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Help with Kaibab 101

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So I posted in the copper ammo thread, I'm a long time lurker but new member.  Being from PA, getting back to AZ was a goal but it seemed like a long way out still.  Then, completely unexpectedly, I wound up drawing an early 12AW rifle tag.

This results in some general questions for me.  I've read most of the threads that have Kaibab info in them, but I still have questions.  Once I found out my card had been hit, I was expecting the 12A archery tag.  I found BOHNTR's posts that would basically qualify as Kaibab Archery 101, but I was really surprised to get the early rifle with only one point.  While some of that may still apply to early rifle, it seems like a lot won't.  If anyone either could care to comment or PM me, I'd really appreciate your collective insight. 

First, can someone comment on pests and critters?  I know there's lions on the Kaibab, but for early rifle, can anyone comment on bugs, snakes, bears (are there any), and other assorted critters and camp raiders?  How about the two legged variety, any camp security issues?  Overall road conditions?  Some of the FS roads in SW CO wouldn't classify as goat trails back here. 

Second, I am planning on solo car/tent camping.  I know there have been some brutally cold days recently during this season, but I'm guessing that tent camping is common?  I truck camped with a tent last year in SW CO in late archery elk season (I missed the snow), but that was my first western camping trip in 20+ years.  Overall, I think I have all the stuff I would need and I don't have a camper, so tenting is the plan.  It seems like there's really nowhere to pack in because of the road permeation, so that's the plan.  Thoughts?  Anything I might need that I might not normally think of?

Third, with the continued drop in tags this year down to 375, pressure should be a little lower.  I plan on arriving Tuesday sometime before season and scouting for a couple days.  Depending on weather, I've picked out a couple places high to start but I do want to be mobile enough to move if weather or pressure forces it.  With all the rain in the past few weeks, I'm assuming that water is probably not going to be a huge factor?

Lastly, any other thoughts would be appreciated.  It seems like a lot of Arizonans hunt as a group, one with a tag and a few tagalongs/spotters.  I won't have that, no takers from here.  I'll turn 58 during the hunt.  I've actually been to the Kaibab once in 1999, but that was after me and a friend drew 6A archery bull tags and tagged out.  We wound up getting OTC Kaibab archery tags a week after the opening of the season.  I don't remember much other than we actually hunted in 12AE and I saw about 8 bucks in two days and almost got a shot but it wasn't to be.  So I'll just be winging it, trying to get my first mulie.  I have a decent rifle, binoculars and an OK spotter.  I should have appropriate clothing, GPS, inReach, etc.  I realize at my age this might be my one and only return to the Kaibab, and I want to make the most of it and this tag.  My trip to CO last year was my only other western trip since AZ in 1999.  Better late than never.

 

 

 

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Welcome to CWT and congrats on the tag. Where are you from? We’d love to hear more about you and what you might have insights on that you could share as well.

Here are a few answers that might be helpful:

The biggest pest on the Kaibab are the squirrels (including trucks and motors, be careful) They get into everything. There are tons of coyotes. No bears to speak of.  The forest isn’t any more or less risky than any other public lands with the exception that during the hunts it becomes heavily saturated with guides and outfitters and other wannabe dudes. Hunter conflict does occur. Deer can be heavily concentrated in specific areas during the early hunt so you will encounter other people. Apply the golden rule and you’ll be fine. Most of the roads are actually pretty dang good by AZ standards. The rocks can be sharp so have 10 ply tires.
 

You’ll be fine in a tent as long as you aren’t a sissy. Bring a giddy heater and it will help. But more than likely it will be warmer than you prefer. The area is saturated with roads so getting remote can be tough. Beware, there is almost 0 cell service anywhere except Jacob Lake or the East edge of the plateau.

The water situation now doesn’t necessarily reflect what it will be in 3 months. If we don’t get anymore moisture water will be critical.

There will be lots of tag-alongs with other tag holders. So there will be a lot of people there. But it will be a solid hunt. The deer tend to be concentrated in specific areas, if you aren’t seeing many deer move on. Some of those dense pine forests can be tough to turn up deer in. So don’t spend too long in one place if it’s slow.

