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September 2023
Story by Caleb Hanneman
State: Utah
Species: Elk - Rocky Mtn

Being the middle child of three brothers has made me very competitive, and this competitiveness can get me into situations both good and bad. My brothers and I are always trying to outdo each other when it comes to who has the biggest kill of any animal species and who can make a one-shot kill. I want to point out that we almost equally encourage each other as well, so it all works out.

My dad floored me when he told me I drew the Utah Dutton late rifle elk tag offered at the Western Hunting Expo. He told me it was one of the best late rifle elk tags in the state and said if we hunted hard and passed on big bulls, we may have the chance at a giant. I did not have the largest of any species harvested between us brothers, and I really hoped things would change as I was holding one of the best elk tags in all of Utah. I knew my dad would make this the hunt-of-a-lifetime for me.

The first day of the trip was nothing but driving until that night when we pulled into camp. Now when I say camp, what I really mean is Brady was there with the top part of our tent on the ground and slow country music playing softly in the background. The rest of setting up the tent was fast as three people work faster than one.

After what seemed to be an endless night due to the excitement of chasing big bulls, we geared up and headed out for the mountains. The morning was quite eventful as we saw a lot of elk and one very nice sized bull. After the morning hunt, we decided to head back to camp for some lunch and to catch a quick break. To my surprise, a quick break to my dad and our cameraman meant a couple hour nap. Being the ambitious hunter I am, a nap was not my style, but for the other two who had been hunting for almost 10 weeks straight, the nap was much needed. After their nap, we went back out hunting for the evening but never found a bull we wanted.

We woke up the next morning to find out Brady was feeling ill. We decided to let him stay at the tent and rest up. As we headed out that morning, we went down to glass a spot in the low country. As we pulled up to our spot, we saw three big bull elk and one of them was easily over 350" as a typical. We went after them but lost them in a sea of timber. We hiked and glassed every opening we could find the rest of that morning only to see one of the three bulls, and sadly, he was the smallest of the three. We made our way back to camp to pick up Brady, who was thankfully feeling better. That evening, we hiked up to one of the highest peaks in the landscape to glass over a ton of country. We sat on the top of the mountain until after sundown, glassing every nook and cranny we could. After the very chilly walk back down, we got back in the rigs and headed to camp.

That next morning, we devised a game plan to head to the other side of the low country to look for the big bull we saw on the previous day. We never found him, but we did see some other bulls as we spent the rest of that morning covering country and glassing as much as possible.

That evening, we placed ourselves strategically where the elk cross the road to water. The plan was to sit there until we had 15 minutes of shooting light left and we were going to drive back to camp, hoping to catch them crossing the road somewhere. As we sat there, nothing showed, so we headed back to camp, hoping to catch them somewhere in the next mile. On the way back to camp, I spotted four bulls coming out of the timber with one of them being bigger than any bull we had seen on the trip so far. I quickly grabbed the gun and hustled into a slightly elevated position where I could see to shoot. As I got set up, my dad gave me the range of the bull. I took my time and made sure my rest was comfortable and then took a slow squeeze on the trigger and the rifle fired. There was a loud whack, but the bull turned and ran into the timber. As we were watching the area, two of the other bulls came running back our way. My dad said that maybe the big bull went down and that is what spooked the little bulls towards us. Brady, who was filming, reviewed the footage and said the bull made a lunge as if he was hit. We gave the bull some time and marked our location and the bull’s on our onXmaps hunt app. I got to review the video footage, and I felt very sure I had hit the bull.

After giving the bull 30 minutes, we grabbed our packs and headed to look for blood. After finding the first drop of blood, the excitement levels went up. As we trailed the blood, we were sure it was a good hit after finding out how much more blood was adding up. After a couple minutes of trailing, we found the bull. I was humbled by this great animal of God’s creation, and after a quick prayer of thanks, we got to work with pictures and dressing the animal. The rest of the night was awesome, and as we took the bull back to camp, I soon realized how lucky I am to be doing what I am.

I must give a special thanks to the Huntin’ Fool cameraman, Brady Harang. He filmed my hunt for the Huntin’ Fool Advisor Series on YouTube, and the video turned out amazing. I love being able to share the memories with my friends and family.