Spencer Mingo writes, "10 years ago I moved to Utah, from Germany, just so I could hunt elk. After a lot of "UNSUCCESFUL" letters, I finally drew the limited entry Manti La Sal muzzleloader tag. Since that day I had many sleepless nights dreaming about this hunt.
Without question the one thing I will remember most about this hunt is the great friends who accompanied me. I can’t thank Derek and Blake enough for the countless miles and hours they spent on the hill with me. Without them this bull would not have been possible. They kept me motivated, laughing and most of all they kept me from shooting one of the countless smaller bulls we encountered.
The first morning had us on top of a canyon we were certain no other hunters would be in because of its location. We had a small bull within 30 yards at daylight and could hear a few other bulls further down the canyon. We tried for a couple of hours to coax them out with no luck. Once the sun came up the bulls stopped talking. We decided to back out, get some lunch and go back in after them in the afternoon. Later that afternoon, we were set up half way down the canyon waiting for things to get rolling. A loan bull bugled above us, it was the same small bull from the morning, but nothing below us. We decided to drop into the bottom of the canyon to see if we could get some response. Once in the bottom, we found the reason for no elk chat, there were several sets of people tracks headed up the bottom of the canyon. We did call in one little, and very lonely, spike just before dark. It almost seemed like he wanted to follow us home.
Day Two: We set up in a different canyon which had been burned a few years back and as happens so frequently in the mountains it soon became apparent the wind was not going to be our friend. We could hear bulls on the opposite side of the canyon and had caught a glimpse of a nice bull and several cows. We tried to make a move and made it half way into the canyon when the wind swirled. That ended all chatter, they were gone. We were certain they had only moved into the next canyon and made a plan to move in on them in the afternoon. The evening of day two is one which I will certainly never forget. At a little after 3, we started moving down the ridge above where we figured the elk to be. We were not very far down the ridge before we heard the first bugle. From there things just got CRAZY! The entire canyon was alive with bugling elk. We started our decent into the canyon and only made it 50 yards before our first encounter. Feeding in an opening all by himself with his head down was a massive 6x?. His right side was absolutely huge! I have the gun up and the hammer back just waiting for Derek to say “Take him!” and was stunned when he said “NO NO!”. We cow called and the bruin lifted his massive head to reveal a 180 class right side and a left side that had two 45 inch spikes coming right out of the base!!!! WHAT A FREAK! We ended up seeing three bulls with this configuration!? So we continued into the bottom of the canyon. The elk had moved to the opposite side and we are glassing them at around 200 yards. A very long shot, but certainly doable with all of the practice I had done. There were elk everywhere! The bulls were screaming and moving through the quakies like mad. It was hard to tell which bulls had already been looked at. We spotted two very nice 6X6’s just before they did major battle. Both were already broken. One had a broken G4 and the other had a little missing off one of his G5’s. The G5 bull proceeded to kick the crap out of the G4 bull, to the point where the G4 bull limped off and laid down for a while. The bad news was the G5 bull had now completely broken his other G5 off. From that point on, we had Limpy and Fifth’s. Right after this, a slightly larger bull, which was not broken, appeared and walked up the opposite side of the canyon without offering a shot. We decided to hold off on Limpy or Fifth’s in hopes the other bull would return. As one would expect, the larger bull never returned. And, no shot was fired on day two. That night we looked at the video of Fifth’s and immediately I wondered if I had passed on the wrong bull! His G2’s curled back so far they almost pointed at his head...major character! We all agreed given another shot at Fifth’s, I would not pass.
Day Three: Major disappointment! We headed right back to where we were the night before. The only problem, the elk had other plans! There were a couple of smaller bulls left in the canyon, but Fifth’s was gone. We made three stalks during the heat of the day on bedded bulls that we got to bugle. All three stalks were successful and we managed to get within 50 yards of three bulls that we passed on. We had great success with this tactic on day four as well. We decided to go back into the canyon that night in hopes the elk would feed back in. Lesson number one: NEVER drop into a hole of a canyon before you hear what you are going in for. By 5:30, all we had heard was my sobbing that there were no more elk in the state! We backed out before dark and moved to a vantage point where we could see clear to the bottom of the canyon. We did spot a few elk, but did not see the big bulls. Just before dark, we stopped to listen/look into a completely different area than we had hunted so far. We heard several elk bugling in the canyon we had hunted the first morning and decided to give that a go on day four.
Day Four: We were once again on top of the canyon from day one. The only problem was that it appeared the bugling from the night before was not on our side of the canyon, but was in fact coming from the opposite side! CRAP! We marked an area where we could hear several bulls and started the move. Three hours later we are making our way up a crazy steep slope, but the woods hae turned quiet. We were just a little frustrated and a lot winded at that point. Just as we were about to start moving further up the hill, I spotted movement. I saw several cows moving through ahead of us. We cow called, but nothing. We bugled and got an immediate response. The bull sounded to be a hundred yards or so up from us. We bugled back and forth for a while with no one moving. We decided to just move in on him. We would move 20 or 30 yards at a time and bugle and he would respond every time. We had finally closed the gap to 30 yards and thru straining eyes, finally caught antlers moving in the pines. He was just a 5x5, but how cool is that! For three guys to close the distance like that on such an awesome animal is incredible. This same scenario played out five more times that day. VERY COOL afternoon. That night we finally located the group of elk from night two several canyons away from where we had originally found them.
Day Five: We were on the ridge above the elk before daylight. There were bulls bugling all over the place once again. We had bulls above, across and below us. The wind was absolutely horrible. In our face one second and on our back the next. After what seemed like countless “What do you think?”’s, we decided to just go in after them. The hottest bulls were below us, so we dropped into the canyon at an angle to get to them. The bugling was insane and we were closing the distance! When we got to the bottom, we noticed we were in a pinch point where two smaller canyons dumped into the larger canyon. Now the bulls which were across from us were right in front of us. We see a small 6x6 and a 5x5 less than a hundred yards across. We also had a nice 6x6 on our side of the canyon. We are pinned down. There were cows running everywhere and I think we actually spooked a couple, but the bulls didn’t care. Just then Derek grabs me and pulls me over and whispers “THERE’S FIFTHS!!”. I of course say “Are you sure?” To which I hear, "YES, SHOOT HIM!" Just then I see FIFTHS step out of the quakies at 150 yards. No thinking no blinking! The CVA is shouldered calked and fired in a blur! All I saw after the smoke cleared was Fifths barrel rolling down the hill! The 250 grain Branes absolutely flattened him! The bullet broke both shoulders, but the bull still had his head up and not wanting the animal to suffer or get up, I reloaded and fired again. Immediately after the second shot there were no less than a dozen bugles right in our canyon. It was crazy. The elk continued to bugle all day long while we packed Fifths out!
What a great hunt with great friends!"