Arizona, 2008, Guided
I wasn’t cold anymore. In the first hour of the first day of the 2008 Arizona late rifle hunt, I was standing over a 421-inch, 10x7 non-typical bull. My first elk.
There are many great places to hunt elk in Arizona and many great bulls. The reality, however, is that a bull like I took in northern Arizona is just one out of perhaps a million. Putting together that one bull with any one given hunter (like me!) on any one given day is like winning the lottery.
And it does take a big hand from Lady Luck to put a given hunter in the presence of such a rare prize. Our Arizona elk herd is robust enough that this can happen almost anywhere, but without question, some areas tend to produce bigger bulls than others.
During the past 31 years, I have been fortunate to do an awful lot of what we all love to do. It may take a wee bit of luck to see such a bull, but here’s something else: When the stars align and a hunter finds himself in the presence of a onein- a-million bull, it isn’t like the lottery at all. When that happens, chances for failure greatly exceed chances for success. Whether expert or beginner, that hunter must then do many things exactly right. If and when there is such a chance, will we pull it off? Some do. Big antlers do strange things to people.
Let’s go back three years. In 2005, for my 50th birthday, I was drawn for my first elk hunt in a unit north of Flagstaff. Wordof- mouth recommendations led me to J.P. Vicente, owner and operator of Big Chino Guide Service. J.P. set me up for a weeklong, one-on-one fully outfitted hunt. While it was a great week in beautiful high country, the result was no elk. We hunted hard, but drought conditions and a crowded field drove the elk completely nocturnal.
For three more years I applied to the Game and Fish lottery. In April 2008, I got notice that I had been drawn again in northern Arizona for the late rifle hunt starting the day after Thanksgiving.
Northern Arizona is big country, a mix of flat-to-rolling grassland prairie and rolling-to-mountainous pinyonjuniper habitat. Elevations run near 5,500 to 7,000 feet across most of the area. In the late season, scouting and hunting from hilltop observation points with powerful op-tics is highly recommended.
When I got the draw notice, I immediately called J.P. to set up the hunt. J.P. remembered that I had an unsuccessful hunt before, and did the right thing to take care of me this year. He set me up with his right-hand man, Johnny Casner. This corner of Arizona is Johnny’s backyard and he has had a tremendous success rate there.
For a full account of Robert's adventure, go to page 38 in the June/July 2009 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.