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Utah Approves Additional Deer Season and More

At a recent wildlife board meeting on Nov. 30th, the Utah Wildlife Board approved a few changes to upcoming hunting seasons in Utah. Here are the approved changes:

  • Split Deer season into 2 seasons in nine units. The early season will be 5 days long and coincide with the general elk hunt and will run from October 10 – 14.
  • Utah will now allow elk hunters to hunt all 3 seasons (Archery, Muzzle-loader, Any-Weapon) on Utah’s spike-only and the “Any Bull” general season hunts.
  • They will also add a “cactus buck” management hunt on the Paunsaugunt unit in southern Utah. (Cactus bucks are unable to reproduce, stay in velvet for odd times of the year, and are often not targeted by hunters).

To see more information and more details and comments, visit:

A little more information:

Split rifle seasons work to spread pressure and cause fewer hunter interactions. The key to making split season effective, is to keep license/tag allocations constant. This typically won’t improve harvest, but will spread the pressure out over time, so hunters in these units should be able to get away from the crowds a little bit better. It will be interesting to see the effect it has in these 9 initial units. The other thing about this hunt is that it will run during the same time period as the general elk hunt, and will allow hunters with both tags, to pursue both animals during their hunt. This could be very attractive to hunters of both species, and will likely alter draw odds for the later hunts on these same units.

Adding management hunts to trophy units is a great way to provide opportunity without impacting trophy quality, which is likely why they implemented this cactus buck hunt on the Paunsaugunt. This will allow bucks who don’t contribute re-productively to the herd to be removed and replaced by more viable deer. Adding hunts like this often provides more opportunity and spreads applications from other units to the management hunts.

Scouting for September

By Ben Carter

I believe that hunting elk during the rut is the most fun and most exciting hunt when it comes to western big game. I played the application game with the Utah DWR until finally my name was drawn for a Utah elk hunt. I would be hunting elk in southern Utah in 2014. I had a pretty good idea that I was going to draw based on current trends so I also applied for a general muzzleloader deer tag for the same unit and same time. Luck was on my side and my brother and I both had deer tags as well. It was going to be an exciting year.

I was unfamiliar with the unit that I had drawn. This is not uncommon in Utah where you only get the chance to hunt limited entry elk every 15 years or more. I knew that if I was going to take full advantage I would need to put considerable time in scouting and learning the country. Lucky for me I had some insider knowledge. A good friend of mine, that actually referred me to the unit, accompanied me on my fist scouting trip in July to show me a few places on the unit and get me started in the right direction.

I mostly hunt DIY (do it yourself). Not to disparage anyone that hunts with a guide, but I feel a greater sense of accomplishment knowing I was able to be successful on a hunt on my own. I knew time in the field and on the mountain was going to be crucial to my success. I had just started a new job and had no time off to use, so my weekends were filled with long drives to southern Utah for a couple days of locating key elk habitat. Over July and August I covered most of the unit and was able to hike in and find nice bulls in several canyons. I hung a few cameras and was able to get some pictures of elk, but none of the bulls I was seeing were really what I was after. The big bulls I did see were on a couple large pieces of private property. These “once in every 15 year hunts” put a lot of pressure on hunters to kill trophy class animals. Some people feel cheated when they kill a bull that doesn’t make the record book, or worse eat tag soup.

As August was coming to an end and September was just getting started the bulls started getting more vocal. Some of the coolest encounters I have ever had in the woods happened during this time. Had it been my season I could have killed multiple 6 points, but just being close was an experience in itself. I took a week break off to go help a friend on a rifle elk hunt in a different part of the state, and then it would be time for my hunt. My hunt was set to open on a Wednesday. I got down there Sunday night before it opened to have a couple days to locate a shooter bull for the opener.

