I made two scouting trips with Goose and guide Jon Vance, and we came up with a game plan that included four different contingencies based on weather and hunting pressure (yes, I wasn’t the only one to draw!). We made camp three nights before opening day and hit the ground running. For four months prior to that, I had been shooting my bow five mornings a week before work.
My setup is a 28-inch draw length, 70 lb. Hoyt Carbon Element bow. I use 28 ½-inch Beman ICS 340 shafts, tipped with 125-grain Thunderheads, fletched with NAP QuikFletch vanes for a total arrow weight of 425 grains. Raw arrow speed is right at 270 fps. I upped my regular fitness regimen, which was a good thing, since Jon’s GPS told us that in four days we had hiked something like 47 miles over bad ground in search of a whopper bull.
The evening before the season opened, Jon and I were scouting when we spotted two big bulls wallowing on an open lakeshore. Jon, who has guided numerous hunters to giant AZ bulls over the years, figured one was a 350-class stud. We called him The Wallow Bull. We spent the next several days in the middle of the elk, and in fact, I was within shooting range of three bulls that Jon and I figured would push 350. Problem was, we were hunting in thick cedars, and even though we were close, there was no shot.
On the end of day three, after we had put in 16 miles of hard hiking, we ended up near the first evening’s wallow. About a half mile further down the lake, I spotted a giant 6x6 bull with cows. I took off running, circling into the trees in hopes of getting close enough. By the time I got there he was across the water, but another whopper bull bugled hard and began running cows after he left the tree cover from a spot behind the small peninsula that blocked his entry from my view. I watched him for 30 minutes, but the closest the cover would allow me to get was 120 yards, so not wanting to bugger them, I backed off. Jon’s video is impressive.
The next day, I told Jon I wanted to take my chances and build a blind near where those bulls and cows had come out. By 3:00 p.m. I was nestled in with some snacks, water, and a good paperback to help pass the time, while Jon went to check trail cameras and do some scouting. By 5:00 p.m. he was back where he had videoed the action from the evening before, since sitting in this tiny blind was a one-man game. At 6:00 p.m. the first cows came in silent, 45 yards upwind of my blind. As I took a rangefinder reading, I sensed – rather than heard – something staring at me.
To my horror, a huge cow was standing not 30 yards from my little semi-open blind staring my way. But then, she began sauntering towards the other elk – thank you, GORE™ OPTIFADE™ Concealment!
Then, right where the cow had exited the thick cedars, a raucous bugle almost took my hat off. Seconds later I saw his antler tips just over the tops of the cedars as he made his way toward the cow. When he stepped clear, I was already at full draw.
Two steps and he was broadside, 27 yards, and I cow chirped. He stopped and swung his head my way, but by then the arrow had been launched. In a blur, the fletching disappeared right behind the shoulder. He raced through the cows, across the water, and onto the other shoreline. He only made it about 100 yards before piling up on flat, dry ground, just a half-mile from where we could get an ATV.
Back at camp, we plugged the video into the little TV Goose has in his trailer. That’s when Hunter Weems, a cool 18-year old who wants to be a guide and will end up a really good one, said, “That’s The Wallow Bull!” Neither Jon nor I had noticed the 2 little extra points on the end of the left beam when we had videoed him the evening before the opener, but there they were. We had shot the bull we had hoped to find, something that made it even more special. The bull gross scored 360 Pope & Young points.