Mule Deer, Elk and Western Big Game Hunting -

"The Payoff Is All Sixes"
Written by Marty Cowin, aka Buckfever here at

It all started when the Utah DWR took the "UN" away from unsuccessful on my draw results letter. After 9 years, my friend Larry Ingles and myself finally drew. Mount Dutton would be our destination on the limited entry rifle hunt. The first thing I did was to contact the DWR and obtain a list of all of the people who drew the tag the year before, then contacted as many of them as possible, listening to their stories and asking lots of questions. That saved us at least 2 or 3 scouting trips and gave us an indication of where we wanted to start looking for elk.
We made our first scouting trip in late June and spent two days on the unit, seeing several hundred elk and as many as 20 bulls in one group. Needless to say, we were very happy with what we found.

My friend, Lynn B, whom I met on the website was great about sharing his experiences and knowledge of the unit. He also told me that it was not a unit that produced huge bulls and that if we saw a 320 or 330 bull that we should not pass on the opportunity. However, he also told us not to shoot the first 270 bull that came along, as we would find them to be more common on the range. Thanks Lynn!

As our scouting trips continued, we noticed that the elk were getting wearier about people on the unit. The weekend before our hunt, my son Austin (11), and myself, went down to the unit to scout one last time prior to the hunt. A lot of our time was spent talking to the bowhunters on the unit. They were very helpful and sharing with information when we told them we had drawn out for the rifle tag and would not be hunting the unit until after they were done hunting. There was MAJOR bowhunting pressure and we were amazed at the number of hunters on the unit.

Larry's Big Bull
Larry's bull scores approx. 325 points.
The night before our hunt started, we spotted a 6x6 bull with a heard of cows. We would see him off and on throughout our hunt. He kind of became our camp mascot, as he brought his heard out of the trees about 15 minutes before dark. He was narrow in spread and had weak 5th points. We estimated him to score at about 275 points. The bulls mostly bugled at night and the lead cows were also becoming wise to cow calls, making it difficult to bring the bulls close. As our hunt went on, we discovered that it was to our advantage to be as quiet as possible. I'm not saying that everyone had that experience, but we sure did.
On Tuesday afternoon, Larry decided to set up at the edge of a flat that we had seen bulls frequent in most of our scouting trips. At 6:45 p.m. eight cows came running out of the deep timber into the middle of the flat. Larry started to feel his blood rush, then heard the big bull bugle. Seconds later he came out into the flat after his cows. All Larry could talk about was the vision of the big bull's rack swaying as he ran into the flat. He was a heavy 6x6, and two well placed shots brought him down.
The bull had whopper thirds that measured 16 3/4 and 18 inches. We are not expert measurers, but we taped him at 325 points. It was a dandy.

Wednesday came and passed and I told Larry that I was faced with the possibility of going home without an elk. Larry's bull was only the 3rd one that he had seen and after Wednesday, I had only seen five bulls total. Of the five, there was only one that I could have shot. I told Larry that I didn't wait nine years to shoot a 5 point or a raghorn.

Marty's Big Bull
Marty's bull scores approx. 302 points.
Little did I know that Thursday morning was going to be my lucky morning. It was about 7:45 a.m. when I heard a bull bugle about 400 yards away. As I moved in his direction I heard another bull bugle not too far from the first. I decided to split the difference and head on a path between the two. The two bulls would bugle back and forth about every two or three minutes. It was an awesome experience!
I was being as quiet as possible and as I got closer I noticed that one bull was moving slowly away from me. I was sure that it was a heard bull trying to move his cows away from a possible challenge. I picked up my pace and decided that he would be the bull that I would try for. The bugling continued as I came through the trees into small flat, then quickly moved across the edge to the other side. When I reached the other side, I was at the edge of an area that had been previously burned by a forest fire. It was then that I noticed 3 cows disappear over a little ridge in the trees at about 55 yards away. The other bull bugled again and the bull that I was following responded with a challenge of his own. I decided to circle above them to create an angle that would present me with a good shot.
I circled up and crested a small ridge. Just then I heard a noise above me, it was the bull, and he had also circled above, to keep himself between his cows and the other bull. I knelt down and just watched him. He was as majestic as you could imagine.
He kept walking and offered another challenge to the other bull. I looked at his 4th, 5th, and 6th points and was happy with what I saw. Then I checked the other side to make sure he was equally solid. Then he stopped and I had a small shooting lane through the trees to take a neck shot. He was 75 yards away and I was confident that I could take him.
When I pulled the trigger he dropped immediately. He didn't know what hit him. Then it sounded like a cattle stampede. His cows, (about 20) ran up and stood right by him. After about a minute, they then slowly worked there way through the trees toward the other bugling bull. When I walked up to him, I was feeling great. He was a heavy 6x6 and very symmetrical, scoring 302 points. After some video and photos, the packing work began.
Although we were both very happy with our bulls, it was a tough unit to hunt because of the bowhunt pressure. All of the rifle hunters that we talked to echoed the same thoughts. It's not a unit which you can bugle and cow call 3 or 4 bulls in a day. They seemed to be held up and harder to find. When you would go into the trees after them, cow calling, etc., they would blow out before you could work in on them. The one thing in your favor is that by mid-week, the rut intensifies and things get more interesting as the bulls soon throw caution to the wind. If your looking for big bulls that you can cow call and bugle in, then you might want to choose a different unit where the pre-rifle hunt pressure is not as intense. Of the 12 bulls that we saw come off the unit, Larry's was the biggest. Most seemed to score between 270 to 300 points.
On the other hand, if you can be patient, hunt hard, and stay positive, the payoff could be ALL SIXES.

Click-a-Pic ... Details & Bigger Photos

Click-a-Pic ... Details & Bigger Photos

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