Well some write-ups are overdue, had another good AZ elk season this year. I was able to tag along on a bull hunt, we had numerous tags in camp but my job was to find my buddy Clark a bull. Clark actually contacted me thru the "Hunting Mentors" thread here at THR. This was his first elk hunt. I had taken him out for coyotes down in Tucson a time or three, but he was never able to connect.
The first day we spotted a herd with a spike and they were a good 1000 yards away and headed the wrong direction. We were both hoping for better than a spike anyway, especially the first few days. That afternoon I spotted 2 bulls, not big but they weren't spikes and we decided to head after them. They were roughly a mile away I'd say when we tried to head them off. We spooked some cows on the way but we never found the bulls. On our way back to the truck Clark spotted a coyote. I got him set up and blew a very quick set on the coyote call. This guy came right in and Clark nailed him at ~60 yards:
Day 2 we had my dad and brother on a high point spotting for us, and we were still-hunting the area they were glassing (couple square miles of country). They got us on the radio that they could see a herd of 6 bulls, one whopper. They tried to guide us in but elk move really fast and we were a little farther away than we thought. We ended up spooking a decent bull on the way but didn't get a shot. The 6 bulls split and we did end up getting a look at 3 of them. We could see a really nice bull, and it turns out he wasn't even the biggest one. Too bad we couldn’t have gotten on one of those big bulls. That afternoon we pulled a sneak on a herd of cows (hoping for a small bull). We made a great stalk and they all fed broadside at ~100 yards, but they were all definitely cows. They never saw us.
Day 3 we really wanted to put one down. I had to leave the next day, and Clark’s wife has a baby on the way. The morning found us on a high point and after awhile we found 2 bulls, again a good mile or more out. We headed after them and jumped them at ~150 yards with no shot. My brother watching from the hill said they didn’t seem too spooked but he lost them in the thick cedars. That afternoon we glassed up 2 bulls just before dark. The more I think about it, the more I think it may have been the same two bulls from earlier in the morning. Shooting light was ending about 5:45PM, and it was 5PM when we spotted them about a mile and a half out. I was content to let them be, but Clark wanted to chase them. I let my brother and Clark trot the mile down the hill, thru the fence, and towards the eastern edge of a clearing that we picked out as the “head to” point. No sooner did they start down the hill when the lead bull pick his head up and start walking directly to the spot my brother and Clark were heading for. They did stop and feed a little, but they were feeding along quickly to a large clearing. I could tell the one in front was the bigger bull but it was hard to tell how big from roughly a mile away. I lost the bulls for awhile and when they popped out, they were very close to where I’d seen our hunters last. I tell you what, I was shaking watching thru binoculars waiting for Clark to shoot. Finally I heard the report of the rifle heard that tell-tale WHAP! And knew he must have connected. I could only see the smaller bull in back when he shot. That bull hemmed and hawed, having no idea what was going on, and surprisingly I saw Clark’s bull emerge and try to run away with his partner. He made it about 20 yards before I saw him stumble to the ground. “He’s down!” I hollered, though of course they couldn’t hear me. It turns out our hunters saw the bulls first at about 200 yards and they were feeding towards them. Clark was able to get prone and the lead bull offered a shot at ~60 yards just before dark. Clark sent “180 grains of pain” downrange and the rest was history. Here’s some pics:
Look at that smile!
Turned out to be a 5x4, though the 4th point is just a tit. Not the biggest bull in the woods at all, but we hunted hard for him and feel lucky to have gotten him. If those bulls hadn't met them half way, I don't think it would have happened before dark set in:
Love getting bloody
Me and Clark skinning his first big game animal:
All and all it was an awesome hunt. Clark got to hunt hard, and his hard work was rewarded with success. He put 2 years of preparation into this hunt, starting by contacting me on this site to take him hunting. He bought a rifle, scope, and shot until he was capable of killing an elk when he needed to. He hunted hard, he watched, and he continually showed improvement. We humped hills, canyons, ran after elk, and we came home happy. He didn't bat an eye at reaching into that bull when it came time to gut and skin, and he was beaming when we got back to camp. There is just nothing quite like seeing an elk go down after all that hard work and preparation. Congrats to Clark, he did a fine job if I do say so myself. I'm glad to have net him, he's become a good friend. Thanks for letting me tag along buddy, lets go do it again!
