A Three Decade Wait For An Arizona Monster
Dec/Jan 2011 EHJ (Issue 122)
Arizona, 2009, Guided, Public Land
- Starting in 1996, with Shane Koury’s emphatic insistence, I began applying for only one bull elk choice in Arizona - a unit known for producing 400-class bulls. Over the years, I slowly but surely accumulated 14 bonus points. After getting both knee joints replaced in 2009 and having two lumbar surgeries the past two years, I elected to apply with a first and second choice for Arizona’s 2009 elk season. My second choice unit had more flat and gentle rolling topography than my first choice. Shane was disappointed I got drawn for my second choice unit, but agreed to be my guide.
My hunt started in late September. Shane had spent some of the previous two weeks guiding in my unit, and witnessed one of the worst archery bull hunts in the past 10-15 years; the bulls did very little bugling. I also had a good friend, Shane Tunnell, helping on my hunt. He had an archery tag in my unit and knew the area well.
Other than the four young bulls we saw early opening morning and two cows that we spotted late in the afternoon, opening day was mostly a bust. It was very concerning that elk weren’t talking except during the night and maybe 30 minutes after sunrise.
After some strategic discussions, we decided we’d cover a fair amount of distance by listening for bugling elk every several hundred yards early in the morning on day two. If we didn’t hear anything, we’d quickly move on to a new location. Luckily, we heard bulls talking nearly an hour prior to legal shooting hours.
After waiting for shooting light and putting the wind directly in our faces, we started off toward what we believed to be the largest of the three or four bulls. Within only a few hundred yards of hiking, I had the Weatherby resting on the tripod with crosshairs on target and ready to shoot. Then I heard Shane Koury whisper, “Don’t shoot. He’s got a broken main beam.”
The wind continued to change as we chased bugles through the timber, and Shane constantly tested the wind with a powder spray. We got closer and closer, with each of the bull’s bugles getting raspier. Almost so suddenly that it scared me, Shane spread the tripod legs and pushed them into the soft ground in one motion. On cue, a 360-class bull began moving away from us to our left, with only the tips of his antlers being exposed. Shane told me to take him.
I took a few precious seconds to get my gun in the tripod and the crosshairs on the kill zone. Once again, I heard Shane say, “Take him!” but my window of opportunity had passed.
For a full account of Randy's adventure, go to page 46 in the December/January 2011 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.