2011 Rifle Elk Hunt — Dallen and Weston's Hunting Adventures

Dallen elk hunting in snow storm.

Dallen hunting in the snow storm on opening morning of the 2011 Utah rifle elk hunt.

I had high hopes of taken my oldest son Dallen back into the area I had hunted during the archery season. I had a couple of bulls patterned pretty well and I didn't think anyone would bump them out of the area because of the remoteness of the location. I also hoped that we could find the young 4x5 bull that I stuck an arrow into below the spine and above the lungs during my archery hunt. The shot has haunted me and I kind of hoped to find the bull alive and well and possibly have Dallen take him so I could dissect exactly where the arrow struck the bull etc.

Well as luck would have it the day before the opener of the season a whopper of a snow storm moved into Northern Utah. It dropped a lot of snow in the high elevations. Well this would push the elk out of this high country and it would also make the jeep trail into the area inaccessible. In most cases I really like the snow to hunt with but in this case snow was not good.

Snow collapsed tent

Our tent collapsed from the snow while out hunting elk on the opening morning.

With the snow we decided to head back to the area in the Uinta mountains where we elk hunted the previous year. We made the three hour drive the day before the opener and setup the tent in the snow near one of the trail heads that lead to the area we wanted to hunt. All that night I could here the snow falling on the tent and I would knock it off to keep the tent from collapsing on us.

The next morning we set out early in the dark through the snow and ongoing storm. With the conditions the way they were I got a little messed up in the direction that I wanted to head. As it got light we corrected our course and started slowly working our way around a park with burnt out timber to our back and side. All the time a moderate amount of snow was falling.

After about a half hour I looked back to the burnt timber and spotted a herd of elk that was slipping right past us at about 60 yards. I quickly noticed that there looked to be two four point bulls in this small group of elk. As I got Dallen's attention I also got the attention of the elk and they started to clear the area at a faster pace.

Duct tape snow gaitors

Can't find your snow gaitors? I found that a little duct tape works pretty darn well at keeping the snow out.

We can laugh about it now but in the excitement Dallen fall apart so to speak, buck fever might be the correct term. Once he had his heavy gloves off he short stroked a cartridge that didn't want to feed well (I have since tweaked the magazine so this shouldn't happen ever again) then he pulled the bolt all the way back which in turn placed the bolt behind a second cartridge in the magazine. I quickly cleared the jam and handed him the rifle. I then hear, "Dad the gun won't shoot." I look back at the rifle and somehow the bolt handle was lifted up. I shut the bolt on the rifle and was expecting to hear a bang... "Dad! I can't see through the scope!" I quickly wipe off the scope lenses. By this time the elk had made it over a rise and out of sight.

He is young and I remember a few missed opportunities in my youth that can be chalked up to lack of experience and buck fever. But now that the season is over we can laugh a little about the experience and know that he will be better mentally prepared in future hunting encounters.

The mountain was a winter wonderland that day. It was really beautiful sight to see. When we were off the trail there was somewhere near eighteen inches of snow that we had to push through.

My Montero at sunrise mule deer hunting

Here a photo of my Montero at sunrise as we are preparing to go glass for mule deer.

Glassing mule deer during the Utah buck/bull hunt.

We had no trouble in finding many small bucks but larger ones just weren't showing up anywhere.

Weston with his 2011 mule deer

Weston with his 2011 mule deer taken with a buck/bull combo tag.

Weston packing out his 2011 mule deer

Hiking the boned out buck up and out of the canyon.

With Dallen in school my brother asked if I could help him with getting a mule deer during the week. He had drawn the buck/bull combo tag. This allowed him to hunt mule deer during the rifle elk hunt. I had the tag in 2010 and took a pretty nice buck on the last day... if only he hadn't broken his antler.

After the snow storm ended on Saturday things really started to warm back up. By mid week we headed up the mountain hoping to hunt the general area that I had during the muzzleloader season. Once we got to the high country we found that even with chains my old Montero couldn't make it through the remaining snow. We would have to improvise and hunt in some different canyons than I had planned.

