Hunting Tips

Hunting Monster Bull Elk With R&K Outfitters

In hunting with R&K hunting company for years I have heard about the killer ranches they had in Montana. I have put in for one particular ranch for 4 years for a rifle elk tag. I have been successful every year for archery but when I re-applied for rifle no luck. However 2011 was different. I received a call from good friend who also happens to an owner famous company Daniel Richins who said I just won the lottery and drew the rifle tag. I was stoked, I haven’t hunted elk for years as my focus has been the elusive mule deer.

Now I had something to look forward to. As most of know the wait is the worst part. 2011 was shaping up to be a good year. Being in construction the last few years have been brutal I am fortunate to have some work going and of course when you don’t want to be busy you are. Now the trick was to try and plan a good time to go on the much anticipated outing. I was starting to think my old baseball # 11 was going to bring me luck. With 2011 having the rare 11/11/11 and it came during my hunting season, I felt it was a sign. So naturally I planned to hunt 11/11/11 of course I had dreams of a 411 bull in my sights also LOL.

As the time for my hunt came my hunting crew comprised of myself, my son Tyler and Jeremy Steffensen a great friend and excellent guide, unfortunately one man short, my son in law Mike could not get off work. We met our guide Ben Kemp, picked up some groceries and we where off. We toured the ranch that evening then went to the lodge to get ready for the hunt. Waking up at 4:30am the next morning was like Christmas I couldn’t sleep at all! I was anxious to make this hunt a reality. As we waited for sun to come up we were already glassing a herd in an area that Ben with his knowledge of the ranch knew they would be. As it got light enough to see we decided one was worth taking a closer look at. We made a plan to come around the mountain up wind from them. When we crested the hill the first bull was 75 yards away. He sniffed us and backed away. Ben had us back track and re position hoping we would catch them moving to their beds in the trees. Sure enough here come 14 bulls through the trees the herd had picked up a few more bulls we hadn’t saw earlier, with multiple shooters now in the herd heading through the trees, trying to keep tabs of which one was the best was hard. Not wanting to make a mistake our opportunity was gone. Nothing like a good adrenaline rush first thing in the morning to get you awake. We spent the rest of the day hunting hard trying to get in on some more action with no avail. We saw what had to be over a hundred cows with some rag horn bulls feeding in some open meadows on the lower end of the ranch but nothing worth getting the gun out over. Ted had told me when spoke on the phone on my way up not to be too picky because the snow hadn’t pushed the bulls down yet and the big bulls had pulled off the cows and where typically alone in the timber recouping from the rut. He said most of what he saw the week before where about 320 caliber bulls and they were all broken up from rutting. Staying optimistic throughout the day was not an easy task for me & I was beginning to think he may have been right. Needless to say I am not very patient person and can discourage easily. The country was killer and there was tree rubs everywhere. We joked that Ben had spent all summer up there with a belt sander. There where that many rubs, you would think you were bound to find elk everywhere, like they typically do on this late season hunt.

As we where glassing another area. The Best of the West film host, Latt interviewed me for a show they were putting together for their fall lineup. Among other questions asked what distance I was comfortable shooting at. I told him I felt way comfortable at 500 to 600 yards, I had a long range scope and shot up to 1200 yards quiet often at a long range course Justin Richins with R&K has back in Utah.

I felt the gun could handle such a shot but would prefer to have something closer. I have plenty of experience off of the range in the field as well with R&K. I shot a 188 gross typical buck with guide Jess Richins two years prior @ 558, last year I took a Wyoming Deer at 625 yards, a antelope at 450 yards, a Utah Deer at 550yards and earlier this year had harvested a stud of velvet high country deer during the 2011 season at 450yards with my master guide & Daniel Richins.

As the Day went on we where following our guide and film crew to a new area to watch for the evening hunt and see if we could spot some Bulls feeding out. Tyler spotted some antelope which led to him to look over the area real quick when in the distance he found four bulls feeding out of the pines over a mile away. We got out the spotting scopes to have a better look, quickly we determined even at that distance one was a shooter. Ben didn’t know we stopped as he was ahead of us so Tyler took off to alert them we had found a bull worth pursuing and given the distance had to get a move on to get into position before we ran out of shooting light.

