taking time to help make my hunt successful and enjoyable.