My 9/11 Bull

Firehawk

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Jan 29, 2014
Messages
671
Location
Northern Utah
For the past 8 weeks or so, I have been reflecting on the amazing experience I had in September. You see, this year, I had finally drawn my elusive Limited Entry Bull Elk tag in Utah. This was the 21st time I had applied for a LE Bull. I had a good feeling that I would draw, and found out in May that I had drawn a lucky ticket.

The area I drew was new to me. I have a good buddy Brayden who had drawn this tag a few years ago (as a VERY lucky 3 point drawer) and had a terrific experience. He convinced me that it would be worth the points if I drew, based on the fact that I really wanted a great experience, a chance to see elk during the rut, and to kill a "model" 6 point bull that was a good representative of the elk species. I didn't care so much about score, as I did about the experience, and a good opportunity to kill a mature bull.

I started scouting around Memorial Day weekend. I remember thinking that it was unique that I was thinking of this hunt, which would begin on 9/11, a day that most of us remember as being a very scary, horrible day in American History. On Memorial Day, when we honor those who have passed on before us, many well before their lives had really even begun, I was thinking of my chance to enjoy the freedom to hunt. The fact that the hunt began on 9/11 was icing on the cake. I was hoping that my own son, who was in Fort Bragg at the time, would be home in time to be able to accompany on that hunt.

A few scouting trips by me and by Brayden, resulted in seeing some really nice bulls. A lot of bulls in the 300-320" range, and a few that would push 350". There were two in particular, that we thought might go 370 ish. Brayden had the opportunity to help guide a landowner archery tag holder in the same general area for about two weeks leading up to my opening day on 9/11. All during that hunt, he was sending me texts and videos of elk he was seeing. The two largest, were NOT leaving the private ever, but numerous good bulls were transitioning to start gathering harems of cows and even started bugling a little bit. His archery hunter ended up not harvesting on his tag, but it provided him the opportunity to be on that mountain a lot just prior to my hunt. I owe him BIG time.

Fast forward to Friday morning 9/10. My truck is packed, gear is checked over and in its place, and my buddy David and I were on our way to our hunting area about 3 hours from where I live. I was ready for the long haul and planned to stay until the 18th if required. Brayden would be meeting us out there and he was going to join David and I that night. Two other really good friends of mine were leaving their archery elk hunt in Idaho Friday to come out to camp and hunt a few days with me too. I couldn't wait to spend time together and experience my tag all together with good friends, good food, and bugling bulls.

We set up camp in a heavy wind that afternoon. Dave and I rolled out the floor for his 14x20 Wall tent in the flattest spot we could find, as our first choice was occupied by another lucky hunter already. We raised the frame for the tent and rolled out the canvas. Let's just say, that two guys, working hard to set up a large Canvas Wall tent in 30-35 mph winds, was a big chore. There were a myriad of errors and comedic moments that we both wish we could have caught on video. But...eventually the tent was up and braced appropriately for the weather.

After unloading our gear, we jumped on the SxS and raced up the two track to get on the other side of the range close to where one of the largest bulls had been spotted the week earlier. The lack of rain was really adding up and the "moon dust" was horrible. Eventually we pulled off and began glassing for elk. It wasn't long and we found a large herd of cows with a few small bulls. Then we saw what had to be the "herd" bull and watched a display of him running off satellite bulls, round up and "checking" cows and overall, never stopping. I got tired just watching him. He was a decent bull, but not the caliber of bull we knew was on the unit. Soon it was drawing close to dark so we headed back toward camp, hoping we might catch another bull or two out and about on our way back.

Back at camp, now in the pitch black, we discovered that both Brayden and my two other buddies had made it to camp. We all gathered in the big tent, showed pictures and video of the bull from that evening and made plans for the next day. I decided I wanted to hike up into a canyon that I had spotted three bulls in during a scouting trip in July. There was good water in that canyon and just the other side of the peak was the private property Brayden had been seeing nice bulls on during the past few weeks.