The next morning we where out on a ridge glassing. It didn't take us long to start finding deer. We glassed many a deer and quite a few bucks but we only found one four point and a young one at that. He looked to be almost the exact twin to the buck I took during the muzzleloader season. We decide to pass on him and spent the afternoon napping and the evening glassing again but only more small bucks could be found.

That night Weston decided that if the small four point was in the area again he would take him. Early the next morning we were out glassing the area again. It didn't take us long to find the buck again. We slipped around to some cliffs to take the shot. The buck was at 401 yards and Weston dropped a 140g Accubond from his A-Bolt 270 WSM right through the guts, oops! He said he wasn't as steady as he would have liked to have been when he pulled the trigger. I was on the spotting scope and quickly got my brother back on the buck again. This time the buck was at 450 yards facing away from us offering a great butt shot. Weston made a prefect shot right past the side of his butt and into the front shoulder and down the buck went.

After a few pictures out came the knives and we spent the rest of the day boning out the meat and hiking it back up the mountain.

For the second weekend of the elk hunt Weston was able to join Dallen and I. We headed back to the same area in the Uinta mountains that we hunted the opening weekend. Once there it was amazing the change had taken place in six days. The snow was gone! Every last flake, gone.

Saturday morning we hiked back into the area we hunted the first weekend. This time we were able to cover and lot more ground with the snow gone. As I was afraid the elk had pretty much cleared out of the area. We found a few fresh tracks but that was it.

The season ended on the following Thursday and as luck would have it Dallen had the day off from school. With the warmer temps we had been having I figured that we could make it back into the area I had archery hunted.

We headed up Wednesday night and were able to drive back into the area. We slept in the front seats of the Montero as we could not find any suitable place to setup the tent in the rocks at the end of the jeep trail we parked along.

Early the next morning we were scaling down the boulder slides and rough terrain to get to where I wanted to be before shooting light. I wanted to slip over a saddle and be waiting for it to get light as we watched out across a small bowl that was formed in the canyon. The elk like to feed out in the bowl before heading into the pines to bed for the day and we had high hopes of catching them there.

Sunrise burnt timber elk hunting

Sunrise in the burnt timber elk hunting the Uinta mountains.

Elk hunting burnt timber Uinta mountains

Elk hunting the Uinta mountains on the second weekend of the hunt. I had my lightweight game cart with me at all times strapped to my backpack just in case we put an elk down.

As we crested the ridgeline and sat down the stampede began. We could hear elk vacating the area. No, no, no, NO!!! This can't be happening. The elk are never up near this saddle. It was about twenty minutes before shooting light and I pulled out the binoculars. There was just enough light for me to make out the figures of a bunch of elk out in the bowl, but they weren't feeding, they were headed out. I could see two elk that looked to be fairly large bulls but again the light was just a little to dark to tell positively if they were bulls let alone how big.

As the elk neared the opposite ridgeline in the canyon we were in a bull gave of a small bugle that perked Dallen up a little. In the light we were able to watch 4 cows go over the ridge and we chased after them to no avail. In the light we also started looking at the ground around us in and near the saddle and it was covered with fresh elk tracks. We had walked right into the middle of them in the dark.

I felt pretty bummed for Dallen. We could have been in perfect position for him to get a bull if we had slowed our pace in getting to the area by about twenty minutes.

We are going to have to chalk this elk season up to plenty of lessons learned for both me and Dallen.

After spooking the elk on the last day of the hunt

Elk hunting in the pines.

Smiling even after spooking the elk in the dark on the last day of the hunt. Dallen hunting in the pines on the last day of the elk hunt.

Panorama of elk hunting in Unita mountains

Panorama of elk hunting in Uinta mountains

Above are a couple of panorama photos I took when we were hunting in the Uinta mountains.


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