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Fatcatsplat

Utah Elk Hunting

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Just back from a week away in the Wasatch Mountains in Utah, hunting elk, with a few US mates as a belated treat for my 50th birthday last year. After meeting up in Salt Lake City, we arrived at our hunting lodge Tuesday afternoon and made sure the rifles were all zeroed in after the journey.  We then met the other hunters who would be going out over the next week over dinner and, more importantly, we were introduced to our guides for the hunt – A mixture of age, experience and beards and mostly drawn from the local Mormon community which allowed for some interesting conversation to flow!! Early to bed and alcohol free(!!) as we were up next day at 4.00am to get up in the hills.

Day 1 saw an absolutely beautiful and vast array of stars in the sky before dawn and a slightly less beautiful me, getting into a vintage Jeep Grand Cherokee (It still had a tape deck for Heaven’s sake!) for the ride to the hunting grounds – Our journey started on metalled road but we soon left that behind for dirt roads, serious elevation and the kind of scenery you only get in Cowboy movies – The vista was beautiful, but the air was thinner than gossamer – We were at 9,000 feet and it knocked me for six – Simple thing like tying laces became exercises in deep breathing and walking was somewhat laboured and very slow going. The day went with us hitting the ridges for sunrise at around 6.30am when the elk would show themselves either going to feed, drink or seek shelter from the 90 degree heat that was going to materialise later in the day. We’d spend the morning glassing them through a spotting scope or binoculars to see what was in the valleys and canyons. I’ve not got the best eye sight in the world, but my guide Robert could spot a pimple on an elephant’s behind at 1,000 yards.  Knowing where they were or at least where they were going, we’d try to intercept them on their way and would look for a 5 or 6 pointer bull with a harem of cows and a couple of opportunistic satellite bulls lurking in the distance.

The sun would be up, but it would remain quite cool until around 10.00am when the thermostat would turn right up to roasting. By 11.30, the heat was unbearable and so we’d head back to the lodge to rest and rehydrate until later in the afternoon when we’d repeat the procedure in reverse, once a little cooler until dark.

 

Day 2 saw a very shootable buck walk literally right into our path, but at almost 400 yards which was a little beyond my comfort zone, particularly as the thin air threw all the ballistics charts out of the window – The need to elevate a shot was completely nulled by the elevation! Tried to get nearer but he wasn’t stopping and big elk steps being followed by me and my stumpy legs was only ever going to have one winner!!

Days 3 and 4 we saw nothing – Except for cougars, buffalo, mule deer, cottontails, snakes, beaver and a recurring moose that kept hanging about! The country was beautiful, like a bizarre clash of the Scottish highlands, with sage brush standing in for the heather and a spaghetti western. We stayed lower than the treeline all the time and I was impressed by the Aspen trees lush hardiness in such a hard environment – Apparently they have one central root via which the rest of the trees are all interconnected. Throughout this landscape, there are cattle the whole way round the mountains – They farm them to 6 months here and then send them off to be fattened up with all manner of GM rubbish on the lowlands.

Day 5 – Go hard or go home. Looked like I was going home….

The morning was a complete bust with nothing moving anywhere, so we tried a new spot in the afternoon at the highest point of the hill. The guide did a few calls, with no answer, but we kept at it. Around an hour before dusk, a call was answered – He called back and it replied, sounding closer. One more call and through the clearing came a big old beast, well ahead of his cows, with horns high and chest all puffed out – This boy was intent on stamping out competition . He registered 235 yards on the range finder so I took my time and I took my shot - The bullet hit and I saw fur and claret fly at the same time. We got over to where he was as soon as possible to be greeted by an almighty blood trail – The Weatherby 300 rifle I had borrowed from my buddy had definitely done what I asked of it. We followed the trail for ten yards and there was my bull elk, stone dead with a heart shot. We gralloched him on the hill (well, I held the torch and acted like a nurse for the guide passing him knives and holding bits open) and with daylight fading we managed to get a Polaris to where we were to pick him up. Back at base, he was skinned and in the chiller within two hours, ready for the butcher (Just working out how to get some of the meat to the UK now – If anyone knows an easy way, please let me know). It was the last night and I had final bragging rights – Of the 12 hunters there, only 4 of us tagged out – So I found a lovely bottle of gin that I’d bought earlier at the State controlled liquor store and discovered the wonderful effects of booze at high altitude – Taxi!!

All in all, a very enjoyable trip. I’m just waiting for the crate to arrive from the taxidermist!     

Utah 1.jpg

Utah 7.jpg

Utah 8.jpg

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I was so engrossed in your write up I felt I was standing right next to you,

even up to your bottle of gin, swore I could taste it  :)....Nice write up, & well done on the outcome..:good:

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A wonderful experience . I have had many similar Experiences in the states . Only I was hunting white tail deer with my family in up state New York .

harnser

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Great write up and pictures look amazing. Thanks for putting this up on here only downside another one to add to bucket list👍😀

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4 hours ago, Richie10 said:

Would love to know how you can get out there to hunt and the costs involved.

Cheers

It's going to cost reasonably serious money coming in from abroad, that's for sure.

