Doubling Up on the Elk

My friend Andrew drew his first elk tag this year and took advantage of it to the fullest.  Originally from Wisconsin, he spent as much time as he could learning his area and how to go about hunting bugling bulls with a bow.  He and his friend John were both able to take home some great bulls and provided a story they would like to share.  Congrats guys!

John and his bull

Andrew with his trophy

36 Hour Tag Out – Written by Andrew Daniels

This year I was fortunate to draw my first bull elk tag for the archery rut hunt along with my buddy John (his second) up on top of the rim.  Not wanting to eat tag soup I put in countless hours of scouting and talking to guys who had hunted elk trying to get as much advice and information as possible.  The scouting started a few months prior to the hunt and all it took was to get within 50 yards of a bull for the first time for me to be completely hooked. 

Our hunt gave us a bunch of close calls early on, but we were never able to get a shot off.  We had started to drive ourselves crazy trying to chase bugles.  Then, starting the afternoon hunt on September 14th everything changed. 

I had never experienced anything like this.  There had to be 6 to 8 bulls around us.   It seemed like we were hearing them bugle in all directions.  Hunting in thick PJ with hills and valleys made it difficult to pinpoint the bulls.  Then, John and I decided to chase two different bulls that were close just to see if one of us could get close.  They weren’t responding to calls at this time and we didn’t know what else to do.  So John took off and so did I.  John came and found me with about 30 minutes of light left so I knew something was up.  He started jumping up and down telling me he shot a nice bull. John was able to get close to his bull twice.  He had to run several hundred yards to get ahead of his bull, only to get busted by a cow that walked 9 yards in front of him.  As he saw the bull heading away he knew he had to move.  John ran ahead of them again by making a giant half circle and what do you know, here they were walking at him again.  This time, being camouflaged better, the cow had no idea he was there.  The 6x6 bull came in as if on a string and he put an arrow in the vitals at 20 yards.  We tracked the bull for less than 100 yards when we saw him at the bottom of a ravine.  Our celebration was short lived as we heard a bull bugle within 200 yards of us.  We chased off after it trying to get me a shot.  With light fading the bull was within 30 yards of me behind a juniper not offering any shot.  The bull winded us and he was gone.  At least we knew where we would head the next day.

John and I decided to forgo the morning hunt as we needed to get the meat back to town so it wouldn’t spoil.  That night it was like the bulls all shut down and weren’t talking.  This was somewhat disappointing after the previous night of hearing well over 100 bugles.  The next morning would be different.

We got to a bend in a four wheeler trail about 45 minutes before light so we could listen to them bugle and figure out where to start our hunt.  To our surprise they sounded like they were less than 200 yards right in front of us.  This would be the longest 45 minutes of my life trying to wait for first light.  Just as I could begin to shoot, the elk seemed to be heading away from us.  Down the trail we went, not running, but walking as fast as we possibly could.  It took us a mile and a half to get close to them again.  We had gone from PJ to an open ponderosa area.  One bugle rang out to our right, and one bugle close to our left.  Now what.  We decided to continue down the trail so we wouldn’t be seen and try to get between them.  Just as we did John looked up and saw a bull and cow heading into the PJ ahead of us 200 yards away.  We were still behind them.  We took about 4 steps down the trail when I looked up and saw a nice bull headed our way.  I told John to stop and the bull was motoring right at us from about 150 yards away.  The path the 6x6 bull took was blocked by a dead pine tree so he had no idea we were there.  John told me to draw and I was just waiting for him to range for me.  The bull just kept coming.  When the bull got to the pine tree 50 yards away, he began to turn.  He made a few more steps, John told me he was at 40, and the bull stopped in his tracks.  Standing there at full draw I couldn’t believe this was happening.  I picked my spot and let the arrow fly.  The arrow hit right behind the front shoulder and we could see the blazer veins sticking out as he trotted away.  “Oh my God I smoked him John!”  This is apparently what I said after I shot but I don’t really remember as I went straight into shock from what had just unfolded.  John stopped him about 100 yards out with a cow call and we could tell he was hurt bad.  The elk made it to the top of the hill before going out of our view and I hit my knees in disbelief of shooting my first bull elk.  We backed out and gave the elk some time.  Meanwhile 3 hunters approached us.  It was a father with his 20 and 11 year old sons.  After finding out I just shot a bull, the father asked if they could follow us tracking so he could teach his youngest boy how to track a wounded animal.  They followed behind us and right at the top of the hill my bull was down.  It was without doubt the most exciting kill for me since my first buck when I was 13.  The father and his sons then helped us quarter the animal.  They also went and got their quads to pack it out for us as we would have been backpacking it over 2 miles to the Jeep.  A perfect end to our 2011 elk hunt. 

It’s hard to believe that after all of the preparation, and hiking 12-15 miles a day during our hunt, that John and I tagged out in 36 hours.  Two 6x6 bulls down.  A huge thank you to my buddy John for helping me bag my first AZ bull elk.  Also, a big thank you to Rob Matthews for answering about 100 questions I had over the past few months and teaching me more about how to approach my rut hunt.  


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