By: Bears Butt

BearWithAntlersModifiedThe alarm clock went off almost the same time as my head hit the pillow.  The nights sleep was interrupted many times with my own nervousness.  Thoughts of elk running here and there, but my most vivid dream was one in which I was viewing the mountain through the eyes of an elk. Weird huh?

I was moving slowly along a grassy area, my view to the front was that of one of my companion bulls.  He was perhaps 20 yards in front of me as we wandered slowly along munching on the sweet grass.  At one point I recall looking away from my path and seeing my own shadow with long antler growth showing over my back.  The dream was very real.

I shared that story with the guys in my camp trailer and of course got some heckling!  Was I a queer bull?  Where were the ladies?  Nuff said!

So, here it is opening morning and my muzzleloader is not loaded yet.  A simple matter of going outside, popping a cap and loading up….usually…but this time I had some issues.

Back home I had really spent a lot of time cleaning the rifle and making sure everything was just right.  Now the cap will pop, but no hollow sound coming from the barrel.  I pulled the nipple and it is clear.  I poked my nipple pick into the hole in the side of the barrel, it seems to be clear.  I put a bit of powder down the barrel, put the nipple back on and try again….pop….boom….hang fire!

I’m not happy.

I pour more powder down the barrel and try again.  POP!  I use the nipple pick and try another cap…POP!  I pull the nipple off again and put a bit of powder down the hole in the side of the barrel and then put the nipple back on.  The next cap sent the whole bunch of powder off, but with a bit of a hang fire.

I can’t go off hunting elk with a rifle I can’t trust to go off when I want it to go off.

Weasel suggested I clean the rifle with Windex patches and try again.  I have used this before and with good results and so I gather up my stuff to accomplish this task.  MANY, MANY, MANY dirty patches later I feel like it just might be clean enough to try again.  A little powder down the barrel and then a cap….BOOM!  Good deal!

I load my 90 grains of powder down the now ready barrel and push a 425 grain Hornady Great Plains Hollow Base, Hollow Point lead bullet down the barrel.  With a smack on the top of my short starter I realize this bullet is NOT going to go down without a fight!  Boy am I frustrated at this point!

What usually takes two minutes to get done, has now cost me over 30 minutes and it’s getting light.  I know I have to get that bullet seated on the powder and shoot it out and then clean the gun again if I want to use it.  Frustration is not the word and under my breath I am cussing to beat the band.  The guys are well aware of my thoughts and know that we should be long gone looking for elk in the early morning light, but they say nothing.  Thanks guys.

With help, using a hammer, we pound the bullet down onto the powder charge  and I know it is deformed beyond any kind of accuracy and so I shoot at a can set out about 30 yards…BOOM!  Right over it!

So I set to clean the rifle again and use a ton of patches before I feel good about trying to load it a second time.  This time I only use a cap to dry the barrel and the sweet hollow sound gave me comfort that it was ready to load.  Softball suggested that I rub all the wax off the outside of the bullet and replace it with liquid vegetable oil.  I did this and it loaded very easily.  I’ll remember this in the future.  Now I’m finally ready to get on the road toward “Elk Heaven”.  The sun is now shining brightly upon us and we are clearly an hour late in leaving camp…(put frownie face here).

As I was in my frustration mode, the others were busy packing up the truck for the days activities.  We needed to take everything we thought we would need and then some and of course we had no idea as to how long it was going to take us to get there, nor exactly where we were going.



Are we ready yet?  Are we there yet?


With such a late start I decided to make the most of the day and plan on most of the hunting activity to take place in the evening.  So the bulk of the day will be sight seeing and getting to know the country side a little.  I had to let some positive thoughts gather in my head somehow and this was the only thing I could think of.

As we traveled along I had Weasel (who was driving) stop many times for us to look over the country for elk and of course the scenery.


The country side is rather unique in that we are on one mesa and between mesas constantly.  First we are on top of a flat area and then driving down a very steep road and then suddenly on another flat area.  Each one of the flat areas is about 200 feet different in elevation…mesa…slope…mesa….slope…mesa etc. either going up or going down.