It rained pretty heavy Sunday night and when I woke up Monday morning the air was thick with humidity. It was well before dawn as I had an hour and a half hike in front of me to get into where I knew where some elk were and check my trail-camera. The moisture made the woods quiet, and I climbed the mountain in silence with only the wind in the aspens making any noise. This peacefulness was not what I had hoped for. It was September 22nd, the peak of the rut! There should have been bulls going crazy.

It was just getting light as I crested a knob about 2 thirds of the way in. I was right on time. Usually from this knob you can get a good view of the canyon and I had seen animals most times I had been there. Today it was covered with a misty fog. I didn’t even stop, I dove into the trees. My first stop was a deer kill that I had found 2 weeks earlier. I had photographed this deer early in the summer, but then found him dead during the archery hunt. It was the nicest deer I had seen in all my scouting and I was pretty bummed to find him dead. I was going to check the kill again and see if it was still there. The kill was empty except for one front leg. Coyotes or bears had drug the rest off. I then continued up the slope to an area where 2 large clearings meet. This was where I had hung my camera. It was now about 7 am and plenty light to see. Still no bugles. When I got to my camera and checked my pictures, there was one nice bull on there and quite a few small bulls. I was a little discouraged and decided to break the silence with a bugle. I bugled into the fog and a bull answered me from below. It sounded like a young bull. I decided to check a bedding area where I had seen bulls and sign before. There was still lots of sign but no elk. Discouraged I started my decent and heading back to the knob.

I was side-hilling across a large foggy clearing when I caught some movement in the tree line about 80 yards in front of me. I had been cow calling and wasn’t moving quietly, so it surprised me that an animal would be there. I was completely exposed except for the blanket of fog, but I decided to move closer. I got about 30 yards from the tree line and I could see fuzzy brown shapes moving through the aspens near me. Elk, and they were bulls. Five bulls in total and they were moving my way. I froze and did my best tree impression. They got closer. The bulls didn’t even notice me, they were feeding and got comfortable. They started sparing and a few times it got pretty heated. My range finder could barely pierce the fog, but they were only 30 yards away. Most were 4 and 5 points, but one was a small six, probably the bull the bugled back to me earlier that morning.

It was so cool being so close and them being oblivious to my position. After about 15 minutes the wind picked up and the fog started to clear. I remained motionless, but they soon spotted me and spooked down the hill. The visibility at 30 yards really didn’t change much even with the fog gone. However, the sense of security it gave them must have gone and they became aware of me. I side-hilled back to the way I had come up and caught a glimpse of them going out a clearing above me, they had circled me across two giant rock slides and climbed 200 yards above me in the time it took me to get over to the ridge. The last bull I saw was actually a bigger bull that they must have picked up on the way. Still not a giant, but a nice bull. I decided I was going to check out a different area on the unit that would hopefully have more rutting activity.

I made it to the new camp site about 2 in the afternoon started setting up camp. My spirits were already better as I could hear bulls bugling on the hill above me. I finished with camp and I could still here a bull bugling and he sounded pretty close. I thought that if he was going to bugle in the middle of the day I would sneak in on him and see what he was.

I started moving in on that bull about an hour later. He would bugle every 10 to 15 minutes and I slowly worked in. Eventually I spotted some fur through the trees at about 80 yards. I started glassing very carefully and started to make out the herd. Eventually I spotted the bull. He was a 6×7 with great tops. I was excited because had it been open season I could have easily harvested him from where I was hiding. I watched him and his cows for a while and decided to see how they would respond to calls. I cow called a couple times and boom he was out of there. He took is cows and left. I was very surprised how call shy he was. I would make a note of this.

I went back to camp, ate a quick bite, and got ready to go and watch a property boundary that I was planning to hunt to see what kind of evening activity there was. I got into position and waited to see if any elk were using this as a corridor as I had heard they have in the past. After a little while the hills lit up with bugles. However most were below me. Closer to the 7 point I had snuck in on earlier. There were a few bulls on the private land, but most were on the public. I waited until dark and then went back to camp. I still wanted to see if there was any activity there in the morning.

