Caribou Gear

AZ Late Rifle Elk Success in the Timber

Kearnsie14

Active member
Joined
Mar 17, 2018
Messages
111
Location
Ohio
I just returned from a solo late rifle elk hunt in Northern AZ. I'd been applying for this particular hunt for about 3 years. It looks like it takes more like 6-7 years to draw this tag so I got a bit lucky. I e-scouted the unit pretty extensively over the summer and put together what I thought was a good game plan going in. There really is no substitute for boots on the ground scouting, though. Upon arriving in the unit a couple of days before Thanksgiving, I quickly learned that the places I thought provided good places to glass from were virtually un-glassable. The unit turned out to be fairly flat and thicker than I thought.

I had to call an audible almost from the get-go and switch tactics from glassing and stalking to still hunting through the timber. Although I was hoping to be able to glass, I don't mind still hunting because I've had success using that hunting method for whitetails in Ohio for many years. Also, the encouraging part was that there was fresh sign almost everywhere I hiked. I also had elk walk through my camp on two of the nights at about 2:00am (with young bulls bugling each time) so I knew the elk had to be around there somewhere.

On opening morning (day after Thanksgiving) and for that entire weekend, I was amazed at how many ATVs were running around. It seemed like there were roads all over the unit and that every hunter used an ATV except me. Each morning I would find out which direction the ATVs were going and then start hiking the other direction, assuming that the elk wouldn't want any part of the ATVs either. Each day I would find fresh sign but never could find the elk. As big as they are, they seem to be able to vanish when they need to. The good news was that by Monday, I nearly had the place to myself. It seemed that most of the others must have been weekend only hunters.

Finally, after 2 days of scouting and 4 days of hunting and seeing only 4 cow elk, I looked at the map and decided to find the steepest, most secluded hill that was furthest from a road that I could find (that was within an hour drive from camp). On the morning of Day 5 of the hunt, I began walking up a draw between two steep hills, still hunting up the draw and keeping the wind in my face the entire way. I really took my time hiking up that draw and didn't care if it took me all day to make my way up. The pine needles were excellent for walking through those woods quietly. At around 9:30am, I saw that my instincts were right as I saw 2 young bulls trot off the hill to my right, across the draw above me, onto the hill to my left, and bed down about 150 yards above me. I then looked through the scope at each bull and shot the bull that gave me the best shooting angle. The result was the bull in the attached photo. I used a 308 shooting Nosler 165 grain accubonds - very happy with that combination.

This was my first elk and the guys that have commented that the work really begins after the animal is down aren't kidding. Quartering that thing up and hauling it out solo was a lot of work but I was so happy that it didn't seem like work to me.

I hope you guys had a fun hunting season this fall. The helpful comments on this forum are awesome. IMG_0093 (1).jpg
 

Kearnsie14

Active member
Joined
Mar 17, 2018
Messages
111
Location
Ohio
Congratulations! It's hard work doing it solo, but after you're done and the Advil kicks in, it's a great feeling of accomplishment. Hopefully you de-boned those quarters, the bone adds up to quite a bit of weight.
Yes, I found that out quickly and made a mental note to do just that next time.
 

Mjf5001

New member
Joined
Dec 12, 2021
Messages
2
I just returned from a solo late rifle elk hunt in Northern AZ. I'd been applying for this particular hunt for about 3 years. It looks like it takes more like 6-7 years to draw this tag so I got a bit lucky. I e-scouted the unit pretty extensively over the summer and put together what I thought was a good game plan going in. There really is no substitute for boots on the ground scouting, though. Upon arriving in the unit a couple of days before Thanksgiving, I quickly learned that the places I thought provided good places to glass from were virtually un-glassable. The unit turned out to be fairly flat and thicker than I thought.

I had to call an audible almost from the get-go and switch tactics from glassing and stalking to still hunting through the timber. Although I was hoping to be able to glass, I don't mind still hunting because I've had success using that hunting method for whitetails in Ohio for many years. Also, the encouraging part was that there was fresh sign almost everywhere I hiked. I also had elk walk through my camp on two of the nights at about 2:00am (with young bulls bugling each time) so I knew the elk had to be around there somewhere.

