View Full Version : Part 2: AZ Antlerless Elk (Pic Heavy)

December 17, 2011, 12:52 AM
Well after the bull hunt (story here: http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=631000) 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:

Day 3:

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:

December 17, 2011, 12:53 AM
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 hell. 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)!!! DAMN!! 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. DAMN!!! 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 dropped 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.


December 17, 2011, 12:10 PM
Congrats on a great season, elk hunting is something that is on my bucket list and with stories like yours it just makes me want to go on an elk hunt even more.

December 17, 2011, 09:24 PM
Great pictures and great story. Congrats on a great elk season.

December 22, 2011, 12:36 AM
What an "Awesome Hunt" with some great pic documentation.
I am soooo jealous !! You all did great !! Thanx for sharing !!
I am still a virgin after three seasons under my belt, the modern firearm
season in western washington is three points or better in the areas that I
hunt. I may try muzzleloader next season (can take a cow or spike).

the blur
December 23, 2011, 09:38 PM
Do they get skittish when they see you 200 yards away ?

December 23, 2011, 10:44 PM
Do they get skittish when they see you 200 yards away ?
Generally yes, that's more than close enough for them to bolt. These are not stupid animals, they are very wary. They were pretty spooked on this hunt, having been run around by hunters since September. The cow that saw me must have just gotten a glimpse of the sun on my scope or something. When I looked back from where she lay to where I shot her from, I couldn't believe she had even started to pick me out on that hill. Very thick stuff. If she had actually seen me, she would have been gone and I never would have gotten a shot.

Of course if it isn't hunting season they will stand there all day at 50 yards and hardly care about you at all. I'm sure we've all experienced that!

the blur
December 24, 2011, 06:59 AM
I wonder if they see hunter orange... I know more than 1 deer seen me wearing orange.

December 24, 2011, 09:14 AM
Great story and pics! You could write for hunting magazines! You made me wish I was part of your group, camping out, etc. And you didn't need giant racks to make the hunt a success and fun! ;)

I hate that we have to wear blaze orange that flashes, and glows and lights up the woods. How do elk react if they see blaze? Or maybe they NEVER see blaze because you don't have to wear it?

December 24, 2011, 10:09 AM
How do elk react if they see blaze? Or maybe they NEVER see blaze because you don't have to wear it?

Don't know, I don't wear it! I'm told it doesn't stick out to them like it does to us, but I wear camo anyway. AZ is mostly state land and there is more land than hunters, generally. No need for blaze orange in my opinion.

December 24, 2011, 10:24 AM
Great write up!

What part of AZ were you hunting?


December 24, 2011, 10:29 AM
About 10 miles south of the grand canyon.

December 24, 2011, 10:55 AM
i live in phoenix and i enjoyed your story and all the pictures. looking forward to reading about your future hunts.

December 24, 2011, 11:12 AM
Beautiful area. One of my old stompin grounds. From the pics, I wasn't sure if you were in the area near Springerville or not.

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