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  1. Hey CWT community, I posted up some of these pictures previously in another post about some bullet issues I had on my hunt, but since I have spent the better part of the past three weeks up in the mountains chasing bugles (or lack of), I really haven’t had a chance to tell much of our story. To give a full accounting would honestly take a post the length of a full novel (it was a mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting, but fantastic three weeks), but I would love to share a few highlights. I am sure it will be plenty long anyway. When credit cards started getting hit for elk tags early this year, I about fell over when my card was charged $135 by AZGFD. I use a combination of credit/debit cards for the draw, one for each family member, so I know who gets the tags. I had applied for two premium hunts that I did not have the points to draw. I had 9 points. Drawing my first choice, 3A3C early rifle bull elk, would have been like the Powerball odds, so I assumed it would likely be my second choice, 3A3C archery bull elk. Knowing that I likely won’t have many more premium elk tags in my pocket, I knew I wanted to do everything I could to give myself the greatest opportunity to kill a true giant this time. In 3A3C, NOOONE has a hand in killing more giant elk than my buddy Shane Koury. Over the past few years Shane and I have talked many times about doing this hunt together once I finally had this tag, so I was on the phone with him within 30 seconds of the card charge to make sure he didn’t book any clients. To my shock, about 5 days later, another one of my credit cards was hit for $135 charge by AZGFD, this time it was the card used for my son. I had put him in for the same hunt choices, but he only had 2 bonus points. When results, finally came out about a week later, I was even more shocked to learn that I had drawn the early rifle bull tag, and that Draysen had drawn the archery bull hunt that started the following day after my hunt ended. A lot of preparation and details went on over the next several months to get ready that I won’t go into detail on, but some of the highlights include: Getting my diet and cardio on point. I knew that if I wanted to give myself the best opportunity to kill a giant, I would have to be ready to move fast and hard over long distances. By the time my hunt rolled around, I had dropped 55 pounds and was at my lightest and leanest since I was a teenager. Draysen broke and reinjured his wrist in a combination track and football injury that required surgery late in the summer. Hunting with a bow would be impossible, so we had to get permission to use, get access to, and practice using a crossbow. With his broken wrist, Draysen (14 years old at the time) lost his spot as linebacker on the JV football team for the season. Determined to remain a part of the team, he got his doctor’s approval, took up kicking, worked hard to get good at it, and by the start of the season was the starting kicker for PATs, field goals, and kickoffs. He couldn’t punt since he could not catch the snapped ball with his wrist in a cast. With his position on the football team, he would not be permitted to miss practices or he would not be able to play in games that week. We would largely be limited to long 3.5 day weekends (Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and half day Mondays). I arrived for my hunt the afternoon before the opener and hooked up with Shane to go scout a couple of bulls. That evening, just before dark, we were able to stalk into a bugling giant bull and his cows and watch him tear up a tree about 50-60 yards in front of us. I was pumped and the following morning it would be game on! The next few days were pretty awesome and intense. Shane and I had talked and agreed that early in the hunt we would not be considering pulling the trigger on anything below the 380. The rut was still far from in full swing and bulls were only bugling for about an hour in the morning and evening at best. From Friday morning through Sunday evening we put a lot of miles on the boots (averaged anywhere between 10-20 miles per day). Despite the bugling challenges, we looked at a lot of great bulls, passing on at least one 360+ class bull each day as well as many smaller in pursuit of our giant. My wife was able to drive Draysen up after football practice on Friday, so he was able to hang out with us for much of the weekend before he had to head home Sunday afternoon. Sunday evening, after Draysen had headed home, we got into our first really good bugling. We gave Draysen a hard time telling him it was his leaving was that brought our good luck. We snuck into a little valley with several bulls going nuts bugling around a group of cows. We assume one of the cows in the group must have been pretty hot to get them going like they were. We looked over about 6 different bulls in the canyon, but none of them, including the herd bull, was what we were looking for. With about 30-45 minutes of light remaining, we bailed out of the canyon, back to the truck and shot up the road a little ways to listen for more bugles. It was extremely dry up there at the time and so we were hitting a few of the tanks still holding water. We stopped about 400-500 yards short of a large tank and hit the bugle. No reply. But we did hear an odd sound, splashing! Shane said, “They are in the tank, run!” We made a dash to get to where we could get a visual of the tank. Shane threw up his spotter from about 250 yards out and immediately said “SHOOTER!” I threw my rifle up on the sticks and stared down a monster bull through my scope. Even with my heavy breathing from the jog, it only took a second or two to settle my crosshairs on the target. I flipped my safety, at 250 yards the bull was taking his last breath. I a was about to squeeze my trigger and heard Shane say “Broken G1! Don’t shoot.” This bull was a giant! Incredulously, I replied, “I can get that fixed (speaking about the broken G1), are you sure???” Shane replied “Don’t shoot, we can do better.” I though about it for a couple of seconds. My tag, my decision. I flipped the safety back on and I incredulously watched the bull slowly work his way out of our sight. I think I was in a little bit of shock about what