13 unsuccessful years
By Brian Bremer
In 2013, I was lucky enough to draw one of 15 bull only archery tags in one of the best units in the state of Arizona; Unit 23 South. I always told myself that when this day came I was going to put in 100% toward my scouting efforts, in order to ensure a successful harvest.
My father-in-law, Bryan Vivian, and I, went in on the same application so I was blessed to have him along for the ride and we both had yet to harvest a bull elk with our bows. We have never really been trophy hunters, filling the freezer was the number one priority for us. Sure, shooting a trophy size animal does always cross your mind while in the field but we typically shoot the first thing within range. However, after 13 years of no bull elk tags, this season was going to be different.
With the loss of my father in late December 2012, hunting wasn’t really on my mind when the application deadline approached. We almost missed the application deadline, but thankfully we remembered at the very last moment. As we waited for the draw results I was determined the “elk gods” were yet again going to skip my name in the draw process this year. To my surprise we found out we had drawn premium tags, which helped my spirits change.
Scouting early & often.
We started our scouting efforts by setting cameras and looking for water as top priority. We found a lot of promising areas but eventually found an area which appeared to have great potential to hold big elk. Our first trip back after setting cameras we were amazed at what we had photographed. We counted a total of 20+ different bulls hitting the water holes and elk highways leading to and from them.
We made multiple scouting trips prior to our hunt and the bulls kept growing and growing! Toward the end our scouting efforts, we finally realized that we might have a good chance at a 380″ to 400″ bull. The last scouting trip set the stage for opening morning and it was looking very promising!
Brian’s friends filmed his bull just 3 days before he put him on the ground. Check-out the LIVE footage:
another tragic loss…
We were hit with more bad news just a few weeks before opening day. My father-in law’s mother had been battling cancer, but unfortunately we lost this special person. She was always the life of all our hunts whether we were successful or not and could fry up an elk heart better than anyone! We definitely knew she would be with us in spirit on this hunt.
elk hunting action!
It was the third morning of the hunt and the bulls had pretty much shut up for the day, except one lone bull bugling 300-400 yards away. I was with a friend of mine, Devin Mclaws, who was calling for me. I was leery about going after the lone bull as the bugles we were hearing sounded exactly like a smaller bull I had chased the previous morning. Since nothing else was making any noise, we decided to pursue.
Devin was tailing behind me 50-75 yards and we had it down to a science. He would rake a tree about third bugle from me. He also controlled the cow calls and would throw one in on occasion. As we crested a small mountain into a big bowl, I bugled and got a response about 150 yards away. I glassed a monster sporting a beefy 7×7 wide frame! He was a shooter for sure!
As I bugled hard and Devin raked, the bull dropped into the bottom of the bowl which was filled with thick nasty brush. I made my way to the bottom as well, just off the edge of the brush to give myself plenty of shooting lanes once the shot presented itself. I continued to bugle and Devin raked every few minutes (no cow calls) and continued to get bugles back from the bull. It was extremely hard to get a line on the bull as his bugles were bouncing off every side of the bowl, but I was confident he was headed straight for us; looking to brawl!
I stood behind a large tree thinking the bull was walking a trail to my right, but it was so thick I could only hear him bugling and couldn’t see him at all. After a few minutes of complete silence, the bull snuck into me from my left and was walking broadside at JUST 5 yards! The ground was extremely soft from all the rain, thus I didn’t even hear his footsteps. As he hit the clearing to my left, he spotted me and jumped forward! He stopped, leaving only a gut shot from behind the tree. I came to full draw, but I couldn’t step to my right or the bull would see me, so my only option for a shot was to the left around the tree. I leaned as far as I could to the left, picked my spot, and let it rip! The bull ran to my right and Devin let out a single cow call which stopped him again at 20 yards broadside. This allowed me a few seconds to nock another arrow and I hit him in the boiler room. He ran about 75 yards before letting out a ferocious bugle, then piled up!
In closing, I would like to thank my wife for allowing me to spend time in woods doing what I love to do. Also a big thanks to Devin Mclaws, Bryan Vivian, Jim Brooks and my entire hunting family back in camp for helping me pack my 7×7 385 4/8″ gross 379 6/8″ net bull off the mountain.
My father-in-law was also fortunate enough to harvest a 350″+ 7×7 off the same mountain toward the end of the hunt. I was humbled to see the season end on such a positive note; with No Regrets!