Archery Elk Hunt: A Chase to the End
Jesse Raddon grew up in a family with a long tradition of taking trophy animals that made the record books. Evidently, it was within his genetic makeup to continue the tradition and at just 18 years old there were few hunters twice his age that had experienced anywhere close to a similar number of hours in the field. Part of the legacy is due to family tradition; one member would hunt while the others guide, scout, and assist. Black powder and archery were the family weapons of choice and when hunting elk that meant they would be afield during the rut.
Joey Raddon was Jesse's cousin and main hunting partner but on this hunt, they were joined by cousin Corby, Thomas Baker and Jesse's dad, Ron Raddon. The destination was the Green River area of Utah where Joey had been watching a number of bulls during late summer scouting trips while awaiting the opening of archery season and more importantly, the start of the rut.
The first week of September came and passed, but warm weather slowed the cows urge for romance and kept the area unusually quiet. The second week a snowstorm managed to warm things up but the bulls has still not reached the point of testing each others dominance and preferred to hang around the cows like a bunch of school boys.
Then on September 15, Joey told Jesse, "We need to give it a try, there are bulls throughout the area and the clock is ticking. Plus, we have other hunts coming up and that will make it difficult to find time for these elk."
The team, with Joey at the lead headed for the desolate Green River plateau but when Joey said, "Here's the area, we walk from here." They were amazed by the terrain that was made up of flat, low sage and no place to hide a coyote, much less a herd of elk. Joey could see their dismay and said, "Believe me they are here, they're here."
Seeing a few antelope lifted the group's spirits, but it wasn't until they reached a high knob that overlooked a huge maze of canyons and coulee's they realized why Joey had been so excited about the area. After two hours of glassing from different locations, they spotted close to 100 bulls, and yes, there were some big ones scattered throughout the rugged landscape.
Making plans and executing stalks, using the sneak and peek format filled the rest of the day. The bulls weren't overly alert but the herd cows made up for their deficiency with eagle eyes and maintained complete control of each herd.
The bull elk that commanded their attention was one of four that stayed together and kept a herd of about 20 cows within sight. The lead cow's intentions were easy to determine and she never let her guard down.
The elk stayed on a short sage flat making a stalk the toughest part of spot and stalk. Jesse located one ravine he could crawl into then follow and get within bow range. He managed to belly crawl across the flat to the ravine but just as he approached better cover, the lead cow spotted him. She was not certain if the movement presented a threat and she was content to watch Jesse slide down into the ravine.
When the wind made a subtle change as it crossed the plateau, the new breeze took his scent to the edge of the elk herd prompting the lead cow to walk the herd in single file toward the rugged canyon bottoms. Jesse heard them before he spotted them leaving and when they were out of sight he stood up and ran to the top of the adjacent ridge to see where they were headed. The scent evidently hadn't caused a panic among the elk and they entered a small batch of timber to lie down. The cows that had caught the scent were now on full alert making a closer approach almost impossible.
Jesse conceded defeat for the moment and went back to the group to formulate a new plan. Looking at the terrain and gauging the wind, they decided Dad should stay high and try to keep track of the elk if they moved. His cousin would make a wide loop about 1000 yards out onto the flat where the elk could see him then move up the draw that would be their most likely exit route.
Jesse and Thomas would hide in the draw, hoping for a shot when the herd used the most likely escape route. Jesse's father Ron, high on a hill could watch the whole thing develop without running up and down the walls of the steep canyon.
As soon as the driver became visible, the herd broke out of the trees and headed up the draw and as they passed Jesse's position, Thomas ranged them at 40 yards. As the big bull passed by at a trot Jesse drew on the big bull's shoulder but it saw Jesse and spooked. There was no chance for a shot before the elk were gone.
The boys quickly scaled the canyon wall to see where the elk had gone but when they got to the top, the elk had disappeared. They began glassing, looking for a moving brown spot of brown to tell the story. Neither of the boys saw a thing no matter how hard they looked.
Then Thomas said, "Jesse! Don't forget your Dad! Look at Dad in your binoculars!" When Jesse found his Dad he could see he was pointing down below into a rugged sage outcropping."
Jesse said, "You don't suspect that whole herd went in that sage and laid down, do you?" Thomas replied, "I don't know, the patch looks too small, but the way he is pointing we need to get over there and find out - fast!"
