Late archery bull elk, the hunt nobody wants… It was my FIRST choice!
I knew I could draw the tag and it was a chance to hunt big Arizona bulls, while everyone else was sitting at home. I had a late archery tag 2 years ago and learned that with a lot of patience you can become successful on these hunts. There are easier spots to hunt in order to be successful, but with the size of bull I was looking at pursuing, I had no choice but to stick it out in the canyons.
I started out a week before the hunt scouting a certain part of my unit. I learned the bulls had not fully moved into the canyons but with each passing day new bulls were showing up. We found a few bulls around the 350 mark that I would more than gladly try and wrap my tag around.
Opening morning came and three bulls were glassed in different canyons from one vantage point and a list was made. I would try my luck on what I thought was the biggest un-broken bull. The first stalk started out as me and my father climbed into the canyon thinking there was no way in the rock slides and swirling wind that we could get to bow range from the big 6 point and two other bulls. As we closed the distance, we found our selves at 140 yards from the goofy horned small bull that was with the big bull feeding above us. Another smaller bull had bedded and I felt like he wasn’t an issue of concern as he had fed out of sight. My father decided to stay back, as it was to risky to have him join me as I eased forward.
I now found myself 52 yards from the big bull. Just as I as I was worried about, the wind swirled and the smaller bull had fed down to me. The next thing I knew the bulls were climbing out of the steep canyon. I smiled and looked back at my father and I remember telling him, ” I can do this as long as I took my time and played the wind as best as I could.”
That evening we went to bull number 2 on the list and found him where we had left him, only this time I would take a different approach on the stalk. From a far I thought I could come in high and with luck get above the bull and while watching him, slip in for the archery shot.
-How come the plans always sound better at the truck versus when you are on the side of a rock slide covered canyon?
Next thing I knew, the bull was looking for the closest exit out of the canyon because the wind had swirled and we were busted!
The morning of day 2 produced no shooters, but in the evening we set out to glass the canyons again and we weren’t surprised that a couple new bulls were showing their face’s now. The biggest being the number 3 bull from opening day. He was still in the same spot under the rim on top of a big steep canyon, with the wind we were having we sat from a far and racked our brains.
The thickness of the cedars and the ruggedness of the canyon was great for bowhunting because if you didn’t spook the bull, he would be within range, but it wasn’t that easy. We sat there until dark and planned to scatter out in the morning and glass the canyon walls. We would pick the biggest bull out before sunrise and start the stalk while they were still on their feet feeding.
Sunday morning came and happened just as we planned, bulls moving in all three canyons we were looking into, with one familiar face, the number 3 bull. My wife was with me with our camera in hand as I looked at her and asked, ” wanna see what late archery is all about? ” She smiled and I knew it was time to try to get on bull number 3.
As the bull fed into a draw in the canyon we made our move to a closer spot across the ridge. The bull slowly worked his way out and looked content on feeding, so Brittany and I started our climb. When we topped out we peaked over the edge and saw the bull up at 150 yards. My plan was to move slow and steady at this point, with my father and two friends across the canyon watching everything unfold. When the bull would stand we would move blind toward him and when he bedded we would sit down and wait. I knew as we crept through the trees he would be lower than us and we had no chance to just walk into him bedded without getting caught.
Finally, we were close enough we could hear him when he would stand and switch sides under the same tree he was bedded under. We got aggressive knowing he would bed back down quickly and I slipped around the tree as I heard Jimmy tell me he had bedded back down. At just 32 yards from me I could see his fronts and his left third. I glanced back at Brittany and gave a thumbs up knowing I had just got to 30 yards from a big bedded bull.
I thought to myself “I did it! Even if he blows out, I still managed to get to bow range of another late season bull.”
I had one opening the size of a quad tire in front of him and if he would place his vitals in that hole, I would take the shot.
As the bull got up to stretch again, I told myself to wait and let him make the mistake. As soon as I thought it was not gonna happen, the bull took one step and at 32 yards I drew my bow and went through my routine…
I sat and watched as the arrow hit it’s mark! I heard the bull crash only seconds after hitting him.
I did it! We did it!
The emotions of the moment caught up with me and in my ear I could hear my father and good friend Jimmy say, “the bull was down only 30 yards from where the shot was taken.”
This hunt ended sooner than anticipated, but with an outcome which was above and beyond our expected. I can’t thank my good friends and my wife enough, it was truly one of the best hunting experiences (life) of my life.