Velvet Pipe Dream

Recently a TKO friend, Jake Hammett, got to go on an elk hunt in July.  Here is his story in his words... 

I can remember many times sitting around the campfire with family and friends and talking about how awesome it would be to take a bull elk in the velvet, here is the story of my velvet pipe dream come true.

My hunt started in an unusual way - a phone call that I recognized as one I call hundreds of times each fall (602)942-3000.  The lady from the AZGFD on the other side of the phone was asking if I was interested in a Population Management Elk tag that started in one week! My head was spinning but I immediately accepted since it was in an area I grew up in and is without a doubt my favorite place to hunt. I guess filling out that form in the regs does pay off!
The next week was spent trying to cram a month’s worth of gear prep and scouting into one week.  At the end of the week although not totally confident I was feeling good about how things had gone – The rifle was sighted in and getting up each day before the sun to fling some arrows had given me some confidence.  The hunt was open to any weapon but the elk that were targeted were coming into town so having the bow ready was a must.

I headed up on the Thursday before the hunt, quickly set up camp and left to scout some of the familiar areas in my hunt unit.  The afternoon showed half a dozen bulls with one nice 5 point.  That night my brother-in-law Andy showed up and we poured over the maps one more time.  

Opening day started off early, who hunts elk when the sun is up before 5am? Oh yea, it’s July!  We decided to head to a ridge above where the elk were bedding down to enable us to use our glass and avoid the crowds at the edge of the town limits since we had a good idea that the wildlife manager had given the same information to the other 9 tag holders.  As expected opening morning was a circus with what seemed like 3-4 people helping every tag holder in a very small area.  Our plan appeared to be working when the elk headed our way after being spooked but they were cut off just before they made it to us and headed in another direction.  Opening afternoon was a bust also with the wind and rain pounding us.

Friday morning we decided to head even further away from the crowds into a series of canyons I’ve hunted before; however I usually hunt them with snow on the ground instead of 80 deg with high humidity.  We hiked into the canyon and split up to glass, after 15 minutes or so Andy waved me over to tell me he saw a good bull heading across an adjacent ridge.  We made a beeline for an opposing ridge and glassed our way across it.  Just about to the end of the ridge and thinking the elk made it to a thick bedding area we caught a glimpse of elk through the trees!  After a mad and not so quiet scramble to get set up on the rocky hillside, we had 6 bulls looking back at us across the canyon at 300 yards.  We had a quick chance to size them up and I got the “The one closest to us is the largest” from Andy.  The elk started to single file out of the opening and I settled in for the shot, I felt steady and squeezed it off...  The bull piled up on the spot!  Hi fives all around!

Now the work began… 4 hours later the quartered up elk and cape were packed back to the truck and headed to the processor.  A huge thanks to my brother-in-law Andy Stone, hopefully I can pay him back on his upcoming antelope hunt!  

Thanks Jake for sharing your story.  Congratulations on a velvet bull in July!


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