By the time Tyler and Ben had returned Jeremy had now upped the pressure by telling me this bull was a stud. I let Ben know I was all over this and now he just had to tell us how we could get in on it!! We drove what seemed like forever and finally came up a back of a knoll. Ben said I would have a great shot from there. As we hiked to the top of the mountain my heart was racing Ben kept telling me to stay calm and collect my breath so I wouldn’t be winded, by now Jeremy, being the mountain goat he is was already to the top of the hill with his spotting scope set up. I looked up to see if he’s found them and see him hold up 4 fingers I thought sweet I reached down turned my dial to 400 yards thinking this is a done deal. I get up there and say they are farther than four hundred yards. Jeremy said yeah I held up five fingers first then four I said great I missed that small detail. It only took seconds to realize this was my only opportunity. He was definitely a bull worth taking. We were on the only hill around and the elk where feeding out in flat prairie grass. Confident in our ability and knowledge as a team with Latt from the best of the west telling me this was do able and him reading the wind which for some odd reason had stopped. We got the gun all set with a bi pod and a shooting bag in the back. I followed the elk forever in the scope and felt so comfortable and confident in the situation. I begged them to let me take a shot as he was coming straight on. They insisted I wait until he turned, which seemed like forever. Latt being quite the motivational speaker kept reassuring me that I could do this and to be patient and stay calm. I had Tyler, Jeremy and Ben looking through a Spotting scope. The camera zoomed in and ready. Everyone kept calling out where he was in position to the other 3 just to make sure we all agreed. It sounded like NASA command center he’s the 3rd back now the second now the last, LOL. Finally he turns but one bull is too close so they say hold on. My whole body is numb from waiting. He finally distances himself and they say go when ready. I squeeze off and am just left. I chamber another and money perfect right above the front shoulder.

I can’t believe it 901 yards. Now the fun I get to hike that 901 yards off the hill which I can assure you took quite a bit longer than it did my bullet. The reality starts kicking in that I just with the right equipment and team just pulled off a killer shot on a trophy animal and a once in a lifetime experience. He is a 7×7 that scores 365 1/8 gross. A beautiful bull extremely thin from rutting but a trophy and a shot on camera to prove it now this was a hunt!!! I would not recommend a shot like this to everyone but practice, knowing your comfort level and investing in the right equipment it can pay off!!! 11/12/11 turned out just fine!!!

2013 Harvested Animal Photos

2013-buffalo-2-300x288The hunting season has begun and we’re already beginning to harvest some nice animals, beginning with mule deer. Take a look at our 2013 harvested mule deer or 2013 harvest elk.

Also, here is a nice buffalo that was harvest with us this year.

The Bull Moose of a lifetime. One for the record books.

I want to thank you for the outstanding Moose Hunt that you guided my brother Alan. The entire operation that you run is by far the best outfit that I know of. The crew that you have employed from the guides to the cooks are some of the nicest and most respectful people that I have ever encountered in my hunting travels. The accommodations are very comfortable and the food was terrific. I plan on hunting with you again and would welcome anyone to call me for a reference on your operation.CHINBERG1-300x199
I would like to share a brief recap of the events as they occurred on the hunt:

I’m 52 years old and I was blessed to be introduced to hunting and fishing by my father at a very early age. My father started my twin brother Alan and I out in the outdoors when we were five. We accompanied him fishing and hunting in Northern New Mexico and received our first shotguns at the age of ten years old. My dad was a terrific role model and taught us everything about the outdoors. I learned at an early age that the outdoors was where I wanted to spend my free time. We started out on small game and worked out way up. We were very fortunate to experience hunting and fishing in Northern New Mexico. Alan and I spent considerable time backpacking for Mule deer and Elk in Northern Idaho. We had the good fortune of having met a very dear friend in Lewiston Idaho who showed us a very remote area that harbored a very good elk population. We only saw a handful of hunters in ten years of backpacking. Alan and I were successful and we had the rewarding experience of doing it the hard way. We also have hunted elk and whitetails in Montana with some great friends. I have also been on a guided elk hunt in New Mexico and was lucky enough to harvest a 7 x 7 that scored 355 BC.

