Nothing beats Arizona elk hunting in my eyes.
The last three years I have went 3 for 3 on sub-par bull elk hunts. All while most of my friends and family sit at 7 plus points and complain about not being drawn.
How do you get tags every year?
Simple. I will take the tags not many people want, then hunt my butt off.
I typically spend 2 weeks a year, either with friends, family or clients hunting rutting bulls in September. I would love a tag during the rut but I don’t want to go year after year waiting for a coveted tag. I’ ll jump at every chance to draw a tag in a unit I have not elk hunted, with high draw odds and low success rates. I am not scared of wasting my time, because I believe I can get it done.
25+ days in 2013!
I was ready for my next adventure when the Arizona application process came around. I looked closely at a hunt that was easy to draw and came with plenty of time to hunt. My friend’s wife & I ended up drawing the same tag, so we worked together to increase our chances at success.
In the weeks prior to the hunt, we started to learn of “rumor” bulls from the general deer hunts and small town talk. Every chance we got we would run the rumors out. We spent countless hours hiking and glassing and put many miles on the truck trying to locate a big bull. Most outings we would see elk at great distances but never saw a bull over 300. Keep in mind, many of Arizona’s mature bulls will have antler breakage after the rut and every bull I encountered was broke in someway.
After 12 days of elk hunting, I had surpassed 25+ days in the field for this hunt. My tactics were simple, locate elk sign, hit the maps hard and find a tank with tracks, then climb high above it and glass for what felt like days. Most adventures turned up a few small bulls or a cow or two.
Several times I would ask myself, “why am I wasting my time on this hunt.”
My answer was simple, “I’m elk hunting while others are sitting at home.”
Thursday night before the last weekend, I remember the urged to go elk hunting was killing me, but the frustration of the hunt made me want to shred the tag. I posted a picture of my tag in the shredder, but between my wife and friends they urged me to keep hunting and gave me the extra strength to push forward.
My dad could not join me on this last attempt, so I called two friends Rocky Miller and Dean Mccauslin. I remember telling them I was going to make one trip into some country I had wanted to hunt from the start. It was super rough and hours away. They both agreed to go and committed to leaving at 2:30 am to make the long drive in.
As the sun showed itself, we glassed nothing but deer and one spike bull. The spike had come around from the steep country proving to me there was elk here. At that moment I thought, “we need to ride back out and hike across from the spike, so we can check every canyon.”
As we hiked out, I could see a bull on top of the ridge. I threw my binos up. It was a big mature bull!
Closer observation showed he had a broken fourth and three busted eye guards on his right side. The bull was an old bull, he was thin and acted sore footed. He was a trophy for sure on this hunt, but we had some big obstacles to get through before I could get a shot. Dean stayed back as Rocky and I took off to get closer. The plan was to get above him, which would give me a super close rifle shot.
We hiked all the way up the mountain to get within 150 or less yards but could not see the bull. We made contact with Dean and he told us the spike was with him and both bulls had worked around to the side and out of sight. So, down we went to get set up on the other side across from the bulls. We were able to get 500 yards from the bulls and could see the big bull feeding behind some brush. Seeing the size of the bull in my scope after the roller coaster of events which had led me to this moment caught up with me! Rocky had me look away as he watched the bull, but nothing helped my anxiety. I was a wreck!!!
I somewhat got it under control as the bull walked to a clearing at 520 yards. I squeezed the trigger…
Rocky said, “just a touch low…”
I pulled up a hair and squeezed again, this time hitting the bull good.
The bull whirled and went into some trees and laid down, but was not dead. Rocky and Dean sat on point watching as I ran back through the canyon and up to get one last shot. As I peaked out they walked me to a rock pile above the bull and I was looking down on the bull at 50 yards. One more shot and it was over.
Weak in the knees and full of excitement I stumbled down to put my hands on what would be my biggest bull yet. This was my 6th Arizona Bull and he was old mature bruiser.
2014 will be my 4th year in a row with a bull elk tag and it’s in a unit I have never hunted before. I am ready for the challenge, it is sure to be a great elk hunting adventure.