And be sure to grab some cookies, milkshakes and pie at Jacob Lake. The grand bull sandwich is also a personal favorite.

Good luck and keep us posted.

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For the Kaibab, there are two schools of thought (from what I have observed).

Glassing:  The early hunt will still have foliage on the bushes, so glassing will be a bit tougher.  But it can be very productive if you can shoot well.  And when I say "shoot well", I am talking out to 700-800, which is very realistic.  This is my preferred method.  Our shots have been between 18 and 882 up there.    

Road hunting:  A lot of the guides, all they do, is drive all day.  I know this from several guys who have hired guides up there.  It works.  But not my personal cup of tea.  Not that I would refrain from shooting a big buck I happened to drive by.  We have seen a lot of good bucks this way.  

There are a ton of coyotes, I have seen numerous cats as well.  Like Flatlander said though, squirrels and jays are the top raiders of camps.  I do not think there are any bears up on the Kaibab any more.  Not in a long time.  I have never seen a single bear track up there in my 30 years of hunting.  As far as the two-legged raiders, I have not had an issue.  But you never know.  I don't leave anything expensive in camp when we are out.  Never had an issue with my vehicle either.

During the early hunt, most of the big bucks will still be almost nocturnal.  You can catch them at first and last light if you are lucky.  But they don't get big by being stupid.  They save stupid for the late hunt.

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Have fun glassing thru the quakies

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Great hunt that you drew. unbelievable luck with only one point as a NR.  What is said  above is spot on.  We've never had a problem on the hunt with camp raiders other than the squirrels .  Keep all your food enclosed, between them and the birds, we've had bread, chips etc. strewn all over when we got back to camp I've  never seen a snake up there if you're worried about them, and the only bugs in October might be the dang meat bees. I've seen one lion up there, but he was beating feet.  Big bucks are definitely there, but as Lance said, they aren't dumb and don't come easy. Depending on elevation and the weather, you could see the low 20's or below,  or a low of the upper 30's. Layers  for clothing are a must as it usually warms up fast with daylight.  I've not seen  snow on the early hunt, but we have been rained on in October.

You'll see lots of deer, hopefully the one of your dreams will show up too.  Good Luck and have fun!

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As stated above bring a buddy heater. Last year the early hunt was super cold so just be prepared.  Highly recomend glassing with tripods, not offhand.  Id be glassing the burn up top a lot and mid days go to the fingers dropping off the west side and glass all the north facing slopes.  Make sure to post the story afterwards, whether you tag a beast or not! 

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It snows just not real deep during the early hunt, wind chill and really low Temps happens all the time, watch for black ice

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Oh, and also check the oaks on the west fingers for acorns, if theres acorns deer will also hang up in those areas, its kind of a transition area.

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Thanks everyone.  A little more about me per Flatlander - I've been to AZ that one time, I found out about it as a PSE dealer.  Went to PSE school in Tucson and met a guy who had a shop in northern AZ.  He took us out to see some elk after the class and we were hooked.  Me and my shop partner started putting in for elk and drew that 6A back then with 2 points.  We also shot high level IBO/ASA/NABH 3D back then and knew most of the pros from AZ.  They helped us out a little with where to go once we drew, and it was the most fun I'd ever had.  We were in bulls up to our eyeballs the whole time and I got a 308" 6x6 on day 5.  My partner tagged out 100 yards from me 20 minutes later.  Note to anyone reading - NEVER tag two elk at the same time.  Fortunately it was not yet 7AM.  Even still, by the time we retrieved even with ATVs and got into Camp Verde, dropped off for processing and went to Dennys, it was midnight!  Lesson learned.  When we picked up the meat, the processor told us he thought we would have gone to the Kaibab.  Well we hadn't, but we called home and buzzed up there.  The woods were crawling with guys but we did see deer.  Everyone said they were skittish a week in and I got drawn but never got a shot on what was a 18-20" 3x3.  Then along came kids and my western applications died.

