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October 2023
Story by Ann-Marie Bensen
State: Utah
Species: Elk - Rocky Mtn

“I drew Utah! I don’t know what I drew, but I have a $1,000 hit on my credit card.” Little did my husband, Brady, know when he told me the charge that hit his card was actually for me! I needed something to go my way as 2022 started off tough. We lost my grandmother, Mary, in February, my grandmother, Rose, in April, and one of our best friends, Chucky, in May. With just 2 preference points as a non-resident, my “random” draw was just plain lucky.

Fast forward to the end of August. The season opener came and went, and with a week and a half left in the season, we made our way across the border into Utah. My brother, Cory, made it out a day before us and was able to find a campsite near the area we wanted to start glassing where we had turned elk up prior to the start of the season. Hot days and warm nights began to blend together. As the days came and went, the close encounters were getting further apart and the boot miles were stacking up.

The afternoon of day five was hot! After a very quiet six-mile trip that morning, I was really beginning to question not letting an arrow fly on a bull our friend, Trevor, Brady, and I had an encounter with a few days earlier. The plan that afternoon was to make a play on a herd we had bumped the day before. This meant a few extra miles to get around them and come in below their water source.

As the shade from the aspens and pines began to cover the forest floor, a bugle echoed out. We moved up onto a bench towards the bugle. Brady let out a light cow call, and the forest came alive. Cows and spikes began calling back, and two different bulls began screaming at what sounded like less than 100 yards away. As we slowly started working our way up, a cow and calf walked right to us. Up on to another bench, a small raghorn was raking a tree just 30 yards away. I couldn’t do it. I thought about it but couldn’t shoot. We kept moving. A bull screamed again right in our faces. I moved ahead of Brady and quickly got set up. He let out two soft cow calls, and I heard crashing. I looked up and two cows were headed right for me. I slid slightly behind the tree I had set up against to hide from them when I noticed horns coming through the timber right behind the cows. He took three more steps, and I drew. The next step after the small twig, I hit the release and watched my fletching bury into his ribcage. I sent a fist bump to the sky.

After what seemed like forever waiting, we finally began walking towards where the bull had run after the shot. Brady was up in front of me as we were looking for blood. I heard him check in on the rhino, asking my father-in-law, Don, who was up on the ridge spotting if he had seen anything. “I could hear him bugling, but I never could see him.”

“Could you see him down there?” Don asked.

“Brown is down,” Brady responded with excitement. I ran up to where Brady was, and sure enough, there my bull lay 20 yards ahead. We laughed, and I cried tears of joy. We took pictures and broke down my bull. With our headlamps on, we loaded our packs with what the two of us could carry and hung up the rest of our game bags in the trees. After 1,500 vertical feet up and a mile later, we had reached the top of the ridge. Dragging Don down to the bottom with us, Don, Brady, and I made one more trip down and back up the following morning, packing out the rest of my bull.

Cory Craven, Trevor Scott, Don Bensen, my husband, Brady, and our dear friend, Chucky Harrison, are forever in all our hearts. I couldn’t have done this trip without you!