Thursday, November 1, 2012

Butterfield Canyon

Butterfield Canyon, Utah, 2012

It was late summer and the antlers were hard now, if still velvet covered… The beginning of what the Indians called the Moon of the Crying Elk, though there was no evidence of them bugling yet. In fact, the bulls still seemed to be running in bachelor bands as we saw three different such bands on this day.

It was in the early 1990s and my son in law had graduated from BYU the previous spring and had taken a position with a firm in the Salt Lake Valley and was living in the Holliday, UT area. Cabin fever was hard upon us when we decided a voyage of exploration might be in order. Why we chose the west side of the valley that day, I have no idea. Perhaps those in charge (our wives) had placed a time limit on us for our excursion as our previous outing that had begun at Provo Canyon had lasted until the wee dark, single digit hours of the following morning… they were prone to do that in those times for some perverse reason. I can’t say that those restrictions ever really limited our outings to any degree although that lack of limiting discipline might have been the cause of the two of us fixing our own dinners from time to time. Today was to prove no exception.

We traveled west across the valley on one of the streets that was a direct route… 4100 S. I think, in looking at the map... we intersected the main road on the west side of the valley near a powder company (Hercules Powder, perhaps?). From there we journeyed south with the idea of finding a likely looking canyon that would allow us a hike into its bowels. Several times in this area, we saw elk in the distance, including two bachelor bands, one of which held two exceptional bulls, the larger of which would have probably been a 320 class bull or better. Since all of these appeared in direct correlation to an ample supply of “No Trespassing” signs, we assumed that Utah elk had the ability to, if not actually read, at least to recognize signs! On one occasion we spotted a band of six Mule Deer bucks feeding on some green feed very near an old farmstead. As this area was lacking those hated signs, we decided to put a stalk on them, eventually closing to within bow range of the bucks. There were two in this band that I would have happily brought home. Both were 4X4s with extremely high and wide racks though still fully in the velvet yet.

We traveled on south past the great mine at Bingham Canyon to a point just south of there. There is a road there that turns up Butterfield Canyon and we decided we had time to explore this area before curfew… well… at least not MUCH beyond curfew… How far up that canyon we were, I, at this late date, cannot recall. I guesstimate about five miles. In glassing to the south, slightly past a large pile of rock that I guessed to be tailings, we spotted another bachelor band of elk. We could not see how many or what quality these animals were, but, since there were no signs to tell us otherwise, we decided to check it out. I parked my old Bronco, Widowmaker, out of sight of the road and we headed up a small draw…

It was not far up this gulch that we came to a split and my son in law took the south arm while I took the north. About twenty minutes later as I lay glassing a clearing that lay before me and between me and my son, I saw a shape in the small trees that defined the far side of the clearing. I lay very quietly in my place and watched closely, fully expecting a muley doe to come out of that brush as the glimpse I had had been far too dark to be an elk. Very suddenly, the dark shape darted from the cover it had been in while hiding from me and entered an even thicker, darker copse beyond. It was a large being… running on its hind legs… at least seven feet tall and possibly as much as seven and a half feet. It was massively built and very dark. Its arms were long, as they had to be and it was very cautious of me. I had no problem understanding what it was, though I was mildly surprised to see it here. I wondered why it had revealed itself to me with that sudden dash when I heard brush cracking and Lynn emerged from the thick cover. He had followed his branch to where it had become too difficult to continue, since we were not really hunting, but just out curing a fever, and had decided to move in my direction.

As had happened so many times before in our years of hunting together, his move was timed impeccably and worked to our mutual benefit. I did spend a bit of time looking for tracks which were evident only as disturbances of the leaves on the ground. I also took the opportunity to unobtrusively estimate the height of the small trees he’d been standing amidst while hiding from me to better determine a height estimate.

We then retraced out steps to ol’ Widowmaker and headed on home… first stopping at a Burger King along the way to preclude the “punishment” we had waiting for us on arrival.

Source: Account provided by Thom Cantrell

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