Friday, December 25, 2009

Brady's Buffalo Hunt

Early this year I found out that I drew a once in a lifetime cow buffalo tag for the Henry mountains in Southern Utah. It was the first time that I've put in for that tag and the odds for me to draw were 1 out of 107 as a non resident. I was surprised to say the least when I found out I drew. We drove down on Sunday afternoon which turned out to be an event in and of itself. It took us almost twice as long as we originally thought due to weather and running out of gas, yep you read that right. The only thing we forgot was a gas can. Luckily my Father in Law, Mike and my cousin, Jake were with me to help throughout the trip. After getting some sleep on Sunday night we made our way to the mountain on Monday to learn the road system and do some scouting. After only a few hours we quickly learned that snow was going to be a factor. The previous weekend it had snowed 8-12 inches throughout the mountain which really limited where you could drive. Luckily we brought a snowmobile down.

About 10:30 that morning we spotted our first buffalo. It was a group of 4 that was in a pretty remote area on the mountain. We watched them for a while and determined that it was two sets of cows and calves. Pretty exciting seeing my first buffalo to say the least. After seeing some absolute monster deer that afternoon we decided to split up. Around 4pm Jake got on the radio and said he had a herd of 19 buffalo spotted. I made my way over to where he was and watched this herd the rest of the evening.

Opening day came early. We made our way to the mountain where we had plans to see if we could get on the herd we watched the night before. After almost a 2 hour hike through snow, deep ravines and some steep ridges we found ourselves on top of a ridge glassing for the herd. After a few minutes of glassing we found what we were looking for, only they had moved up to a higher elevation. We ended up leaving Mike on the ridge to keep an eye on things and Jake and I started our way toward them. The day was bright and sunny but that didn't make the walking/hiking any easier. We had to drop off the mountain and back up the other side to make it to where we would be in position. By the time we got in position I started asking myself how we were ever going to get this thing off the mountain. Overall it was 3 1/2 hours from the time we left the truck to when we were in position.

Now the fun begins. I ranged the herd at 310 yards. I am shooting a 7mm Ultra Mag. I could see 3 cows that looked like good representative animals. The only problem is there was a tree branch blocking my way for a clear shot. My plan was to wait it out until they got up to feed out. Before long, the buffalo started to all stand up and feed. The first two cows made it into the trees without presenting a shot, but the 3rd one made a mistake. As she came into an opening I took the shot. It felt good but it didn't sound good. The herd made their way around the hill and it didn't appear that any animal was hurt. We made our way over to where they were and there was no blood. I missed. There's no other way to say it. I felt disappointed and upset with myself. I was not looking forward to the long hike back to the truck, but I did find some peace of mind knowing that it was the first day of the first morning. There was still time.

The second day was uneventful. We did see buffalo, but they were on the move and we never could catch up to them. I spent six hours on a ridge glassing that day and saw 11 mature bucks. 3 of which were pushing if not over the 30" mark. I did watch a bull make its way across the side hill 650 yards away, but he was alone. It was a tough day and I couldn't help but think back to the opportunity I blew as I was making my way off the mountain that night.

After a good meal and a hot shower that night, we all felt good about our prospects for the 3rd day. The plan was to go very low in the morning and glass into the deep canyons below mount Pennell. The plan paid off. Two hours into the morning glassing session I spotted a black speck in one of the box canyons below Pennell. I put the spotter on it and sure enough it was a buffalo. As I looked closer more buffalo started coming out of the woodwork. All in all we spotted 11 buffalo on the side of this canyon. We made plans to get up there which included taking the wheelers up as far as we could go, then doubling up on the snowmobile to make it to the end of the trail. From there we started side hilling the mountain to get to the buffalo. The hike was just over two miles to get into position. As we started getting to where we could see the buffalo we found that the ravines we had to cross that didn't look to bad from down below were now mini canyons full of drop offs and lots of ledges. After navigating for 2 hours we finally found ourselves 700 yards from the animals. The only problem was they were making their way deeper into the canyon out of sight. We continued to close the distance but lost sight of the buffalo. The excitement started to build as we inched our way closer. As we made our way to where the buffalo were located the cedars started to get thicker. Before too long I could only see 40 yards max. I continued to work my way through knowing at any moment I could come face to face with a buffalo. As I made my way through we came across a rock outcropping that gave us a vantage to see some distance. Jake and I decided that this rock outcropping had to be put there when the earth was formed for us because it was perfect. As I peered over the other side of the rocks the entire herd was there, 125 yards away, and they had no idea we were there. The wind was perfect and the table had been set. After glassing the herd for a few minutes I had my buffalo picked out. The first shot rang out. Once again it felt good only this time it also sounded good. The buffalo started to make its way downhill before I took my second shot. After the second echo faded I had my once in a lifetime buffalo on the ground.

Overall the hunt was better than I ever could have imagined. I've grown to have a deep respect for these animals and their ability to avoid hunters and get into areas that are remote. It was one of the most challenging hunts I've ever been on both physically and mentally.

It took us a day and a half to get her off the mountain. The first and heaviest load was done by headlamp that evening.
I appreciate Andrea letting me take the time to be outdoors. I also want to thank Mike and Jake for being there through the entire adventure.


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