We arrived on Sunday mid day and met Justin Richins who was going to film the hunt. Alan, myself, Justin and Daniel loaded up out gear and hit the road for a short drive to a pull out where we unloaded the Polaris Ranger. Daniel informed me that a very large bull had been seen a couple of days earlier. This was the bull we were after as Daniel felt that it would score very high in the record books. We hiked into a canyon and started glassing a very thick dense oak brushed hillside. We had a very large bull elk and a couple of cows walk out of the thick brush a couple of hundred yards away. It was really cool to watch them feeding across the ridge. Daniel took off on a long hike around the canyon to try and locate the bull. Later that day Daniel thought he caught site of a Bull Moose in the thick brush across the canyon. The sun went down and we hiked back to the Polaris. We enjoyed a fantastic dinner back at the main camp and swapped hunting stories with some new friends and other hunters Ken and Tom. It was great to hear the stories and share our experiences. The next day I was worried that we might not find the large bull that Daniel had seen, Alan calmed me down and said we would get him and not to worry. The next day Daniel and I split up from Alan and Justin and started glassing. We jumped a small Bull Moose and it was amazing how he just melted away in the brush. This country is really deceiving as the brush is very thick. Daniel and I looked in several canyons and as I was looking down one finger Daniel spotted the Bull we were after. We quickly glassed the bull for confirmation and backed away over the ridge. Daniel gave Alan and Justin hand signals and waved them over. We then eased our way over the ridge and I set up my 300 Weatherby on my Harris bipods. I was shooting 180 grain Nosler partition bullets. We ranged the bull at 310 yards at about a forty degree angle. Justin set up the video camera and Daniel said take him when your ready. Daniel was calming me down saying take your time you can make that shot all day long. I slowed my breathing down and timed my shot between heartbeats. I drilled the bull in the shoulder and he spun around a maple tree. The brush is very thick and very tall, it is almost impossible to crawl through. The bull started for the brush and I drilled him again through the shoulder. Then the bull spun around and collapsed. I don’t even remember sliding the bolt back and forth. It all seemed like slow motion. Daniel, Justin and Alan started yelling about how big the bull was. I remember this humble feeling that came over me and how fortunate I was to be able to harvest this tremendous moose. We took alot of pictures and Daniel drove the Polaris Ranger down the mountain right to the bull. We hooked up a block and tackle and jerked it into the back of the ranger. It was amazing to see this huge bull in the back of the bed. Alan and I decided right then to sell our quads and buy a Polaris Ranger.

I have just received the official score from the Safari Club International and the moose scored ‘SCI score 424-5/8 and BC gross 180-1/2 with a net of 172-1/4. which places it 7th in the top ten all time Shirus Moose. Number 6 is 425-1/8” and this includes Moose in Canada too. UNBELIEVABLE when you think of the odds of harvesting this moose. The bull is number 1 for Utah is SCI, and will scored extremely high in Boone and Crocket too. I want to thank everyone that helped and especially Daniel for this outstanding experience

It was awesome having my brother Alan along at my side to enjoy the hunt and experience the thrill of ten lifetimes. We will never forget this event and I’m sure when were sitting in our rocking chairs later in life this story will always come up.

I would like to dedicate the harvest of this Bull Moose to the young men and women serving in our armed forces around the world that protect our freedom and provide us with the privilege to hunt and fish.

Bruce Chinberg

Healthy Hunting

Hunting, as a sport, runs the spectrum of physical challenge. It can be done from a chair on a front porch with only a slight increase in heart rate just before a shot is fired, or hiking through the mountains in a storm it can be a demanding test of physical strength and cardiovascular endurance. Every year a significant number of hunters enter the field and are seriously injured or die from underestimating the rigors of hunting or overestimating their own physical strength and endurance. While many of us hope that our last minutes of life could be spent hunting with family or friends on top of some pristine mountain, I would hate for this to occur prematurely for me or anyone else. With this in mind, this article will provide several important suggestions for assessing and preparing for the physical challenges of your upcoming hunt.

