September/October 2012 EBJ (Issue 73) - After fumbling over the keyboard on the Arizona Game and Fish website with hopes of what the 2011 elk and antelope draw had in store, I input my information. I was 28 years old and I had finally drawn my first trophy elk hunt. My last archery elk hunt was in 2006, and with the draw odds not in my favor on this 2011 hunt number, I couldn’t be any happier.
The anticipation never stopped in the months I had to wait to start this journey. It was always in the back of my mind. Hunting is what I live for. It’s in my blood. If you ask anyone I know, they’ll tell you that the Arizona Game and Fish has been extremely good to me as far as tags go. I’ve been called many a dirty name out of sheer jealousy.
I don’t believe in the saying, "don’t pass on anything the first day that you would take the last day.” With an amazing opportunity like this, everyone always asks you what you’re holding out for. Well, 360 was my answer, but I would have no shame in taking a 300-class bull the last couple of days. My last archery bull scored 355, and I’m a big fan of trying to beat my previous accomplishments. I’m also a huge fan of DIY. Even if I had the money, I would never hire a guide in Arizona. I’ve been outdoors with my family since I was old enough to walk, so the first thing I did when I drew was call my dad and my brother Richard. Together the two have had six or seven early tags in this unit, so the knowledge was definitely there and they would be a very good resource.
I left Phoenix about seven days before the hunt for the duration. The next morning as the sun came up my buddy Luke and I were perched on top of a great glassing spot. The scouting had begun. We scouted for the next two days in a very popular, well known area. There were quite a few bulls found on this scouting trip, but nothing I would wrap my tag around the first half of the hunt. Then the rain started. Unbeknownst to me, this rain would be a game changer and prove very useful in the weeks to come. I headed to my hometown and hung out for a couple more days waiting for the rain to stop. It didn’t.
Well as it turned out, my brotherin- law had a limited opportunity tag the same time as mine. My dad decided he would be more helpful going on his hunt. It was a little disappointing, but completely understood. It was a tough hunt. This left Richard and my longtime friend Brandon. We departed the day before the hunt. Heading in to the place we planned to camp, I realized that this might be one of the wettest hunts I would ever be a part of. It was a complete mess. Never-ending mud and puddles lined the roads. This may have affected the other hunters more than me. We like to use more of a run-andgun tactic on the early elk hunts. We keep the calling to a minimum, and use it only as a locator. Then we figure out the future path of the herd and cut them off. I think this leaves the fate more in the hands of the hunter than the bull.
Opening morning, like any opening morning, started early. Hopes were high, and anxiety was through the roof. We needed to get to a certain funnel that most of the elk would use at first light. This meant weeding through screaming bulls with only the moonlight as our guide. I think there’s one thing that is absolute in all elk hunters; when the bulls are ripping, we’re all on cloud nine. Richard, Brandon and I made haste on our way to the funnel. We got to a higher spot in the cedar scattered valley just in time to see the herd we were trying to cut off. They were about 600 yards in front of us moving quickly in the opposite direction of where we stood. Just like that, the morning hunt was over and the bugling ceased. There was a 345 to 350- class bull in the herd. There were two smaller bulls running in the herd as well. 350 is a great number, but not what I was after. We made a three to four mile loop back to the Jeep and headed back to camp until the evening hunt. That afternoon was poor as far as elk hunting goes. That night we got some hellacious rain, then hail. I could tell the weather was going to give us a run for our money. It would pour for about 30 minutes, then clear up for an hour, then rain again like clockwork for the next four days.
For a full account of Randy's adventure, go to page 34 in the September/October 2012 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.