At SDSCI like to highlight hunting adventures that our members experience! Check out the latest adventure by member, Tom Krumenacker in Utah.
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Last year I booked a hunt with my friend Ravi for Rocky Mountain Elk with Courtney Richins of C & H Outfitters, in Hennifer, Utah.
I packed the truck and set out of San Diego at 4:30 am knowing it was going to be an 11 hour haul in my truck to Utah. Not fun–but not hard either once I got my head in the right mindset for a long stretch on the I-15–so it was not like it was going to be tricky. I finally wheeled into Hennifer, UT to find our guide waiting at an off ramp to the highway. He introduced himself as “Bean”… “BEAN” I asked? He told me it was a twist off of his last name and people have been calling him that since he was a kid. Bean was born and raised in town had all the answers to any local question you could come up with and knew the property, all 7000+ acres, like the back of his hand. I made it up to the cabin and unloaded and discussed the next day hunt with Bean. The lodge was a very homey log cabin with individual rooms, big dining room and family room with a big fire place to warm and tell stories. We sat down to eat dinner when Marty the lead guide showed up and laid down the rules and told us that we would be breaking into two groups, one bull and one cow tag per team.
We were up at 5am, after some coffee and a bunch of mulling around over what gear to pack and wondering where we were going and what was to happen next, we were off on what was going to be my first big game hunt. I had hunted water fowl and pigs, but that was the extent of my hunting experiences to this point. After a short drive and about a mile hike through the dark Bean got us set up on a spot that he had seen elk moving through in the past. We made it to a spot on the forest line at the juncture of a few paths 10 to 20 yards wide that descended into each other. Bean started bugling and I couldn’t help but smile as I heard a bunch of Elk answer him back. He continued and they answered him again although we could hear the sounds getting further and further away. Thinking that they had already passed us and weren’t coming back we moved on to scout some other trails. It was great hike; the mountains in UT are beautiful and as the sun came up you could see for miles into the distance as they rolled out before you. But luck was with the elks so we headed back to the lodge for lunch.
Back in the truck at about 3 pm Bean took us to a spot where the animals normally pass through to feed and then bed down for the evening each night. We were facing NE so the setting sun was behind us and the elk trail path was in in front of us. My only concern was that the wind was coming from behind us and blowing right into the shooting area. Bean assured me that this was not going to be an issue here, being new to all of this I went with it. The far side of the path was a dense forest of aspens and ground cover– past my shooting window to the west were patches of trees. About 30 min into waiting Mike spotted three does and a fawn coming up the hill. I was sure that they knew we were there but they never spooked or ran. They continued up the path slowly and would stop to stare directly at us now and then. They would stop to munch a little, look around turning their ears about, eat a little more and repeat that stare down lifting a front leg as if anticipating something. After about 30 minutes of this they moved on up the mountain. Then another group of does approached similarly but farther to the west. This time as they came up once again and stopped dead in their tracks looking at us and trying to figure out what to do. After about 20 minutes of stepping, stopping, looking around they finally left. Overall it was a great show I learned a lot about how deer move as a pack and look out for danger although we never did see an elk. Once it became too dark to see we packed it up and hiked back to the truck.
We got up at 5am again and had enough time to gulp down some coffee down and head out. Where yesterday was chilly in the morning today it was a bit colder hitting 27 degrees. It snowed all night and still coming down in the morning. We arrived at the spot they had seen elk on the cameras the night before. Walking was tricky as you could no longer see where to step to avoid the round rocks and it was very slippery in the snow. As we approached the last 30 yards there was a steep incline to the spot we wanted to be on. The wind was at our back again and as soon as we popped our heads over this ridge the two bull elk that were there literally bounced out of the area. It was easy to track them with all of the new snow and Bean also pointed out the game trail through the white field where they had knocked the snow off of the taller ground cover leaving a path of yellow straw to follow. We tracked them for the next couple hours hiking through the forest until we got word that the other team had shot both the animals they were hunting and were going to need some help. With that we started the hike back to the truck. According to Bean’s watch we wound up hiking about 5 miles that morning. In the truck we got word that Ravi got a massive buck Tony killed a nice cow. From the sound of it they had their pick as they had walked up on a herd of 30 elk. Ravi and Tony’s guides started gutting the kills and we headed back to the cabin to get a bite to eat. On the way Bean got a ping on one of the trail cameras on the other side of the property–so that was were we headed after lunch. After a long drive through the snow covered rolling mountains we parked the truck and then started hiking again. It was about half mile to the canyon through an enormous field of dead underbrush. Bean told us that the sheep farmers use a lot of this land during different parts of the year. As we approached a thin tree line between the field and the canyon, Bean slowed down and motioned for me to keep quiet. I did my best to walk quietly over the crunchy ground and came up on the ridge. “There they are!”