In late September of 2011, I had the privilege of teaching my 12 year old grandson Matt to elk hunt here in the White Mountains of Arizona. On his second try Matt drew an Arizona Early Rifle Bull Elk Tag. This hunt would be right in the middle of the rut with a new moon about the 4th night. Our anticipation began to soar.
Matt’s dad, Daniel, and I began to plan and choose where we would concentrate our efforts. This became a bit of a challenge as we had just suffered the largest wildfire in Arizona history, the Wallow fire. All summer long, my grandson would come to me concerned and heartbroken as his hunt unit was burning up. I would try to console him, saying, “Well, at least the fire hasn’t come north of Alpine yet.” The very next day the fire jumped lines and ran just north of Alpine, so I tried to console Matt again, saying, “Well, at least the fire hasn’t burned up Conklin Ridge yet.” (and that was one of my favorite hunting areas.) Yep, you guessed it. The following day Conklin Ridge was burning, and at about the same time I found out that Escudilla Mountain got totally nuked. Now, I was just about in tears.
I tried to console Matt that at least Burro Mountain didn’t burn, and told him how that was a really good place for huge bull elk. You guessed it. The very next day I found out that Burro Mountain got burned up really badly. At this point I didn’t dare console Matt that any other areas were still okay. In my heart I knew that Greens Peak was about the only place in Unit 1 where nice bull elk were plentiful that hadn’t been burned yet, but I sure wasn’t going to tell my grandson! And then the next day Greens Peak was put on evacuation notice.
In my heart I knew that if my grandson struck out on this hunt, he’d probably never hunt again. But at the same time I knew that if he got a bull, he’d be hooked as a hunter for life. When Matt was 15 months old I took him fishing and he caught a 1.5# bass and he was hooked on fishing from that day on. Now Matt is one of the most avid fishermen I know!
Matt’s dad, Daniel and I began researching which bullet and powder to use and which firearm would be best for a 12 year old of about 80 pounds. While I knew that a small caliber rifle would be easier to handle, I realized that a larger caliber would ensure that Matt would be more likely to drop a thousand pound bull elk.
I found that the recoil of a 30-06 was a bit much, but it’s my personal preferred all around favorite caliber. I found a Remington 7600 pump rifle for a reasonable price that was like brand new. In my research I found that the stock from a Remington 870 Pump 20 gauge youth model shotgun would bolt right on to the Remington 7600 30-06 rifle. Now I had a youth model 30-06 with a shotgun butt pad as well! That butt pad made all the difference for this young hunter!