Rich LaRocco

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Hunting Journal

The drawing odds were in our favor, but Mark Gunnell and I breathed a sigh of relief when we noticed that my credit card had taken a hit, indicating that we finally had drawn a high-quality archery elk tag for southern Utah.

When Chuck Johnson and I were putting out trail cams in my hunting area, Chuck found this velvet-colored elk antler. It was stuck in a fence around a water hole in June.

While Mark has been recovering from knee surgery, I've visited our hunting area twice and will probably go again before the mid-August opener. I've been looking in the lower country, where friends have reported seeing some great bulls, but so far haven't found them. I'll probably climb a bit on my next trip. On the first trip, I put a trail cam on a trail and two at water holes.

One of the cameras was knocked about by an elk or deer and was pointing at the ground after it captured two medium-size bulls at a water hole. My friend Chuck found a four-point elk antler stuck in a fence at that water hole. A bull probably had panicked as a truck approached the water hole and tried to run right through a gate, snapping off an antler and leaving a lot of blood on the ground where it was ripped out of his skull.

Another camera didn't go off, and I haven't figured out why. Maybe I hid it too far back in the brush to make sure that no humans saw it. The third camera was in a location where elk had been, but now the domestic cows have moved in, and so got only cattle and deer photos. Here are some of the photos.

I didn't get to hunt much because I didn't apply for easy-to-draw tags, thinking I was going to get a high-quality archery elk permit in Utah. Some hunters switched units for which they were applying, however, and people with more preference tags than my hunting partner and I had drew ahead of us. For the first time every I didn't get a deer tag in Utah. Even the archery permits were gone after the drawing, and I didn't hunt out of state for the first time in a while. So I ended up with a cow elk permit and an archery elk permit, but as I had hunting clients for most of the season, I didn't get more than a couple of days of hunting time. Fortunately, my pal Chuck Johnson drew a good deer tag in Utah, however, and so I helped him look for a buck.

Chuck and I are happy we finally found his buck after a seven-hour search following a perfect double-lung hit.

We found a lot of bucks in three days, probably more than 40, and he ended up with the biggest one. He made a perfect shot through both lungs, but the deer bolted off down a hillside and darted sideways between two trees, where it bit the dust. Chuck and I trudged up and down that hill for seven hours and couldn't find the animal.

Chuck packed out the head and part of the meat while I packed out the venison and our gear.

I even crossed the canyon and glassed with my 16-power binoculars and couldn't see the deer. Just as we had given up, I looked back one last time and saw the deer between two bushes from the only angle where we could see the animal.

Chuck had his buck mounted and got it back in July 2012. The taxidermist won several awards with this mount.

Both Chuck and I had walked within mere feet of the deer and hadn't been able to see it due to the location of the cover. The deer's rack spread about 31 inches and had some extra points that gave him character and a score of something like 213 gross Boone and Crockett points.

But we didn't care about the score. All we cared about was the chance to spend some quality time in an area that had the potential to produce a once-in-a-lifetime trophy. I had big expectations for the Chuck on this hunt, maybe even higher than he had, but we ended up with one of the largest animals taken in the unit for the entire rifle season.

Some trail cam pix from 2010 and 2011