The Search for Flattop

By Jon Yokley
Arizona, DIY, Public Land

Jon Yokley - The Search for FlattopNovember/December 2012 EBJ (Issue 74) - His name is Flattop. This is how we met.

It was March when draw results came out in Arizona for pronghorn. I couldn’t believe I drew a pronghorn tag in a premium unit. Arizona issues only four archery tags in this unit per year due to the scarcity of antelope in the area. Although the antelope are few, the quality is impressive. To take one of these majestic creatures, I knew I had to do my homework.

Hunting antelope in northwest Arizona can be very difficult,... depending on the water situation. This country is open and flat with sparse brush 16- to 18-inches tall, but there are areas with elevation changes to make a stalk possible. Needless to say, these animals are quite the challenge to take with a bow. I have had four tags in the last 12 years and produced only two successful hunts. Due to the antelope’s exceptional vision, a hunter can spend countless hours spotting and stalking these wary creatures with many unsuccessful attempts.

I decided to hunt this unit using a different strategy than I normally use. Knowing that the game is limited in that area, my plan was to put out trail cameras, study lunar charts, and use a ground blind at a water tank. I knew sitting at a water tank would test my patience, as I normally do not sit and wait.

In preparation for this hunt, I talked with three tag holders from previous years that took P&Y bucks from this unit. Since they are good friends, they told me where they had seen quality bucks the previous year. One pal told me the story of coming face to face with a rattlesnake while crawling through the brush taking photographs. The snake struck at his camera and left venom running down his camera lens. This reminded me how smart my decision was to sit in a blind. The next step was to find out who drew the other three tags in this unit. Since this is a small unit, I did not want to hunt someone else’s spot. As it turns out, one of the tags was drawn by a good friend of mine, Mike Riger. He is as passionate about the sport as I am, so we decided to work together. My final step was to obtain online lunar charts from the Farmers’ Almanac.

Six weeks prior to opening day, we began to scout. It was mid-July with temperatures in the low 100s, with humidity rising as monsoons built. I knew I had to keep an eye on the weather forecast to avoid being in an area with potential lightning strikes and flash floods. I started by glassing from a low mesa to get a general count of bucks and water tanks in our 10-square-mile unit. After two weeks of glassing, driving and hiking, Mike and I found six to eight potential P&Y bucks.

It was now time to put away my 3-D bow, and bring out my hunting bow. Throughout the year, I keep two bows set up at all times. One is specific for 3-D shoots with field tips, the other for hunting with broadheads. I keep my quiver loaded, and I shoot my bow three to five times per week, at various times of the day, all year long. This is extremely important so as to stay comfortable with the equipment and maintain muscle memory. I know when it is time to draw back on an animal, my bow is in perfect condition and my strength is there to comfortably draw back, hold and let off as often as I may need to get the right shot opportunity. I want my body mechanics to be unconscious movements so I can keep all my focus on the target animal, not on my equipment or my shooting technique.

Jon Yokley - The Search for Flattop

For a full account of Jon's adventure, go to page 14 in the November/December 2012 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.