No rational person would enter a foot race without knowing where the race will be and how much distance the race will cover. Hunting should be no different. Whether you are booking a hunt with an outfitter or putting together a DYI hunt with family and friends, you should be asking several important questions before you enter the field. First, what are the altitude extremes where the hunt will occur? Altitude sickness can make you feel miserable at a minimum but can also be life threatening. For example, our operation has hunting properties that may average altitudes of 5,000 to 6,000 feet, but depending on the chase, we may be pursuing animals up to 10,200 feet. This can be a huge problem for someone from Ohio depending on their cardiac reserves and physical preparation. Terrain characteristics are another important consideration. Steep terrain at lower altitudes can be more challenging than a flat plateau at high altitudes. On steep terrain moving across side hills can be torture on weak ankles, especially without proper ankle support in the form of good, broken in, boots. Next, know the extremes of weather that may be encountered where the hunt will occur. Again, knowing average conditions may be helpful but you need to know what could happen if things really turn bad. Hunters need to prepare for a wide spectrum of hot or cold, wet or dry weather. Whole books have been written on preparing for extreme weather but as it relates to physical preparedness there are several simple important considerations. Hiking to the top of a peak on a cool fall morning may be a walk in the park, but if temperatures push up into the hot range this can push heart and muscles to the brink if hunters aren’t prepared. It is also important to carefully consider your exit strategy. Specifically you may be going in with a rifle or bow and a 20-pound daypack, but if the fates are with you, you may have to cover the same terrain and distance back out with a 100-pound elk hindquarter. I learned this lesson the hard way after spotting a nice mule deer buck bedded down 2,000 yards away across a valley and 1,000 yards below our camp one snowy day in the Utah Wasatch Mountains. Excited and traveling light I covered the distance through the rocky terrain and 3 feed of snow in about an hour. After a careful stalk and a well-placed bullet, I had a beautiful, 200-pound, Rocky Mountain mule deer at my feet. In my haste I had left my good knives in camp and was barely able to field dress the animal with the dull knife I found in my daypack. In short, it was getting dark and three of us had to carry the whole deer back to camp. I have never been so exhausted or come closer to losing my friendship with two close buddies.

Armed with a good understanding of altitude, terrain and weather conditions, it is now time to apply this knowledge to you. We will focus on two specific areas: cardiovascular endurance and musculoskeletal strength and conditioning. The heart is what it is all about. It is what we aim for to accomplish a quick and humane kill and it is what hunters should focus on when preparing for a hunt of any physical nature. First, get to know your own heart history. Does heart disease run in your family, do you smoke, are you significantly overweight, do you have diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure? With the exception of family history, you can and should do something about a yes answer to any of the above questions. Under your doctor’s guidance and with knowledge of your exciting, upcoming hunt, institute a heart-healthy plan for smoking cessation, exercise and a healthy diet. This may seem daunting but with your hunt as an incentive, you can feel better in even a few weeks of mild exercise and manageable changes in your diet. Hunt-specific exercise can begin simply with extended walks that progress to carrying a partially loaded backpack up gentle hills or stairs. Finally, mimic the backpack weight, distances, and if possible, the altitude of your anticipated hunt at least three times a week in the month before you hunt. Remember to stay well hydrated and learn how to regulate your temperature by layering clothes rather than wearing a single bulky jacket.

While cardiac endurance is important, hunters can’t underestimate musculoskeletal strength and conditioning. Simply, you can have a great engine, but if you got no wheels, you won’t get far. Unstable ankles can lead to unstable knees which can lead to debilitating joint injuries that can ruin a hunt or risk your life. This is where hunting can be very different from other sports in that training on flat ground in tennis shoes might leave you ill prepared for hunting in steep terrain. Good ankle strength coupled with comfortable, broken-in boots can literally be a life saver. Invest in quality boots that are applicable to the weather and terrain conditions where you will be hunting. Backpacks add loads to joints that can increase the possibility of injury if joints and muscles aren’t conditioned to this additional strain. Though you may be laughed at by your running buddies, from the very start of your conditioning plan you should train in your carefully-selected hunting boots. This will allow the boots to be broken in prior to the hunt reducing the chance for hot spots and blisters. As mentioned above, train on gentle slopes gradually increasing the slope angle to help condition joints and muscles to lateral strain for hunting in steep terrain.

In summary, know your hunting destination: Altitude, terrain and weather. Under the consultation of your doctor, stop unhealthy habits and start a gradual exercise program. Condition for both cardiovascular and musculoskeletal endurance and strength. Mimic your hunting terrain as much as possible. Finally peak your training one month before the hunt. Remember, healthy hunting is fun hunting.

A little extra scouting goes a long way!

