provided by John Phillips
If you really want to take a big elk in Utah, you have to put in for a limited-entry elk tag with the Wildlife Services Division of the Utah Department of Natural Resources. These tags provide access to public-land hunts where the elk herd is managed to produce older-age-class bulls.
A couple of years ago, I had 18 preference points, and I was able to draw the Manti LaSal National Forest premium tag, which allowed me to hunt the archery, rifle and muzzleloader elk hunts with one tag. I decided that I’d use the bow season to scout for a really nice bull. But if I didn’t find one or I couldn’t get close enough to a big bull to take him with archery tackle, then I’d know where I needed to hunt during gun/deer season. I wasn’t trying to pinpoint a bull that would score 400 inches or more. I decided I’d take any nice bull I saw that would score in the 150 or better class.
For two weekends, I went out with my binoculars and spotting scope and looked at a lot of elk. On the third weekend, which was the weekend before rifle hunting started, my 36-year-old son Mike and I left on Thursday to hunt. Just before dark, we saw a couple of nice bulls. We went into a canyon and were watching a bull. Next another elk herd came out of the timber with two more bulls in it. Then a third herd came out with three bulls in it. One of the bulls, I believe, would have scored between 375-380 on Pope and Young.
We took a stand by a small stream that was coming out of a spring. We did some cow-calling and spike-calling with a spike whistle that my father had made back in the 1940s out of a piece of EMT (electric metallic tube) conduit. We got one of the bulls to respond to the spike whistle. We immediately moved in closer to the bull. I whistled to him again and did a little cow-calling, but for some reason that bull wasn’t willing to commit to coming any closer.
So, we went back to the little spring-fed creek and started cow-calling again. Before long, that bull got up out of his bed and began moving to us. Mike went back about 30 yards behind me when we heard the bull calling and coming. Mike cow-called a couple of times, and the bull bugled closer than he was before. Mike cow-called one more time, and the bull stepped out of the timber into an opening.
I wasn’t sure if he was the biggest bull of the six bulls we’d seen that morning - but I drew my bow anyway - waiting for my son to either say, shoot or don’t shoot, because Mike could see the bull’s rack better than I could, or at least that’s what I thought. Later I learned that he couldn’t see the bull elk because the bull was behind the tree.