The two ran across the ridges, jogged up the hills then shortly before getting to Jesse's Dad, they stopped to catch their breath. With hand signals, they communicated with Ron that they are coming, but their panting made it too hard to talk.
Ron was not content with that response - he had something he wanted the boys to see - now!
The boys climbed the last fifty feet to Ron's lofty perch as Ron put his hands to the side of his head with his fingers straight up. There was no doubt he meant, "BULL!"
When Jesse recognized that his Dad was signaling bull elk, the adrenaline kicked in and he was ready. Ron motioned him to stick his bow out then grabbed his son by the hips and pushed him forward. They walked toward the steep cliff that overlooked the patch of sage where the boys had watched Dad pointing earlier.
Ron held Jesse tight as the two slowly walked toward the edge. Jesse understood what his Dad was doing and brought the 80# Hoyt Trikon to full draw. When he could see over the edge of the drop off the tip of a big white antler became visible in the thick sage. As they moved closer to the edge Jesse realized Dad was silently positioning him for the best shot while holding him steady. When and if the shot presented itself, Dad would keep him from falling down the steep incline.
They stopped at the edge; Jesse at full draw while Ron had his feet locked solid waiting for the bull to make the next move. The wind was in their favor but the bull stood up looking at the small pebbles the hunters had accidentally broken loose and rolled downhill to the bull's feet.
The shot was there, not classic, not pretty, nor the broad side one you read about but, because of their height above the bull it was more like a shot from a tree stand The bull was facing away, looking down and only 15 feet below Jesse's feet.
Jesse's eyes and pin quickly centered on the spine in front of the hind quarters for an angled shot into the chest cavity. His release launched the heavy arrow forward at 308 feet per second and there seemed to be zero flight time before the fletching was sticking out the top of the bulls back, just a little off center.
The bull leaped then ran down hill into another patch of heavy cover but did not exit. Jesse quietly slipped around staying downwind and found the bull lying in the sage with his head up and still alert. It took just a moment for a short stalk to an uphill position before he sent a second 425-grain arrow into the chest cavity. The bull slowly lowered his head and expired as Jesse watched quietly.
When the bull died, Jesse turned around and saw everyone, Ron, Thomas, Joey and Corby standing on the hill waiting for his sign, Bull Down! When he gave them the thumbs up the silence was broken. It felt almost like a sin to speak out loud. They had all been quiet for a long time. The bull had been too close for anyone to say anything during the intense positioning and shooting scene.
The four walked down to the bull to inspect the result of their teamwork. Even though Jesse was the only one with a license and a bow, the others enjoyed the experience as if they had been hunting themselves, which is one reason the Raddon family gets so much experience each year.
Jesse and his Dad, Ron Raddon proudly displays the teamwork bull elk from the Utah archery hunt.
When you are young you think you know everything, as you age you find out how little you know.
Your "silver bullet" is your Dad. Guess what, he has been in your position before, lived to talk
about it and knows the right decision. In this case he even knew where the elk was hiding.
Bull elk caped and packing it out, Jesse is on top of the world in more ways than one.
Jesse shoots a heavy arrow of 425 grains, made up of a 29-inch, 125-grain, Gold Tip shaft and a 10-grain Illuminator notch, providing a high amount of kinetic energy. The first arrow had slid past the spine, not breaking the elk's back but cutting through the liver and into the lungs. The second shot, while the bull was lying down passed through both lungs.
With smiles all the way around and a Pope & Young 340 5/8 bull on the ground, Ron asked Jesse, "I watched the herd top the ravine after Corby spooked them out of that timber pocket. This big one split from the herd, came to this pocket of heavy cover right below me and quickly lay down. What took you so long to see me pointing to the bull when you were glassing?
Jesse replied, "I thought they had gone the other direction until a voice behind me said - Don't forget your Dad!"
Right after they got to the downed bull. A few more kicks and the bull would have fallen
down the deep gully, one of many in the area that make this prime big elk habitat.
Joey, Jesse's cousin, and Jesse show the spread of the antlers of this monster bull elk.
This time of year the weather gods are,"Old Man Winter," and "Heat of the Summer," are in a fight
for supremacy. Yesterday it was summer, but Old Man Winter slipped in a heavy wet snowstorm last night.