Well let me just start out by letting everyone know that I am by no means a great hunter. I am trying to get to that point. I just recently started trying to switch from recreational hunter to being a serious hunter. My father recently purchased some property around Heber AZ, in unit 4B. The purpose of the purchase was so we would be able to setup a permenate camp that will hopefully become a cabin soon. He decided to purchase there so we could hunt Deer and Elk. Since he purchased the property we put in for 4B in the draw for the late hunt due to my work schedule. We got lucky and got drawn, I guess the 5 bonus points we had probably helped as well. So from there I got serious into looking into everything about Elk hunting. I read a book and anything I could find online to help since we didnít have the money to hire a guide and since we have hunted deer, I thought how much different can this be. I decided I would also upgrade to a more powerful rifle. My .308 would probably due but I wanted some knock down power and the ability to shoot to about 400 yards and still be able to put an Elk down. So I went out and bought a off the shelf brand new Howa 1500 chambered in a .300 WSM. I sighted the rifle in and did a little practice shooting with and and then I became ready to hunt, or at least thatís what my ego and pride were telling me.
Well my father has yet to try and make the transition from recreational hunter to serious hunter, plus he tries to keep the family involved. He brought my sister and mother along for a camping trip during the hunt. By no means the way I wanted to start my serious hunting career. But family first rightÖ Well anyway we got to the property on the afternoon of first day of the hunting season which was 2 days late if you ask me. But we got the camp set which was easy since he has a trailer there and all the gear is pretty much left in it. We did the normal cleaning of the trailer and went to bed.
So the first day we got up too early and went to a spot where during my research looked good to hunt and where we had seen some elk earlier that year. The main problem with that was that we didnít find Elk but we did find plenty of hunters. I personally do not like hunting around other people if at all possible. I have a great fear of Dick Cheney hunting out there and shooting me due to the fact I am not as slim as my days in the Marines. So we didnít get in a very good morning hunt that day and went to another spot that seemed promising to me and where we had spoked a couple of Cows prior, and again all we found were more people. I guess we had the same plan as everyone else or they must have cheated off my research, I donít know. We decided to take a hike and see what we could see and didnít spot a thing. Plenty of sign but still no Elk. So we drove around that and I got even more discouraged in the places that I had chosen for elk hunting. So we headed back to camp to go over our topo maps and come up with a new plan.
On the way back we jumped a mule deer buck 5x5 that had to have at least a 30 inch spread, then we both realized that it was on my dads property and my Mother and sister had a huge fire going not more then 500 yards away. I still donít understand how I buy all the scent blocking supplies and never go near a fire in my hunting gear so as not to spook deer and then there a nice buck jumps, maybe he was curious as to who moved in on his property. Too bad deer season wasnít open. Well back to the Elk hunt. So the first day was a bust, as I could see it, and so I studied my maps and decided on 2 spots to hunt the next day and both were not accessed by roads. I hoped to get away from other hunters. The crack of 0500 came and my father and I got up to go get our Elk. We parked the truck and sat there waiting for some light to appear, since we were not too familiar with the new area, then headed out. We hiked most of the morning and sat at a couple of spots seeing plenty of elk and deer sign. Still there was not a single elk to be seen. So we headed back to camp and hung out till the afternoon hunt. When it was time to head out my father decided to rest up a little bit and spend time with the family. He has been getting treatments that the Doctor said had most people laid up in a bed after about 3-4 months and some donít even finish the 6 months worth. Well this was month 5 and my father being tuff as nails and stubborn like a mule I decided to leave him be.
So since this was to be a serious hunt for me I headed out to my other spot. It was another area where all the roads were closed into a water tank. They had been closed by the BLM and there were a couple of good meadows back there. So I hiked back in there staying about 3/4 up the ridges to see if I could find a Bull sitting on a bluff resting. I got a little discouraged and decided it would be a good time to pray to see if the good Lord would like to help me on this hunt. So I took my moment and prayed for some help as fervently as possible. Right after that about 1/4 of a mile further on my hike I came across a real nice Elk shed. So I marked it on my GPS and tied the shed to my pack and put my jacket over it. I wasnít too concerned about getting shot since I had walked 5 miles back into this area and had not seen a soul. As the day went on I decided it was time to start heading back so I stayed right in the tree line to see if I could pick up a Bull heading out into a meadow to feed before the night.