I also had a great time with my little brother. We both feel privileged to have put Clark on a bull, and we made good memories doing what we love to do together. Here's a closing shot of my brother and I. I think we were as happy to get that bull as Clark was. Like I said, I had buck fever watching from binoculars a mile away! heck of a trip:
I had to work for 2 days and then I was headed back out to the woods. I had an antlerless elk hunt with my sister, Aunt, and two buddies I met in pharmacy school. We had 5 tags in camp total. It turned out to be a really tough hunt right from the get go. Here's a picture of the drive out of town, took us 4 hours to make a 1.5 hours drive. I know, snow? in Arizona???
It actually wasn't snowing when we got to camp but no sooner than we got my dad's wall tent set up and it dumped 2 inches of snow on us:
The forecast called for fresh snow every morning for the first 3 days of the hunt...perfect right? Well first morning had me and my buddy Mike (first big game hunt) and my buddy Ben (also a novice but had a deer seasoin under his belt and a GPS) hunting the same general area. We cut fresh elk tracks but due to circumstances couldn't get on any cows. We saw a bull and an elk we couldn't identify. Mike found a nice 6 point shed this day but we didn't see any cow elk.
Day 2: We hiked all day thru thick pinon pines with sparse cedars. Fresh snow made tracking possible, but the elk never seemed to slow down and pulled maneuvers that I swear they know they can be tracked in the snow. All we saw was 2 bulls all day, couldn't have shot either one of them. Here's a pic of Mike and I on day 2:
It was cold and we had a fog set in until 1030am or so. We had decided to hunt some more open country, but the fog took care of the view. Mike saw 3 cows ten minutes out of the truck but I never saw them. We didn't see beans the rest of the day, despite the great glassing area we found after the fog lifted:
Day 4: We sat and galssed the spot in the previous picture for the morning, then hiked during the day. Saw fresh tracks but no elk. We even gave Mike a GPS and split up so that we had 3 different hunters prowling...nothing. Didn't see an elk all day. Discouraging.
Day 5: Coldest day if the hunt, probably the coldest day we'll have all year. It was -2F when we left the truck:
We decided to all split up, figured more people trying to find elk the better. Mike went one way, Ben went another way and the were both the ways where we'd seen the most tracks and sign. I remembered my dad had mentioned a "knob ~0.5 miles from the truck" if you parked where we parked. Well I'd never been out that way but we had only old snow and the cold made it crunchy and noisy as heck. So I walked 1/2 mile south to keep warm and came to a ridge. I saw a "knob" stickign up a l;ittle ways so I said "what the heck, I can't sneak up on anything anyways, may as well hike up there and wait for something to walk by." So I hiked up there and not ten minutes later could see the body of an elk thru some trees. I could see a long way but thru thick stuff. Here's a view:
The snow was too noisy to sneak up on them, but if they headed just right for a clearing then I could hike to a ridge and be in range. IT took me 20 minutes to hike 200 yards to the ridge, trying to be quiet. I got the the spot overlooking the clearing and the closest point was like 80 yards, the furthest 266 yards. Feeling confident I could kill an elk at those distances I waited. Nothing showed up. Since I couldn't sneak on anything I headed back up the hill. Back at my perch I glassed up a cow elk across a ravine, I assumed that it was the same elk/herd and they had skirted the clearing and fed across the ravine. Again, being immobile because of the snow I decided to wait. I glassed the north side a long time, and when I turned back to the south maybe 30 minutes later I could see with my naked eye several elk feeding up thru the clearing I had just sneaked to (~500 yards away from me now)!!! dang!! I counted 5 elk thru my binoculars before I thought to myself "get back to shooting position you idiot!!." So I clambered back down, the snow was softer from the sun by this time but I followed my old tracks. As I approched my original spot I could see elk in the