Tuesday morning came and I was in the meadow on the property boundary again. Tomorrow the hunt started and this would be my last day to scout. Again nothing close to me, but I could hear bulls below in the trees. I waited a little while and checked the cameras I had positioned the night before. Nothing but pictures of me setting them up. I started back to camp but thought I would check on a bull that I could hear bugling. This was in a draw farther north and I hadn’t seen much activity in there. I moved in and could hear elk going through the oaks in front of me. I had a 5 point bull come into about 10 yards and never know I was there. It was hard to be quiet and my going was slow, but suddenly a bull bugled close by and started pushing some cows my way. A nice bull that I estimated around 330 340 came by and I watched them for a while. I tried calling on him as I left and it didn’t seem to have any affect. These animals must have been called pretty heavy during the early rifle hunt.

I went back to camp and ate lunch. This time I was going to come in from above on the bulls I had heard bugling this morning and the night before. I dropped into the timber and was moving silently. I was making my way down the draw when the brush in front of me stood up. There was a rag-horn bull about 5 feet from me. I was just through a dead pine and I couldn’t see me. The wind was blowing up the canyon and right into my face. He couldn’t smell me either. He got a little nervous and walked a few yards away but we stood there for a while. I eventually got impatient and just started moving again and he spooked a little. I could hear bulls bugling below me and I pressed on. I jumped a spike and he ran down the draw. I hoped he wouldn’t spook out the other elk so I climbed up on top of the ridge and kept going down the mountain. The spike apparently had the same plan and popped up in front of me again. I had no option to just push him so he ran off again and I hoped the other elk wouldn’t listen to some dumb lone spike. I saw some more movement and figured it was the spike but then I saw big tines moving through the aspens. It was a nice 6 point and he was about 100 yards down the ridge from me. I watched him until he crossed the ridge and I followed across to see what was on the other side. I could see a smaller 6 point up the hill from me some. I could still hear bulls below and was worried everything was going to spook out now that I was completely surrounded by elk. The smaller six was headed right to me so I dropped back into the bottom of the draw and decided to try and slip back out the way I had came.

He beat me to it. And I had to wait him out. I called at him once and he started raking trees. I called again and he spooked. He circled me and headed north. I knew that if I stayed down there I would blow all the elk out. I headed out the way I had come.

There were still bulls that I hadn’t seen in there and I thought that maybe I could come in from the south and get a look at them. I got back to my wheeler and did a big circle around the mountain. I started hiking in from the south and I was right in the elk again. I could hear horns clashing and elk running. I moved stealthily though the oaks and suddenly I saw some tines sticking up above the brush. I moved my position a little and got a better look. It was the 6 point I had seen cross below me earlier. I watched and photographed him for a while. I couldn’t get past his heard to go see what was beyond. Also it was getting dark fast. I decided to move out and not spook them out. Tomorrow was the hunt and I knew I had a bunch of undisturbed bulls in the area to hunt.

My brother and father arrived late that night I told them about my scouting and I told them my game plan to go after the 7 point from the north early in the morning. I knew no other hunters were going after these bulls.

We woke up well before light to watch the traffic and see if we would need to adjust our plan for other hunters. There was some traffic on the roads but they all drove past the area I was wanting to go in on. Perfect, I thought. The elk were pretty close to camp so we waited until it was a little light in order to not spook them out without being able to see them. I picked a bugle that sounded like the 7 points and started moving in with my dad and brother close behind. It was a little hard to move 3 guys silently in, but based on my experience with these animals we weren’t going to be able to call them in.

We closed the distance to under 100 yards, but the elk had gotten on the other side of some small aspens. The trees were so thick there was no way to get through them silently. We could hear another bull just up the slope from us and I decided to move in on them to see what he was. We crossed the bottom of the shallow canyon and started up the other side and into the oaks. Flash! I saw elk.