Three scouting trips and not a buck over 165″ to show for it. My hunter was coming in just over a week and I could not turn up a big buck. I was beginning to feel a little pressure. A film crew was coming to video this early season mule deer hunt, and I really wanted to find him the kind of buck this ranch had produced in the past. In fact, the year before I was lucky enough to have a tag and took a 197” muley buck.

I left my home 2 days before the hunt to try and find a shooter. Another guide and I went out that evening and were able to locate a great shooter buck. I was relieved; finally a buck worth shooting. The next morning we headed to the opposite end of the ranch to check a few spots we knew held deer. I was watching a west face about a mile away when I saw a deer in my binoculars. It was so far away, I switched to the spotting scope to discover it was a decent buck. I then saw another and another. Before long, 6 bucks were up and feeding on the hillside below some ribbon cliffs. Out of nowhere a giant buck stood from his bed. I immediately knew this was a buck of a lifetime. My buddy took a look and exclaimed, “that’s a stud!” And boy was he right. At that distance we could just tell he was big. I was pretty sure I could see a small cheater on his left, and an inline on his right, but I was not positive. We watched the herd of bucks until they bedded down, then headed back to camp. We now had two shooter bucks located for sure. A little pressure was gone.
Back at camp I found out that due to a scheduling conflict, my hunter and the film crew were unable to make the hunt. At first I was frustrated that they could not make it and get this hunt on video. But after talking it over it was decided that my friend Tony and I would guide a different hunter together and hopefully be able to find this buck again.

Tony and I headed to town to pick up the new hunter. On the way to town I told Tony about the buck. When we arrived at the appointed gas station, we met our hunter Arnie for the first time. Initially, I was a little worried he might not make the tough climbs we had in store for him. But he sure did prove us wrong. This 61 year old was in shape and dedicated to shooting his best muley buck ever. Arnie was very excited about this hunt. I was also, but decided not to tell him about the buck we had seen for now.

In the dark as we traveled to our glassing point, Tony and I were able to get to know Arnie a bit better. He owns his own custom jewelry shop in California and tries to get out and hunt whenever he can; mostly blacktails in his home state. Though he had been after mule deer a few times in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Montana, he had yet to shoot a big one. He told us he was willing to hold out until the end if that’s what it was going to take to kill a giant. At that point I decided to let him know I had found the giant buck I wanted him to kill a few days earlier. I explained this deer lived in a very tough spot to hunt. The buck and his buddies were living way out on a ridge that was well over 800 yards to the next ridge over. I don’t know if Arnie really understood how hard it was going to be to kill this deer.

As the night turned to day we found ourselves behind our scopes searching for the buck. I was more than a little shocked that by noon we had located every one of the bucks but the big one. I realized then, it might not only be tough to get a shot at the buck, but also just to see him again.

That evening we all went back out and glassed the back side of the ridge. I was guessing that they would get up as the sun got on them and they would cross over onto the shaded side of the ridge. And that is exactly what happened. But once again, only the buck’s buddies were spotted. On the way back to camp I asked Arnie how long he was willing to hold out for this deer. I knew this was a difficult question to ask a hunter that had never seen the buck, so I explained that he really was that big. I also let him know that we would probably only get one chance at the buck. Arnie then told me he was willing to hunt for this deer until the last day, but would really like to get something. In fact he said, “that 4-point we saw this morning would do just fine.”
Well the next morning went the same as the first. Sightings of most of the same deer, but no big one. That evening we went back, only this time I sent Tony and Arnie down the ridge in case we saw him. In the evenings we were seeing the deer right at dark. We would not have had time to get down the ridge before dark. So the plan was to be in position in case the buck showed. Well the giant buck did not show, but we did see a possible shooter buck. I signaled to them to move down the ridge more, but by the time they got there the buck had slipped through the brush.

The next day was the same as the day before again. It was getting warmer every day. This was not turning into the easy kill of a giant buck hunt I previously thought it might be. We again decided to have me spot from afar, with Tony and Arnie down the ridge. Again we saw a bunch of the same deer, just not the big one. On the way back to camp Arnie said he was getting ready to kill a deer soon. We decided one more day on the big buck and then it was wide open.