—I whispered to Bean. The canyon fell about a thousand feet in front of us and then as it rose on the other side we could spot four elk. We crept behind some brush and started setting up a shooting position. I took off my pack and set up the tripod, zoomed out the scope and started searching for the bull elk. Bean whispered that there were two standing cows and the bull was bedded down next to them. I could see the two standing cows and then another one laying down facing left, but it didn’t have any antlers. I was struggling to find the other bedded bull and getting anxious that maybe I was going blind. The group was close to the bottom of the canyon, I ranged them at 290 yards, a shot that I was more than comfortable with. I fidgeted around trying to find a more comfortable position than kneeling on the rocks. Most of the cows were facing right East, so in my mind I just assumed that they would continue that direction which was great as there was a clearing 30 yards over and set me up for a perfect shot. Bean asked if I had found the bull yet–I had not. The animal that I thought he was talking about didn’t have a rack. Bean referenced the small group of three pine trees on the far side and I said “I got it”. Then he said see the tree on the right with the scraggly middle missing many branches? I said “I got it” again. Then he said follow the lowest branch before the gap and you will find him. I put the reticle right were he was telling me and my eye started to ache from trying to keep it closed for so long. Then the bull got up and through the branches I found him! He was huge but all I could see was his head. I thought to myself, “Okay now I got you! Just take one more step to the right…, your facing right so just come out a bit”—nope, he turned left and disappeared completely out of view behind the pine trees. Mike, the hunter with the cow tag, who was 5 yards to my left could still see him. The group started walking up and away in the trees and all I could see was a glimpse here and there, never a full body, and never a shot that I was comfortable taking. Mike told me that he was moving into a clearing higher up. Bean gave me the distance 470 yards which was a lot further than I was ready for. Then the bull walked right out in the open facing left broadside. I repositioned the tripod and squeezed. The gun went off but Bean told me I missed. I realized I never readjusted the turret for the new distance prior to him walking away. Now I could see the cows running up the hill the bull was walking but back in the tree line where I could only see parts of his hind quarter. Bean pulled out the bugle and gave a blast. The Bull stopped in his tracks and once again turned west. I could see him broadside and I was on but needed a distance as he was almost at the top of the canyon and further away. “ I am getting 622 I heard from Mike”. I dialed 12 on the optic and got back on the elk still standing there. I was positioned well, stable, and I took the shot. The gun went off and I tried to get back on as soon as I could with another round in the chamber. Mike yelled “you got him! The bull fell right where he was standing”! I could see the large body in on the mountain side and I felt totally relieved after watching and seeing no movement for 10 minutes. We made some notes on the topography and got back to the truck to drive around to the other side of the canyon, when we got there we were able to drive within 30 yards of the body. After my first miss we had been actively adjusting for distance the whole time but never did take wind into consideration in all the rush and excitement, my shot was good, but it floated about 18 inches left and hit the elk in the neck. The 200 grain 300 WSM dropped the big bull with no suffering at all. He was beautiful, a 6X7. We took some photos and moved on to the work of dressing him. I had never even seen this done before on anything other than pigs from a previous hunt in Texas so I asked Bean to walk me through all that was going on. That lesson was not enough for me to be confident diving into the next one but I did learn a lot.
Back at the cabin it was warming up but was still about 35 degrees. We dropped off the bull and still had another hour of daylight so we got back in the truck and went looking for Mike’s cow. We Set up in the tree line of a common path and waited, Mike had the rifle on the shooting sticks and I was sitting on a rock staying low glassing the field. Two bucks and a doe walked into sight and continued on their path, this made me feel better as I was again worried about the wind and if they could smell us. About 30 minutes in Bean whispers to me “Tom, don’t move” I had my binoculars in my hand so I continued to scan the area looking to see what he was seeing, but got nothing. I looked back at Mike and Bean and they were now looking behind us. I slowly turned spinning on the rock and could see two elk spikes coming up behind us, heads in the air like they knew something was up, but didn’t know what. They continued to approach, they walked up and around to the west as if they were stalking us. As they came closer a third elk appeared, then a fourth, with similar antlers and followed the same path as the others, way west and out of our path. They were not what we were looking for, but that was a great experience to watch them walk up on us. As the sun set we packed up and walked back to the truck for the night.
Mike would get his cow the next morning and then we headed back down to have them processed before making the drive back to San Diego. Everyone got what they came for and we all stayed healthy regardless of the virus insanity.