I had just done. This was the biggest bull I had ever put eyes on. He was gorgeous, long beams, ridiculously long tines, everything I wanted in my dream bull, and I let him walk away. About this time Shane got a text from Todd, one of his guides. Todd and hunter had been chasing one illusive giant since opening morning. They had finally put him on the ground. We headed back to the truck to meet up with them to lend a hand getting him out in the dark. As we headed out Shane could tell that I was in an incredulous stupor about what had just happened and decided to get my emotions on video. I believe my words (jokingly of course) were “Shane Koury either just became my best friend or worst enemy for convincing me to pass on that bull.” As the night went on, and I looked over and put hands on the other giant that had been shot, I really began to second guess myself and question my decision. Shane could tell. It was a short night, as we didn’t get the other bull out till close to midnight, and we were back out and after it at about 4:30 AM. Earlier in the hunt we were looking for a giant bull several miles to the north of the big bull we had passed the night before. We had only seen that bull’s top ends in the trees, but based on those, believed he had to be a monster. We got into the area and listened to a few pre-dawn bugles in to dark. As it slowly began to get light we picked one of the closer bugles and set off after and see what he looked like. After following this bugle through the trees for about a mile and closing in, we came to a drop off. On the opposite ridge (162 yards across) we spotted cows and herd a bugle just below where we could see in the bottom of the drainage. Knowing the bull would likely be coming up the ridge, just behind his cows, I threw the rifle up on the sticks and got ready. Seconds later he walked up and pushed the cow we had been watching. The second I saw him I knew I was shooting this bull. Shane confirmed my decision with the words “Shooter!” As he stood broadside at 162 yards, I flipped the safety, centered my crosshairs, squeezed the trigger, and “CLICK!”. Nothing, the bullet didn’t fire! I slammed open the action ejected the bullet and chambered another round. I think the first shot had me a little rattled on the second. I knew the second I squeezed the trigger that I had pulled the rifle and the bullet wound be a miss. Without needing Shane to confirm the miss, I immediately grabbed for my bullet pouch at my waist. My big Remington Sendero 300 RUM only holds two rounds in the magazine. I slammed in another round, and to my luck, the bull hadn’t yet moved, but was looking right at us. This gave Shane time to get his PhoneSkope on the spotter to record the next events. I quickly reacquired my target just as the bull began to take off. BOOM!!! This shot felt good and looked good! My bull jumped forward, but only on three legs. The front shoulder was hanging limp. The bull rushed out of view on three legs, but we were confident he was down in the trees just beyond our sight. Shane turned to me and said, “You know that was the same bull we passed last night?” I didn’t tell you because after last night I knew you would shoot him even if I suggested not to.” Shane was 100% right. I think I felt it might be the same bull, but certainly wasn’t certain. Not a chance he was walking away a second time! Overnight he had taken his cows and moved a few miles to the north. We gave him a few minutes and watched the video of the shot to confirm what we knew. Right behind the front shoulder and into the vitals. We made the short walk over to where we last saw the bull. To my horror, he was not where we expected him to be. Worse, there was about three drops of blood and then nothing! Over the next hour or two we did our best to stay on his tracks, but it was tough. The area was loaded with elk tracks. After about 600 yards of tracking and three different spots where we could tell he laid down, we found about a teaspoon of blood in the third bed, we decided it would be wise to back out and come back in about 4 hours later. Clearly something hadn’t gone as expected with the shot, and we needed to give this bull some time to lay down and expire. My stomach was in knots and I was sick with worry over those four hours. What had I done wrong? Did I just shoot, wound, and lose the bull of my dreams? I called home and talked to my wife and son. They tried to fill me with confidence, but it didn’t help. I sent them the video, we sent it to several members of Shane’s crew, I sent it to several buddies, etc. Everyone said the same thing, “The shot looks great, this bull should be dead!?!” About 1:00 PM we headed back out to look for my bull. We returned with a crew of 7 guys so we could fan out if necessary. As we drove in, I looked at the thick gathering clouds and began to feel even sicker. Moments later rain started falling. Not a super heavy rain, but enough to ruin any blood or fresh tracks. We reached the final bed we had found with the blood in it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before we had completely lost the tracks. We fanned out and began to look. I headed south while much of our group stayed closer the bottom where we thought the tracks had headed. After probably an hour of searching in the light rain and not seeing anyone in the group for a while, reality began to settle in. I was walking back to find the group and honestly felt that I was about to break down in tears over wounding this beautiful bull that I would not be able recover. I reached in my pocket to retrieve my phone to call and tell my wife we had lost him. As I looked at the screen I saw that I had missed a call from Shane. A little hope??? As I fumbled at the buttons to call him, my phone started ringing again. It was Shane. “Hello Shane?!?” I exclaimed! “We found him!” was the reply. “We bumped him up, he is hurting, but still moving good. Where are you?” not knowing the area well, Shane described a near meadow I was familiar with where I would meet him while others stayed on the new tracks. Lungs burning, I ran as hard as I could till I saw Steffen and Skyler, Shane’s sons. Moments later we were back on the tracks! The rain that was earlier my nemesis was now my savior. The bull, was now digging into the soft wet