On my way back I went to the spot where I picked up the shed and headed back to the tree line from there and 5X5 Bull Elk jumped out of the tree line about 300 to 320 yards in front of me. He walked about 20 yards into the meadow and started feeding, perfectly broadside to me. I got down into a prone position and put my sights on him. I actually calmly put my rifle on him slowly breathing and adjusted my BDC for the distance and slowly and steadily pulled the trigger, just like my father and the Marines taught me. The first shot hit him and he dropped but then he jumped back up. He took about 1 wobily step and stopped. By now my breathing control was not working at all and my hands were shaking so bad from the adrenaline I had to take a few seconds to take my next shot. So I reloaded and took my next shot, and of course since I really didnít get my breathing or hand shaking down I missed. But the Bull didnít move it just stood there. So I reloaded and really took my time for the next shot, I started forcing myself to breath slower and calmed my hands down. I hit him again and he dropped and did not get up this time. I think God had a hand in that second shot since my adrenaline was still pumping too much. So with the Elk down I got my cell phone out to see if I had a signal and I sent a text home letting my wife and a couple of friends know I got my Elk. I waited for what seemed like an etournitiy but was only like 15 min and headed for him. I had to go take a look before the sun set. So I marked my shot location on my GPS and walked toward the elk and found him just before the light was gone. I marked that position with the GPS and decided instead of trying to quarter this Bull down by my self I would go back and get my father to help. Especialy since I didnít know how close we would be able to get the truck to the elk. Well I got my father and my sister wanted to come so we headed back to the elk. Which I was able to drop 5 miles as a bird flies from my dads Camp on his property.
Since it was night time the closest I could get to the elk was 1.84 miles again as a bird flies. There just happened to be 3 small ridges. So when we got to the Elk my sister took a picture of my father and I which I believe shows the exact expression on both of usÖWhich was holy cow this isnít going to be like packing a deer out. So since my sister works in a vet office and often helps during autopsies on animals she was a tremendous help while I was gutting the elk, holding the legs and explaining to me every thing that was in the elk, all the layers of skin, and what I had just taken out. I never would have expected that from my sister. But we got him gutted and then decided to go back to camp and pack him out in the morning since it was 19 degrees out, and we could come back completely rested and ready. Plus I wanted to find an easier and closer way to the elk. We got the Elk cooling and it was freezing out so I was not that concerned about the meat.
The next morning we got the truck about 1.5 miles away. We spoke to a nice hunter with a quad that offered to help and use his 4x4 quad to get the Elk out. But my Father being proud and prideful men, and me thinking about when I used to carry like 50-80 pounds on my back climbing up and down mountains in the Marines decided we didnít need the help and that we were up for the challenge. No calls were made, no attempts to get help we just manned up and made one of the worst mistakes of our lives. Then we proceeded to hike to the Elk to pack him out on our backs. For some reason my father and I looked at each other and stated we are both Marines so we can get this Bull out without help. We ended the day completely exhausted. I didnít even know if my legs were still there since they were so numb. We decided after that we would never let pride take over and that we would get some 4x4 quads, or call some buddies, or even set our pride aside and take some help from a friendly hunter. I thought my working out the 3 months before the hunting trip would be enough. I was sadly mistaken. I now have continued to work out and do as much cardio as possible to get back down to the Lean Mean Marine weight I once was, for my neck hunt. After the experience I wouldnít mind dropping another Elk and backpacking him out, as long as I was smart enough to have some friends waiting on standby. After the trip when we got home and told everyone about the ordeal they all asked why we didnít call them for help. Never again will I make that mistake. As a first timer I would just like to recommend to anyone that is planning to pack out an Elk make sure you are in shape for it. Which, I am not sure if there really is such a thing when you are packing an Elk out. Some advice if you decide to go back into the country to get an Elk and pack it out. It would recommend to start getting in shape now. Have a few buddies that you can count on ready to come up if you drop your elk. Its was all worth it too me, and next time I will be better prepared. I am glad to have found this site as well as I also would like to get even more serious about my comfort zone in distance shooting. Plus I am now considering getting a semi custom .338 for long range elk hunting.