Hunting Rookie AZ Elk

Devil Diver Down

Active member
Dec 7, 2009
Chandler, Arizona
My brother-in-law, Jason, (who had never even applied for a big game tag before, let alone hunted) and my father (who is 72 and overweight with knees that are shot, plus back troubles) drew late rifle elk tags in the same AZ unit where I took my first archery bull a few years back. On that 2012 hunt, I probably saw 300+ elk in 10 days, but this one was a much different and tougher deal. With these 2 hunters, any expectations or realistic hopes of big bulls were WAY out the window - "if it's brown (and antlered), it's down" was the motto.

I know this unit pretty well but I was just the rifle-loaner, pack mule and camp cook, plus I only had time to scout one day. Not sure if some of the early snow or pressure from earlier hunts had moved the elk out of areas they are normally in late November/early December, but finding animals was scarce this year. We hunted high on the first day and saw nothing and very little fresh sign. We went to lower territory the second day, where I glassed up some cows early. My BIL was so excited when he saw them in the binos that he tried to fit one of the cows with spikes, but I was sure they were cows. Looking at the available sign told me that the herds hadn't moved down yet, so we moved to more middle elevation in the afternoon. We found a good canyon and were able to park less than a mile away, but I couldn't convince my dad to walk with us.

My BIL and I walked an old 2 track for about 15 minutes, nearing the canyon, and I caught movement about 40 yards to my left - a bachelor herd of 6 bulls, including some nice 5x5s, spotted us as I saw them. If I'd had a tag in my pocket, my hunt would've been over. When I got Jason's attention, he nearly strangled himself trying to get the rifle sling off his shoulder. Once off, he chambered a round but forgot to click off the safety. It didn't matter - he had cranked the scope to 14x and I can only imagine the great detail he was able to see on those bulls as they showed us their butts as they trucked out of there through the thick pines. He was bummed and we went over some details, again, about scope, shouldering the rifle, etc., but excited to have been so close and see how things can turn quickly.

After a third day where it never broke 20 degrees, I found a way to get to the other side of that canyon on day 4. As daylight was breaking, all 3 of us walked a good game trail that Y'd at a fenceline. I had a good feeling about following the trail that followed the fence toward the canyon, but my dad didn't want to give up the high ground and have to hike back uphill later. He told us to go ahead, so Jason and I headed down. I showed him where 5 really well-used trails came together near the bottom of the shallow canyon. We had good sight lines in just about every direction, so we got comfortable in a small patch of trees. It was much colder than we expected - a Flagstaff radio station said the low was 5 and the sun hadn't busted over the horizon yet - so we stood after a few minutes, both of us watching opposite ways. Within 5 minutes, Jason whispered, "Bull! Bull!" so I turned toward him and saw a spike picking its way on the uphill trail - heading right to a small clearing 70 yards away. I told Jason to slowly move to the left side of our treeline and wait for him to step into the clearing, then nail him. The bull caught Jason's movement and hesitated at the edge of the clearing - 2 steps from danger. It started to change direction, then circled back to his stopping point. We remained still and he started to proceed but Jason couldn't wait any longer - the .270 roared and the bull stopped short, a warning shot! He jacked another round in and shot again - I could see the bull flinch, but couldn't see where he was hit. The bull started uphill and Jason started running after him. I grabbed him by the jacket and warned him that his legs would give out way before the bull's adrenaline and that he didn't want to push him. There was very little blood on the ground and it made it tough to follow. As we walked uphill, I kept trying to find him with my binos and saw that he laid behind some deadfall. When I tried to get Jason positioned for a finishing shot, the bull got up again and side-hilled away - another miss from the .270 and I was worried this bull would outdistance us and lay down where we couldn't find him. Finally, I could see him lay down again about 200 yards through the trees. We waited a little bit and then circled so Jason would have a shooting lane if the bull rose again right away. He didn't, so I made Jason take his time to get a good rest and finish him with a neck shot. My dad, who'd left us for another direction less than 10 minutes before, arrived to watch Jason gag at the taste of first blood.



I know he has watched Randy's gutless method video many, many times but his technique was still, shall we say, lacking. After giving him helpful instruction for a long while, I finally broke down and dug out my havalon so we could get the bull quartered.

I really, really wanted to get my dad on a bull as drawing AZ is no piece of cake and his app years are limited but unfortunately that night we had some problems with the propane line in my dad's trailer and his sleep/breathing machine froze up, so we hunted unsuccessfully Tuesday before calling it quits. I think his back and legs were bothering him more than he wanted to admit. Tough hunt, but I was glad Jason was able to get it done on his first big game hunt.


Well-known member
Jul 23, 2001
Gilbert, Arizona

Filling a bull elk tag on the late Arizona hunt is an accomplishment, regardless of the size rack --- congratulate your B-I-L for me! Great job on your part breaking a rookie in (wish I'd been there to help with the grunt work) ...


Well-known member
Jul 14, 2013
Thanks for sharing that hunt with us. I can certainly understand getting overly excited at the thought of getting a shot at an elk. For some of us it's not something we get to do very often. With a few more hunting trips with you your BIL will get the hang of it.
Kudos to your dad also. He probably just wanted to hang out with you guys and didn't really care whether he shot any thing or not.
That was the case the last couple of times my dad went hunting with us, he just wanted to be there with his sons and grandsons.

Latest posts

Forum statistics

Latest member