2016 Utah Muzzleloader Elk Season — Pack Wheeling Into The Backcountry


Just crawling into my sleeping bag. Dallen and I put some miles and vertical feet in tonight. We are in a great spot right now to hopefully find some elk the last two days of the Utah #muzzleloader elk hunt. I'm taking a stroll back through memory lane. I am hunting the area I first used the Pack Wheel back in 2008. I did #solohunt archery elk hunts in this canyon in 2006, 2007 and 2008. In 2007 I stuck a little 5 point around 6 miles in. Thankfully my good friend @ferryboater saved me with spending a whole day coming in with his horses to haul the meat off the mountain. Prior to this I had already been sketching ideas for a wheel to be ultra-light, collapsible, and have a good braking system to haul boned out meat off the mountain. This was the final straw for me to start working on building just a system. By the next year in 2008 I had my first prototype @packwheel with me in the canyon I'm in right now. Will be dreaming of big bulls tonight. #memorylane #packwheel #diyhunting #elkhunting #utahhunting #outdoorlife #outdoors #hunting #getoutdoors #getoutside #kneesaver #hikinggear #hiking #mountainlife #huntutah

A photo posted by Brady Smith (@diyhntr) on

Like last year I have been just too busy in August and September to hunt elk with my bow. Things settle down a little for me in November so like last year I was chasing elk with a smoke pole. 

This year was full of lots of unexpected work that caused me to use up most of my vacation. That being the case I only had a couple days that I could spare to take off to hunt. Given the distance and elevation of where I wanted to pack into I like to spend at least a couple days in there. It's over five miles in to where I like to make camp and 2,300 vertical feet up.

With very mild temperatures and weather I felt it best to wait to hunt the very last days of the hunt hoping that I would have a greater chance of elk moving out of the private ground above and into this public ground I would be hunting. 

With three days left in the hunt Dallen and I set off up the mountain with our Pack Wheel's loaded. We each carried in fourteen quarts of Powerade Zero and water, mostly Powerade Zero. I like having a drink that replenishes lost minerals from sweating them out. I am really prone to bad hamstring cramps after a long day of hiking, especially once I crawl into my sleeping bag.  To prevent cramps I either drink Powerade Zero or I take an Endurolyte pill for every couple hours of hiking. Even though we carried in a ton of fluid I still carried my MSR water filter just in case we needed to hike down to a spring to pump water.

It was nice to have Dallen come to help me on this hunt. I was full of stories about archery elk hunting this area back in 2006, 2007 and 2008. In 2007 I shot a little five point bull way at the back of this public ground. This was the last straw to push me into doing something about my ideas for a ultra-light system to haul elk off the mountain. When I packed in to hunt the same area in 2008 I had my first prototype Pack Wheel cart with me. Needless to say I had a lot of stories to share with Dallen about the area and during the course of our hunt I was able to show him a lot of my favorite spots to hunt for elk.

As we hiked in we watched a lot of mule deer but couldn't find any elk. Until the snow flys the elk are usually way at the top and down in the upper canyons so I didn't think we would find any on the hike in but we enjoyed glassing the mule deer.

It was after dark as we crested the ridge I wanted to get past to setup camp. As we got to this ridge we saw a camp fire a little further down the ridge. We weren't going to have the area to ourselves. Darn it. Oh well. We went another half mile around the canyon then setup the Alps Chaos tent and hit the sack dreaming of big bulls in the morning.

Early the next morning we took off with day packs headed out a ridge to glass. It didn't take us long before we glassed up a six point bull around 700 yards away. We needed to head down one draw then pop up on a ridge and hopefully the bull was still there for a 200 or so yard shot. And then there was the horses, yeap, horses, ten of them to be exact. Apparently the camp on the ridge was a camp of a bunch of horse hunters. As we moved down into the canyon going after the elk we could hear steel horse shoes clanking off rocks all over the place around the ridges of the canyon. No, no, no...

