One Last Ridge
By Lane Lisonbee
Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I put in for a physically tough unit with decent draw odds. With luck being on my side, I drew a Utah limited-entry archery elk tag. Having scouted the opening weekend with my cousin, Tyler, and seeing only small bulls and a few cows, I knew I had to go further into the backcountry. That following weekend, my cousin, Shane, and I saddled our horses and headed nine miles into where we made camp.
That morning, I woke up to elk bugling right outside our tent. About 300 yards from our camp stood a nice 300" bull with a group of cows. As we saddled our horses, we watched the bull push his cows and eat the knee-high grass. We let this bull live and headed off in a different direction. The rest of the day was spent glassing and surveying the area, seeing if any monster bulls had moved in yet. The next couple days were like the first with some small bulls and a lot of cows, so we headed home to prepare for the long haul next week.
Shane and I headed back into our campsite with high hopes that more bulls had moved in while we were gone, but to our dismay, only a couple of small bulls had moved in with the cows. After a couple of days of scouting and not turning anything up, we took the horses and rode back into an area we called “The Badlands.” This is the area we thought most of the bulls had come from. That evening, we set up a small camp and went hiking up a steep hill face. We stayed another couple days only to turn up some smaller bulls, so we called it a week and headed home.
With only six days remaining, my friend, Braxton, and I made the journey back into my unit. We heard the bugle of a rutting bull, so we hunkered down and began to glass. We spotted him and five cows on a hillside directly across from us. We snuck around and got to the bottom of the hill right below the bull. He started herding his cows off the hill towards the bottom where we were calling. One by one, the cows filed right in front of me at 20 yards. With my inexperience and being impatient, I poked my head out behind the rock to come face to face with a nice 6-point bull. We stared into each other’s eyes, and then he took off and was gone.
The days went by fast. I had some really good stalks but no luck on a kill. The morning of day three arrived, and that’s when it got exciting. We finally saw a really good bull at a watering hole with a group of cows. As we watched the bull bugle a couple times and mill around with his cows, they finally bedded down. As I moved around the edge of the hill to start pushing up towards where the bull was bedded, I got the bad news over my radio that the bull had busted me and headed over to the next set of ridges.
With it getting late, we decided that we would walk up each ridge bottom and sound a bugle to see if any bulls were above us. After calling up a couple ridges, we hadn’t gotten one bugle back. With one more ridge in sight, we hustled to the bottom of it and sounded a bugle. Braxton said he thought he heard a bugle, and then I heard a faint bugle up the draw. There was a bull at the top of that canyon. I grabbed my bow and headed up the bottom of this wide, open canyon. Braxton stayed back in some tall grass, and I hid in some pines, waiting for the bull. He broke out of the timber about 200 yards in front of me. Only looking at its horns for a brief second, I knew it had some big fronts and I was going to try and kill this bull.
As soon as the bull got within 150 yards, I stopped cow calling. As I held as still as I could on one knee, the bull kept on heading down the meadow. When he was within 100 yards, I drew back and waited to see what yardage he would come into. Finally, he hit what I thought was 50 yards and I let my arrow fly. I hit way left, nailing him in the side of the neck. He spun around and took off running back up the canyon, slowing down right before he hit the trees. Shaking from excitement and nervous about my shot placement, Braxton ran up to where I was standing. We heard a big crash and had a feeling that my bull was down. We found my bull with an arrow in its neck. To my astonishment, it was the same bull I had busted earlier that morning, a giant 7x8.