Morning came and I was ready in a jiffy. Couldn't wait to get hiking. We drove to the canyon and parked knowing we were probably about 30 minutes too early to hike in too far. We didn't want to spook out elk ahead of us, or miss elk that were fairly close to where we had parked the truck. We waited about 20 minutes and then started hiking. We had about 900' of elevation to gain in about 1 mile to get to a saddle that overlooked our canyon were were in but also the large canyon that laid to our North. We hiked up to within 300 yards of that saddle on a small side ridge that would keep our scent and movement disguised from anything in the main canyon ahead of us. Just as it got light, we scanned ahead looking for animals and moved toward the saddle. We took our time, glassing up into the large canyon ahead of us and watching the small side canyon running along the side of the ridge we were on heading to the saddle. Not seeing anything, we kept heading to the saddle. We slowly scrolled over the ridge of the saddle, glassing right in front of us as well as on the other side of the large canyon we were headed into. One small bull was spotted high on the hillside nearing the trees toward the peak, but he was in the trees before we could really tell how big he was. David, Brayden and I were together, my other two friends had driven the SxS around the base of the mountain low so that they could glass from below and give us a heads up of anything in the canyon ahead of us.

We crept into the canyon and split up a little to cover more ground. I picked a small rock out cropping that looked down into some scraggly aspens and a larger park of good feed near a spring. After not seeing anything for a bit, I moved toward Brayden who was just a little higher looking up into the head of the canyon we were in. I joined up with him and David joined shortly afterwards. We received a text saying the guys down at the bottom had glassed a small bull up high on the mountain, and we decided it was likely the same bull we had noticed initially as well. But there had to be more.

A few minutes later, Brayden whispers "Big Bull". I immediately got to his side and looked through his spotting scope. He was looking toward our direction and looked pretty good, but it wasn't until he turned to feed that I saw his tines. He was a perfect 6x6 bull with good fronts, good 3rd and good 5ths. This was a hard combination from what we had seen so far that year. He was perfect for me.
 

Attachments

  • IMG_1851.JPG
    IMG_1851.JPG
    434.8 KB · Views: 212
  • IMG_7886.jpg
    IMG_7886.jpg
    524.4 KB · Views: 209
  • Bullet and scale.jpg
    Bullet and scale.jpg
    351.1 KB · Views: 210
Last edited:
OP
Firehawk

Firehawk

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Jan 29, 2014
Messages
671
Location
Northern Utah
We were 725 yards away, lower on the same ridge as him. He was feeding into the canyon we were looking into from the canyon we had initially hiked up to get to where we were. Thank goodness we had decided to stay on the downhill side of that ridge on our ascent as I firmly believe he would have seen us coming from below had we been skylined on the ridge line up.

I decided that this bull was exactly what I wanted. David stayed back with our packs and his spotter and digiscope set up trained on the bull. Brayden and I quickly got on the other side of the ridge and cut the distance toward a large rock outcropping that would hide out approach. About half way up, I realized that I had left all "extra" ammo for my .325 WSM in my backpack back with David, but I knew the three rounds I had was more than enough if I made a smart shot. I told Brayden "I have three shots max to make this happen". He shrugged and said, "You got this".

When we got to the rock outcropping, we peaked over to look for the bull. He had moved about 30 yards, just feeding across the open slope toward the trees that he would likely spend the day bedded in. I was 474 yards away from him. There was no way to get closer unless we worked all the way around the rocks to the left and into the saddle he was standing in. If we did this, the risk was high that he would either be in the trees already, or we could possibly not be able to see him due to the curvature of the hill.

I had practiced a lot out to 500 yards and beyond. I knew that rifle could do it if I could find a solid rest. The first place I tried was too awkward. I just couldn't get steady. Panic was starting to set in as you could tell he was getting nervous. He would feed for a few seconds and look back over toward us. We were out of sight in the rocks, but he knew something was up.

