Arizona, 2008, DIY, Public Land
There it was... finally! The first bugle of the morning resonated through the tall pines like a sharp whistle-blast. This first bugle was answered almost immediately by another larger sounding bugle. I immediately headed out. What would turn out to be the most intense and exhilarating two and a half hour period in my nearly 50 years of hunting had just begun.
Skirting the water-filled pockets in the swampy creek bottom and then hurrying up the opposite ridge, I hoped I had made the right decision in moving to this new area for the second morning of the hunt. The bulls had been screaming days earlier, but the temperature had climbed each day prior to this hunt opener in late September, and the woods had been unseasonably quiet for the past 48 hours.
Within 200 yards I cut a large set of tracks and smoking hot droppings, and soon spotted the bull feeding alone. He was a beautiful 340-class bull, mature and big, just not big enough. After all, my hunt unit bordered the legendary White Mountain Apache Reservation. Besides, it had taken me 17 years since moving to Arizona's high country to draw a trophy bull tag in my backyard, and I was determined to take a Boone & Crockett bull or none at all.
Within minutes I had picked out a dominant sounding bugle and was heading that way. Down the backside of that ridge, through another wide creek bottom, then halfway up the next ridge, I spotted activity near the top. There was thrashing, screaming, and short bursts of frantic movement in the trees. The rutting was clearly hot and heavy on the summit. As I gained ground, a raghorn 6x6 bailed off the top and crossed in front of me, bugling as he moved down the slope. I could tell there was a herd bull up there, bugling, tending cows, tearing up trees and turf while chasing away lesser bulls. A large whitish body materialized in the brush, and I strained to get a look at his rack. When he stopped, I ranged him at 153 yards, but still could not see his antlers clearly.
When I thought it was safe, I moved up and spotted another satellite bull but then the big bull rushed in to push him away. On my next advance, I caught movement off to my left, and there stood two cows watching me 40 yards away. Busted! As I turned to look at them, one blew an alarm, and instantly elk were running everywhere.
After things quieted down, I moved up and discovered elk city, with fresh stinky beds and thrashed trees. I sat down to rest a bit and plan the next move. Within a few minutes I could hear bugling off in the distance, then a few more closer, then a really good growly sounding one followed by a challenging reply. It was time to move again!
Mindful of the wind, I headed for the nearest big bugle. As I moved into the next drainage, it sounded like the closest bugle was now moving away while the more distant bugle was getting closer. I changed direction and set a course to intercept this one.
For a full account of Tony's adventure, go to page 28 in the June/July 2009 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.