I dropped to my knees so I could glass under the oak canopy. I could see quite a few elk flashing through the trees. I could see they were moving pretty fast. The elk were moving, and they were moving our way. I ran 30 yards up the draw to about the edge of the oaks and got ready. Suddenly the whole clearing in front me was full of elk. A bunch of cows came running in and a couple of smaller satellite bulls. Then with a screaming bugle the herd bull entered. He dwarfed the smaller bulls and rushed in to push them off.

I could see his mains were decent and his tops looked good. I decided that if he gave me a shot I would take it. The herd was running around about 80 yards from me but there were so many elk I couldn’t get a clear lane at the bull. He disappeared and I thought we had lost him but then he came running back out into the middle of the clearing. The herd cleared and he paused to look back. BANG! The sound filled the clearing and the gray smoke of my muzzle loader shot out in front of me. He humped up and his herd ran off into the trees up the draw. I knew he was hit and hit hard. He took a wobbly step, then another and disappeared behind some trees down towards the bottom of the draw.

I quickly started to reload as my brother and dad came to my side. I got my weapon ready and headed into the meadow. From the way he was moving I thought we would be down.

I got around the trees, and I could see a horn sticking up above the grass. He was down! Man that was a good feeling. I moved over cautiously to make sure he was finished. That was the end. There was some relief and congratulating. My bull was down. He had only gone 10 yards. I had hit him perfect and my hunt was over. I only actually hunted about 30 minutes, but what a great experience. I can’t wait until next year. It was great being able to share it with my father and brother who are both as passionate about hunting as I am. Truly one of the best moments of my life.

2012 Contest Entries

We had some great entries in our contest this year. Check out all of the photos in the gallery below! Judging is going on now – results will be out within a few days! Thanks again for a great contest. We’ve had some great sponsors again this year – support them! Below is a list of our prizes:

Grand Prize: Free Deer Shoulder mount or amount towards another mount of your choice from Nielson Productions Taxidermy

Second Place: Elk Ivory Jewelry from Timberline Creations

Third Place: Geigerrig RIG 500 hydration pack

Two more winners will be chosen as runner ups and will receive their choice of products from some of our other sponsors including Wac’em broadheads and Quick Draw Decals.

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Public Land Elk Hunting: 5 Steps

By Brad Carter

I watched my Dad peer through the eyepiece of his binoculars. Barely old enough to keep up, I desperately wanted to take a look. I tried to search with my eyes in the direction that the binoculars were pointed, and finally could make out small tan spots in a meadow on the very top of the highest peak around. I finally had my turn to view what made my heart pound with anticipation. They were elk, and they were living at 9,000 feet where we had seen them several times before, and several times since. Now later in life, as I carry my own rifle, I have found myself climbing that same rocky peak in search of the elk I hunted with my father years before.

I have seen elk up close in that same meadow consistently year after year. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Elk have similar patterns that they follow every year almost to the foot. This is just one of the many things I have learned about hunting successfully for Bull Elk. By following the tips below, you can increase your success when hunting on public land for pressured Bull Elk.

1. FIND YOUR ELK: Elk are going to be found in the same places year after year, unless they have been moved out by an irregularity. For example, an area that I, along with my family and friends, had found success in just wasn’t clicking for us one particular year. As I glassed the opposite mountain side where I had previously seen elk nearly every time I went, there wasn’t an animal to be seen. To investigate further, I hiked to the top of that ridge. Sheep tracks littered the ground. This event ruined my hunt until I figured out that the herd had moved across the canyon, to nearly the same clearing that I was glassing from the day before. Nothing can replace pre-season scouting for finding where elk will be during the hunt. The most critical days are those right before the hunt. However, once an area has produced results during consecutive years, there is a good chance you will find elk in the same place the next year.

2. PATTERN YOUR ELK: Elk aren’t likely to stay in the same area year round. Several factors play into this phenomenon. Hunting pressure will move elk out of their summer areas and into areas where we are less likely to reach them—unless we’re just plain crazy. Frankly, I have been called crazy several times for killing elk where I have.

