By Brady Bensen
UT, CO, Elk
Watching the draw results the past couple years, I knew I was going to draw my Colorado elk tag. Still, after 22 years of applying, seeing “Successful” next to my name was a great feeling. A month earlier when I opened my email from the state of Utah and saw I was successful drawing a limited-entry bull elk tag with only 9 points in a unit that takes non-residents at least 18 points, I couldn’t believe it. My first call was to my dad, who started me hunting when I was too young to hike and needed to be stuffed in a backpack and carried around.
The summer months were spent dialing in my Cross Canyon Arms rifle built for me the year prior, making calls to Huntin’ Fool members who had hunted the Utah unit I would be hunting in, and gathering information.
Being able to grow up and spend a lot of time in and around the unit in Colorado I was hunting, I didn’t spend much time scouting ahead of opening day. The day before the season opened, we were able to locate eight good bulls, all worthy of a second look.
Forty-five minutes into first light, we were hoofing it down a draw one ridge over from where my bull was walking, trying to get in front of him. As the ridge faded into flat brush, I belly crawled up to the top to peek over to see where the bull was. He was at 375 yards and slowly walking broadside. I looked back and signaled to my hunting partners to cow call. The bull stopped, turned his head, and started to bugle. The shot echoed through the canyon. As I climbed out of the soaking wet, muddy clay to point to the sky and kiss my new gun, woo-hoos and celebration were taking place behind me.
Not being able to make the trip to Utah to do some scouting ahead of time, I made the right call and hired High Top Outfitters. The first two days were spent glassing areas from a distance, hiking into different areas, checking out the country, and looking over several bulls but none that I wanted to put my tag on. We decided to make an hour drive the next morning to check out a different part of the unit.
As the sun rose, we located a shooter. The bull kept moving and went into cover. Five hours and two snowstorms later, Dad radioed that a bull had stepped out and was feeding back into the opening. “Nice, big 6-point,” came over the radio. Knowing we only had about an hour of light left, we decided we’d make a play on him. We just kept slowly moving toward where we were guessing he was. I happened to notice his horns move just over a little hump. With a perfectly placed shot, the bull piled up in his tracks.
To say the year was successful is an understatement. I spent fall days in God’s country with family and friends doing what we all love to do. I was able to break in my brand-new gun with two bullets on two very nice bulls, and my dad was there for both trips. I don’t believe I will ever be able to thank him enough for dragging me around as a youngster and getting me into the outdoors. Maybe one day my son and daughter will be able to say the same thing.