The DIY Hunter

Some velvet antlered bulls that got bumped by some hunters on opening day.

Here are a couple of the bulls that I watched get bumped by some other hunters on the opening day of the hunt.

A couple of bulls I watched on opening day.

A couple of bull elk out in the sagebrush on opening day of the hunt.

My favorite arrow vanes, Quick Spin Speed Hunters

My Series 22 arrow shafts with Quick Spin Speed Hunter vanes in the early morning light of the archery opener. 

Two hunters on the ridge above me that were glasses and bugling for elk.

I thought these two elk hunters unknowingly made for great models in the late evening light.

A nice little 5 point bull I watched in the quaking aspens.

I snuck in on this bull later the next day. Hoping he was the big 6x6 bull... again not the bull I was looking for.

A nice little 5 point bull I watched in the quaking aspens.

I slipped in on this little 5 point bull that was rubbing the velvet off his antlers. I hoped the sound I was sneaking in on would have the large 6x6 bull waiting at the other end of my stalk... nope, just this little guy. Dang it! Where is my big 6x6?

A small 5 point bull elk in the quaking aspens.

I called this little bull elk into 20 yards. Although at full draw on him he stopped in the middle of the brush and he also was a lot smaller than what I wanted.

Alps Chaos 3 tent and Commander backpack.

Tucked back in some trees was my camp for a couple of days. Here you can see my Alps Mountaineering Chaos 3 tent and my Alps Outdoorz Commander external frame hunting pack.

Hunting for elk in a Tree Saddle tree stand.

I like hunting from Tree Saddle tree stands. They are very light to pack into remote areas to hunt. This is the tree I could have shot the only elk I had a shot at... a spike. I easily could have also taken a Black Bear from this tree if I had a bear tag.

Black Bear I watched whil in my Tree Saddle.

Here is the Black Bear that passed by me at 16 yards while in a Tree Saddle.

Using Back Country Navigator GPS on my Samsung Galaxy 2 Tablet.

I really like my seven inch Samsung Galaxy 2 Tablet with Back Country Navigator GPS app on it. This makes for a great hunting GPS.

View of Mt. Timpanogos while elk hunting.

View of Mt. Timpanogos from a point I hiked out on during one of my many morning hikes for exercise... ok, hikes trying to locate elk.

After nine years I drew Utah's Wasatch Limited Entry archery elk hunt. I had been scouting the Wasatch Limited Entry Elk Unit a few times and was excited with the number of elk I had been watching.

Opening day: Before the hunt, I was told that I would be hunting a "petting zoo." Well after my first day I actually think what I should have been told was that it was a "Circus." I did see 31 bulls on my first day out hunting, however, most of these bulls were running with their tongues dragging on the ground. I think there were a few bulls killed on the opener but not from arrows but from running all over the mountain in extreme heat.

When I drew the tag I had no idea how many general deer and general bull spike hunters would be in the unit. It was pretty crazy with the number of people running around the area. For starters, there were a couple of deer hunters that hiked in the night before the opener, to the area the larger bulls I had been watching were hanging out (see video on scouting for elk page). These two general deer hunters camped right on the water hole and they had a campfire. Not exactly what I would have liked to have seen happen when I was trying to pattern the bulls and sneak in to get one.

In another incident, a couple of motorcycles came roaring down a cattle trail right past me. So much for wanting to hike up that canyon to hunt. Some horseback riders at one point bumped a small six-point, pretty nice 5x6 and a spike past me. Those three elk really looked like they were going to die trying to make it up and over a ridge in the heat of the day.

I spent the night before the opener sleeping in my Montero. Just as it got light enough to see I slipped off the ridge to see if I could spot the bulls I had been watching when I had been scouting the area. With my binoculars, I spotted four bulls further in than normal and they appeared to be in a much greater hurry to get into the cover. With the sight of other hunters camped along the road I was on I quickly made a move down to a point to pop out about 200 yards above the elk. In the half-hour it took me to get into this position and slip over the ridge to make a play on the bulls they were nowhere to be found.

While I was sitting out on the ridge I watched a few bulls move in the dark timber and I watched three bow hunters bump nineteen head of bulls out of an adjacent canyon.

Day Two and Three: With the high temperatures, velvet-covered antlers (I'm not a soft antler velvet fan), and heavy pressure from the opener I decided to wait until the next weekend to go out again.

Friday afternoon found me hiking back up into the area where the nice bulls I had watched on my scouting trips. I hiked up into an area where I could look out around a few canyons. After an hour or so I spotted a nice 6x6 bull. This was a bull I had not yet seen in the area. After watching it for a while deciding how best to stalk him given the wind direction and terrain I took off. I was able to get to within what I figured was a 100 yards from where I last saw the bull before I ran out of light. If he came down the trail I was watching I had him... unfortunately he didn't.

I hiked back out to my Montero and spent the night sleeping across the front seats... dreaming of my new favorite bull. This 6x6 bull has just the characteristics in the shape of his antlers that I love. He is a beautiful bull that needs to go on my wall.

The next morning before light I was headed back into the area determined to find the bull again. In the morning I slipped into archery range on a small five-point that was rubbing his antlers and that evening I was on a nicer 5 point broadside well within range... this bull would have been dead if I was hunting in a general area but not what I wanted for my limited entry tag. This bull was very similar in size to the 5 point bull I took with a bow in 2004.

Both of the 5 points I was able to get within range on Saturday I had seen the night before however as much as I wanted, I just could not find the large 6 point bull... a bull I can not get out of my head. Maybe I can get him the next time out.

