Hunting > Big Game

What Makes a "Good" Bull? (Page 2)

That can be a tough question, but Editorial Director John Zent knows one thing that matters is if you’re looking up or down the mountain.

One morning we set up to glass a steep-sided, heavily timbered divide where bull after bull screamed desperate promises. Mason didn’t appear to be in any hurry to try his luck there, so we dug in for the show. Though it was never possible to say exactly how many there were, at one point I thought I marked at least 10 different buglers and intermittently could see most of them moving through the trees. The next morning, as we hiked a long finger ridge studded with quakie patches, a bull on top started blasting, and that fired up rivals literally circled all around us. A few nearly walked right into our laps, and while none was a shooter, the auditory spectacle was piercing, wild and exhilarating.

Mason got to see lots of bulls over those few days, and could have killed many of them, but the few that interested him gave us the slip. Joe remained very patient and upbeat with his young hunter, almost as if he was teaching as much as guiding. It felt great to be along for the ride, hiking through the magnificent Wasatch landscape during an unbeatable stretch of Indian summer weather.

It was mid-afternoon when Joe and Mason spotted a likely prospect at the far end of a long valley. There were two bulls milling around a water tank, and while both sported promising headgear, one was clearly bigger. That sighting prompted a fast-paced stalk during which we remained high on our side of the valley. When Joe figured we’d gone far enough, we dropped down until regaining sight of the tank—and now just one bull. Thankfully the bigger one.

Deliberately Joe and Mason slipped ahead, looking for a clear shooting lane, and then we noticed the missing satellite bull just across a shallow draw, perhaps 50 yards away, intently curious. The big guy kept feeding not quite 300 yards below, and while it seemed unlikely he’d spook if the closer bull suddenly did so, Mason sat down and jacked his rifle onto the sticks. Joe gave him the range, and after taking time to breathe and settle, Mason made a studied shot. The big bull collapsed immediately while the other one eased away.

After a long shot perfectly delivered, Mason had his elk. It was fun for me, and for Joe I think, to be present with a young buck enjoying one of life’s milestones. The 6x6 bull had tall, stately, almost perfectly symmetrical antlers. It was a far better trophy than my first bull and probably bigger than any of the other “first bulls” I have seen go down.

There was a time when I might’ve been too proud of a bull like Mason’s, and so perhaps it was a good thing I had to work at it longer and wait my turn. Back then I was always looking up the mountain and worried I’d never see the top. Step by step, I’ve climbed to where I can now see clearly in both directions. The top is still attainable, I hope. But perhaps what’s behind me—the missteps and frustrations, times both good and bad, new friends and the tracks I left across elk country—are what I wanted all along.

For information on elk hunts like the author’s, contact Wild Country Outfitters at This outfit has access to private ranches in northern Utah boasting incredible populations of elk, mule deer, Shiras moose and pronghorn.

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