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Opening Morning Success: Textbook Bull
A short, textbook archery hunt for bull elk in northern Arizona.
Kevin and I were the first to arrive, setting up camp on Tuesday, anxious to get some pre-hunt video of ruttin' elk. After the camp was attended to, we were able to get some great footage the next couple days as the bulls were chasing cows, basically causing quite a ruckus in the part of the unit we would be hunting. On Wed. the lucky tag holders arrived, Dave and John were very anxious as well to get things started.
There is a particular canyon that sits only a couple miles from where we were camped that had proved to be very popular with the local elk herd; this is where we would be opening morning.
It was very easy to get out of bed on opening morning, as we heard bugles in the distance; one could almost feel this would be an action filled morning. We were up early, even though the canyon was only a couple miles from camp; the road we needed to take to get into position is simply a nightmare. Deep ruts and basketball sized rocks proved to make navigation difficult as we inched our way closer to the east end of the canyon. Nearly an hour later we had reached the point where we would continue on foot toward some side canyons of the main one.
Still dark, as we readied our gear and donned red lens covered head lamps, we began our trek towards the pre-determined area. About half way there I let out a bugle with the Primos diaphragm, when in the distance we were answered by a couple bulls, bingo; they seemed to near the canyon. We kept quiet as we closed the distance, as it began to get light, the elk were beginning to become quite vocal; I remember thinking "I am so lucky to be right here, right now"- the hunt was about to unfold.
As we approached the edge of the shallow canyon, there were four different bulls bugling from within, a couple with great intensity! We would position ourselves somewhere near the middle of most of the action, close to the northern edge of the canyon. Dave and John were set up closer to the canyons edge; as Kevin and I hung back a ways to call the rutting bulls past the hunters waiting in ambush.
The first bull to come out of the canyon, was a nice 6x6 with long main beams, he however chose to use some very dense cover and never offered a shot (although in range) before he melted back into the elk filled canyon. Some time passed and we decided to set-up a little closer to the edge, Kevin and I still behind the hunters. After Kevin got the camera mounted to the tripod and hit record, we began to call to the bulls once again with soft yet convincing cow calls filled with somewhat of a sense of urgency. Only minutes after readjusting, another 6x6 comes to investigate the calls. Totally committed, he saunters to within 30 yards of the hunters and lets out a chilling bugle. At this point John draws his Matthews bow as the bull spooks a bit form the movement, quickly I cow call to stop him and John double lungs his 6x6 at 37 yards. After the hit, both Kevin and I cow call a few times to keep the bulls attention, it worked as he only went about 50 yards before piling up.
This hunt was as textbook as they come; due to the fact we knew where the bulls were going to be from knowledge of the unit and further insight attained through pre-season scouting. John's bull may not be the 400" monster that haunts the dreams of most elk hunters, but for his first archery bull, John is pretty happy and has his European mount to remind him of that fateful day in 6A.