May/June 2013 EBJ (Issue 77) - At nearly two miles away, the bull looked huge, energetically tending to his harem as they fed across the mountain. As I peered through the spotting scope I watched as the giant bull began to destroy a helpless juniper. While I was watching the show I caught movement just left of the bull as he continued to take out his frustration. It took me a second to realize it was my dad and he was at full draw on the largest bull he’d ever had a chance to harvest. Years of persistence and dedication were about to pay off.
As a young boy I grew up following my father through the mountains of our home state of Arizona. Some of my fondest memories are of the times we spent chasing the bugling bulls of Arizona. We are blessed to live in a state that continually produces giant elk every year, if you can draw a tag. My younger years were spent learning everything I could from my father. As I grew up my responsibilities increased and I had less time to spend hunting with my dad. Make no mistake, I still hunted a lot but it was difficult to coordinate my schedule with my dad’s.
With Arizona elk tags becoming harder and harder to draw I decided that the next time my dad drew an elk tag I was going. As luck would have it I checked the Arizona draw results in late March and found that my dad had drawn a great archery elk tag. Although the area my father had drawn has a tremendous amount of public land the majority of the elk are on a few large private pieces. Immediately after learning of dad’s success I contacted my good friend Chad Smith, owner and operator of Vaquero Outfitters. Chad has access to one of the best pieces of elk country in the state of Arizona and he manages it for some huge bulls. Chad immediately knew why I was calling and Dad was set to hunt with Chad for the first week of the hunt.
With over thirty elk harvested with a bow my dad is no stranger to elk hunts but there was something special about this hunt from the beginning. Dad immediately began honing his skills by shooting every day. Regularly we would get updates from Chad talking about how the ranch was looking and what bulls were starting to show up. The anticipation and expectations for this hunt were building.
Finally, September 13th found me following my dad into camp. We arrived a day early, allowing us to have enough time to scout that afternoon. We were greeted in camp by Chad and our guide Aaron. After getting things situated in camp it was off to look for elk.
It did not take long and I was peering through my Swarovski spotting scope looking at a bull that would easily surpass the 360” mark – not bad for the first bull of the trip. As the sun faded the bugling began to increase. There is something spectacular about the bugle of the bull elk in the fall. After watching the 360 bull for nearly twenty minutes we moved in hopes of finding a true giant.
As the sun was dropping below the horizon I spotted what appeared to be a great bull way up on a large mountain. Due to the poor lighting it was impossible to evaluate the bull, but I knew where I would be the next morning.
Opening morning found me perched high up on a mountain overlooking miles of cedar and juniperchoked ridges. While I was attempting to locate a giant my dad was working his way through the bugling bulls. The bulls were screaming but nothing worthy of my dad’s tag was located.
Mid-morning I repositioned and began to look for the bull we had seen the night before. It did not take long to find him. The sun was beaming off his giant antlers as he bugled continuously. The bull was so far away that I could see he was bugling but I could not hear it. I began to evaluate the bull and I quickly realized he was what Dad was looking for. I took out my camera and began to get more than twenty minutes of video footage through my spotting scope. Finally, the bull worked his way into a thicket and bedded for his afternoon siesta.
For a full account of Skip's adventure, go to page 38 in the May/June 2013 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.