When we made it to where we hoped to get a shot the bull was gone. In the process of going down into this canyon we also spotted another six point bull in a different sub draw off this canyon. In both cases the bulls were headed for safety of the private ground fence line. We took off trying to get in front of them but we found that horses had already made it around to that side of the canyon. Oh well. I wished there wasn't all the noise from all the horses surrounding the canyon but this is how public land hunting goes sometimes. I may not agree with the style of hunting but everyone else has a right to be there just like I do. Now if I did have a horse to get me into this area to hunt I would leave my horse at camp and sneak down into the canyon on foot. They just are soooo noisy. You can hear them coming a mile away and I don't have as good of hearing as a elk has. Oh well. This is one of the reasons I like archery hunting. Bow hunters may ride horses to get into the backcountry but they generally don't ride them around hunting from the saddle.

So the rest of that day we hiked back to camp then moved camp over to another location. That evening we hunted right along the private land border but never saw any elk. I did snap a pretty nice pic of a Dusky Grouse that evening but that was about all we saw.

We were up early the next morning debating on whether to go back to the same area or hike a mile to the north and hunt that canyon. As it was just getting light we could see and hear the train of horses head up the mountain and to the north. Well that answered that question. No need for us to go to the other canyon with a bunch of horses headed that way. We slipped down into the same canyon we were in the day before and glassed from a few different locations. Nothing. We had the place to ourselves this morning but there were also no elk in the area. At one point that morning a yound bull moose came in thirty yards from us and I snapped a few pics of him.

Again that evening we hiked around to some good vantage points and glassed but not an elk could be found. Oh well. Maybe next year. 

We hiked back up to camp and loaded up our Pack Wheels in the dark then off the mountain we flew. And flew we did, with just a little weight in our day packs and everything else on the Pack Wheels for the near six miles and 2,300 vertical feet down we were off to the races. Well, Dallen was, my knees can't take the pounding of runnning so we cruised at a pace of three miles per hour. Dallen with good knees could have ran off the mountain if he didn't have to wait for me. 

I guess there is always next year. I haven't been doing too well at filling my tags the last few years. I'm a little picky wanting a 150ish or better mule deer so I have passed on a few but when it comes to elk I shoot whatever I can find if I can find one as I love the meat. I'm hoping I can find more time to hunt next year and get a bull in the freezer.

Even though I ate tag soup I had so much fun being on the mountain. I generally like to hunt solo but find it really enjoying to hunt with my kids. Dallen was a great help and I really enjoyed the time we were able to spend together on the mountain. Thank you for the help Dallen!



Dallen took this pic of me headed up 2,300 vertical feet and five miles in on my muzzleloader elk hunt in November. We each carried in 14 quarts of Powerade and water on our @packwheel carts. We found a few bulls and a lot more horse hunters riding the canyons. Even though I didn't get a bull I had a great time with Dallen. It was fun showing him the area and telling him the stories of archery elk hunting the area -- the area I tested my first prototype Pack Wheel back in 2008. #diyhunting #elkhunting #utahhunting #getoutside #getoutdoors #hunting #gearjunkielife #outdoors #outdoorlife #hikinggear #hikeutah #hikingadventures #backpacker #hiking #mountainlife #huntutah #whatgetsyououtdoors #kneesaver #backsaver #huntinglife

A photo posted by Brady Smith (@diyhntr) on


Muzzleloader elk hunting last month with my CVA Accura V2 sporting a Vortex Viper HS-LR 4-16x50 scope. Love these scopes for big game hunting rifles. Might scale it back some for next year and get a smaller scope more in the 3-9x40 range. We'll see, I like to tinker and test new combos. My max effective range I feel comfortable with the 300 Gr Powerbelt AeroLite bullets was just over 300 yards. These bullets shoot sub MOA with this rifle but only have a 0.197 BC and I'm only getting them moving around 1,800 fps.... would like both of those numbers to be higher. I may also try and find some bullets with better BCs. Hmm... #whattotrynext #hunting #vortexoptics #cvamuzzleloader #biggamehunting #elkhunting #utahhunting #getoutside #getoutdoors #whatgetsyououtdoors #vortexviper

A photo posted by Brady Smith (@diyhntr) on


A photo posted by Pack Wheel (@packwheel) on

Additional information