By Michael Deming
The first hunt of the year is something we all look forward to. The anticipation of what is in store makes me feel like a young boy at Christmas. The thoughts of what might happen in the coming days keeps me up at night. Our team usually spends the entire summer scouting heavily for these first hunts of the year, but poor luck in the draw had us scrambling for a hunt in our home state of Utah. However, a call from my good friend, Tyler Watson, would put us in action for the opening weekend of archery elk season. He wanted us to do an outfitter evaluation trip and consider his new operation for our Platinum Approved endorsement.
Tyler cut his teeth in the hunting industry at another one of our Platinum Approved Outfitters and he had vast experience and had consistently proven himself as a good hunter. However, this would be an entirely new operation and with new property. Tyler started Majestic Valley Outfitters to give him the opportunity to develop and grow his business as he saw fit. Knowing his experience and his positive attitude as well as our lack of tags, I was happy to plan a trip with his new operation.
This archery elk hunt with Majestic Valley Outfitters was something which I was truly looking forward to, even though I didn’t get to scout myself. I had numerous calls with Tyler throughout the summer to discuss the hunt, animal quality, lodging and other aspects of the hunt. To say he was fairly closed-lipped on everything would be an understatement. By the time late August arrived, I was confident that I would have a warm bed, food, and we would probably see a few elk throughout the week of our hunt. Other than that, I was trying to keep my expectations to a minimum.
This is the caliber of buck you can expect with Majestic Valley Outfitters in Northern Utah
The day before the opening of elk season, we met Tyler in northern Utah and convoyed to the ranch. As we pulled up to the gate to enter the ranch, I was absolutely awe-struck. We weren’t entering a ranch, but more of an estate. The double-entry electronic gate was just the beginning. As we drove up the hill into the ranch, it got even more exquisite. The garage was the first thing we passed after entering the ranch, as it holds a fleet of new Polaris Rangers to get around. Next was the boat house, which sits beside a small pond teaming with hungry trout. A fully refurbished Pony Express cabin is the next thing you get to see. I was about to forget that we were here to elk hunt, when we rolled around the corner to see a freshly cut alfalfa field which was teaming with over a hundred head of elk. Cows, calves and twenty-plus bulls were enjoying the good eats as well as some pre-rut activity. Two pretty good bulls were posturing at the far end of the field and both would be worthy of my tag the next morning. This was what I was hoping for, but not expecting since it was early in the afternoon and still ninety-degrees outside.
The main lodge was truly the icing on the cake and qualifies as one of the nicest places I’ve ever seen. Way more than I expected or could have ever imagined. It is somewhere north of 12,000 square feet with enough bedrooms and baths to house a small army. It sits along an alfalfa field with great views of all the elk coming to the fields. To say that this was a place you wouldn’t expect as a hunting camp, would be an understatement.
Since it would just be me and my cameraman, with Tyler guiding us personally, he said that we could stay in the guest house. I embraced something a bit smaller as well as hopefully not so pristine. The guest house was a bit smaller, but equally as nice. It is a beautiful cabin and a little more of what I’m accustomed to in a high-end lodge.
Buck Commander's Tombo Martin, Adam LaRoche, and guide and outfitter Tyler Watson with the 188-inch buck Tombo killed. Watch for the show on the Outdoor Channel.
We settled in and got our gear ready for the next mornings’ hunt. We decided to walk up to the alfalfa field for the last thirty minutes of daylight to evaluate the possible candidates on the property. Our herd had nearly doubled in size over the past 3-hours since our arrival and one big 6X7 had our attention. He was in the 330-340” range and a great bull for an over the counter type of tag. It was obvious that this hunt was undersold and over delivered.
The plan for the mornings’ hunt would be to spot the alfalfa field in the morning and see what direction our target bulls would head and then use the terrain to get in front of them. We could hear the herd talking well before daylight, which usually isn’t a good sign. As the grey light finally started to creep in, we could see the entire mountain moving with elk well above the field. We scrambled to the Ranger in hopes of getting ahead of the herd. However, the wind switched on us and we were forced to watch the herd settle into the oak brush for their full day of rest. Tyler smiled and said, “we will have a good shot this afternoon, I have a blind up by them”. Sure enough, when we got to the blind for our afternoon sit, there was a lot of fresh sign and the trail camera had a lot of pictures. Our big 6X7 didn’t hit the water, but many of the other ones did. So, we hoped he would give us a shot in the afternoon.
