Too Good to be True

By Josh Epperson
Arizona, DIY, Public Land

Josh Epperson - Too Good to Be TrueNovember/December 2012 EBJ (Issue 74) - On opening morning I found myself in the pop-up blind around 4:30 a.m. I wanted to be there early because I’d gotten several pictures on my trail camera of a beautiful 350 inch six-point bull several mornings in a row and I didn’t want to mess it up. As I got within about a quarter-mile of the waterhole I started to hear bulls bugling. They were very close to my blind and I knew getting to it in the darkness of early morning without my flashlight was going to be tough.

I made the last couplehundred yards in about 20 minutes because I could just barely see. I got in the blind with high hopes of that big bull walking by me just after dawn. Listening to all the bugles, I could hear a bull raking a tree a hundred yards away, and could also hear elk splashing around in the water. As it started to get light I could tell that the elk were already moving the opposite direction from me. That’s when I talked with my friend, Chris Gravatt. He was sitting about a mile from me glassing and told me there were a few elk across the small canyon 400 yards away and that he could make out what looked like a good bull with some cows. About 10 minutes later he called me again and said, "Hey man I think this bull is big and you should come take a look!” I said that I was committed to my spot till around 7:00 just in case that big six-point and his cows came by. Once it got light enough to see what he was looking at, Chris called me again and said, "You really need to get over here ‘cause this bull blows that one you’re waiting for away! He’s at least 370, but probably bigger!” I needed to go take a look for myself.

I got to a vantage point about 20 minutes later and could easily see the bedded bull laying under a juniper tree. I quickly found some shade and sat down to get a better look. My eyes about popped out of my head when I saw its left side and I instantly thought it was a 200-inch antler! It was a typical sevenpoint side with a 12-inch cheater coming off the fifth tine! I couldn’t see the right side all that well since I was shaking and breathing hard from the hike, so I excitedly made my way over to Chris. He had the binos on the tripod and I knew I had to get a better look at this beast!

I finally crept to the edge where Chris was perched and scooted in behind his binos. This bull was HUGE! I soon realized that his right antler was coming off the front of his head at an odd angle and that it only had one small eight-inch eyeguard on it with no real sign of a G2 at all, other than an inch-long bump where it normally should’ve grown. It had the same seven-point look to it and a big, wavy third tine sticking up high in the air. Of course we couldn’t help but run the numbers. We came up with around 380 or so, but we knew we were being conservative.

We sat there in awe, admiring this bull for literally half the day. The four eventually got up from their beds around 11:00 and wandered off the slope a couple hundred yards. We slipped off the backside of the ridge and came out just across the bottom of the elk about 200 yards away. We got some great pictures and video from there, but knew that the wind was wrong to attempt anything further. After a half hour or so, the elk wandered back up the slope and bedded nearly in the same spot they’d been all morning. We hiked clear back up and around to watch them some more and wait for the right time to make a move. After a couple hours, the elk got up again and fed right back down where they’d been a while ago; I bailed off the ridge and crossed the bottom.

The wind was blowing up toward me perfectly as I snuck in on them. The bottom of the small canyon was choked with thick trees, which made visibility tough as I eased in slowly. Suddenly, I spotted the bull about 90 yards out as he was easing along keeping an eye on his cows. He drifted left just across the draw and behind some trees as I slipped in slowly another 40 yards. I could make him out in the trees and I heard something to my right. Standing there bug-eyed was a cow elk and she had me busted! I was camouflaged in some bushes, but she knew something wasn’t right and trotted over to the others as I sat there with the old familiar feeling of being busted again. The wind was still in my favor, but I decided to back out and hope for the best again tomorrow.

As it was getting light the next morning I was a sitting in the blind where I started out the day before. Around 7:00. I had a small 4x4 raghorn bull walk by me at 25 yards. It was something to look at but definitely wasn’t what I was hoping for. Chris got a hold of me again. "Guess who just showed up,” he said. "They’re in the same spot as you left them last night.” I bailed out of the blind and made my way back to him. They fed right up the same slope and bedded within 50 yards of where they did yesterday! The bull was first to bed as the cows kept feeding. He was lying there breathing heavy from a long night of running around keeping his cows in check.

Josh Epperson - Too Good to Be True

For a full account of Josh's adventure, go to page 22 in the November/December 2012 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.