clearing. I put my binocs up and sure enough one of the cows had me pegged. dang!!! I was literally 15 yards from a tree to take a rest on, I considered just running up there and shooting but I waited. After a few minutes that elk just went back to eating like she had never seen me (anybody who has hunted much has seen this behavior). When she did that I walked up to the cedar tree, took a rest and coincidentally the only elk standing broadside was the cow that had seen me earlier. I estimated 300 yards as she was in the furthest part of the clearing and I wasn't quite up to my original spot and leveled on her back. My trusty 30-06 barked, I heard the bullet WHAP! and she went right down. Turns out she was ~275 yards which is my longest shot to date. Her calf just stood there dumbfounded (as they often do when they don't know who's shooting) and I cussed that none of my buddies were there to fill his tag. I made my way down there and finished her off with my pistol. I got them on the radio and they came to me so I could show them how to gut an elk. Nice healthy cow I shot:
As we were gutting my elk were heard 5 shots, sounded just about as fast as an average hunter could work a bolt and miss an elk 5 times at ~500 yards. Mike said "you think that was your sister?"
Me: "Nah, probably some A-hole emptying his gun 5 times at an elk too far away. My sister can't fling lead that fast."
Well it turns out is WAS my sister, she had driopped my dad's rifle the day before so she was packing the 30-30. Lever actions work quick and she can fling lead with the best of them. She wounded a calf with her last shot in the volley (the elk was ~100-150 yards when she was shoting) and they had good tracking snow. Good thing, she caught up to it awhile later and finished it off. NOt the best way to get them, but it worked out. She is 3 for 3 with elk tags. Here's a photo of my lead slingin' sister:
It took us 5 days to put a COW ELK down! Tough hunt, so we celebrated a bit that night. We hit the whiskey kinda hard I admit. Nothin' better than tipping elk over!!!
Day 6 we saw elk twice (Mike and I, Ben had to go home empty handed the night before). We couldn't connect onm them and Mike decided to go back to camp early, tie one on and sleep in. He threw in his towel. After a few drinks that night I talked him into a morning hunt on his last day and we had a good feeling. We'd seen more elk the lst 2 days than ever and I thought we were on the right track. As we were driving in to our parking spot the last morning Mike said "there's some elk" right at daylight (not 0.5 miles from our parking spot. He got out, leveled on a cow and pulled the trigger. I saw her stumble and as the other elk ran away (a herd of 15-20, more elk than we'd seen all hunt) I saw her rump go down and legs kick up. 7 days of hunting and it paid off! It's not as fun sahooting them by a road but we weren't gonna pass up an opportunity, We hunted hard all season and were happy for the gift. Here's Mike and I with his first big game animal, on his first big game hunt. Nothing beats putting a man on his first elk. Just look at that smile!!!
Mike shot himself a beautiful, healthy cow elk and he couldn't be happier. That's a whole lotta meat and a helluva payday. I'm proud of my friends, they hunted hard and didn't complain about the cold. They appreciate the meat (you can't beat elk meat) and I can't explain my exhileration of putting 2 of my good freinds on their first elk in the same year. I love to hunt elk and won't ever give it up. This was a darned tough cow hunt, and we did pretty well. Mike learned a good lesson on persistence, and I'm happy for that. I truly believe he's gonna be a great elk hunter someday. We both surmised that we are meant to go and do stuff like this, and not sit at a computer screen all day (which is what we both do for a living). There is nothing in this world like seeing an elk go down after putting so much time, effort, and planning into a hunt. It's fun to just get out, but it's more fun to be successful. We were beaming picking up camp that last day.
Our family did well this year, we filled 3 out of 3 elk tags and we will be eating great all year. That's the way we like it. Can't wait for what next year brings. Happy hunting folks.