Mule Deer, Elk and Western Big Game Hunting -

Family Fun Hunting Bulls
By Matt Reynolds

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I'm both humbled and grateful for the awesome opportunity to have bagged this bull elk! I had been trying for a limited entry bull elk tag for 10 years and was thrilled when I saw that $285 fee hit my credit card last spring. The four months leading up to this hunt were both exciting and extremely stressful. At 44 years old, a hunt like this felt like a once in a lifetime. I had camped and hunted numerous times on the neighboring Beaver and Monroe Mountain ranges, but had never set foot on the Dutton Mountain. My wife and I visited there in early June and were pleased when we saw about 30 elk, 10 of which were bulls. My brother and daughters went back in August for a second time, confirming all the more that I would be hunting in premium elk country.

Opening day was perfect weather with bulls bugling back and forth with us from sun up to sun down. Unfortunately, we never saw anything but a single cow. Sunday was family time back at camp and I chose to do no hunting. Monday the pressure was on. I knew my family would have to leave that afternoon and I was praying really hard that I would get one before they headed back home. At 5:30 am, my four daughters, my two brothers, and my best friend and his son, and I loaded up in the Ranger Crew and headed to the spot we would begin hunting. We searched the vast mountainsides with eagerness, but to no avail. One smaller bull and a couple of cows on a full run 1000 yards away and a respectable 5 point were the extent of it. I then decided to load up the hunting party and go back to the same drainage that we had hunted on Saturday morning, only this time hiking the entire 4-5 miles.

My 17 year old daughter and my younger brother hiked for 2 hours seeing and hearing nothing. Then to our surprise we came over a ridge, stepped into the deep pines, and busted an elk bed of about 20 head. The bull immediately started trying to round up his cows and we proceeded to follow this herd for an hour around the mountain through thick timber. As we came to a clearing we could hear the bull getting further away. I had to make a decision. Do we keep tracking this elusive bull or do we call it a morning and get the rest of the family back to camp? And then the gift! Directly below us in the bottoms a bull bugled. We froze and got into position. Then another bugle, as if he was saying, "Hey guys, here I am." Moments later he stepped out of the bottoms feeding and oblivious that we were less than 200 yards away watching him. He lifted his head and stood perfectly broadside. While sitting down, I fired my 28 year old Browning A-bolt 30-06 four times. Shot one and he didn't even flinch. Shot two the same. Shot three he turned his head and looked up at us. Shot four he dropped dead immediately.

All four shots hit him; one in the lower neck, two through the lungs, and one further back. What blew us away as we approached the old bull for the first time was the shear mass of his horns! I had never seen a bull so thick and so heavy. Within 10 minutes the rest of the family was there. The photo shoot ensued and two hours later he was skinned and quartered. We were able to get the Ranger Crew right to the kill, loaded him up and headed out. It was a perfect hunt! I figure this bull is at least 10 years old and he scored 373. The greatest blessing about this hunt was that my four daughters, brothers, and friends got to be a part of this with me. There's nothing greater than a family bonding in the mountains and being able to take down one of God's greatest creations together. It was the hunt of a life time!

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