My Dad is Tom Wicks, and he just turned 75. Last year, Dad was with me when I took my biggest mule deer buck that scored 252 Pope & Young points. He was sitting on a hill with a spotting scope, and he was able to see the shot and recovery.
In 2015, we were hunting the Wasatch Mountains in Utah. Dad had been putting in for 13 or 14 years before he drew a tag for this hunt. I knew this area, because I had hunted this region before. This area was also closer to my home than some of the regions. So, I knew I would have more time to scout than I would if Dad was hunting another area farther away from my home. Since this was a limited-entry hunt, we wouldn’t have to compete with nearly as many other hunters.
Dad had taken quite a few elk, but he never had the opportunity to take a big elk. Due to his age, I wanted to try and help him find the best bull he had ever seen. Back when I was younger, we didn’t have very many elk in Utah. If you saw one, that was a real rarity. However, in the last 25 years, we’ve seen our elk herd really grow, and Utah has been producing some really nice bulls.
I went to the area quite a bit during the summer months and setup trail cameras. I had to try and find a place where I could take my dad with his bad knees. I didn’t want to make the hunt so difficult that he couldn’t enjoy it. On opening morning, the weather was super hot. I had also taken my 9-year-old son, Henry, on this hunt with Dad and me. We didn’t hear any bugling the first day. We met an old cowboy riding the high country, looking for an elk for a friend of his to take. He told us, “Well it appears that all the elk have moved out of here.” This statement caused us to be a somewhat discouraged.
On the second day of the hunt, a rainstorm moved in. It was raining too hard to hunt, and the temperature dropped. By the time for the evening hunt, the storm had cleared out. We took Dad out to a flat spot where we thought he might see an elk without having to climb uphill or downhill. We had a bull bugling to us from the other side of the mountain we were on. I called to him for about an hour, but I couldn’t get him to budge. My Dad suggested that we might need to start heading back before it got too dark. I like to hunt until its black dark, but this was Dad’s hunt not mine.
“Okay, let’s start heading back,” I said. “Let’s take a different route that will take us past a canon where I've seen elk previously.”
Even though we had a bull across the canyon bugling to us, we decided to leave our stand site. When we got to the canyon that I wanted to glass, I had to go a little farther down in the canyon so I could see better. Dad stayed back. When I got 20 yards from Dad, I spotted a 340-inch 6x6 bull lying down with a herd of cows all around him. I went back to get my dad, but he had already started walking slowly back to the 4-wheeler.
When I finally caught up to him, I said, “Dad, you have to get back down here. There’s a big bull just a little bit below where you were.”
At first, Dad had a hard time spotting the bull, because the sun had set, the light was getting low, and the bull was bedded in some dead timber. I found a tree that Dad could lean up against to try and make the shot, because he couldn’t see much of the bull. When Dad squeezed the trigger, the bull jumped up and then fell right over. Dad was so excited that he wanted to hike down in the canyon where the bull was.
While we were taking pictures rain started coming in, and I knew Dad and Henry were tired. So I just field dressed the bull. Because the weather had turned pretty cold, I left the bull overnight. We went back to camp, came back the next morning and finished caping and butchering the bull and carrying the meat out. I was able to get my 4-wheeler within about 200 yards from the bull, and I hauled all the meat out myself. But Dad did go back with me so we could take some more pictures. There is just something very special about hunting with your family that always creates memories.