Hunt is over and we got back in town yesterday afternoon. Overall it was a great experience and we had a lot of fun. Dale and the two guides who were there did a great job and I absolutely plan on booking another hunt with BearPaw.
The conditions on the drive to Duchesne were perfect and we made it there from Tacoma 15 hours without a hiccup. We stayed at the Harrison Inn in town and it was great; simple, clean and a great price. We spent Tuesday getting some rest and driving around the area a bit to do some site seeing. None of us had ever been through Utah so the scenery was all pretty impressive to take in. I was really surprised by the amount of game that's out there. Every where you look you mule deer and elk, and not little ones either. Even the smallest bucks and bulls over there were better than 90% of the animals I see here in WA.
We headed out with our guide, Dan, on Wednesday morning. The plan was for my dad to shoot first with the 300 Win Mag and then I would try and get one with the 338/375 Ruger Striker. The weather can only be described as cold, with a chance of even colder! It was about 5* most of the morning, so my son (and my dad) were bundled up like Eskimos! We saw a few herds early in the morning but they were all either nervous and on the move or out of my dad's effective shooting range. As we were about to head back for town for lunch we met up with Dale's other guide (Nick) who was out there with a client as well. While headed back for town we stopped to glass one more spot and saw a herd on the other side of the valley, bedded down just off of a road. Our guide said he can easily get us in range so we headed over. After asking us if it was alright, he called the other guide, Nick, to have him bring the other client over to see if he could fill his tag too. My dad and I both agreed that we thought that was the right thing to do since this was the first day of our hunt and the last day of the other hunter's hunt. It took about 30 minutes to drive around and get close to the where the herd was bedded down, and sure enough they were all still there. The plan was for my dad to shoot first, then the other hunter. I would follow up if an opportunity presented itself. So, my dad and our guide Dan worked around a bend in the road while my son and I followed a few yards behind. The elk were all still bedded down, but aware of our presence. The range was just a touch under 200 yards, which is well within the range that I had my dad practice at off of shooting sticks with the 300 Win Mag. My son and I stood back while my dad set up, and I got the shot on video.
It doesn't show very clear in the video, but you can see the cow stand up right before he takes the shot and then hear the impact when the bullet hits. My dad made a great shot and the cow was down in about 40 yards. The other hunter shot next and struggled to make a solid hit, but eventually got his cow. While it didn't go quite as well for him (or the elk) as I think we all would have liked, he was an inexperienced hunter and I'm just glad he filled his tag. But, since the other hunter took more shots than any of us expected, the herd was pretty spooked and I didn't get a good opportunity with the pistol.
Unfortunately, my dad wasn't able to make it all the way down to his elk so I didn't get any pics of him with his animal. The deep snow, high elevation and I think just a bit of shock/excitement made it just a little too much of a hike down to the animal. I did get a quick pic of my son with it though while it was getting cleaned.
While my son may never be a hardcore hunter, he certainly enjoys being out there!
The guides did a great job getting my dad's cow and the other hunter's animal cleaned and back to the trucks in quick order and we were back in town by about 3:30 that afternoon. Once we got back, I headed back out with our guide Dan to see if I could fill my tag with the pistol wihle my dad and my son stayed back to get some rest. We saw animals, but nothing that gave a good shot with the Striker. The terrain in Utah is a little tricky when hunting with one of the big specialty pistols since there aren't a lot of good, solid rests like stumps or downed trees to rest on. Combine that with the relatively deep snow and filling a tag with the pistol was going to take a bit of work. We called it a night after seeing lots of game, including two gorgeous bulls and one pretty impressive mule deer buck. When I got back, it was pretty clear to me that my dad was ready to wrap up the hunt as soon as possible and get home. He was clearly not comfortable being away from home as long as we had planned so I made the decision to head out on Thursday morning with a rifle and just fill the tag so I could get him home as soon as possible.
The hunt Thursday morning was pretty quick. I grabbed the 375 Ruger as my primary gun and threw the Striker in the rig just in case I got lucky. The plan was to take the first good sized cow that was in range though with whatever weapon would get it done. It took about 30 minutes of legal light to find a heard that we had seen the night before. There were probably 15 cows and a small bull at around 300-370 yards. I grabbed the 375 and trudged through the snow to a small brush pile to get a good solid rest and just wait for the first cow to turn broadside and step away from the group. It took about 5 minutes, but finally one turned and gave me a good clear shot quartering slightly towards me at 363 yards. Not surprisingly, the 260 gr Accubond did a fine job! That's the exit hole in the pic, you could nearly drop a golf ball through it!
Before walking up on it, my guide called Dale (BearPaw) who was out trying to fill his personal cow tag so that he could come get a cow out of the same herd. They showed up in a couple of minutes and he got a cow out of the same herd just down the road. My guide Dan did a great job getting the cow cleaned and did something I'd never seen before. Since you can't transport bones from Utah into Washington state, Dan boned her out in two halves! We came out of the woods with an elk in two pieces with nothing but the leg bones still in there and then a pile of boned out rib meat along with the heart, liver, and tenderloins. When we got back to town he boned out the rest the legs and we stuffed two giant slabs of elk into the cooler. It was one of the coolest things I've ever seen! These guys really know what they're doing, we were back in town with meat in the cooler and ready to head for home by 1pm on Thursday.
Before we left, I got a chance to talk to Dale for a bit, and he's a great guy and I absolutely plan on hunting with him again. While I had to rush this hunt a bit more than I would have liked and I ultimately didn't get to fill my tag with the weapon I really wanted to use, I still can't say enough good things about BearPaw Outfitting and the two guides I met while I was down there. They were professional and patient even when dealing with some potentially frustrating situations. Our guide Dan was a great sport and very understanding of both my dad's limited capabilities and my 12 year old son's all round randomness.
Everyone I met down there, including Randy the owner of the Harrison Inn, was great to deal with.
While a cow elk hunt may not be as glamorous as a trophy buck or bull hunt, it was a great value and a ton of fun. We came home with a pile meat, some great stories, a touch of misadventure and a whole new respect for anyone who guides for a living! The next trip out there will hopefully be when my son is ready pull the trigger on his own animal.