AViewFromAbove MoreCanyonLandsView

Breathtaking views!  What a wonderful place to be on this November 9th morning.

As we continued on our journey, we hit a cross road that went toward Newspaper Rock.  A very narrow canyon area of Indian Creek where the Native Americans of the past chipped away at this one big old rock and made symbols that meant something to them about their own journey.  Had I been able to chip away a symbol for my journey so far it would have been a picture of me holding my muzzleloading rifle by the barrel and chucking it over a cliff and into a deep river below……however…..One must not deface the rocks of days gone by and destroy the story “They” left behind.

The road into Newspaper Rock was great.  Lots of wildlife and very few other people…we were lucky.


Softball and Night Fisher are very glad to get a break from the cold road to Newspaper Rock.  Let’s go look at what this place is all about.


The fence is to keep the honest folks back and not to mark up or touch the wall itself.  What a remarkable story this rock tells.  I’m sure your own interpreted story would be different than mine and that is ok, because everyone has there own.


Study that picture for awhile.

Or how about this one?
NewspaperRockguyBeingTossedByBuffCheck out the guy being tossed in the air by the buffalo!  OUCH!  Did he survive?

If you ever get the chance to go visit this National Treasure please do.  It’s worth it and it does not cost a dime to go see it, except for time and gas of course.  Some day it will cost you, but not right now.  Get down there and see it!

About 4 miles farther down the road we came to our turn off…Beef Basin Road.  According to the map, this road allows you to go toward Canyonlands National Park to the NW, as well as South and eventually all the way out to Natural Bridges and/or Blanding.  Trust me when I say it will take you more than all day to drive that far.  The road is rough, but not impassible (at least when dry), but you had best have plenty of time and extra gas with you, even if you are driving an ATV.  Also, I have AT&T cell phone service and up on top of the mountain area I had spotty service if any at all.  So, don’t trust that your cell phone will get you help if you get into trouble.  I suppose what I’m trying to tell you is to take everything you think you might need to pull yourself out of a tight spot.  There aren’t a lot of people traveling on this road either, at least not in early November.

On this day, we took the turn and headed in the direction of Salt Creek Mesa.  The road skirts the base of Bridger Jack Mesa, which is a destination for rock climbers who like to climb without the aid of ropes and other climbing equipment.  They just dig their hands and feet into the crevasse and climb.

In the background of this picture you can see part of some of the cliffs.


On our way up the road, we must have met at least 10 vehicles with modern day Hippie looking folks coming down.  They must have had a revival or something the night before.  Most of them were driving old vans like the VW variety, all the males were bearded and had head bands while the women were  skinny and without cleavage…..we notice things like that.

About two thirds of the way along this road is a gate across the road.  The sign reads, “Please close the gate”, and it was closed when we got to it.  A sure sign that people going up and down this road really care (give a sh…t).  We went through and on our way once the gate was closed.  We also noticed a lot of domestic cattle as we drove in.  My thoughts were about elk and how the cattle  influence their habits, or not.  I don’t know elk at all and it was going to be interesting to see if the two intermingle at all.

As Weasel continued to drive, I kept looking at the Forest Service map I had purchased the day before.  I was able to figure out just about where we were as we went, which is a very good thing when you are in an area you have never been before and are relying on a map to possibly help get you back out.  Pretty soon we could see a land mark called “Cathedral Butte”, the beginning of the Salt Creek Mesa area.

One of my contact people told me this: “On any given morning, you should be able to take a bull (elk) driving along Salt Creek Mesa”.  That is one of the reasons I wanted to go in this direction on this day.  And even though it wasn’t “morning” anymore right now, at least we were in the right place to check it out.  Almost immediately we began to see sign of elk.  Tracks crossing the dirt road, trees shredded by the antlers of the big boys and it was all really fresh looking.

We stopped at one point for a stretch break and I asked Night Fisher, our elk expert and support crew member, about what we were seeing.  He quickly analyzed the situation and said, “These are elk tracks!  They are here!”  At the sound of that my heart began to race!  We were in the “Zone”!