As the sun dawned on the 4th day we found ourselves sticking once again to the plan. I watched Tony and Arnie hike down the ridge and then began glassing the far ridge. I immediately spotted the 4-point and 2-point that I had seen with the giant 6 days ago. After an hour, I had yet to see another buck. As I was checking out the 4-point for the hundredth time a buck stood up out of his bed. He had been in plane view the entire time but I could not see him. There stood the giant deer; there was no doubt in my mind. I quickly found Tony in my scope and gave him the signal to sneak down the ridge. The buck and his buddies continued to feed as they closed in. When they reached some ribbon cliffs I could tell Tony could see the buck now and I watched Arnie lay his backpack down and set up for the shot.

At this moment I zoomed in my scope on the buck and waited. Man was my heart pounding. I was praying Arnie would not miss, and would stay calm. It was weird not being right there with him at this moment, but I knew Tony was telling him all the right words. It seemed like an eternity for that buck to turn and give Arnie the shot he needed, but turn he did. I saw the buck crumble to the ground and roll into the brush. A full 7 seconds later I heard the report of the rifle, then I let out a yell.

It took me 45 minutes to reach Arnie and his giant deer. The buck was all that I thought he was and a bit more. As we all stood there in awe, I noticed tears in Arnie’s eyes. That was cool. Arnie had believed that I had seen this buck, and was patient enough to wait for it. And now he had the buck of a lifetime on the ground. It was a long hard pull out of there with that deer, but we all were still so excited about this hunt we hardly noticed.
Arnie’s buck ended up with a gross score of 202” and the horns were 27” wide. He did indeed have a small cheater on his left antler and a small inline on his right. This was by far his best buck to date, and he plans on coming back next year with The R&K Hunting Company. He decided to bring his boy along to hunt big buck in the beehive state. Now the pressure is really on to top that buck.

High Country Mule Deer

High Country Mule Deer.Posted Fri, 12/10/2010 Written by Lane Myers

I have hunted with R & K Hunting for years. I mainly hunted late season hunts. This year I drew a late season Elk tag on one of their ranches in Montana, so naturally that became my focus. Then an opportunity came along to participate in an early season High Country, Velvet Mule Deer Hunt. With enough time separating the two hunts I could focus on both.
An exciting advantage for this hunt was it started September 1st and allowed hunting a Velvet deer with a rifle. The hunting crew included me, my son Tyler and my son-in-law Mike Balls, paired up with guides Jeremy Christensen and Zach Morris. Our guides had hunted this ground their whole lives and new it killer. They had planned to hike in to an optimal spot called Red Rock where they had been seeing a nice buck. Unfortunately, no one had ever hunted this area Early Season and with all the leaves still on the trees we couldn’t see 15 feet in front of us. So we went to plan B. We went to an area nearby called The Chutes. Over the next couple of days we saw some nice deer crossing through the Chutes out of pines but due to the distance we were glassing and the amount of time it took to get into position we were never able to get a shot.

I had some commitments at home that didn’t allow me to hunt the fourth day of my five day hunt but was able to make it back to the camp for day five, my last day. Daniel Richins with R&K had got his Client a small 34” 207 gross Typical, LOL. Daniel made a plan to take us to an area he had success 5 years earlier. Daniel, Tyler and I started hiking about an hour before light to get into position of a good glassing area. We arrived at the bottom of a beautiful bowl with a bunch of different chutes in it lined with pine trees and boulders. We didn’t see anything but a small buck for the better part of the morning and hopes were wearing thin. Just as we were starting to pack up the tripods and spotting scopes, Tyler spotted 6 bucks funneling over the top of the bowl into the pines. One was a shooter as I tried to get set up as the deer were moving across the hill on a downward angle about to step into my window, all of the sudden they stopped(almost as if they knew)and doubled back to head into the thick timber to bed down for the day. It was about 10:00 and I Felt I missed my opportunity, we were just about to try and sneak up the mountain and see if we could see them with a different angle. When we spotted him again working towards another clearing and hoped it wouldn’t bed and keep walking to the only small clearing we could see. If he cooperated I knew I would only have one chance to make this happen. I felt pressure and nerves getting to me that I typically don’t have issues with. Daniel kept reading the range for me and even reached down and kept changing my turret knowing I was getting a little restless. I finally got settled in and a good rest with our yardage at 450 yards. It seemed like forever waiting for him to make his way to across to hillside. We had him feeding behind the last pine before the small clearing, he finally stepped out I took my one and only shot and it hit its mark, he tumbled down the steep Chute probably close 75 Yards. We know he was finished and started our hike up to the clearing at 10,032’. As we hiked to him I had never felt anticipation like this I was hoping for zero ground shrinkage (as we all do) I had never really got a good look at him just enough to see he was nice but didn’t know what he had, I was relying on Daniel and Tyler telling me he was a for sure shooter. As I Finally made it to him needless to say I was more than pleased and was actually bigger than I thought. He ended up scoring 183 gross typical.
This was one of the most enjoyable rewarding hunts I can remember. To pull it off on the last day which I very rarely have the patience to do made me even happier. We called to Jeremy & Zach who hiked up to help quarter and pack him out. It was a great hunt and I already have a velvet high country hunt booked for next year “I’m hooked for life.”

