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#2891762 - 12/05/15 12:10 PM 2015 AZ Bull Hunt
huntinaz Offline
Die Hard Member II

Registered: 12/11/08
Posts: 1023
Loc: Flagstaff AZ
Just got back from my bull elk hunt and it was everything I hoped it would be. A few years ago I made the decision to stop putting in for cow hunts second choice because I wanted to shoot a bull again. Hunting cows is fun and I love the meat but bull elk is my favorite thing to hunt and I wanted one for myself. Also my wife has been helping me put meat in the freezer for a couple years now so waiting 3-5 years for a late rifle bull tag was not a big a deal.

We had 3 tags in camp total, my sister in law and my hunting buddy Ben were also drawn. It'd been a few years since any of us in the family had drawn a bull tag and we were pretty amped up for it. We camped in the old honey hole after my brother had gone scouting and seen several good bulls there. I scouted numerous days in other areas of the unit but could never find any large bulls.

Thanksgiving day found us in the woods getting camp set up and scouting the evening. From the glassing spot that evening we saw ~50 cows but I don't recall seeing any bulls.

Day 1:

We started the hunt on top of a ridge glassing a large area. Right away while I was galssing a herd of cows trying to find a bull my little brother found a bull by itself and him and my SIL headed after it. They blew the stalk after getting within 100 yards. On their way back I glassed a herd of 15 cows and a spike. My SIL was not picky about a bull, she wanted to get one and get out so I guided them into that and again the stalk was blown. They could have shot most of the cows but the spike stopped behind a tree.

By 11am Ben and I decided to hike the ridge back a ways towards camp because we've seen bulls up there before. As soon as we left a herd of 9 bulls came thru a large clearing about 2 miles away but were heading towards a spot we could see. My little bro and SIL headed for them and met them 3/4 mile from our hill. She dusted the lead bull because it gave a good shot but one of the bulls was way bigger. She got a nice one though:




After taking care of her elk we found a herd of 30 elk about a mile out so Ben and I stalked closer to see what kind of bulls were in there. We ended up right in the herd and there were 4 spikes. One fed broadside at 120 yards but Ben passed hoping for a bigger elk. Ben is strictly a meat hunter, he really doesn't care about antlers, he was literally holding out for a bigger body! However he had not killed a big game animal yet and I explained how good the opportunity was and that if we get it again he should think about taking it.

Day 2:
My mom and sister and brother in law came to camp and glassed with us for day 2. My mom had never been to elk camp but decided to check it out this year. Ben was already regretting his decision to pass on the spike the night before so the morning found him chasing spikes again with my brother but no luck. I was having a hard time finding bulls on day 2 until the afternoon we got on a herd of 6 small bulls a long way out. We stalked on them but lost them. On the way back to the truck before dark we jumped two small bulls together, both in the 4-5 point range. I had decided not to shoot one but as one bull walked through a clearing away from me I scoped him and he had 5 on his left side... I snapped off a shot aiming for the back of his neck. They ran away, we looked for blood but found none. I aimed for the neck knowing he'd flop or not and I was glad I missed. I really didn't want that bull anyway on day 2 so I'm pretty disappointed in myself for the whole deal. I'm mad I missed (I don't like missing) and I'm mad I shot at him in the first place.

Day 3

Back at the glassing spot, we went after a huge herd of 100+ elk moving through the country but could not get on them. Elk move fast! My dad and brother and SIL left to get her elk home mid day. Ben was regretting his decision to not shoot the spike pretty hard now. I wasn't worried as we were seeing 100+ elk a day and numerous bulls, pulling 2-3 stalks a day. In the evening about 80 elk fed out into a large park so we stalked to the edge. After getting about 1200 yards from them I could only see 1 spike in the bunch and they weren't getting closer. They were safe out in the wide open and they knew it so we decided to still hunt back to the truck. After about a half mile we stopped for a minute and Ben spotted and elk standing broadside 120 yards away looking at us. It was a spike so Ben got on his sticks and ripped off a shot. The spike jumped and turned slowly to face away from us. I thought he was dead, he acted hit but was still standing facing directly away. I told Ben to put another one in him. His second shot crumpled the bull, right in the neck. Good thing he shot again, the first shot was a clean miss. Here's Ben's first elk! Pre '64 Model 70, open sights and unmodified, 30-06. It was his grandpa's rifle that has killed many a deer and elk, handed down and his dad never hunted it. That's a special feat in my opinion, I'm very proud of Ben's progression as a hunter:



Here is why we couldn't get closer to the herd, we were in the treeline at the bottom of the picture but they wouldn't come across. That open park is probably a mile wide:



Day 4:

