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A Page from the Elk Journal

MartinBy Jared Martin

-- September 10, 2008 — I just had the greatest hunting day of my life. For three weeks, I hunted most of Utah’s eneral archery elk season. My regular hunting spot was occupied by a bear sow with a cub, so I spent the last two weeks hiking into a new canyon a few miles away. My friend had already shot a cow elk, so I’d been hunting alone for about 10 days.

I found a herd up the canyon one evening, but never got close enough for a shot. It had rained that morning and the previous evening. I left my backpack at the cabin so the pack wouldn’t get wet and heavy. I hadn’t seen an elk for several days and was a little discouraged.

I had hiked to a point where I usually go about a mile straight up the trail, and then turn toward a waterhole. This time, I decided to hike a little farther, where I hadn’t hunted.

At 10:50 a.m., I crossed an open area with sagebrush and came over to a drop-off that led into a large bowl with aspens and pines. I thought to myself, this looks like great elk country.

After making a few cow calls, I heard a strange call in response. It wasn’t a cow call, and wasn’t quite a bugle, either. It sounded like a bull elk hiccupping. I decided to bugle, and immediately heard a bugle in response.

I was pretty excited. After making a few more calls, I walked in the direction of the bugling to see what I would find. This hunting region was designated as "any bull elk," and I was ready to take anything that walked in front of me.

A cow elk came over the hill about 35 yards away, but spotted me. I waited until she looked away, and then pulled back my bow. She saw me again and spooked.

I continued on the trail I’d been following. I noted that the wind was coming directly from where I’d heard the elk. I knew I had an advantage if I could get close without being seen. I walked down into some pines and continued to bugle and make cow calls as I moved. I received a few bugles back, but not every time.

After walking slowly for a few minutes, I made another bugle and heard a response that sounded close. I stopped and saw a large bull about 100 yards up the hill to my right. He was walking towards the direction I had come from, but if he kept walking, he would pass by me.

I decided I needed to get closer, so when he went behind a few trees, I took a few steps up the hill. Then he turned and came directly towards me. He had heard my last bugle and was coming straight for me!

I didn’t dare make any more calls, as he would see no elk and most likely be spooked. When he went behind a tree at about 80 yards, I got down on one knee. He bugled a few times as he was walking down the hill. I was in a relatively open area and figured he would see me for sure. He continued straight towards me. He would have seen me for sure if I tried to draw my bow.

I heard him making a little sound with each step that sounded like a little whimper. When he was within 10 feet, I decided I had to draw and shoot quickly or I would lose a chance for any shot.

But when I drew back my bow, he spooked. He stopped at about 25 yards to look back and see what I was. He was slightly quartering away from me. I took aim and shot. He ran quickly, and I looked to see if I could see where my arrow hit him. I saw a nice spot of blood behind his left shoulder and knew I was taking this elk home. I yelled, "Thank you God!" I almost couldn’t believe it happened.

The bull went 50 yards down the hill and fell down. I had taken the nicest animal of my life, a beautiful 6 by 6, with my bow.

I took a few pictures with my camera phone, and started calling people. I tried calling my wife, but she wasn’t answering. I called my mom and told her the exciting news. Then I called my hunting buddy and left him a message. He said he would help me if I shot an elk. I knew I was going to need a lot of help.

I think I’ve found my new favorite hunting spot. I plan to keep the location to myself and maybe my family. The nice thing is that most hunters are not willing to hike so far for any animal. It is two miles from the bottom of the trail, and at least a mile from the nearest trail.

I decided to mount the elk, as I might not take another one that nice on public land again.

--Jared Martin

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