Three Generations Harvest First Trophy Elk in Utah

IMG_77671-300x200We booked our trophy elk hunting trip after I made the decision I wanted to do a western big game hunt with 3 generations of my family. My father, Doug at 69, was not too old to withstand the rigors of a hunt and my 14-year-old son, Colin, was just coming of age to be able to handle it. I also knew I wanted my brother Phil to join our hunting party.

We knew we wanted a fair chase hunt, but we also wanted a chance for all of us to be successful. Colin found The R & K Hunting Company in Utah. The Cooperative Management Wildlife Unit (CWMU) philosophy they use to ensure available mature animals really captured our needs and gave us all tags at the same time. This was really a once in a lifetime opportunity.

After booking our hunt, we spent 13 months preparing for the hunt. It was fantastic for the four of us to get together regularly to shoot our 7 mm mags. Our hunt finally arrived! After all of our preparations we were ready to head for the Morgan Camp in the Wasatch Mountains. When we arrived we loaded up, headed out on Polaris side-by-side ATVs, and could not believe the landscape with the beautiful fall colors of reds and yellows on the side of the mountain.

The cool thing was that we were there as three generations of Hartgerinks and all of our guides and those taking care of us were mostly all family as well. We can’t say enough at how well we were treated by them. Thursday morning arrived and boy, were we excited! The food prepared for breakfast was fantastic and we couldn’t wait to get back out on the mountain on that crisp, clear, beautiful September morning.

Cody, my guide, and I headed to the far south of the 15,000 acres to an area called the Salt Bowl. Apparently, some bigger bulls had been spotted there and we were just the guys to be able to withstand the terrain and physicality required there. We made our way through drainage in the dark and headed toward our destination when we started hearing our first bull bugling. It was only 6:30 in the morning. Unfortunately, this bull was up on national forest property, so not a bull we could hunt where he currently was, but we wanted to get a look at him.

We set up on a ridge and started calling. It didn’t take long for the mountainside to come alive with elk. This herd was huge and I was getting pretty excited about the prospect of how big he might be. We had elk all around us responding to Cody’s calls. At seven elk come crashing down the mountainside like a freight train and then they pranced into the clearing below us. About this time we caught a glimpse of the herd bull coming out into a clearing 500 yards up the mountain. We finally both spotted him with our binoculars and thought he was a big 5 or 6 point.

He was bigger than any bulls we had seen the night before so we decided it was worth continuing to try to draw him to us. About this time, I received a call from my dad that “Colin just shot a huge 6 by 6!” Papa was excited and I was ecstatic! I couldn’t imagine how Colin was feeling at the time. Here he was out with his own guide and he had just shot an elk.

We continued watching the herd and finally were able to pick up our bull with the spotting scope. It became evident that he was at least a 7 by 6. Now we knew we had to hunt this bull.

We did some more stalking amidst the amazing terrain located where our bull had bedded down. We formulated a plan to come back that afternoon when the Elk were moving again. Arriving back at camp, I learned that Colin and dad had gone with their guides to opposite sides of a bowl where elk had been spotted before. Colin and his guide were able to see that one was a nice bull, most likely a 6 by 6. They were on top of a ridge and could see where the bull might come into a clearing. Colin set up with his tripod while sitting on the side of the mountain. Bob started calling. The bull came into the clearing and Colin made a perfect shot at 175 yards. I was absolutely elated that not only had Colin been successful but that he was able to do so with his Papa at his side immediately after the fact. This was why we had come out here to hunt as a family – to make lifelong memories! Come to find out this was the biggest animal taken so far this year by one of the youngest hunters R & K had ever had.