Back at the glassing spot, late morning I spotted a nice bull making his way thru an area to our south. I put Ben on the binos/tripod and hustled out to get ahead of the bull. On the way Ben got on the radio and said there were two bulls, then 4 bulls, then 2 cows joined the bunch. Eventaully I found my way to them with Ben's guidance from the hill, I could see the cow and calf and then 2 bulls made their way down the fence line. The first was a small 5x6 and the second was a pretty good 6 point, didn't get a great look but a pretty good bull. I didn't have a shooting lane so I kept having to get to the next juniper tree, and every time the view was not as expected. I could not find a lane to shoot thru. At one point the 5x6 saw me and came to check me out. I had to freeze as he came to me through the trees, making his way to 75 yards behind stuff I couldn't shoot though. As I was debating if I would shoot him or wait to try and get a shot at the bigger one, I noticed I was shaking like a leaf! I figured if he could make me do that he was worth shooting. However, that bull walking just right so that I never had a shot and as he got behind a large juniper I tried to sneak around another for a shot. He busted me and away he went.

I got back up to the glassing spot and we glassed a very large bull about 2 miles away with not good way to get to him. He had about 100 cows with him that would have busted us and we decided to let him be and hoped he'd be in the AO tomorrow. My dad and brother had come back and showed up a few hours before dark. I stalked on 2 more bulls, one was a decent 6 point, but they were in thick stuff at the top of a hill and I could not get an angle for a shot.

Day 5

I was originally going to hold out for 6 days before filling a tag but everyone had to leave on day 6 except me and the freezer was low on meat and I decided that I wanted the meat more than a set of antlers so I was going to fill my tag if possible on day 5 while I had good help. Today was the day.

First light had me staging out centrally to our viewing area to save time on the stalks. Most of the elk we find from the hill are between 0.75 and 2 miles away, and then we have to cut the distance. Well first thing they had me after a herd of cows with a spike and small bull. I was getting closer but the elk spooked and I found 2 hunters on the hill above them. Next the guys found a large herd about 1.5 miles away from me. They couldn't see any horns but there are always at least a small bull with that many cows. Knowing it was a long way for probably just a spike I was not in a hurry to get there but started hunting my way there. Grumbling the whole way about "the point to me being down here is to save my legs, not wear me out on every herd of cows you see." :p

I didn't want to leave the area I was in because that's where we were seeing most of the decent bulls but I knew with that many elk there would be spikes and I was willing to get some meat. After I got half way to the big herd the guys got on the radio and said they had 4 bulls traveling the area I just came from! Grrrr. So I RAN back there to get ahead to them, they got me into a position the bulls were heading to and I found a spot where I had good lanes.The previous days stalks had me familiar with the area down below the glassing spot. It looks completely different once you get down there.

I got set up and ranged everything and made sure my turrets were correct. Bulls 1 and 3 were good bulls they said. No bulls appeared. I waited some more. This was it, I have 4 bulls heading right for me with good shooting lanes and I have to kill one today... No bulls. Finally I saw them at the end of my sight moving east. The guys got on the radio and said they had cut east. I started moving on them and the guys said they were spooking and heading down an old fence line. I got on the fence line thinking the bulls I had in the bag were getting away. This chance went from extremely promising to doubtful. [beeep]! As I headed north on the fence I heard on the radio "you're gaining on them." Just then I saw them at maybe 150 yards crossing the downed fence. The junipers were fairly thick but as I eased to my left to try to find them I could see the back half of a bull elk. They are so big and bright compared to cows, I knew he was one of them. I eased over to my left to get a full lane, he was standing alone, broadside at ~150-180 yards. I raised up the rifle knowing I had one change, a gift, at these bulls. I figured he was the lead bull but was willing at this point to shoot any of them. I got him in the Zeiss, his big body taking up much of the field of view, antlers glistening in the morning sun. I knew I had to hurry but make it count, I centered on his shoulder and squeezed one off. My vision broke for recoil but I heard that familiar WHAP when bullet meets animal although it was much fainter than normal. The bull just stood there. Then as I Loaded another shell he turned and ran back from where he came without a hitch. I saw at least 2 bulls run away thru a small clearing. I didn't know what to think. I was excited but the shot felt good, when the trigger broke it was a good elevation but I feared I had hit behind the shoulder. I was figuring either I lunged him good or possibly gutted him (bad). I got on the radio and the guys said they only saw 2 bulls run away, it was very thick and they didn't have a line of sight. As I eased to where the other bulls ran (figuring he would have headed to them) I saw elk hair below a tree. I raised the rifle and was 95% sure there was and elk laying there. I got on the binos and confirmed elk. I eased to my left and could see the head laying on the ground and antlers sticking up. BULL DOWN!