During a public land bow hunt in Wyoming several years ago, I was out of my tent well before the sun had even thought of rising. The elk had been bugling all night, and I knew exactly where they were. However, upon crossing the river that flowed between the elk and me, they had already begun to move off. I couldn’t get a shot at the bull I was after, so I started my trek back to camp for lunch. I met up with my father, and we took a shortcut on a game trail through a patch of heavy timber. We plodded along, not expecting, or thinking about chancing onto an elk that may be out late in the morning. I was looking through the timber, and caught some motion out of the corner of my eye. Realizing it was an elk, we dropped and crouched behind some brush. It was just a cow, so we waited and watched. Then another cow materialized out of the trees, and she slowly fed away from us. I looked up at my Dad, and I could see excitement in his eyes. He motioned with one finger as he leaned over and informed me that a good bull was bedded about 70 yards away. We huddled silently as the bull stood up and fed away from us and over the ridge. We didn’t have an opportunity to stalk, and we had to go home because of other obligations. We returned later in the season, and after a morning of hunting returned back to camp on the same game trail. We sneaked in and thoroughly scanned the trees for elk. There weren’t any there, so we continued through the trees back to camp. My father was leading and suddenly stopped. I froze in my tracks, he pointed with one finger behind his back. I looked ahead, and there was the same bull facing us at 80 yards. He had spotted us before we spotted him, and he scuffled off and over the same ridge he’d disappeared over earlier that season. This old bull had found a place very much to his liking. After he had the slightest hunting pressure, he moved into his favorite old hiding place and stayed there.

3. GET DOWN AND DIRTY: If you want to kill a trophy bull on public land, you’re going to have to get to places others just plain won’t. The peak I watched with my father as a young boy was one such place. As soon as the fist rifle shot was fired, these elk went as high as they could go—9,000 feet into the sky on the top of Elk Mountain. Elk, however; don’t always climb the mountain peaks; they often find the deepest and darkest patch of timber around. These big bulls only feed out at night, and when faced with any danger from a hunter can escape with a few quick kicks of their feet. One of the only ways to get a shot at these elk is to sneak your way into the timber after them. Usually these big old bulls won’t go to such extreme measures during an archery season because the hunting pressure isn’t as great and success is a lot quieter. I have been faced with this dilemma many times during my rifle hunt experiences. I have found that sneaking through elk-filled timber as quietly and slowly as possible creates results. By slowly, I mean very slowly—taking a step and studying the trees, then taking another five steps, and then stopping to search the trees. This method does often present difficult, running shots, which under some circumstances may question our shooting ethics. Other times, however, you can see the elk before they see you. I often sneak into timber along a worn game trail as the morning wears on, and have frequent sightings of mature bulls.

4. PRACTICE: I am a firm believer in practice. Of course going out to the shooting range and putting a few rounds through your rifle is going to help. But I think an important part of practice is stepping back and learning from your experiences. Decide what you could have done better in a certain hunting situation that would have made it successful. Feel comfortable shooting at distances that you have fallen short in real situations. Your surroundings will not always be perfect when that bull of your dreams comes around the nearest pine tree, but you need to be.

5. BE PERSISTENT: Even seemingly hopeful situations can end up falling apart. For instance, the sun had already fallen below the horizon when my father and I plucked an arrow from our quivers and pushed them back into our nocks. I cow called, and the brush began to crackle under an old bull’s feet. My heart nearly leapt out of my chest. I caught a glimpse of his ghostly silhouette; my release grasped my bowstring as I drew my bow. To my right, my Dad was doing the same thing. The bull froze; I set my pin behind his shoulder blade. But a lone branch from a deadfall log blocked my arrow’s path, so I informed my Dad that I didn’t have a shot. He decided to take the shot. The arrow clanked as it disappeared into the darkness. The bull circled us and holed up for the night, all the while still barking at us. I could no longer see the bow in my hand, and knowing that my father had missed, we returned to camp for the night. The next day we chanced into the same clearing. Wondering what caused the miss, I followed the bull’s tracks from the night before and froze in the very place that it had. My father stood where he had drawn his bow the previous evening. As we replayed our experience, my father spotted his arrow. It had lodged nearly six feet in the air in the same branch that had obstructed my way.

