We tracked the bull down into the basin and three quarters of the way up the adjacent hillside before losing the blood trail all together, the elk had spent so much time in this secluded canyon that there were fresh tracks everywhere.

The bull’s tracks were easy to follow as he ran down the soft dirt on the mountain, but as he worked his way slowly up the other side, distinguishing his tracks from others was impossible.

We spent six hours on the tracking job across the nearly mile wide mountain. Even with all that effort, I didn’t and couldn’t stop there. We grid-searched the entire hillside, hoping to find the bull expired somewhere amongst the tall grass and burned trees, but found nothing. We hadn’t even started the long hike back to before everyone had completely exhausted their water supplies in the 80-degree Utah heat. On the hike out, Jeff experienced dozens of dehydration cramps and we were lucky to get everyone back to the safety of the truck and immediately drove into town to replenish our Gatorade and water supplies.

Now what?

I’ve hunted a lot. I’ve been fortunate enough to take dozens of elk since beginning hunting at age 12, but I’ve never been in the situation I’m in now. This is day one of a “once in a lifetime” limited entry hunt in Utah, a tag I was lucky to draw, and will more than likely, never see again–ever. I’d made the decision to harvest this bull and I will continue searching for him for the next few days. I’m not sure what decision to make from here.

Jeff, Shane, and I have all put forth a huge effort up to now to find the bull, but we will KEEP searching. Everyone says “all hunters go through this,” but I’ve had to deal with it twice now in my last two hunts. I definitely understand that wounding loss is a part of hunting, but I pride myself on only taking shots under the best circumstances and I thought I made a good shot. Even now as I type, I can hear bulls bugling on the mountain outside of camp.

I’ll put forth the best effort to find the bull in the coming days–we’re going to glass the mountain hard beginning tomorrow morning looking for the bull, for crows, for any sign of him. I’m heartbroken.