Floods and Fires

By Scott Hettinger
Arizona, 2011, DIY, Public Land

Scott Hettinger - Floods and FiresJuly/August 2012 EBJ (Issue 72) - What seemed like a slam dunk turned into a whiff. I am a Minnesota Vikings fan and have been my whole life, so when the bull turned away my first thought was it’s just like the Vikings versus Saints in 2009. I was sure we were going to the Super bowl that year. I was so excited and then Brett Favre threw the interception. My heart sank and that was the feeling I had with this bull. However, unlike the football game, my luck was about to change as I drew my bow.

The spring of 2011 was one of the wettest on record in North Dakota and the Midwest in general. The Missouri River went out of its banks and flooded my house. We spent the whole month of May sandbagging my house, moving all our belongings out and storing them elsewhere. My family and I had to move out and live in the basement of our friend’s house. We were lucky; some people had no place to live. I was supposed to go on a spring bear hunt the first week of June, but the ever increasing Missouri River ruined that for me. Every day was spent trying to save our house from the flood. I wasn’t thinking about elk hunting so much anymore.

To add insult to injury one day when I was in my chest waders fixing my sandbag dike, I got a call from Greg Busch, a friend of mine who was helping us prepare for Arizona. Greg had hunted Arizona a couple years back and did very well. He killed a beautiful 6x6 bull and he had a lot of good information. Greg asked me if I had been following the news on the wildfires in Arizona. I said I had not and had been a little busy saving my home! He proceeded to tell me that Unit 1 was on fire and it wasn’t looking good. The whole unit was engulfed in flames and uncontrolled. The Wallow fire, as it was named, turned out to be the largest wildfire in Arizona’s history. Luckily they were able to save the people and the towns, but Unit 1’s landscape was forever changed.

The initial report was that there was a good chance hunters would not be allowed in the unit because of unsafe conditions. That was depressing because there we were with an archery elk tag in our pocket and we wouldn’t be able to use it. To add insult to injury, the Arizona Game and Fish Department said there would be no refunds or replacement tags. So it wasn’t looking good, but still I had bigger things to worry about it. It was now close to August and there was still water around my house and the Missouri River just was not going down. The Wallow fire reports started to get better, more and more parts of Unit 1 started to become open and by mid August most of the unit was open to hunting except three or four areas. That wouldn’t matter if the Missouri River didn’t recede and get back within its banks, as I still wouldn’t be able to go elk hunting!

Somehow we managed, with the help of a lot of people who we are very grateful to, to get things back in order and allow me to go on this special hunt. The trip was on and we left Bismarck, North Dakota on September 6, 2011 and drove straight through to Arizona where we would call home for the next two weeks. The Arizona Game and Fish had reported that the elk had moved back into the burned areas and were spread throughout the unit. We believed it because Jame’s dad and brother had made it out to scout for us and had seen a lot of elk and some nice bulls around the area, which was badly burned.

Scott Hettinger - Floods and Fires

For a full account of Scott's adventure, go to page 62 in the July/August 2012 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.