We were in the blind by 3 pm and ready for a six-hour sit if needed. Nothing moved until just before sunset and the first thing I saw was a huge tine through the brush. I was set for a shot, when a huge typical mule deer stepped out. He was a giant and had I decided to purchase a deer tag instead of an elk tag, I could have had a chip shot at 30 yards. Instead, we just got to shoot him with the camera and enjoy the show. Deer tags are premium on this ranch and fall under the Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit or CWMU, which means they get extended season dates and tags don’t have to be drawn through the drawing process. Seasons for these CWMU’s go into November during rut time, but I was really wishing I had one right then.
Sportsman's News Publisher and CEO Michael Deming, hunting early archery elk in the Utah mountains saw a lot of bulls, but was unwilling to drop the string unless he had a shot at the big 6x7 he had targeted on day-one.
For the next five days, we would chase the elk in the morning up the hills and sit the water holes for the afternoons. The first day of the hunt was the only day I didn’t have an opportunity to kill a bull. Either morning or evening and sometimes both yielded shot opportunities, but none were at the bull I was targeting. We were seeing new bulls arrive each and every day and we now had five bulls of 330” or better to go after. The big, 6X7 was still our primary target, but a new super wide 6X6 was running a close second.
Here at Sportsman’s News, we are known for often getting it done on the last day. We watched the elk leave the field on our last morning hunt, but neither of our biggest bulls were anywhere to be seen. Knowing that we had to be on the road by early afternoon, we needed to get aggressive with one of the remaining candidates. We hustled around the mountain on the Ranger and then took off on foot. We could hear many of the bulls bugling as they filtered through the oak brush. Our previous days in this bedding area gave us a bit of an advantage to know where there were some openings. Although we were out of breath, we had gotten ahead of the major portion of the herd and were in position to make a play.
I had just gotten my breathing under control when I saw tines coming up the hill. We were thirty yards below the trail this bull would travel on if he continued on his current path. He was a good 6-point and just around the 300” mark with a couple of cows in tow. I had passed on several bulls bigger during the week in hopes of killing a giant, but with only a few hours left in our hunt, I now just wanted to fill the freezer.
Michael Deming with Sportsman's News casting a fly on one of MVO's great fishing holes. When you finish early with your hunt or just want to come down and wet a line, most of their ranches have great fishing to pass the down time or get a little R&R.
As he closed in on our shooting lane, he stopped and looked back across the canyon. He let out a bugle and looked in our direction. My cameraman, James Dansie quietly exclaimed, “another bull”. I slowly rotated my eyes across the canyon to catch the big, wide 6X6. He stood in the morning sun and responded to the challenger’s bugle. My mind raced, thinking that we just might get this done and with our target bull.
They exchanged bugles back and forth and the smaller 6X6 decided it was time to head over the hill with his cows. In fifteen yards, he would be perfectly quartering away in my shooting lane and it was time to make a decision - take the sure thing or wait for the big one. I clipped onto my D-loop and came to full draw, but watched him walk through my shooting lane without trying to stop him. I let down my bow and looked back at the wide 6X6. He bugled more aggressively and started walking in our direction. I was coming uncorked thinking that our patience was going to pay off. He disappeared out of sight and would likely come up the hill on our side and on the same trail of the bull we just passed on.
Michael Deming holding a nice tiger trout he caught in-between the action on his archery elk hunt.
A few minutes passed without any sign of the bull or a sound. The bull finally appeared and it was on the same trail we had last seem him. However, he was headed back towards the side of the mountain he had originally appeared on. He gave us one last look before he disappeared as if to say, “I got ya”.
We had passed on many good bulls throughout the week, in hopes of harvesting an exceptional one. We saw numerous giant trophy mule deer, had 10,000 private acres to ourselves, and enjoyed the best accommodations and food a hunter could ever imagine. Yes, when it comes to enjoying the overall experience and having a hunt of a lifetime, Majestic Valley Outfitters and Tyler Watson delivered way more than anyone could ever expect. I’ll be back again next year, in hopes that my big, 6X7 made it through the season!
Majestic Valley Outfitters, visit them on the web at majesticvalleyoutfitters.com
or give Tyler a call at 801-430-0885.