A few years ago I started buying points or applying again in AZ, WY, and NM.  Last year I decided to go to CO archery down in 71.  Super big elevations for me, first night I parked the truck and camped over 10K.  Hiking almost straight up with no oxygen was really tough at 56 but I needed to get a hunt in to reset.  Frankly, I did a terrible job of hunting, but I figured I needed to get all that bad mistakes out of my system and sort out my truck camping kit. 

This year looked like a bust - just bought points in WY, was thinking antelope there but with the late winter kill and tag reductions, didn't apply.  Nothing again in NM.  No AZ elk, and had about a 1% chance on this rifle tag and 2% on the archery, which is what I was planning on going for eventually.  When my wife sent me the card hit at work I nearly fell off my chair.  Then I figured archery, then fell off again when I found it was early rifle.

Other than these two trips, I've not been further west than Iowa (several times) in my hunting career which like most eastern guys centers around whitetails.  I've gotten my fair share of bucks over the years but I've always wanted to get back west.  I realized about 5 years ago that the time was then to start trying.  I'm nursing a bad knee that's had four surgeries, ACL replacement in 1992, and has been bone on bone for a few years.  My replacement surgery got postponed last year and may happen this winter.  It was OK in CO, but I reinjured in here in PA rifle season.  It will be a struggle, but I'll manage on the Kaibab.

I'm just an OK rifle shot for an eastern guy.  I did put together a rifle for this hunt, a LH 280 AI on a Savage 110.  I have to finish load development there.  I will not be a 700 yard shooter - 400 yeah, 500 maybe.  I'll have to hunt to find somewhere local to try shooting those longer ranges.

I have OK optics.  Leica 8x42 Trinovids and a 1980s Leupold 20x50 spotter.  I've never really done a glassing hunt so that will be something new.

Pressure means different things to different people.  375 hunters in 1000 square miles sounds good to me.  Here in PA, it's about 15-20 hunters per sq mile.

My goals here are be safe, have a good time, and hopefully tag a respectable buck.  I realize the chances of drawing one of these tags again at my age is unlikely at best, so I want to do this tag justice.

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I don’t have anything to add about Kaibab but about the knee....get it replaced!   I had my 2nd one done 7 weeks ago..turns back the clock 20 years.  Don’t hesitate.

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I think you are well prepared and will have a great hunt. If you tent it a Mr Buddy Heater is a good thing to have to at least keep drinking water from freezing. I'm down in Mesa but if I'm around and you are within 100 miles or so I can lend it and a 5 gallon bottle with a hose to use.

It will warm the tent up a good 20 degrees or so at night.

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THE  .280 great round for 12a. you will see alot of deer. on the late hunt i saw 33 four points in one afternoon. it could snow. if i was you i would pray for it.  it will be better if it does. and likely only a skiff. to 4 inches. right on top . post your deer when you can. PM . 

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15 hours ago, PRDATR said:

I think you are well prepared and will have a great hunt. If you tent it a Mr Buddy Heater is a good thing to have to at least keep drinking water from freezing. I'm down in Mesa but if I'm around and you are within 100 miles or so I can lend it and a 5 gallon bottle with a hose to use.

It will warm the tent up a good 20 degrees or so at night.

I did take a Buddy heater to CO last year, which ran fine at 10K BTW.  It was high 20s according to my dash thermometer at night.  I know a lot of folks say they don't work well over 8K, but I didn't have any problems.  I am planning on bringing a full 20# tank and some singles.  I have an 8 man Cabela's Alaskan Guide tent (a little big, but I got a super deal on it) and I just picked up a Teton XL giant cot and pad.  Hoping to sleep a little more comfortably this time.

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21 hours ago, tomharveyb said:

I don’t have anything to add about Kaibab but about the knee....get it replaced!   I had my 2nd one done 7 weeks ago..turns back the clock 20 years.  Don’t hesitate.

It's done really well and I spent 10 days in CO with no issues, but I overflexed in here in PA climbing up a slippery spoil pile in the rain, and it's not gotten all the way back.  I need to find a new surgeon now, mine is now out of my network.

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