Mule Deer, Elk and Western Big Game Hunting -

400" Bull?!?! No Way!
By Carl Cox

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This was not a normal hunt of driving up the mountains, finding the animal, and coming home. This was a hunt with highs and lows. Moments of excitement, and moments where we had to encourage each other to get out of bed before the sun was up.

We had spent several weeks and months spotting and traveling around the mountains making sure we could find the right bull for my hunt. We had done all that we could do before the hunt to be ready. My brother-in-law, Jay Yardley, and my two sons, Quincy and McKade Cox, were set for the hunt. We had put in hundreds of hours and we felt like we were ready for the trophy hunt to start on the 12th of September.

It was hard hiking in and out of these rugged mountains of central Utah, we averaged 10 to 13 miles a day. We had gotten glimpses of the giant bull, but he had eluded us and had never presented himself to me. We had spotted several bulls, but none that I wanted to shoot. The hunt was winding down and my body was wearing out because of the rigors of the hunt. My office job was starting to manifest itself in my mental and physical state. Thursday night the hunt was winding down and I still hadn't seen this monster that my brother-in-law and son had seen. I told them Thursday night that maybe I needed to lower my expectations and settle for a 340 to 350 bull. We had past several of them during this hunt and I was tired, but my son, McKade, would have none of that. We agreed that we would give it one more day focused on the elusive bull.

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We started Friday morning like every other morning, we were awake and on the trail by 5:00. By 5:30 we were hiking down the ridgeline. Because of the unusually warm weather, the elk were not in full rut like I was hoping. They would start bugling before light and die off by 8:00/8:30 every morning. This morning was the same. Before light we could hear a couple of young bulls start talking. It was just getting light when we were looking off the ridge down into the bottom and spotted some elk in the same area where our giant bull had been. We took off running down the ridgeline to close the distance to 900 yards. After pulling out our spotting scopes and confirming that we were looking at a monster bull, we set up to shoot from the ridgeline at just over 900 yards. I know that this shoot was just outside my range. After quickly discussing our options, I decided to drop down closer. We decided to leave McKade on the ridge to guide us in and keep track of the bulls movement.

Quincy and I dropped down through the trees to the same clearing that I had shot at the first bull just 5 days earlier. Quincy and I saw the cows feeding on the hill side. We couldn't see the bull, so we continued to drop lower to another clearing. Trying to reduce the shoot down below 500 yards. As we were hurrying down through the trees, McKade let us know that the cows were getting nervous and looking spooked. We slowed down our decent and came to the next clearing. We spotted the bull at 466 yards broad side. I was excited and out of breath from dropping 800 yards through the trees. I made sure it was the big bull and a shooter. I asked my boy if he was set up with the spotting scope and the phone to record the event and he said he was. By this time the bull moved into the trees and was gathering up his cows. He came out and was quartering away from me. Before I could make the shot, I had to talk myself down and control my breathing. I pulled the trigger and was hoping the shoot was good enough. The bull rocketed up the hill 8 to 10 yards and circled down into the trees. I lost track of him and heard a crashing sound, which I thought was him running down through the creek bottom. I asked my boy if it was a good shot and he replied, "I think so". My heart was pounding. This is where the mind starts playing games on you. I started thinking about my shot, the placement, the distance and all the variables.

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Just then McKade calls and said the bull is down. McKade had been watching him for 5 minutes with no movements. I was so excited and could not believe this. Getting over to the elk seemed to take forever. As I walked up to the elk I could not believe it was as big as it was. McKade said this has to be a 390 to 400 bull. I remember telling him that is not possible in the Manti La Sal Unit. The area is not managed for trophy bulls. We spent the next hour admiring this bull as we took pictures of his majestic nature.

We spent the rest of the day packing this monster out. There was no way one man could carry the head, antlers, and cape. We took turns with one on each side of the antler, weaving through the trees. The meat was in packs making for very heavy loads, but we were all excited to show friends and family. It was amazing to spend that much time with family and getting a trophy bull of a lifetime with a rough score of 406-5/8. What a hunt!

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