A chance encounter along a dusty road led to a friendship between two elk fanatics. Last fall, that friendship produced one of the largest bulls ever killed by a bowhunter.
The bull got up from his midday nap in the thick juniper trees and eased down the open grassy hill, feeding slowly. He did not seem to be worried about much except for getting his belly full. As he wandered down the slope feeding rigorously, I saw Michael slip ever so close to fulfill one of his lifelong dreams. The day was September 16th and we were hunting elk in Arizona. The rut had been sluggish due to dry monsoons, but we were still optimistic about our chances for Michael to harvest a great bull. It was the fifth day of the hunt, and even with several different mechanical failures on our vehicles, Michael just laughed and said it was all happening for a reason. He shook the calamities off with a smile and kept us on task. The task was finding bull Number 42 that Michael could harvest with his bow and arrow.
Rewind the tape to 1997. I was sitting under my jacked up Ford Ranger truck because the brakes went out. I could hear a truck coming down the dirt road at a rapid pace, so I climbed out from underneath to see who was coming, but all I could see was a dust cloud being made by a truck with a huge elk rack in the back. I rubbed my greasy hands on my pants and made it to the road to flag them down. They stopped and I immediately drooled into the back of their truck. At that point, two guys got out and introduced themselves as Casey Brooks and Michael Park from Oregon.
They pulled the elk rack out of the back of their pickup to show me and it was huge. Casey had just harvested his 400”+ bull and was still on cloud nine. Little did I know, but I was in the presence of two elk hunting legends. At that point they had probably harvested 25 bulls apiece with their bows. We talked for awhile and hit it off right away. As it turned out, I ended up hunting with them for a few days and Michael shot a nice bull that scored roughly 350”. I was fortunate to tag along and video the whole hunt.
When I say these guys are good at what they do that would be the understatement of all time. I learned more in those days with them than all of my years of elk hunting before combined. I would describe their approach to elk hunting as extremely aggressive. I was able to finally see first-hand how the “pros” did it. I could tell these guys were natural born killers; predators in their own right.
Fast forward a few years. Both Casey and Michael had been down Coues deer hunting with my hunting/guiding partner Darr Colburn and I, and we forged a good friendship. Both guys are extremely dedicated and hard-working hunters. When the time for applications came, I made some last minute recommendations and as fate would have it, Michael drew his second choice archery elk tag. He was pumped about his draw when we talked on the phone and the hunt was on!
I only read a few print magazines these days. Western Hunter magazine is one of them. It is unique in that its articles are about hunting only in the western states that I love and seem to be drawn to about 10 times per year!
I arrived in the unit on September 1st, which gave me ten days of good scouting before Michael’s hunt began. Michael arrived five days later to put his time in also. Pulling into the unit, I immediately noticed how dry everything looked and was a little worried about the conditions. It then proceeded to rain 12 out of the next 15 days. The country greened up and started to look a lot better. One bit of positive news was that the elk antlers seemed to be pretty good. We scouted high and low and found some nice bulls throughout the unit.