I got up to him and haven't been that excited about an animal in a long time. Turns out I hit him perfectly, right where I was trying to. Blew the top of his heart up and he only went 50 yards. As I waited for the cavalry to get to me I marveled at the animal, a small 6x6 (with a cheater on a brow tine to technically make him 6x7):






I am exceedingly happy to have gotten this one. I made the shot when it counted most, when I HAD to put this bull down. My standards were lowered at this point but this bull was on the small end of what I was going to shoot the first few days. The freezer will be full this year which is important to me. My dad and little brother were there and we all got to share the experience, I don't see enough of my little brother. I got to share 2 kills with my good friend Ben. We saw 500+ elk in 5 days and probably 50 bulls altogether. This was an amazing hunt for me to sum it up. I can't wait to do it again!



Edited by DesertRam (12/07/15 11:50 AM)
_________________________
"The crows seemed to be calling his name, thought Caw."


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#2891764 - 12/05/15 12:12 PM Re: 2015 AZ Bull Hunt [Re: huntinaz]
huntinaz Offline
Die Hard Member II

Registered: 12/11/08
Posts: 1023
Loc: Flagstaff AZ
Bonus material:

A view from our glassing spot, kind of a crappy pic. We can see square miles of country from here and elk move thru it. They move fast and getting on them is tricky, Even with radios and experienced hunters, stalk success in here is ~25%



Where is the heart located in an animal? Directly through the front leg and low.





I am used to eating elk meat all year and it's as important as the hunt to me. I do all the butchering, the family helps out:





The rifle I killed this bull with is a Nosler M48 in 300WSM. A Zeiss Conquest 4.5-14x50 sits on top. Hit him with a 180gr Nosler Accubond, 66.6gr AA3100 "the devil's load" wink
_________________________
"The crows seemed to be calling his name, thought Caw."


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#2891863 - 12/05/15 06:35 PM Re: 2015 AZ Bull Hunt [Re: huntinaz]
Yellowcat 12 Offline
Seasoned Member

Registered: 03/30/10
Posts: 321
Loc: Texas
Good story, thought I was there with you.

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#2891924 - 12/05/15 09:12 PM Re: 2015 AZ Bull Hunt [Re: huntinaz]
DesertRam Offline
Moderator

Registered: 04/26/01
Posts: 8783
Loc: Las Cruces, NM USA
All right! thumbup
_________________________
"A person is smart; people are dumb panicky dangerous animals and you know it." K as played by Tommy Lee Jones, Men In Black

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#2891948 - 12/05/15 10:11 PM Re: 2015 AZ Bull Hunt [Re: huntinaz]
Big-Bob Offline
Predator Master

Registered: 03/06/13
Posts: 66
Loc: Fallbrook Ca, Round Mountain N...
Amazing write up!
What zone were you in?
My buddies mom is from Camp Verde and drew a tag. Not sure what zone she got but I don't believe she ended up with an Elk.

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#2892011 - 12/06/15 01:11 AM Re: 2015 AZ Bull Hunt [Re: huntinaz]
Infidel 762 Offline
Moderator

Registered: 04/04/14
Posts: 6881
Loc: Okie
You guys were stacking them up! Congrats

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#2892181 - 12/06/15 01:54 PM Re: 2015 AZ Bull Hunt [Re: huntinaz]
tonyb Online
Die Hard Member

Registered: 01/29/11
Posts: 526
Loc: N.E. Colorado
Great story, nice bulls. The rewards look yummy!


Tony.

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#2892681 - 12/07/15 12:16 PM Re: 2015 AZ Bull Hunt [Re: huntinaz]
atd Online
Die Hard Member II

Registered: 04/07/11
Posts: 1178
Loc: Miami Beach
Great hunt! Sounds like a fun time. Like your buddies rifle.

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#2892686 - 12/07/15 12:23 PM Re: 2015 AZ Bull Hunt [Re: tonyb]
huntinaz Offline
Die Hard Member II

Registered: 12/11/08
Posts: 1023
Loc: Flagstaff AZ
Quote:
The rewards look yummy!


Indeed they are. First tenderloin hit the grill last night, over oak coals. Next one scheduled for today thumbup

_________________________
"The crows seemed to be calling his name, thought Caw."


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#2892758 - 12/07/15 03:28 PM Re: 2015 AZ Bull Hunt [Re: huntinaz]
DesertRam Offline
Moderator

Registered: 04/26/01
Posts: 8783
Loc: Las Cruces, NM USA
Now you're talking! Add a pinch of salt and away we go!
_________________________
"A person is smart; people are dumb panicky dangerous animals and you know it." K as played by Tommy Lee Jones, Men In Black

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#2893865 - 12/09/15 02:28 PM Re: 2015 AZ Bull Hunt [Re: huntinaz]
GC Online
PM Junkie

Registered: 04/21/01
Posts: 16444
Loc: Missouri
Dang that tenderloin looks good!
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Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.

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