Days 4-12: I lived on the mountain much of the final two weeks of the hunt. I initially went back into the area I had seen the large 6x6 for a couple of days. I spent a couple of days scouring the area. I only saw a couple of elk and only got two different bulls to answer any of my cow calling but nothing came in. With the lack of elk responding to calls in this area and a couple of other hunters in the area, hunting it pretty heavy I decided to switch to a different area were I had seen a lot of elk while scouting. Once there I found two other hunters I knew that were hunting the canyons I wanted to hunt in. I decided to be polite and go find yet another area.

I now packed into a different area and spent a couple of nights in my Alps Chaos 3 tent. In this area, I found what I believe was an even larger 6x6 bull. I didn't get a really long look at him but he looked really big. I was able to jump between him and a 320ish size bull that was bugling back and forth with each other just as they were bedding for the day. The wind was in my advantage for the large bull but not the 320 bull. It worked like a charm as I bugled back and forth with the big guy for 10 minutes or so but he was not about to come out of the thick brush 50 yards or so away from me. Then I must have said the wrong thing or he just got tired of me and he with his cows bolted away... I spent a good four days in that area trying to find him. I think I heard his bugle as he got up to feed one evening. I hiked and hiked and sat on springs through the entire middle of the day but nothing. After a lack of finding any elk for a day or two in this area I moved back in the area I wanted to hunt as the two other hunters had finished their hunts.

In this area, I for the most part just sat over a spring about 150 yards directly below where the elk liked to bed. I packed in a Tree Saddle. The Tree Saddle worked great for getting up in a tree without a heavy treestand to carry in. While in the Tree Saddle I had a spike elk, many mule deer and a Black Bear come in. The bear was really neat to see. He passed by at 16 yards. I had my camera in my pack on the side of the tree and I was scrambling to get it out before he left. I was able to get some ok photos of him after he passed behind a pine tree and crossed at 35 yards out.

This hunt was the hardest of my life — twelve solid days of hunting and living on the mountain. I’m not the go out till 9 am come back and rest until 4 pm then go out again. I lived on the mountain all day long. Sat on springs with tree stands through the heat of the day and the pesky flies and hiked and called for elk in the mornings and late evenings. When all was said and done, I called in one elk in twelve days, a small 5x5 that didn’t offer a shot and I snuck in on two other small 5x5 bulls that also didn’t offer clear shots if I would have wanted to shoot them. The only elk I could have shot was a spike that came into water when I was in a tree. In years past hunting general public land I have had a lot more opportunities than this in less time... very disappointing to wait nine years to draw the tag for nothing, the tag is expensive, plus burning 9 vacation days... I can handle not filling my tag but to have so few opportunities to even shoot at anything or even come close to getting a shot at one of the big ones is really, really eating at me... I stink.

Utah's archery season is way too early. It was very hot and dry all summer and through the hunt. There were tons of general archery deer hunters and general spike and cow elk hunters in the area the first couple of weeks and then the last week rifle hunters were blowing bugles and scouting for their hunt that started right after the archery hunt. One day I listened to hounds whaling away all morning long on the adjacent ridge to me. I figured they were running a bear. Just nice?!?

With the early season dates for archery elk, and Utah encouraging everyone and their dog to intrude into the Limited Entry archery hunters hunts, Utah is forcing people into hunting with a rifle. I will be looking at Wyoming to archery elk hunt as I have been advised by many other passionate archery elk hunters from Utah. Archery elk hunting is still my favorite way to hunt elk but I will think long and hard about ever applying for a LE archery tag in Utah again... but by the time I draw a LE rifle deer then try for a LE rifle elk I could be 75 or more years old. It's highly likely this was my once in a lifetime chance to get a nice bull in Utah.

After returning home my daughter pretty much summed up my feelings on the hunt when she told my wife, "well at least dad saw a bear or his hunt would have been a total flop." That's pretty much sums up my feeling on the hunt.

Incidentally, a couple of weeks after this hunt I had no trouble calling in elk on general public land and my oldest son Dallen takes a bull: 2012 Rifle Elk Hunt — Dallen Takes a 4x5 Elk with a X-Bolt 270 WSM

It just amazes me at how many people are on the Limited Entry unit during the archery hunt. If you have hunted the general public land on the North Slope of the Unitas during the rifle elk hunt you would almost have an idea of how many people are tromping around blowing bugles, running dogs, treestands on the water holes, trail cameras, ground blinds, motorcycles driving by on cattle trails, horseback riders, sheep all over the place... all during the Limited Entry Archery hunt. The place is a stinking circus all while I am trying to get close enough to an elk with a bow and arrow.

This was my biggest misconception on hunting a Limited Entry unit. I figured that it is a Limited Entry unit and in my mind I figured that there would be very "limited" pressure on the elk because only a limited number of people can actually hunt the area. I figured that if I can call bulls in on general public land I should have a blast easily calling in and getting close to elk left and right in an area that had such a "limited" number of hunters. Boy was I ever so wrong!!! The elk on LE units are by far more pressured and educated than plain ol general public land.

The bull elk of my dreams and I just can't pull off getting him on my second trip out hunting the area. I just love the shape of this bull's antlers. I think this bull might make it to 350 Boone and Crockett inches. He's a dandy.

The large 6x6 bull elk I tried to get.

Another view of the 6x6 bull elk i wanted to get with my bow.

This 6x6 bull elk is amazing!