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Grady’s 2012 Bull
by Grady Dalpiaz
In the fall of 2011 while we were putting away all of our hunting gear, my dad reminded me that I would be old enough to put in for the deer and elk draw here in Colorado for the 2012 season. I was excited that I would finally be old enough to actually carry a rifle this next year. I have been going hunting with my dad, uncle, sister and cousins since I was four years old, and hopefully this year I would get a tag of my own.
In the first part of June my dad and uncle check the draw results and found out that I had drawn a fourth season cow elk tag for a unit near our home here in Colorado. My cousin also drew a buck tag for second season, while all my dad and uncle drew were refund checks. But they were able to get cow elk tags through the leftover draw for second season.
As we went through the summer I was able to keep my mind off the upcoming hunting season by going on fishing and camping trips with friends and family. At the end of summer I started football, and between that and practicing with my rifle, the time before we left passed pretty fast.
The night before we left, while picking up supplies, I asked my dad if I could get a youth bull tag for second season. He told me that we could stop at the Division of Wildlife on the way out of town and see if that was possible. On October 19th, since I didn’t have school I was able to head up to hunting camp with my dad. After a quick stop at the Division of Wildlife I was able to get a second season bull tag for our unit.
This year started like any other; up at 4 am, a quick breakfast of bacon, eggs, and tortillas, and into the truck for the drive to where we would start hunting. The area where my cousin would be hunting for a buck was not the best for elk until November or December. Since my cousin only had the weekend to hunt, we were concentrating on her buck and we would worry about elk after she was done. Since my rifle was still getting some work done to it, I would be barrowing my cousins rifle once she had got her buck. My dad told me that I could use his .300 WSM if we ran across a bull. He told me not to hold my breath, with the drought this last year there wasn’t much chance in seeing a bull this low during this time of year. We were hunting an area in the unit that my dad and uncle call the “Loop”; based on their past success the expectations were high that my cousin would get a chance at a great buck. Because of the dry year we decided to hunt a large canyon above a water hole. We split up for the day with my uncle and cousin hunting high in the bedding area and my dad and I “bustin’ brush” down lower trying to kick something out for them. About an hour later my dad and I heard something below us which turned out to be my cousin. She kept raising her hands above her head indicating that they had seen something big, and then she would point to the south and then back to the north. My dad and I looked at her like she had gone crazy. My dad and I walked down the hill to see what she was talking about, and we were soon joined by my uncle who told us he had just seen a big bull in the next canyon over. My dad asked how far away he was, and my uncle said about fifteen hundred yards. We all gathered our gear and headed that way to try and get me a shot. Over the next hour we fought our way through the oak brush and up the hill into the next canyon. We were within five hundred yards before we could get our first good look at the bull. My dad and uncle both agreed that it was a good bull and probably the biggest that they had seen in this unit. My dad and I dropped our packs, he handed me his rifle and he took the shooting sticks and we tried to sneak to within four hundred yards. Unfortunately the bull had us pegged and after turning broadside for a second he disappeared into the trees. Everyone’s disappointment was huge; the longest walk is always after the blown stalk. Once we got to the truck we had a quick lunch and headed out again for the afternoon hunt. The rest of the day was pretty uneventful, just seeing the usual small bucks, does, and fawns. With darkness coming fast we headed for camp for supper and bed.
The next morning again found us up at 4 am, after a quick breakfast of bacon, eggs, and coffee; we jumped in the truck and headed out. On the way my dad and uncle decided to try the same area near the waterhole. As we topped the hill my uncle spotted a small “rag horn” bull in the oak brush, a little lower than where we had seen the bull the day before. My uncle asked my dad if we wanted to go after him. Due to the early morning light we were unable to tell if the bull met the minimum four point restriction, but we decided to try and get a better look at him. My uncle dropped us off at the bottom of the hill, where a gas company had put a high pressure gas line in years before. It took my dad and me probably forty five minutes to get to where we thought we were above the small bull. Right before we entered the trees we got the shooting sticks out of my dad’s pack, he handed me his rifle and told me that we had to move really slow and quiet and try to see the bull before he saw us. As we moved through the cedars, pinions, and oak brush, every step sounded like we were walking on corn flakes, because of the dry conditions. It must have taken us an hour to cover 200 yards, since we would stop every few feet to listen and look around us. After a while we sat down to rest and have a drink. As we were sitting there my dad looked over his right shoulder and raised his binoculars. As he turned back he motioned for me to get the rifle on the shooting sticks. He whispered that there was a bull looking at us through the trees about thirty yards away, and to find him in the scope. Dad said don’t shoot until I make sure he is legal. It seemed like forever before dad said, “he’s legal shoot when you can”. When I pushed the safety off I thought the bull would run, but he just stopped, leaving me a shot between the trees. When I squeezed the trigger there was a loud crash and the bull turned and started running toward us on the trail we were sitting on. As we scrambled to get out of the way the bull saw us and crashed downhill through the trees and brush. We heard one more loud crash and then total silence. Dad asked me if I felt like I had hit the bull good, I told him that I was sure that I had hit the bull right behind the shoulder. Dad had me stay where I had shot from while he went over to try and pick up the blood trail. At first he didn’t find any blood for about twenty five yards, and then only a single drop on an oak brush branch. At first all we found was a few drops of blood and broken branches where the bull had ran through. As we worked down the hill were started finding more blood and tissue on the ground and bushes. Dad told me that it looked like a good hit, and that it was just a matter of finding him. As the trees started opening up into the oak brush hillside we lost the blood trail, Dad had me stay where the last blood was found. When Dad went another fifteen feet or so he said “your bull is dead right there, and he is huge”. When I got down to the bull I couldn’t believe what I saw. I had just killed my first bull on a do-it-yourself hunt on public land with a general season tag. Dad let out a war whoop that my uncle and cousin heard on the opposite side of the canyon from where we were with the bull. Dad said he was thought that this was the same bull we had tried to get on opening morning. When my uncle and cousin got to us about forty five minutes later with the pack frames, he agreed that it was the same bull from the day before. After hugs, high-fives, and handshakes, it took us six and a half hours to get my bull cleaned, quartered, and packed to the truck. The bull is a symmetrical 6 x 6 with lots of mass. We estimated that it would score around 300” gross, but after dropping it off at Precision Wildlife Art in Grand Junction, they estimated it at between 320” – 330”. Regardless of the score it was a great bull and a great hunt.
I would like to thank my dad, uncle, grandpa, and my dad’s friends for teaching me to shot and hunt. My mom for supporting me and allowing me to miss school, and my teachers for letting me take my work to hunting camp. I would also like to thank my cousin Kristen for interrupting her deer hunt to help pack out my bull. Last but not least, my bull, for providing meat for two families and memories to last a life time.
Remington Model 700: .300WSM
Optics: Burris Full Field II w/Ballistic Plex; Burris 8x32 Binoculars
Ammunition: Hand Loaded 150 grain Silver Ballistic Tips
Shooting Sticks: Cabelas
Knife: Old Timer