Seeing a side road that lead away from the main road we were traveling on we decided to drive out on it a bit and glass around.  From where we parked the truck we could only see a short distance and so we hiked over the distant hill to look into the next little valley.  I’m carrying my muzz and am fully prepared to take a bull elk if it presents itself (if I can hit it).  That hike lead us to another and then another.  Up and down through little rolling ravines.  What was most amazing to me was the amount of elk sign!  Tracks were everywhere and those torn up trees we saw next to the main road were almost everywhere you looked.  Branches broken and laying on the ground or broken and hanging from the tree itself.  In some places the dirt was scraped as if a fight had ensued between two big bulls and they tore it up big time!

One more jaunt to look over the last rise.  We began to glass when Night Fisher said, “There’s one”!!!  Everyone began to look in the direction he was looking and sure enough a cow was standing in a small clearing a half a mile away and up on the side of the tailings of a butte.


It didn’t take long to find more and more of the animals scattered about on that same hill side.  Very rocky, very steep and covered with oak brush and a mix of cedar and pinion pine.  Several of them were spike elk as well and I was glad we had come this way from camp.

Night Fisher has some extremely good optics to view through and they were proving to be much better than the cheap-o binocs the rest of us have.  But once he had spotted the animals and guided us to where they were, then we could start to make them out in ours.  Suddenly one “cow” turned its head and it was plain to see it had a large mass of antler growth hooked to its head!  YES!  A branch antlered bull!  And then another and another.  What a great day this is turning out to be!  Opening day and we are seeing just what we came to see.  Far away, yes, but there none the less.  We discussed a plan to get closer and decided we should back out and let them be.  We will come back later this afternoon and check the area again for sign of them.  Perhaps they will be out in the open and closer.

And so we went back toward the pickup.  Weasel had actually moved the truck closer to our position earlier and so our walk back wasn’t so far and of course the truck carried with it our provisions for a good old hot dog and cold drink!


Blaze Orange clashes with my eyes, don’t you think?

After the lunch, we went on back to the main road and on our way.  We continued to see elk tracks and sign all the way to the base of the next mountain…and of course off the other end of Salt Creek Mesa.  We drove up that mountain side for a couple of miles and came to a wide spot where we could turn around.  We did not see any elk sign once the road began to climb in elevation.  I was convinced the elk “were down there” behind us, from where we just came!

We looked around in this wide spot for a few minutes and everyone took their turns at relieving themselves and then we headed the truck back down the mountain and back onto Salt Creek Mesa.  Driving slowly with everyone looking as hard as they could for any sign of an elk, Edjukateer suddenly spoke up that he could see elk!  The truck came to a halt!  Three cow elk could be seen and someone in the back of the truck said they thought they heard a bugle!  Weasel turned off the truck.

I got out with my binoculars and walked to the back of the truck.  I could hear the bugling very faintly, but then my hearing is terrible.  Suddenly I heard one very much more distinct and closer.  The low toned guttural sounds of a mature bull, screaming out a warning to the other bulls that they will get their butts kicked big time if they mess with his ladies, while at the same time telling the ladies to stick around him close or he will kick their butts too.

I pointed my binocs in the direction of the low toned bugling and saw the animal that was making the sounds.  A very large 6X6 bull with huge nearly all white antlers!   I announced I was going to get that bull and went for the door of the truck, behind which lay my muzz!

I gathered up everything I thought I would need, especially for a follow up shot.  As I was doing this, Tracker was quickly gathering his video equipment to follow me and Edjukateer quickly volunteered to carry my 7 mm rifle for me just in case.  We all felt an urgency to get down the road a hundred yards or so to put ourselves in a position that appeared to be where the big bull was heading.  We moved quickly and quietly keeping an eye out for the sign of any elk that may be looking our direction.  My heart was pounding hard.  Is this my time?  Is this the moments leading up to my first ever bull elk kill?

