View Single Post
Old December 5, 2019, 01:01 AM   #1
Senior Member
Join Date: September 21, 2010
Location: az
Posts: 1,332
AZ Bull Elk Hunt 2019-Beating the Odds

Gonna have to do this one in installments I think. It's gonna be long-winded so fast forward to pics if you get bored.

Lotta bulls hit the dirt this week despite family obligations and lousy weather doing its best to keep us from success. We originally had 5 tags in camp but my good buddy Ben lost his Grandpa right before the hunt so he was unable to make it this year. We missed him badly and I hope to see him soon because it's been a few years since we've hung out. On top of that, we were snowed out of our normal hunting spot that is dynamite. We've spent years getting to know the area and perfected how to hunt it and we were excited to hit it this year but as the storm grew and snow predictions climbed, we decided it unwise to hunt that high and the Forest Service closed all the roads in anyway so we were forced to hunt a totally different part of the unit. Luckily I've spent the last two years horn hunting this part of the unit and while I haven't found much for horns I have seen bulls and taken the time to find glassing spots and kept this knowledge in my back pocket just in case we had to hunt it someday. I also picked the brains of a few friends who've hunted it so going in I had a rough game plan of what to do. I was the only one in the hunting party that had really been in this area before but we had some good guys coming to help and we had good hunters so I still predicted good success. Despite the bad luck so far I was determined not to let it get me down. We had bull elk tags and were gonna kill bulls, different spot and inclement weather be damned. We had 4 tags to fill, myself, my brother Tate, my friends Casey and Clark.

My dad and brother and I set up camp a day early to beat the storm. They were calling for 1-3 feet of snow in and around our usual spot and 6-12 inches where we were actually going to hunt. But we got set up, two wall tents and a bunch of stove wood cut and we waited for the storm and the cavalry to arrive. My buddy Clark rolled in after dark and we had some beer and caught up.

Picture of camp:

Thursday before the hunt (Thanksgiving) was rainy off and on, we spent the day scouting a new spot my neighbor told me about and cutting more wood. Since the bad weather was late Clark drove back to his family and had Thanksgiving. Just before the main storm hit we managed to find a few elk but no bulls except spikes. We had been forced into the high desert by the snow and this part of the unit just doesn't hold the same numbers of elk that our usual spot is known for and it was already showing. I had a somewhat uneasy night of sleep.The rain fell on the tent roof all night and I was eager to get to work...

Day 1

It rained all night Thursday night and just before dawn Friday it finally turned to snow. We had a few inches for the morning hunt and it would snow off and on the whole day

We parked the two trucks together and made a plan on where to hunt. I showed my dad and brother on Google maps the area and terrain I thought they should still-hunt that I call my secret canyon, a spot I'd kicked up numerous bulls while horn hunting and Clark and I would hunt the other side of my secret canyon and over to the next one. The first two hours produced nothing for either party, still hunting in the blowing snow. Visibility was low but the snow kept the noise down. I love still hunting when snow is falling, the serenity and stillness is beautiful.

The rifle I carried for this snowy still hunt was my high school graduation present from my dad. A Winchester Model 70 in 30-06, fixed 4x scope. I've been using my 300 WSM as my main big game rifle for about ten years now and 4 years ago on my last bull hunt my dad said something that really bugged me. He asked me if I was going to sell the old '06 since I never use it anymore. He didn't mean it as a dig but it hurt my feelings he thought I'd ever sell it. I'd been thinking about that comment he'd made 4 years ago a lot last couple months and made sure the rifle was ready to rock. I really wanted to kill a bull with it so my thoughts on the weather this day was that it was perfect.

At about 9am we hadn't seen any elk or any fresh sign as we made our way up to the next canyon. Visibility was poor across the canyon as the snow fell pretty hard so we took refuge in a patch of trees and wondered what to do. My plan for the rest of the day was thin. So we sat there for a spell and truthfully I was wondering what to do. I was taking a leak when Clark called my name. I was clearly busy so I didn't respond and when he called it again I knew that he wasn't looking at me and knew by his tone that he had elk. I zipped up and turned around and sure enough he had a spike bull feeding across the canyon. He was just feeding down below our visibility line so I said let's go sneak to the left and see if he's with any bigger bulls. We made it about 100 yards, I was trying to keep trees between us and him wen Clark spotted two more bulls off to our right that we hadn't seen in our first spot. So we backed out and went back to our previous spot and could now see there were actually three bulls. They were all small six points, the best one had busted his left side after his fourth. They were spread out maybe 200 yards apart in a line, mowing down the cliff rose on the opposite side. Their antlers were covered white with accumulated snow and they were feeding vigorously. Picture perfect. I had originally figured on holding out for a 300" type bull for the first 5 days but between all the circumstances of the hunt, the circumstances of the morning and the rifle I was using, I said yeah Clark let's double up right now on these bulls. The stalk was on.

They were about 400 yards from us originally. We were only confident to 300 yards with the rifles we had so we kept backing out and coming up to the rim. Finally we came to 300 yards and as we did I realized I had mistook the reference bull on the far left for the bull on the far right. Crap. Sure enough I got glass on them and the one in the middle had us pegged. He stood there watching, antlers up and white and covered in snow. Busted. The other two were still oblivious. Clark got prone in shooting position but I had to clear a few scrub junipers to have the lane. Since the other two bulls hadn't seen us and the alert bull didn't seem too spooked I decided to just walk over the 5 yards I needed to and figured he'd probably let me. I did that, and he didn't like it. He started to walk up and out and the other bull started to follow. Clark was ready, I got ready, his bull on the left and mine in the middle (the one who busted me). I let out a bad cow chirp with my voice and they froze broadside and stood proud waiting for the oncoming volley. They got it. I leveled just below the back and let one rip and missed. He started to leave again and I stopped him again. By now I was pissed about almost blowing my opportunity and was going to make this next one count. I was steady on the sticks, I held again and squeezed. This time I heard the WHOP and he took about three steps behind a big cliff rose bush and his antlers disappeared and I could see legs kicking. Bull down. I swung over to Clark's bull to see what was happening there and after a couple shots we had two bulls down. I guided Clark in to his from across the hill and he confirmed we had two dead bulls about 200 yards apart. My dad and brother came to us to help.

Clark's bull turned out to be a 6x7. He's a happy camper:

Here's mine:

Clark's bull's antlers were especially snowy, he got a pic before we dusted him off:

We spent the rest of the day boning elk and hanging quarters in trees and making trips to the truck. My dad and brother found a two tracker that made the remaining pack-outs easier but it was certainly a lot of work. Luckily reinforcements found their way to camp. My buddy Paulie from NY made the trip to help us, Casey (tag holder #4) and Jeremy (Clark's buddy) showed up after dark to help us drink a few victory beers and hear the day's tales. Camp was now complete. We had 7 guys, 6 more days, and two more tags to fill.

To be continued...
"When there’s lead in the air, there’s hope in the heart”- Hunter’s Proverb
"Feed me, or feed me to something. I just want to be part of the food chain." -Al Bundy
huntinaz is offline  
Page generated in 0.02847 seconds with 8 queries