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Well, I figure its been slightly over a month since I tagged out on my elk last hunt, so I need to post the story! My father, Jason, and his close friend, Steve, and I were all drawn and were able to prescout the unit we were drawn for - for about 3 weekends (2 weekends, plus a day trip). I was fairly familiar with the unit; however we wanted to become more familiar. Since I live and go to school up in Flagstaff and my father works down south, we had to make the scouting trips count. We became familiar with the unit, and made up a game plan to scout the two weekends leading up to the hunt, as a cold front was moving in. It was the last hunt of the elk season. We scouted, and had no luck the first weekend; only on the second weekend were we able to locate the elk and get some good glassing done. Fast forward to opening day, my father told me that he would begin hunting the low lands leading up to a nice draw that lead up to multiple fingers on a mountain side. I had school until 12:30 that day, and would not be able to get out until I was out of class, and had slightly over an hour drive ahead of me. Now I want to give a bit of background information on my father. He served 21 years in the military, and we always hunted together as a way to bond since he retired. He always insisted on me tagging out before him. Ive tagged multiple animals, and my father still hadnt tagged out on a big game animal yet. Hes had multiple opportunities; however he received more satisfaction out of seeing me tag out than tagging out himself. Hes getting older, and the military took a toll on his back, he openly admitted to not being able to hike up and down mountains like we have in the past. So I really wanted to find elk and try and get him on them first. I have been hunting and volunteering with multiple organizations the past couple years where Ive been able to get fairly familiar with hunting elk/deer, so I wanted to do my hardest to help my dad get an animal. Back to opening day, I got out of class at 12:30, and had two friends that were going to help me on my hunt, Jeremy, a close friend that weve gone on multiple hunting trips together in the past, and my friend Sam, an honorably discharged Marine that is going to school in the same field of study as Jeremy and myself. We got all of our gear together, and were on the road by 13:30. We arrived out to the rendezvous point around 14:30, and met up with my dad right around 15:00. My father told me he had been walking the juniper flats leading to the draw with his friend Steve and stated he was spent; he stated he had busted an elk earlier and wanted to glass for a while towards the mountain which he ran into the elk at. We started glassing at 15:10ish, we glassed a portion of the mountain which had a nice draw that was being hit hard with wind, leaving one side filled with snow, and the other side that was filled with junipers untouched by the snow for the most part We were able to glass the side filled with snow with sparse junipers, however due to the density of the junipers, we werent able to glass the side that was shielded from the wind. We glassed until about 15:55. I came up with a plan to walk up around the other side of the hill that was filled with snow, with the wind in our faces so we could hopefully peak over the finger into the junipers to get a better look at what is hiding inside the safety of the junipers. My dad looked me in the eyes and told me there was no way he and his friend Steve were going to make it up the mountain so I told him that my friends and I would walk the planned area and then glass the flats from up above to have a better view of the junipers below, then wed radio if we saw anything. Well, my friends and I set off. We walked around the mountain, up the side with the winds in our faces, until we were about ¾ of the way up the mountain. I told my friends I was going to peak over the finger to the next finger which had all of the junipers that we couldnt see before. Immediately upon doing so, I was surprised to see a bedded cow elk underneath a juniper, and then saw a couple more. I looked back at my friends and whispered I saw cow elk, and that we were going to radio my father. We radioed for about a minute and received no response. We saw the elk starting to get up and forage along the junipers. I made the decision that I was going to shoot one of the elk, as I had no radio contact with my father. My rifle I have is a long distance rifle, and Im comfortable shooting out to about 700 yards at a live target with it. We ranged the elk at slightly over 200, so I knew the shot would be fairly easy to make. I snuck up behind a juniper and got into the prone position and deployed my bipod to make the shot. The elk were feeding fairly close to one another, and there wasnt a safe shot for a minute or two. As soon as one cow elk broke from the pack, I told Sam I was going to shoot her. He told me he was on her and said to shoot when ready. I waited for her to turn, and she gave me a perfect broadside shot. I slowly exhaled, and held my breath on my exhale, just as my father taught me to do, and gently squeezed the trigger, holding right behind the shoulder. The shot rang out, I racked another round in, and I was immediately back on her. I saw her jump and begin limping up the hill. She was bleeding very well but was still standing. I told Sam I was going to shoot again and let one more shot out, which dropped the cow elk down the mountain. Sam said he saw the impact coming from pretty close to where the blood was pumping out from. The shots were about 3-4 seconds apart, and suddenly, you heard my dad yelling on the radio, did you shoot? Did you shoot? I got up and gave my friends hugs and told them how much I appreciated them being there for my hunt. I quickly got on the radio and told my father, elk down, there are still more up here. He exclaimed, Thats my boy. You rock buddy. I told my dad that the elk were still feeding and were looking around, so he might be able to make it up. My dad hustled, however didnt make it in time before the elk ran up the finger over the other side of the mountain. We quickly set into gutting, and took pictures of the bullet group, less than an inch apart. I gave my dad a hug and told him that I loved him and we prepared for the photo op. I cleaned the elk up, showed my respect, and gave the elk her letzebissen (last bite). We hunted the remainder of the weekend before my father and his friend Steve had to return to work. We had multiple close calls, however my father wasnt able to connect. Regardless of my father not tagging out, I still had a great experience and treasure any moment I get to spend with my friends and most importantly, my father, out in the field. Thanks for reading! The pictures are: the elk where she fell until she was pinned under a juniper. My father is the one with the orange beanie. Steve is the gentleman standing on the right side of the picture in the camo beanie. Sam is the one on the left, myself in the middle, and my friend Jeremy on the right. Showing respect to the animal. The shot group is also pictured.
I think about the hunts I've been on in the past and of course they were all a lot of fun wether we filled a tag or not. But some really stick out and I seem to reflect on them more often then others. One that sticks out was with just my dad and I. We drew 19A Archery Antelope in 1998. I was 13. We had an absolute blast! I remember trying to shoot at camp the weekend before the hunt and my release would give about half way through my draw cycle and my dad was just cussing like crazy "keep your dang finger off the trigger" finally I say here dad you try and the same thing lol! We had to tighten and loc tight the set screw behind the trigger. I found a small white mulie shed from the road heading out of camp. We had an old single cab bench seat Chevy and picked up a couple hitch hiking girls on 89 later to realize the signs say don't pick up hitch hikers, the Mingus girls camp was right above camp. We had to search for our fold up toilet seat about a half mile from camp because a huge storm came in and washed it down stream. We stood on a ridge off of fain ranch road and watched antelope from all different directions run right past us, I shot at a big buck we called Jim, and my dad laughed so hard when I shot because that buck seemed to turn and duck right before the arrow got to him and it stuck in the mud. We flung a lot of arrows and never connected but for so many reasons that one sticks out as one of the best hunts I've ever had. What's your most memorable hunt story as we prepare for another hunting season?