Natural Selection

By Colton Bagnoli
Arizona, 2010, DIY, Public Land

Natural SelectionAugust/September 2011 EHJ (Issue 126) -My newlywed bride and I had just relaxed into our honeymoon suite when I received a text message stating, "The draw results are out.” Being the understanding woman she is, she allowed me to make "one” phone call. After nine years of waiting, I finally got the news I had been waiting for! I had been drawn for an Arizona archery bull elk tag!

"One more call, please!” I had to call my buddy, Rusty Ulmer, who was on the application with me to tell him the good news. Not only did I draw the tag of a lifetime, I was going to be hunting the monster bulls of northern Arizona with one of the most accomplished archery hunters today, who was on a hot streak of tipping over giant bulls. My wife allowed me to make several phone calls that night to inform all my buddies the good news, and she also granted me use of some "wedding money” to buy a new Hoyt Alphamax 35. With elk tags being so far and few between, a brand-new bow was in order, even though she knew my bow was only a year old.

Two weeks before the season was to start, Rusty and our good friend, Matt Liljenquist, set up camp and began scouting. I was to meet up with them the next week. After two weeks of driving the worst roads known to mankind, we had successfully managed to find the highest concentration of elk in the unit. With many high vantage points to glass the juniper country, it was easy to locate and watch lots of bulls. With help from our hunting partners Mark, Todd, and my dad, Jim, we soon had the best group of guys in elk camp a hunter could possibly ask for.

We soon had to start naming bulls just to keep them all straight – 7-Up, Kicker, Tango, and Mudder were some of the bulls on our hit list. With only days to go until the hunt began, other hunters began to show up and stake their claim on "their hunting spots”. The excessive traffic forced several of our big bulls to disappear.

The unit we were hunting is known for its unusually high bull-to-cow ratio. Many years I have guided hunters in the area and gone days without seeing a cow, but during that time we would see up to 12 or more bulls per day. It makes it easy on a hunter to hunt for a specific character of bull, and I had my heart set on harvesting a bull with a big top end.

The first several days of the hunt I found myself weeding through good bulls, but on the fourth day of the hunt, I found a bull that matched my criteria. He was a giant 6x6 with the biggest G-4/G-5 combo I had ever seen on a live bull! He was covered in mud from head to hoof and we soon dubbed him "Mudder”. I passed bull after bull trying to get within bow range of this beast, but he had a way of knowing when to stop behind a tree or how far he needed to stay away from me.

Colton Bagnoli

For a full account of Colton's adventure, go to page 18 in the August/September 2011 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.