A friend of mine, Ryan Paxman, aka pinenut in our forums, finally had his chance to hunt limited entry bulls in Utah...and he took a big boy.
Ryan writes, "After 15 years I was finally able to hunt a mature bull in Utah last week. During the fifteen years I bounced around applying for a bunch of different units, but this year I decided I wanted to burn my points on the unit I was most familiar with, the Monroe unit, even though others probably had better trophy potential. I knew I was still 2-5 years out on the early rifle hunt, but the muzzleloader hunt was now within reach and when considering the optimal season dates this year I made the plunge and applied and drew a tag. I am very thankful my dad helped me apply the first couple of years once I was eligible, without those early points I would have still been many years away from this tag. I am also glad Utah incorporated the 50% tags to max point holder drawing strategy a long while back...without that I would still likely be holding my points along with many other people who would have 15, 16 and 17 points today, but instead drew guaranteed tags over the last 10 years.
We scouted hard and saw many “decent” 320-340 class bulls in the velvet and hard-horned. The day before my hunt I finally saw two bulls that got me really excited...one was a beautiful 6x6 and the other a 6x7 with a split sword. We looked for these bulls for a day and a half after the original chance encounters, but didn’t see them or hear a single bugle in the area they were in. On the second day of the hunt we decided to look in areas we knew held a lot of bulls, but we also knew they had been hit hard by the rifle hunters. We were hoping atleast one good bull had dodged the bullets or moved in after the season closed and we found one Friday morning.
We first spotted “my” bull at about 600 yards a little after first light. My uncle stayed back to watch and I stalked him through some burnt trees. The (bottom) picture is one my uncle took while he was waiting for me to stalk within range. After a 45 minute stalk, I thought I was about 150 yards from the bull. I waited for him to step into a window between trees and fired, but I am sure I missed low although I didn’t know it at the time. An interesting thing was that he bugled at me while I was reloading...he was not spooked at all by the original shot.
Seeing him bugle and herd his cows over the ridge I figured I had missed. After finishing reloading, I immediately began moving towards where they had gone out of site. As I approached his original position it became apparent I was more like 200-225 yards on the first shot, not the 150 yards I was thinking when I shot. Anyways, there was no time to dwell on the missed opportunity...he was still close and bugling frequently.
After moving about 300 yards through a young aspen stand following his bugles, I stepped into a small clearing where I could see perhaps 50 yards. About the same time I entered the clearing, two cows entered it at about 30 yards distance and they were totally unconcerned about my presence. They certainly had to have heard me paralleling them towards the clearing, but must have believed I was another elk. Within seconds of them coming into the clearing, the bull I was after came in behind them offering me a 30 yard quartering away shot which I took and broke his shoulder. The bull never made it out of my site as I reloaded and after one more shot he was done.
I am more than happy with how the hunt turned out. I knew going into it that bringing home a 320-340 class animal was a very real possibility and I was going to be happy with that, so taking an animal that is better than that class of bull was just icing on the cake. I killed him about 1000 yards from where my uncle had shot a bull in 1992 (the first big game animal I witnessed being taken) and about 1500 yards from where my dad had killed his elk with a bow in 1999.
I score this bull at about 364 gross and 361 net making it possible that he nets 360 after the waiting period and makes B&C awards. His main beams, G3, G4 and G5 are all within 1/8 of an inch of each other...he is a very symmetrical bull with no broken tips. I am glad my uncle and dad were able to spend the week on the mountain with me. Thanks mom for “outfitting” the trip...we ate well down there. Thanks Katie for taking care of our two young children for the week I was gone, allowing me to experience this basically once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Lastly, thank you Browtine for arriving just in time to film a couple of bulls while hearing me kill this bull and then take some pictures of him and pack out a quarter.
PS -- Thanks Utah DWR for allowing me to hunt this animal. Without the recent increase in tags, I would still be 5-10 years away from even a muzzleloader permit on this mountain. I do fully support moving the rifle hunt after the muzzleloader hunt and into October as a way to increase opportunity and lessen the impact on quality, but I believe these bulls need to be hunted and I am fine with the current permit levels. Yes there would be more 380 bulls around if permits would have remained at 2004 levels, but a lot of hunter opportunity over the last 5 years would have not occurred without the increases and the elk herds are still doing just fine."