Finally, I found a spot where I could lay my rifle over a rock and it was almost like a bench rest. I turned to Brayden, who was videoing through his spotting scope at this point, confirmed that I wanted to take him and let him know I could make the shot. I took a couple deep breaths and settled into the scope which I had dialed to 475 yards. I held perfectly on his shoulder and slowly squeezed the trigger. Thanks to me finally biting the bullet and installing a Muzzle Brake, I was able to quickly get back on him after the shot. He was hit hard. Stumbled a few times and then stood with his head down. Another good friend of mine taught me in my elk hunting infancy, "Keep Shooting until all four legs are in the air and his tongue is hanging out". I quickly racked another round and shot again. This time, I missed him completely. TOTAL AIRBALL. And we have it on video. He took a few more steps and I racked another round.....my LAST round. Then he fell. I thought "Firehawk, watch carefully. Don't let him ever get back up". After a few kicks and sliding down the very steep hillside, he started to get back up again. That was all I needed to know. I slowly squeezed the trigger and immediately he was back on the ground. He was done.
IMG_7835.JPG


I watched carefully, hoping he didn't get back up as I couldn't do anything about right then. After it appeared he wasn't getting back up, Brayden and I high fived and he raced down the hill to meet David and get the packs. I kept watching the bull. I watched through my scope, through his spotting scope, through my binos. There, just 470 yards away, my dream bull was lying dead on the steep hillside. Then my emotions got me. So many years, so many "unsuccessful" emails, so many times watching others kill good bulls on TV, YouTube, social media. I wished at that moment my son could have been with me, but his military service required him to be away that weekend. My other son, two daughters and my wife, I wanted them to be there, but they weren't able to. My brother wanted to be with me, and he couldn't come until the next week. It was just me in that moment. I broke down. I cried, happy glorious tears. When David and Brayden made it back up to me with the packs, I got the biggest hug from Dave. My emotions were getting to me again and I fought them back. I called Spencer and Creighton, who were at the bottom of the canyon and let them know. They were so excited, but sad that they had just moved to a different spot to look up the canyon and missed the whole thing from below. We waited on the ridgeline so that when they got around to where the truck was, they could look high up on the ridge and see where we were before we started in to lay my hands on the elk.


As I walked over to my bull, I welled up multiple times. I couldn't help but think of how grateful I was that I was there. That on the 20 years anniversary of the horrible events on 9/11, I was still enjoying the freedoms to do what I was doing, on public land that day. It was AWESOME!!

Anyway, we got to the bull, took a whole bunch of pictures and started cutting him up after a group photo of all of us together. Timers on a tripod are awesome for that purpose by the way.

IMG_7840.JPG IMG_0765.JPG IMG_7886.jpg

I hope you enjoyed reading of my experiences that day this fall. As I sit here nursing a ruptured Achilles' Tendon I am so grateful I got hurt AFTER I had gotten this amazing animal off the mountain, processed the meat, and have a freezer full of amazing protein. I will need it to rebuild my tendon.

Happy Veteran's Day! Thank you to all who have served, and are currently servicing to protect this amazing country.
 
Last edited:

UglyDog223

Junior Member
Joined
Jan 2, 2016
Messages
14
Location
OryGun
Congratulations! Very nice bull. I enjoyed reading your story. Looks like a hard earned elk. Good luck on your recovery.
 
OP
Firehawk

Firehawk

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Jan 29, 2014
Messages
671
Location
Northern Utah
Beautiful bull! What did he score out?
Haven't had him scored. We are figuring somewhere near 330"-335". The amazing symmetry and good tine length was what stood out to us. He had good 5ths, which was hard out there, but his really good 3rds and Swords were really nice too. Just all around really pretty.
 

Aviator

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Nov 24, 2019
Messages
231
Haven't had him scored. We are figuring somewhere near 330"-335". The amazing symmetry and good tine length was what stood out to us. He had good 5ths, which was hard out there, but his really good 3rds and Swords were really nice too. Just all around really pretty.
That’s what I’m thinking, I killed a 336 7X6 in Wyoming this year and your bull looks about the same size.
 

686

Junior Member
Joined
Nov 15, 2020
Messages
18
Great write up! Nice shooting, too. I’m sure you rushed the second shot from some serious adrenaline, but great that you refocused and made your last round count!
 

Featured Video

Stats

Threads
232,441
Messages
2,405,268
Members
57,304
Latest member
A-Brakke
Top