dirt and making a very distinct track with the wounded leg. He had a good lead on us and was still moving fast. We all set after him. We would be right on the tracks for a while, then would lose the tracks when he would enter a thick area with lots of pine needles or rocks. When that happened, we would spread back out and move in the direction he was going until we picked the track back up again. This went on for probably a couple of miles. It was at one of these spots, where we were trying to relocate tracks, when we heard some cracking in some really thick willow type brush maybe 60-70 yards ahead of us. It was him trying to hide in the thick stuff. We told the group to stay on the tracks and Shane and I bolted in the direct of the sound. The bull must have heard us hot on his trail because he began to put a lot of distance on us again. We never saw him, but the tracks were deep and we could see several places where he stumbled on the wounded shoulder in his effort to stay ahead of us. We were hot on him, and went as fast as our lungs would allow us this time. Conditioning before a hunt is a good thing! Had I not dropped those 55 pounds in the prior six months, and literally worked my butt off, I might have been in trouble. After a mile or two of this high paced action, Shane and I monetarily lost the tracks again in some rocky stuff. I looked to the left while Shane went up into a wash bottom 40-50 yards ahead to look for tracks, the rest of the group was quite a ways behind us. Shane relocated the track and called me over, as I rushed over I scanned the trees ahead of me and noticed a butterscotch patch tucked up under some trees about 100 -150 yards ahead of us. I excitedly motioned to Shane and asked, “Is that and elk?” He rushed over, whipped up his binos and exclaimed “That’s him, shoot him!!!” I already had the rifle on the sticks. BOOM!!! With a loud thump, the bullet reported the impact as my bull rocked back and dropped. Exhausted, I dropped to the ground, again near tears, but this time for good reasons. We heard excited shouts in the distance on the hill behind us, and then I hear Shane say “He’s getting back up! We need to hit him again!” I slam another round into him, again he dropped. Three rounds from my 300 RUM! We (my son and I) had previously never shot an animal with this rifle using these 210 grain Berger VLDS, and not had it drop instantly. This bull was tough! Once we collected ourselves, we decided to approach the bull cautiously. He was still fighting to get up, so we approached African safari style with Shane holding the sticks as I inched forward with him in my scope. At about 50-60 yards, my bull made one last attempt to stand and run. I put one more round into his chest, head on, and he was done. As we talked about what happened with this bull and these bullets we agreed, and later proved, that these Berger bullets were not penetrating. As good as they were on smaller animals (mule deer and smaller), they weren’t getting the job done on this tank. The first shot hit right where we thought (location seen in pictures below). But the bullet appears to have grenaded on impact with a rib. While breaking the rib, it did minimal damage to the vitals. The consensus is that the final HARD push that Shane and I put on him completely exhausted the wounded, but possibly not mortal wounded, bull, and that he was trying to hide it out up and under the trees where I spotted him in. Were in not for that hard exhaustive push that wore him down, I don’t know if we would have recovered him. Sometimes you experience ground shrinkage as you walk up on an animal. My beautiful bull was a 180 degree opposite. The closer we got, the more he grew! There was a lot of gawking, school girlish shrieking, and unrestrained joy! The tines on this amazing bull are ridiculous, as are his beams. The combination of these had given the deception of him being smaller than he was. With the exception of a small kicker on his left side, his tines are almost perfectly symmetrical. All intact points G1s through G4s go over 20 inches, most over 21. His G5s measure 15 inches, and his long beam is right at 57 inches. We green scored him without the broken G1 at 385.5 inches. The intact G1 is 21.5 inches. Given his symmetrical points, we believe he would have been right at 407 intact, and will be once my taxidermist molds the intact G1 to fix the broken one. I know not everyone believes in fixing points, I get it. But my bull, my decision. This hunt was amazing. It was tough. At times tougher than I expected, but I was able to harvest the bull of my dreams, and not everyone can say that. To this point, as we broke my bull down, Shane jokingly said to me, “You can now say something few hunters can. You can say you passed on a 400+ inch bull!” Yes, Shane took a lot of grief from all of us over telling me to pass on a 400 inch bull. We can all laugh about it now! I stayed up on the mountain for an extra day after that to allow the meat to cool and help spot/locate for another hunter. I got up at about 3:00 AM Wednesday morning (9/18) to drive home, arrived just as my kids were headed to school, and spent the next 12 hours butchering the massive bull. With one more bull elk hunt, three deer hunts, and two javelina hunts still to come this fall, I headed to Lowes Thursday morning to buy ANOTHER freezer. Got it all set up, repacked all my gear, bought more food, went to Draysen’s JV football game, and immediately after, headed back up the mountain. We arrived around 12:30 AM for Draysen’s opener, just a few hours away. That is its own story… Hope you enjoyed the write up. It ended up being quite long. Enjoy the pictures. A blind bull we came across. He appears to have broken off his antlers while still in velvet running into things. He was called into AZGFD. The second shot that "missed" my bull, didn't miss the tree. Spot of blood in the third bed. The round that misfired. When I collapsed to the ground after putting round number two into my bull. This picture shows the shot placement from round number one. All other shots were from the front or other side. No pass throughs. The tree I ran up to try to get a cell signal to call my wife after getting to my bull. I am up there near the top.
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