This father of five passed on what his dad taught him to his children and troop 639
Imagine hiding out on a hillside listening to the elk bugle during the rut while the bulls are ready to contend with any male competitors. The hunter’s elk bugle sounds like another bull challenging them so they follow the sound with the intent to fight. “They come in just screaming at you…You’ve tricked them into thinking you’re another bull,” said Brent Justensen, a resident of Syracuse. Brent acknowledges that nature is the master, but in these moments it feels as if he is the one in control. “You get this animal coming in ready to duke it out with somebody…It brings the hair up on the back of your neck. It’s pretty exciting!” His wife Julie agrees these experiences are the most memorable ones and Brent usually shares them with either his wife, one of his kids, or a friend.
Brent’s dad was an avid hunter so naturally he was the one who introduced him to it. “If there was gas in the truck, we were going somewhere to hunt pheasant, duck, rabbit, deer, elk, or whatever was in season.” His earliest memories were riding around in his father’s old international pickup truck. “You were constantly bouncing your head off the roof. We would get on those dirt roads in four wheel drive and away we’d go.”
Brent’s father was a hunter safety instructor and they couldn’t get away with anything. “He stressed safety and let us know if we did something wrong. Always point your gun in a safe direction, keep your finger off the trigger, and be aware of what might be beyond where you’re shooting.” Hunting with his dad was like taking an ongoing safety course. Brent went out and practiced shooting a lot so when the time came to hunt he could make a nice clean shot.
He also practiced a lot with the scouts and his children. Troop 639 in Syracuse had many campouts that involved learning gun safety and practicing. Brent was a Scout leader for almost 25 years and he passed his knowledge of what his father taught him to the boys. “We took them out into the desert 2 to 3 times a year and do shooting campouts.” He also taught them how to prepare for extreme conditions and survive. “I’d tell them what works and what doesn’t.” Some of those young men have grown up to do the same things with their families that Brent has done with his.
Brent has also passed his knowledge and passion for hunting to his children. Brent and Julie have five children which include Heather, Katrina, Tyler, Brent Jr., and Preston. Dealing with poor weather, hiking out heavy packs, and pushing through the fatigue to get back to camp are just a part of who they are. Whatever it is, “you take care of the problem and go from there,” said Julie. He has taken them out hunting the same way his father took each of his children. They have all got their own deer, antelope, ducks, and pheasants and several of them love to bow hunt because it’s more challenging. Most hunters can accurately shoot a rifle between 50 to 300 yards whereas the range for bows drops to around 10 to 50 yards. Stalking a deer or elk within archery range takes a lot more stealth and skill.
Southern Utah is their family’s favorite place to hunt. Brent and his family stay on the property of their extended family that has a ranch down there. “We’ve been going there since we were kids,” said Brent. Some of the families stay in their trailers while others stay in the bunk house, but no matter where they sleep the location acts as a home base for their hunts. The ranch has been there for one hundred years but it is an inhospitable place. Their extended family tried raising turkeys, crops, and cattle but it was hard to succeed with the weather turning from one extreme to another. The property has a spring fed pond and several dilapidated buildings and a few have been fixed up and made livable.
Brent’s brother Troy Justensen also grew up hunting in the same area and now he is a professional hunting guide and the president of the conservation group Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife. “He’s living our dream basically… He spends from August to December on the mountain or traveling somewhere to hunt. He’s gotten really good so he is our judge and he tells us which one to shoot. It’s got to be big enough for him.” Troy helps raise millions of dollars for wildlife conservation. They are consumers of wildlife and contributors promoting transplant programs, habitat restoration, and getting the funding to do these things. They have transplanted and established a herd of bighorn sheep not only for the hunting aspect, but for people to enjoy viewing them.
Julie is more naturally drawn to hobbies like sewing, crocheting, and hand crafts, but she loves spending time with Brent too. She knew he wasn’t going to take up any of her hobbies so she figured she would take an interest in his. She surprised him with the news after she passed hunter safety. She wasn’t so sure on her first hunt, but she filled her tag for a cow elk. It was it was a long shot but she got it! Elk meat is Julie’s favorite. They still occasionally buy chicken and pork, but the family lives off what they harvest from the wilderness from year to year.
This family loves spending time with each other. Even if they don’t walk away with their tags filled they still count it as a success because they were spending time with each other in beautiful wilderness. Sure sitting on the mountains waiting for an animal to show up can be boring and really cold at times, but patience and perseverance are invaluable virtues and poignant memories hardly ever come from your comfort zone.
Observing a bear fight
A couple years ago Brent and a friend were hunting bear in Utah. They were sitting on top of a hill when they saw a mama and her two cubs come in, then they watched a male bear, also called a boar, come in. Boars will kill cubs so the female will go back into heat, but the mama bears won’t let that happen if they can help it. When mama bear saw the boar she gave a low woofing bark, the cubs ran up a tree, and the fight was on. They fought and chased each other, knocking down trees and anything that got in the way. Brent and his friend stayed hidden on the hill and watched the action from 100 yards away. Finally mama scared off the threat and she came back to the tree. She barked again, the cubs came down, and she reached out and pulled them off the tree. “That was intense. We’d never seen that before in our lifetime.”
A Cougar on the run
Brent saw a cougar once and it was very intimidating. “That was the best deer flusher I’ve ever seen!” After another hunter spooked the cougar and it was just trying to get away. It took off into the trees and the deer came out of them in a hurry. He ran across the canyon and got up on top of a rock like a cat does and watched. “It can cross in seconds what would take us minutes.”