We had a fabulous homemade lunch and were ready to hit the trail again. Cody and I had a 7 by 6 waiting for us up on the mountain. Back up to our designated kill zone, we were anxious to hear if our bull was still there. Around 4 p.m., he bugled once letting us know where he was and it sounded like he was moving away. Cody made the decision to cow call and we could tell within a few minutes he was coming back down toward us.

We spotted his cows starting to make a move toward the next ridge over. They were well over 500 yards up, so we immediately jumped back behind our little ridge and sprinted up mountain. After sprinting as hard as we could for close to 150 – 200 yards, we stopped and started to calm our breathing and bringing our heart rates under 200 beats per minute. After about two deep breaths Cody pulled up his binocs and realized that our bull was on the move and we had maybe 5 seconds to make the shot. He urged me over to my rock and said, “That’s him.” Cody spit out the range at 225 yards and I loaded one in the chamber. Cody made a cow call to stop the bull and I made the shot. He went about 20 feet and stopped, looking right up at us. I went to shoot again and there was a click as the second bullet hadn’t chambered and so I quickly bolted another into place and put another round into him. We both watched as he fell over.

We were thrilled. Than the adrenaline started surging and I couldn’t quit shaking. Had we not both been in shape, we would not have been able to sprint up the ridge and there is no doubt this bull would have turned into a ghost and disappeared with his cows. After 30 minutes of pure joy and excitement in which I made some calls to my boy and then to my wife to thank her for allowing us to come on this fantastic trip, it was finally time to go see our bull.

We were elated to see he actually was a 7 by 7! Since this was the highest bull Cody ever harvested at around 8500 – 9000 feet, we quartered and deboned him for the rigorous hike out. About three hours into our field butchering of this fantastic bull, Cody received a text that my dad had just gotten an el

Come to find out, two guides had gone out with dad that evening with Colin tagging along. That is one of the coolest things about The R & K Hunting Company. Once a guide tags out his client, they work with the next hunter and his guide so that everyone has a successful hunt. Anyway, they spotted a nice bull over 1,000 yards away that eventually moved into around 200 yards. After about an hour, the bull came out into the bottom of the valley at a full charge and continued up the ridge until he was just 30 yards from Papa. At that moment, dad popped up from the tall grass and fired free hand. He made four shots on the bull with Colin videotaping his every move before the elk fell. The guides called it “self-defense” as he was coming in so fast and furious. After two previous unsuccessful elk hunts, Dad now had a trophy elk to hang alongside his trophy whitetail and trophy mule deer. This elk turned out to be a 6 by 6, with the width and overall size comparable to the 7 by 7 I had taken. The day had gone from incredible to downright amazing! We had come to Utah with hopes of being successful. Never in our wildest dreams could we have imagined the victory we ended up having on Sept 26. To have three generations of Hartgerinks including both my son and my father all harvest elk on the same day was beyond words!
As successful and lucky as we were that day, we started the next day out with strong optimism that my brother Phil would likely tag out soon. After a couple of days, he saw a 4 by 5 bull along with a couple of others but he was looking for something a bit bigger. The great thing was that all the guides were working real hard for Phil and not once was there any pressure for him to settle and tag out.

By Monday Oct 1, time was running out for Phil to take an elk. After our success on Sept 26, we were really beginning to feel as if our luck had run out. That afternoon, however, as we came around a ridge we all saw the bull at the same time. Phil and his guide jumped from the Ranger and grabbed his gun from the rack. I quickly ranged the bull at 180 yards. Calvin whistled and the bull turned sideways. Phil made the shot and nothing happened. He calmly reloaded, fired another round and this time it appeared as a good hit. The bull moved another 20 yards where Phil took a third shot which dropped the bull in his tracks. We were elated! We started making the calls to let everyone know of our 11th hour achievement. The dedication by all the guides at The R & K Hunting Company was amazing! We were 100 percent satisfied that we had made the right decision to come select R & K as our outfitters even before Phil shot his elk. It was icing on the cake that we all got to take a trophy home!