It was a 50th birthday present from a very old buddy so not sure of the overall cost, but I'm sure my eyes would have likely watered a little if I saw the bill!!

The State elk tag was $800.00 for rifle and $350.00 for bow in addition and a tip to the guide that was calculated on a daily basis. It's different shakes for different States and the hard bit is getting them to understand we don't have Hunter Safety courses and the like over here, so it can be a bit of rigmarole!!

Best bet is to go via an outfitters - We used the R and K Hunting Co - And they sort out licensing etc for you.

The deal is that the outfitter owns or leases the land for the hunting rights and get their fair share of commercial tags to run a business, but then there is a State operated first come, first served lottery for tags where local hunters get their chance to go for an animal at a minimal cost independently (but on the outfitter's land) https://wildlife.utah.gov/remaining-permits.html. I think it's a pretty good way of doing it. 

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14 hours ago, Fatcatsplat said:

It's going to cost reasonably serious money coming in from abroad, that's for sure.

It was a 50th birthday present from a very old buddy so not sure of the overall cost, but I'm sure my eyes would have likely watered a little if I saw the bill!!

The State elk tag was $800.00 for rifle and $350.00 for bow in addition and a tip to the guide that was calculated on a daily basis. It's different shakes for different States and the hard bit is getting them to understand we don't have Hunter Safety courses and the like over here, so it can be a bit of rigmarole!!

Best bet is to go via an outfitters - We used the R and K Hunting Co - And they sort out licensing etc for you.

The deal is that the outfitter owns or leases the land for the hunting rights and get their fair share of commercial tags to run a business, but then there is a State operated first come, first served lottery for tags where local hunters get their chance to go for an animal at a minimal cost independently (but on the outfitter's land) https://wildlife.utah.gov/remaining-permits.html. I think it's a pretty good way of doing it. 

Appreciate the reply, something I am looking to do at some point in the future.

Thanks

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Some beautiful country up there. Super write up and pleased to got your bull, you certainly earn every inch of those antlers.  I spent four days in Jackson Hole to aclimatise before my elk hunt in Wyoming and we used horses but I was still pooped.  If you can scratch the cash together, then there is no better way to spend it. Just do your homework first and check out reviews etc on outfitters before choosing.  Getting acclimatised does help no end.  Some super fishing in elk hunting areas and as we did spend a day or two fishing at slightly lower levels.

I'm not kidding !!!  They helicoptered the body of one hunter in our party from above us who had a heart attack.

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Watching MeatEater on Netflix - some fantastic places in the states to hunt. They do seem to be a fan of longer shots - anything under 400 yards is getting it! 

Interesting you saying about hold over - is there less drop because of the altitude? 

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Altitude does have an effect...that is why the 'mericans take long shots because they can't physically get closer or don't want to.  To be fair the bag limits and season lengths do also make some 'occasional' hunters over there take ridiculous shots.

Lloydy if you ever get a chance then go,   also if you ever get a chance to go to New Zealand then try for a tahr and chamois on South Island, stunning country down there, but get fit first.

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45 minutes ago, Walker570 said:

Altitude does have an effect...that is why the 'mericans take long shots because they can't physically get closer or don't want to.  To be fair the bag limits and season lengths do also make some 'occasional' hunters over there take ridiculous shots.

Lloydy if you ever get a chance then go,   also if you ever get a chance to go to New Zealand then try for a tahr and chamois on South Island, stunning country down there, but get fit first.

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We're off to DC in December but as with my past shooting in the states I will just be heading to the range to hit some paper :). Personally If I want going over to hunt I think I'd like to go for a moose :) 

Just out of interest what does a trip like that end up costing? 

You'd think costs would be better publicised but I order find it hard to get a clear idea. 

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2 hours ago, Lloyd90 said:

 

We're off to DC in December but as with my past shooting in the states I will just be heading to the range to hit some paper :). Personally If I want going over to hunt I think I'd like to go for a moose :) 

Just out of interest what does a trip like that end up costing? 

You'd think costs would be better publicised but I order find it hard to get a clear idea. 

I did that trip back in 1991 and paid for a three week tour of NZ by Alan Simmonds, well known Fly Fishing guide & Hunter. He arranged it all for us and drove us everywhere. 

Managed a tahr and a chamois, tried for a sika a couple of times but they outwitted us in the thick bush as did the pigs but had a great time with some awesome fishing.

If my memory serves me the whole deal back then cost me about £2500 including hotel stays.  Obviously add the flights to that, we split the journey, visiting friends in Houston, SanFransico and then back to Llano in Texas for a week, so our flights came to a bit more than a direct run.  It was something I promised myself when I was 19yrs old and turned down a chance to move out there and the day before I retired, I walked down Solihull High Street into the travel agents and booked the flights. 

BC is also a fantastic place to visit according to friends. Impossible to see in just one trip.  Some great moose hunting and black bear.   I took a black in Newfoundland and if you didn't want something you needed to build and extension for then the Grand Slam ..three specie trip there is good value...look up Ray Broughton.  Moose, black and caribou in one visit.  Great people.

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