By Heidi White
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I knew it would take a lot of endurance to hike all day in the cold. So after months of hiking and trail running to get in shape, November finally arrived. One week before my hunt, my husband, Les, set up a trail camera in a spot he thought would hold some good bulls. And wow was he ever right, he got a picture of an awesome bull! He was a 5x5 frame with a HUGE drop tine. We nicknamed him "the backscratcher". When I saw the picture of him I told my husband that's the bull I want. His response was, "we will try for him, but I just want you to have fun, the size of the bull doesn't really matter." I think he was just happy that I was really going to do this.
When the hunt arrived, we set up camp with my husband, myself, our daughter, Cassie, and our good friend, Larry Knight. When opening morning finally arrived, we left camp while it was still dark and VERY cold. We hiked a long way into the backcountry. After about an hour of hiking we came to a spot where we could hear elk crashing through the trees. We found a small clearing where we hoped to get a better look. Then, all of a sudden we could hear bulls clashing their antlers together. To me, this was amazing, as I had never heard that before. Unfortunately the trees were too thick to see them. After waiting for what seemed like hours, 4 bulls came out on a mountainside about 400 yards away. Les asked if I wanted to take a shot, but I didn't feel comfortable at that range. That evening myself, Les and Larry glassed a few bulls as it was getting dark. They were too far off to put a stalk on, and still no sign of the backscratcher.
The second morning, as we were getting ready to head out, Larry asked Les what the plan was. Les said we would hit the canyon to the north of where we hunted yesterday, because there were some good clearings that we might catch the elk in. And that is just what happened! When we got to the clearing Les said, "There they are!". There were 3 bulls at about 220 yards ... a 5x5, a 5x6 and a 6x6. Les told me to get ready. I asked if the backscratcher was there, but he wasn't. They were all good bulls, so I decided to take one.
I shot and we thought I hit the 6x6. We waited about an hour before tracking him. When we got to the location he was standing there was no sign of a hit, no blood or hair anywhere. After hours of following every track with no sign of a hit, we gave up. That evening we saw the same 3 bulls while glassing and I was relieved that I hadn't wounded one. Larry had to head home that night so now it was just myself, Les and Cassie.
The third day was just a lot of hiking, freezing, glassing and only saw a few bulls a long way off. The fourth day Les, Cassie and I headed out of camp and made it only about a half of a mile and we came upon a nice 6x6. I set up the shooting sticks and shot. Another clean miss!! I couldn't believe it! I was really starting to get discouraged and realized this was a lot harder than I thought. But Les told me not to worry, sometimes you miss for a reason. Les and Cassie spent the next two days reassuring me and trying to cheer me up. They reminded me that we were together having fun and that was the most important thing. By now I had almost given up on getting a bull, let alone getting the backscratcher, as we had not seen him the entire hunt.
The sixth morning Les, Cassie and I headed out to where I missed the bull on the second day. We skirted the edge of the clearing and saw the same three bulls there. Les was up the hill above me and Cass was right below me when Les said they would come out broadside. He said, "Just pick the one you want and shoot it, we want to get it done today!". I used a dead tree for a rest and as I was getting ready to shoot Cass said, "Wait mom! There's a bigger one in the trees!". Les couldn't see him, but said if I had the shot to take him. I fired a shot and the bull stumbled backwards then turned and ran over the hill. I knew this was a solid hit so I was pretty excited. Then Cass yelled, "Oh my hell, that's the BACKSCRATCHER!!". We waited the longest 30 minutes of my life before going to the bull. We couldn't believe our eyes how awesome he was. Les picked me up and twirled me around until I was sick. Now I remember the love of the hunt! Friends, family and sometimes God blesses us.
We found out later that many people were after this bull and what we called the "backscratcher" had already been named "Quigley" by Trevor Hunt of Pine Creek Outfitters from Enterprise, Utah. To see some awesome trail camera pictures of this bull, go to pinecreekoutfitters.blogspot.com.
Quigley has a 5x5 frame with a 23 inch kicker and an estimated 9 inches broken off his G1 and G2 on his left side and still scores an amazing 385 gross.
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