I could hear that bull screaming in the not so distant trees and occasionally I would catch a glimpse of him moving.  And then I saw a half dozen cows meander into view.  The three of us froze in our tracks and slowly got down on our knees so that the only thing sticking up and over the berm of the road were our eyes and the tops of our hats.  My hat was of course that stupid  blaze orange beanie thing that had worked its way up to look like a spire on top of my real hat.  Then it happened!  The closest cow raised its head and began a stare  at me from about 40 yards out.  She did not move so much as an eye brow…just stared!  5 minutes went by and I could not believe she didn’t go back to eating like the rest of them.  She just stared!

“Whitey” in the meantime, continued to bugle his guts out and walk in circles, Edjukateer was very close to me, had his range finder up to his eye and kept whispering the distance the bull was from our position….”130 yards….119 yards….109 yards….103 yards…under a hundred….he’s yours”!

But I could not move, not with that cow continuing to stare at me.  Now what in the world could ever make a stupid rabbit do what it did is beyond me, but one ran between me and that cow elk and that is all it took for her to let out a very loud and distinct “BARK”!  And then turned and ran as quickly as she could to our right and out of sight.  But that was not all, I could hear the thunder of a thousand hooves as the entire herd of animals were running away from us as quickly as they all could.  The sound was very loud and even though I didn’t have time to look at them, I envisioned something that looked like a buffalo stampede in the movie “Dances With Wolves”….I had my own business to take care of.

With her out of the way, “Whitey”, let out a scream and started moving toward the stampeding herd.  He stopped again and screamed at them to stop and come back (I guess that is what he was saying), at any rate I was able to move to the edge of the road, lay down on the berm, cock the hammer and level down on him.  He was maybe 80 yards out, standing broadside and I placed the sight on the middle of his chest and pulled the trigger….BOOOOMMMM!  And he took off like a rocket toward the stampeding herd.

I lay there continuing to look down my sights at the spot where he stood when I shot.  I did not want to take my eyes off that spot until we had a man there to check for blood.  I did not hear the usual sound of that big bullet striking an animal, but my mind said I had to have hit it.  As big a target as that was, how could I have possibly missed?  Edjukateer was quick to get to that spot and I was able to go to where he was as well.  Soon all of us were on the spot looking for blood, hair or anything to indicate a hit…..nothing.

Weasel had made a point of checking all the bulls as they stampeded away and even Whitey, and none of them were favoring any part of their bodies.  No signs of blood running down any sides, they all looked perfectly healthy.

I missed!  (put frownie face here)

Driving back to camp for those two full hours had me thinking over and over again about my sight picture and the placement of that on his body.  As I write this I can still see the sights settled correctly on his shoulder, mid body height.  If I had pulled the shot there was ample room for error to the right, high and low.  The bull should have gone down.  I was very disappointed as we rode along.  Would that be my only chance at a bull elk on this hunt?  Did I not bury the front sight like it is sighted in to be done?  Now that is a deer and an elk I have missed this year.  Should I spend some time tomorrow shooting at targets to make sure it’s still sighted in?  A few deep breaths and then I take my mind off the whole scene and join in with the others in the revelry of the hunt and the days activities.

It’s way past dark now and as we pass the cliffs of Bridger Jack Mesa, we can see the lights of the climbers as they come off the side of that big rock…crazy people…crazy…is all I can say about them.

We arrive back at camp about 8 p.m. and I go right to cooking the spuds.  Tonights meal calls for a breakfast…bacon, eggs and hashbrowns!  MMMMM!  YUMMY!


While we eat, the talk is again about what we are doing tomorrow, Sunday,  for the hunt.  I want to be at the spot where I shot before it’s light enough to see my sights.  In order to do that we have to leave camp at or before 4 a.m.!  That means we need to eat quickly and get to bed if we want any sleep at all.  It’s 10 p.m. before the last of the gang is in bed.

Alarm set for 3 a.m.?  Check!

Bears Butt

Nov. 19, 2013


Written on November 19th, 2013 , DREAM HUNTS

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Just some of my old stories, new stories, and in general what is going on in my life.