On opening morning (day after Thanksgiving) and for that entire weekend, I was amazed at how many ATVs were running around. It seemed like there were roads all over the unit and that every hunter used an ATV except me. Each morning I would find out which direction the ATVs were going and then start hiking the other direction, assuming that the elk wouldn't want any part of the ATVs either. Each day I would find fresh sign but never could find the elk. As big as they are, they seem to be able to vanish when they need to. The good news was that by Monday, I nearly had the place to myself. It seemed that most of the others must have been weekend only hunters.

Finally, after 2 days of scouting and 4 days of hunting and seeing only 4 cow elk, I looked at the map and decided to find the steepest, most secluded hill that was furthest from a road that I could find (that was within an hour drive from camp). On the morning of Day 5 of the hunt, I began walking up a draw between two steep hills, still hunting up the draw and keeping the wind in my face the entire way. I really took my time hiking up that draw and didn't care if it took me all day to make my way up. The pine needles were excellent for walking through those woods quietly. At around 9:30am, I saw that my instincts were right as I saw 2 young bulls trot off the hill to my right, across the draw above me, onto the hill to my left, and bed down about 150 yards above me. I then looked through the scope at each bull and shot the bull that gave me the best shooting angle. The result was the bull in the attached photo. I used a 308 shooting Nosler 165 grain accubonds - very happy with that combination.

This was my first elk and the guys that have commented that the work really begins after the animal is down aren't kidding. Quartering that thing up and hauling it out solo was a lot of work but I was so happy that it didn't seem like work to me.

I hope you guys had a fun hunting season this fall. The helpful comments on this forum are awesome. View attachment 204790
Unit 9? I just shot my first bull in 9 doing the same as you described. I’m now an Az resident but grew up in Vermont still hunting whitetails. A lot of hiking with the wind to my face paid off. I got a 6x7
 

Attachments

  • 3805DDD8-E482-434E-B7EC-DDF59E6F8DD7.jpeg
    3805DDD8-E482-434E-B7EC-DDF59E6F8DD7.jpeg
    524.6 KB · Views: 24

SCliving Outdoors

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 9, 2018
Messages
420
Location
South Carolina
Congrats man. That's awesome! I too am not an ATV fan. I've packed out a handful of bulls solo and helping other people. Every single time I walk up on one I can't believe how big they are, lol.
 

bklotthor

Active member
Joined
Dec 15, 2018
Messages
121
Location
Nebraska
Congrats on the hunt. Late rifle can be tough in some of those units with a lot of roads and a lot of tags. I had a very similar experience to yours in 2020 in one of those northern AZ units. Found success the same way as you, too.
 

Kearnsie14

Active member
Joined
Mar 17, 2018
Messages
111
Location
Ohio
Unit 9? I just shot my first bull in 9 doing the same as you described. I’m now an Az resident but grew up in Vermont still hunting whitetails. A lot of hiking with the wind to my face paid off. I got a 6x7
Outstanding! Congrats on a great bull! I'll send you a PM on where I was exactly. It wasn't 9 but it turns out that it was a very similar unit to 9. You're right about the whitetail still hunting experience being really helpful in those situations.
 

Kearnsie14

Active member
Joined
Mar 17, 2018
Messages
111
Location
Ohio
Unit 9? I just shot my first bull in 9 doing the same as you described. I’m now an Az resident but grew up in Vermont still hunting whitetails. A lot of hiking with the wind to my face paid off. I got a 6x7
Tried to PM you and wasn't able to. I think you might need to have 10 posts before PMs are available. Happy to send one later. Congrats again on your great looking bull!
 

Devil Diver Down

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 7, 2009
Messages
1,353
Location
Chandler, Arizona
Congrats on putting a great bull down! Late rifle elk can be tough to hunt in AZ because there are roads everywhere and there have been people in the forests chasing animals non-stop since mid-August. Tends to make those bulls shy. Much of the ponderosa forests are overgrown, so glassing can be really tough in a lot of places. Well done dodging the many ATVs and enjoying packing out your bull.
 

Latest posts

Forum statistics

Threads
100,400
Messages
1,587,321
Members
31,513
Latest member
Bluetix
Top