First Elk Hunt - First Bull Elk - Arizona Unit 3C
After 13 Years I was finally drawn for an elk tag in Arizona. This is the first ever elk hunt I've been on, and I did it myself. I told my wife that I have waited so long for this tag that I was only going to shoot something big, unless it was the last hour of the last day of the 14 day hunt. I didn't have to wait that long to try and get lucky with "any" bull that walked by. I found this bull on the 5th afternoon/evening of the Archery Rut Hunt in Unit 3C.
After the first day and a half of hunting, I found the bulls quit bugling right at daylight, unless I was in close, then I could get them to bugle using a cow call. I noticed everybody abandoned the area I was in after the 2nd day of hunting. Probably because the bulls quit bugling, but I knew they had to still be there. I had seen bulls every day, even after they quit bugling. My strategy was to still hunt since the bulls weren't being vocal, so I put my face into the wind and moved extremely cautious and slow, and glass every inch of the woods in all directions, and occasionally throw out a cow call.
I forced myself to move slowly after a lesson on the first morning of the hunt. It was late in the morning and I was looking for another place to hunt, where there weren't a lot of vehicles, because the area I decided to be at opening morning exploded with the sound of 3 chainsaws. I decided to drive around a little and listen to see if I could hear any more bulls. I heard a couple on a ridge about 2 miles north of me so I headed that way. I parked my quad upwind and walked about 3/4 of a mile downwind and cut across up onto a ridge. I was going to still hunt into the wind since I had heard elk up there. The place I decided to cut across ended up being about 40 yards upwind of a bull resting behind some small pines with a small herd of cows. He winded me before I ever saw him. I heard him as he was getting up and all I ever saw was the thick base of his antlers under the small pines, because when he stood up, he was completely hidden, except for his legs, behind the trees. I knew he was pretty nice just from the thickness of his antlers and because he had probably 10 cows with him. For the next 5 days, I got on 5 more bulls, including the one I shot.
My evening hunt came together just about perfect. I was zig zagging keeping my face into the wind in a southwesterly direction, then I would cut straight west, all the way back across the ridge, when I would get to the east edge of the ridge, then I would start heading southwest into the wind again. After about 2 hrs of zig zagging extremely slowly, I blew my cow call and about 400 yards southeast of me, into the wind, a bull answered immediately, then another one south of me, then another one northeast of me. I just knew they were still in there! I decided to go after the first one that bugled. I kept moving slowly, I stayed behind junipers and pines, or in their shadows to try and stay concealed. When I was about 150 yards away, I saw some movement through a dense section of 40' pines. I saw him raking a tree, all by himself. I dropped my pack and continued to stay behind the trees and in their shadows. I noticed when his head was down I could see his eye so I only moved while his head was up while destroying that tree. I kept moving toward him until I reached the stand of dense pines. I sat down behind a nice pine and ranged the bull at 82 yards. He never saw me. I did a couple of cow calls with my diaphragm call and he was interested. He started walking with the wind from my right to my left. I found out later it was probably because there was a 20' wide path on that side of the trees and it was easier to walk that way than to come through the trees. The circumstances couldn't have been better. The wind was blowing pretty well across, and in front of me. Once he came out into the clear, I saw how big he was, and I realized he couldn't see me. He was looking directly into the evening sun. He kept lowering his head looking in my direction and never saw me. When he went broadside, I ranged him at 60 yards. I put my sight behind his left shoulder and at the shot I thought to myself, "Oh No, I put the wrong pin on him". I saw my arrow go just under his chest. While the arrow was still in flight I started cow calling. He turned to the right, did a 180, and started to run off. He ran about 40 yards toward the ridge, then stopped and looked back over his right shoulder. When he looked back, I quit calling again. He turned his head like he was going to go over the ridge, so I called again. He looked over his right shoulder again and stared in my direction. I quit calling again. On the third or fourth time of thinking he was going over the edge, he turned to his left and started walking down that path back toward the location where I took my first shot. I was shaking like a leaf! He slowly kept walking and looking in my direction until he was out in the open again. This time he was at 68 yards. My 60 yard pin is my last pin, so I put it just under his backbone and shot. I heard it hit. He did a 180 and ran back toward the ridge about 20 yards then stopped and started swaying back and forth. When he started running I started my cow calls again. He didn't look like he was going anywhere so I never moved. After about 5-7 minutes he turned back in the direction of where I shot him and walked about 20-30 feet and just stood there swaying back and forth. He was behind the timber so I couldn't shoot again so I just kept cow calling. After another 3-4 minutes he went down on his front legs, stayed like that for about 2 minutes then laid down. After about 5 minutes he laid his head down for a minute then lifted it again. That's when I went back and retrieved my pack then headed over toward the bull. I heard his death growl while I was looking at him with my binoculars, and saw his chest collapse. It was done! My first elk and it was a nice one! I think missing him and working to get him back again made the hunt that much more memorable... I hope I never do that again though! Now that I have gotten my "once in a lifetime hunt", I will probably still put in for the "once in a lifetime" units as my first and second choices, but I will start putting in for 3rd and 4th choice hunts where the draw odds are better just to get out and hunt again, and try and fill my freezer in the future.
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