Frank the Tank
By Jody Beck
2011 started just like every other year, elk applications. My brothers, my husband, and myself put in separate every year in the hopes that at least one of us will get drawn and we will all get to go hunting. Since I had been drawn in 2010, nobody assumed that I would be the one drawn this year. The pattern was set and my husband was the one that was due. When my husband, Devin, called and said that the draw results were out, I thought he was calling to rub it in that he had gotten a tag, but instead I learned that I had gotten drawn for a second year in a row. Who would’ve thought, GIRL POWER BABY!!
As most people know, during the summer of 2011, Arizona experienced the worst fire in its history, the Wallow Fire. It was a devastating event that changed a lot of people’s lives and the White Mountains may never be the same. The fire had spread further than most of us thought that it would, burning most of units 1 and 27. The Forest Service had closed all of the forests around the state, and during this time, it was a wonder if we were going to have a chance to hunt. With only a few weeks to spare before the season, the decision was made to open the forests, but some of the areas where the fire burned the hottest were kept closed to all traffic.
I would like to start my story by stating how lucky I am that my husband, Devin, and two brothers, Jake and Jesse, are always along for the adventure. They always go above and beyond and were instrumental in helping me to chase a bull of my dreams. Even without having the tag in their pocket, they were just as excited to get out in the woods and chase some elk!
Opening day came and went pretty uneventful. We heard little if any bugling and we wondered how much the fire had affected the elk. After a couple of quiet days and not seeing any mature bulls, we decided to venture to another section of the unit one night and listen for bugles. We came across a spot that had at least eight different bulls screaming their heads off and we quickly made a plan for the following morning.
The next morning found us chasing a huge heard of elk. There were so many that we were having a hard time getting close enough to even see the mature bulls. After a couple of hours of cat and mouse, one of the bulls pushed some cows far enough away that we were able to put a move on him. The cows were working towards us and then a big bull started coming into view as he moved up the hill behind them. It was a big heavy bull with matching cheaters off of his fourths. This was the type of bull that I was hoping to harvest! Just when I was about to draw my bow, the cows seemed like they saw something down below them and suddenly they bolted with the big bull in tow. My brothers were across the drainage from my husband and me, and after we met back up with them they informed us that another hunter was marching up the hill and had spooked the elk. Their efforts to get his attention had failed and our chance was blown.
My brothers, husband, and I have had a running joke about naming the animals we find in the woods. Over the years of elk hunting we have always had Spanish names for them. By Spanish I should probably say English Spanish. My bull from the previous year had been named “Taco Bell”. This name was chosen simply due to their slogan “Yo Quiero Taco Bell”. Translation “I want Taco Bell”. This year we were laughing after our encounter about names. Nacho’s Bell Grande, Filliberto, and many more were suggested. My brother Jake turned to me and asked me what I wanted to call him since it was my tag. Suddenly I just thought of a name that was somewhat out of the ordinary as a joke and I blurted it out to everyone, “I think FRANK will do.” Initially I got a couple of weird looks from them, but for some reason it stuck and our goal was to harvest FRANK THE TANK!
The next couple days were filled with close encounters with Frank and the other big boys in the group. We got to watch Frank and another big 6×6 get into a fight from 100 yards, but again we were unable to get close enough because of the numbers of elk. I almost shot that same 6×6 the next day but my heart was in it for Frank and I made the choice not to shoot. Feeling somewhat stressed as the hunt was going by fast that closing the deal would never happen, my brothers and husband reassured me about why we were there. We were in this for the long haul and would not settle, even if it meant going home empty handed.
After what seemed like an uncountable number of days chasing Frank, we were getting worn out and my brothers were running out of days they had left to hunt before they had to get back to work. We had seen Frank 3 out the last 4 days and started to figure out his patterns. Every day he would work out the end of this particular ridge and bed there. We decided we were going to be at the end of the point and wait for the elk to follow their normal routine the next morning. When we got there and set up, it was a lot colder that morning and the wind had picked up slightly. We waited and waited and heard elk bugling on every ridge but the one we were on. It didn’t seem like any elk were heading our way. We decided our plan had failed and that we should head out and regroup for the evening. On our way out we heard one bull that seemed to be on our ridge and we decided to make our way towards him. With the fire, it made seeing across the valleys easier, so we got to a little saddle where we thought we might be close enough to glass up the bull. One short bugle from my husband and he answered right back. We glassed through the burnt timber and low and behold it was “Frank” on the opposite ridge, bedded with a few cows! The excitement grew between us all. Now we just had to figure out how we were going to get to him.