Things don’t always go as planned. Realize that it’s just part of the game, and continue to join me in being consumed in the passion of hunting elk.

New Contest Prizes and Info!

I’m excited to spread the word on our latest sponsor – Golden Valley Natural Meat Snacks. These guys have been in the jerky business for a long time and we’re excited to team up with them and provide their products to our contest winners. Check them out at:

You’ve probably heard about our contest that is going on this year – I’ve posted the final rules under the contests section of the site. We’re ending the contest on January 15th – so those of you who are taking photos at the end of the year still have time to get them in. The winners will be picked by Feb. 1, 2012. Thanks to the grand prize winner will receive taxidery services for a free shoulder mount. These guys do a good job on their mounts and I have used them personally. 3 others will be chosen as honorable mentions and recieve a bag of Golden Valley Natural beef jerky and a window decal. So get your photos sent in – the only rule is they need to be taken in the 2011 calendar year!

Speaking of winners – this photo comes in as our weekly fix winner. Seth took this unique buck on the Vernon unit in Utah with his smokepole!

Seth's Big Mule Deer Buck

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Weeky Fix – October 9, 2011

I’ve been getting a bunch of great pictures from this hunting season and will be choosing a bunch of winners over the next few months. To those of you who have taken some great photos this season — send me some more pictures! Not only can you have braggin rights for being featured on the coolest hunting website, but you can also win a window decal.

So without further rambling…here it is:

John took this awesome buck in Utah with his recurve! What an accomplishment! Congrats to John! Your decal will be in your mailbox shortly.

John's Big Utah Buck!
A few other newsworthy items, first off – we’ve launched our new online store – where you can pick up your very own window decal for just $4.95. We’re set up to accept credit/debt cards and paypal, all through the security and convenience of paypal’s system. So head over to THIS LINK ( and get yours while supplies last.

In other news, HUNTING SEASON IS STILL HERE! So get out there and tag something!

Best of luck to all of you from — The DIY Hunter’s Homepage!

Happy Hunting,

Brad Carter

Utah Archery Elk Hunt – Manti Unit

I’ve often heard hunters speak of the highs of hunting, as well as the lows. I think sometimes the magnitude of this emotional transition is forgotten after a tag is notched.

Part 1:

A good friend of mine had a similar tag late last year and came home empty-handed. His biggest regret wasn’t necessarily coming home empty handed, but rather, letting himself cave to the pressure of passing on lesser bulls that he would have been very happy to hang his tag on. I didn’t want that to happen to me. I purposely didn’t set a “score” for the bull I wanted to kill — I said if I liked him, I would take him. I had trained my mind for just that occasion. I planned on passing a bull or two, because I knew I would have my chance at multiple smaller satellite type bulls.

Anticipation had me laying awake at night dreaming of large racked bulls tilting their headgear to maneuver between trees as they responded to calls and moved ever closer. I must have played it over a thousand times in my head. As the bulls head moved from my view behind a tree, I would draw and wait for his vitals to clear. I would stop him with a quick chirp and send my arrow on its way. I couldn’t wait!

Scouting trips had me drooling over big bulls. I wanted to hunt bugling bulls so I postponed the majority of my vacation days from work to hunt the last 2 weeks. My brother, and good hunting partner Ben, accompanied me and we arrived with high hopes. Our first day out resulted in no bugles and no elk. But as the sun rose on day 2 elk were found. A bull we named “Main Beams” showed himself and the hunt was on…

Stay tuned for part 2.