By Bruce Blanchard, Ottsville, Pa.
In October 2022 my friend Tim and I embarked on the longest road trip of our lives. We drove from Pennsylvania to the beautiful Wasatch Mountains of Utah to hunt elk. Unusually warm weather made our 2,400-mile trip a safe, and scenic one. We arrived at the Six Feathers Outfitters lodge a day early for the rifle elk season opener. Even at 7,000 feet elevation, it was T-shirt weather, with the local forecast calling for five more days of the same. The guides and hunters were a little concerned about the warm October’s effect on elk movement and bugling. Because the guides were concerned, we were, too!
Saturday morning arrived with all hunters nervously gathering clothes, guns, ammo, snacks and water. Last-minute plans were discussed with my guide, and out the door into the darkness, scrambling to get into a small 4x4 with all gear intact we went. We drove a dirt track for a mile or so and then exited the 4x4 and silently moved toward a mountain where I hoped to see the giant bull elk that had been dancing in my head all night. It was time to make that dream a reality.
As the sky brightened, my guide motioned for me to follow him up the mountain. He could hear distant bugling. His young, lean build had him far ahead of me, as I gasped for cubic feet of mountain air. After several physical recovery stops, we finally made the summit.
We walked right into a bedded cow elk. She calmly walked away, but two minutes later we spooked five or six mule deer. I thought this stalk was all but ruined, but no, we heard at least two bulls bugling, so off we went with the wind in our faces. After a failed attempt to gain ground on the moving bulls, we circled out and around them in an attempt to cut off the herd. Moving cautiously higher and higher in the thick aspens, my guide spotted a cow feeding. “Get ready,” he whispered. I steadied my Christensen Arms .300 Magnum on a lightweight tripod, and in two seconds a nice 6x6 bull came out of the aspens to join the cow at about 135 yards. All I needed to hear was my guide say, “Take him,” and as my crosshairs found his shoulder, I squeezed the trigger. The bull went down immediately. Hours later I found out that my friend had also taken a nice bull only 20 minutes after me.
Lessons learned? Warm weather doesn’t necessarily mean that animals won’t move. We disproved that theory twice. If there is a hunt you really want, get on the road and make it happen—oh, and take a good friend along. It’s always more fun sharing your success with your friends.
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