We made our way quickly but quietly down the ridge from him to make our way to the other side. The good thing was that we could see him easily, but the bad thing was that he would also have the same advantage. Our stalk had to be well executed. The wind was in our favor and the freshly grown grass was wet from the rain to quiet our steps. We snuck our way in to a point where all that was between him at the top of the ridge and us at the bottom was burnt trees and green grass. He also had some cows with him that presented another disadvantage. With the burnt trees our camouflage was not as effective as normal, we joked at how we should have just worn black and we would have blended in better. Leaving my brother Jake behind to spot, my husband and I slowly crept, step after step, from behind one tree and then the next. The stalk seemed to take forever. It took us a couple of hours to stalk 200 yards! We made it to 134 yards when Frank and his cows got up and starting feeding. They slowly made their way up and over the top. This was our chance. We hustled up the hill and slowly peaked over the top. As we looked over we caught a glimpse of him as he pushed a cow towards us and then stopped. I couldn’t see him as good as my husband since I am shorter, so I took a couple more steps up to crest the hill, each step with my legs shaking like crazy. He was at 45 yards quartering away, I pulled my bow back and once I got to full draw, the shaking stopped and I felt steady as a rock. I settled the pins and took one last mental check and started squeezing the trigger. When the arrow hit, he stumbled on his feet the first few steps as he tried to run away over the hill and then disappeared. I turned to face my husband and he told me that I had hit him. I was shaking like crazy with excitement and after we fist bumped I reacted with “I love elk hunting!” We made our way down the hill to see if we could find my brother, he was running through the forest trying to catch up to us, although out of breath, he couldn’t get to us fast enough! Once my brother got there, we re-capped the exciting adventure from both views.
After a short time my husband decided he was going to go up and see if he could find my arrow or any blood right where he was standing. When he got up there, he told me to come and put another arrow on because Frank was still standing there about 90 yards down the slope. His whole body was quivering and looked like he was hurting bad. We decided just to walk straight towards him since there was a big tree covering his head. We started sneaking ever closer until he turned his head uphill. All I can remember is seeing his antlers sticking out on both sides of that tree. Man they looked huge! We were at 70 yards now and decided that was close enough. He was standing broadside and I had a perfect lane between two trees, but at 20 yards, a small limb extended out, making me wonder if it was going to be in the way. I pulled back my bow and checked that my 20 yard pin cleared the limb and was happy to see that it was not a problem. Talk about bull fever, I was shaking more than ever now, and I knew I was going to have to make a perfect shot. I pulled my bow back and then like before my bow just anchored steady. The pin just stuck right there, and I let it fly. I watched the arrow drop and disappear. Frank whirled and ran again. This time though he was instantly coughing, just after he got out of sight we heard a slight muffled crash and then all fell silent.
After a few short seconds my husband started laughing. He said “I don’t know what you were doing but on both of those shots you were shaking so badly I did not think you were going to shoot. Then as soon as you got your bow drawn, you looked like an oak tree!” After some laughing we followed Frank down the hill. We followed some blood and found him piled up not 30 yards from where he ran out of sight. We got super lucky because he had died right on the edge of a small bluff. One more kick and he would have fallen a good ways!!! But we decided that it would make for a really nice picture!
I would like to thank the men in my life, my husband Devin for being my best friend and hunting partner. Without him I wouldn’t be the crazed and successful hunter that I am and would have missed out on some of the best memories I now have to share. My brothers, Jake and Jesse for helping me on my hunt and spending some great time together as siblings, it was some of the best laughs with you guys in tow! And my dad, for being a part of the hunt, coming out to where Frank lay and hiking with me in the rain as we packed him out! I would also like to thank my mom for making us hungry hunters dinner every night and getting to know Frank through our stories every time we came home and he had given us the slip! We will all remember this moment because of the time we were able to share together and will be reminded every time we look at the antlers!
All said and done “Frank the Tank” ended up unofficially scoring right at 372 gross inches. He is more than I could have hoped for and my true dream bull!!!