In August this year I had the great fortune to be invited on a velvet Elk hunt in the United States of America by long time friends Bob and Nickie Peacher. This magnificent hunt was to be an adventure and the experience of a lifetime which I will cherish forever.
My adventure started when I arrived into the burning 100 degree Fahrenheit heat of Chico California which was a shock to my system coming from the middle of our cold winter. It was so refreshing to be in the company of such close friends and catch up on all their adventures. Bob and I were like little kids getting pumped up for our hunting trip. Nickie had collected an array of equipment and had left no stone unturned with her exceptional planning and organising skills.
As we headed off on our 12 hour destination I had no idea what to expect.
We covered the Nevada desert to Wendover and into Bonneville town to see a long time dream as Bonneville is home of the world famous salt flats, what I was about to see consequently blew my mind.
We arrived at the salt flats early in the morning I felt like I had just arrived on the set of an old fashioned western movie. The sight that lay ahead was one I will never forget. We had the opportunity to experience watching the Triumph motorcycle team testing speed records with a
Triumph motorcycle it was a spectacular day. The excitement of witnessing such a rare event was super cool. The goal was for the rider with the biggest kahunas to take the 25 foot motorcycle to 400mph. This motorbike had some impressive engineering.
On return we met the Bucks and bulls Outfitters team lead by Travis Adams, our camp cook, a wrangler and guides.
Anticipation for the adventure was high as our convoy of big American pickups drove through the dry desert hills of Utah. Coming from New Zealand, a country with high rainfall and always green the Utah high desert sure was an adjustment for a kiwi boy. It intrigued me how animals could live in these hot dry conditions.
To my amazement on arrival to camp, situated in a sheltered valley of Goshute reservation there was clean running water, and plentiful rough blue grass that the Elk thrive on surrounding steep hills with quakes and a mixture of other trees. Camp was an impressive setup with individual tents surrounding a large central tent which was set up with full cooking and dining facilities. Gas operated shower and all the camp comforts you could imagine.
After camp set up the whole team came together for our first meal. Our group consisted of two hunters and supporting staff . Each hunter with an Elk tag has an Indian guide representing the tribe of that area, a Bucks and Bulls guide and a scout that heads out on his own.
As we set out exploring, the landscape that lay in front of us was breathtaking with huge canyons, vast open mountains, scattered trees and some thick dense brush with running water flowing through the canyons.
We climbed to the top of the canyons and sat in awe. There was a feeling of surreal. serenity as we realised we were the only humans out there amongst hundreds of massive Elk. As I stared in amazement I spotted some mule deer and a mountain lion lazing quietly under a tree. We were told to watch for rattlesnakes which I am happy to report did not approach us.
The Utah summer heat gets intense in the day time so it is crucial to get out early and get to a high vantage point to scope the 118,000 acre area.
Spotting scopes are key to locating herds of Elk usually 2-5 miles away.
Since the Elk bulls are in their final stages of growing velvet, mature bulls are in bachelor groups and they cover a vast area when feeding. I was told 2 months later they would disperse for the rut we were in prime time to hunt these majestic animals.
Bob had been waiting for this special Velvet Elk tag for many years and were told there are only 2 tags of this kind issued in the United States.
Big mobs of Elk cows and young were seen with some nice looking bulls that would be a proud addition to any serious hunters collection. We knew our time was precious with only six days to hunt we were out to locate the largest bull we could find we needed to hunt hard.
Our scouting guide Spud knew the reservation well, he went out on his own each day checking other canyons as there is so much land to cover and we could only see 5,000 acres at a time. On our 3rd day Spud was looking into a canyon on evening and located 4 Elk bulls on their own. During dinner that night over the fire Spud explained the bulls he had seen on his travels he explained there was one like no other, an exceptional bull a freaking monster. The anticipation to hunt this Elk was so exciting we couldn’t wait to set our eyes on him in the morning.
Early morning as we left camp it was still dark, the wind direction was not in our favour to go for the massive Elk so we hiked up a gruelling steep incline and watched over 200 Elk feed into a clearing our prize bull was nowhere to be seen.
The afternoon brought a heavy feeling of rain the wind was slight so we set out to a remote area the guides called Bill’s Canyon. We climbed up a hill over huge rocks the size of cars to get elevation and got into position and watched. There was lots of trees with openings and thick grass to position ourselves. After a short time out of nowhere a group of Elk bulls
appeared in sight nobody moved a muscle.
One bull stood out like a diamond amongst rocks he was the biggest I have ever seen. He moved like a leader dwarfing the others. The excitement of finding this beast was followed by a realisation he was too far away to shoot successfully at our vantage point. We quickly and carefully made our way down a big rock slide and circled back towards the rocky canyon edge hoping we had not disturbed the great Elk.
Bob got his rifle set up and I lined up the video camera in anticipation. The game plan Travis had explained worked out perfectly as the bulls grazed their way around the canyon to where we were the mighty bull rounded the corner he looked up in the sky sensing danger lurking nearby. Before he had his chance to bolt “whack” Bob brought him down with one mighty shot.
We stood in awe of this creature taking in his great form the body size on this bull was enormous and the guide estimated him to weigh 900lbs he was incredible to see. His big strong fronts, long fourths and heavy main beam were unbelievably massive.
I had the pleasure of carrying the head out and the wrangler returned with the horses to pack out the meat.
This was truly a dream hunt for Bob and so exciting to be there and experience this once in a lifetime hunt with him .The people we met from Bucks and Bulls are genuinely good guys who worked hard to get Bob his 390 Boon and Crockett Elk. If you ever get the opportunity to go I can say it is well worth doing.