I was sitting in my ground blind, wondering if, by chance, I could be as fortunate as I was in 2004. It was 5 days into the 2006 Arizona archery elk season, and I couldn’t believe I was hunting for a bull elk only 2 years after drawing my previous tag. The pressure was starting to build, however, because nobody in my group had tagged a bull yet. Opportunities were few and far between on any elk, and it didn’t seem like the bulls were bugling much. I sat in my blind and recalled our archery hunt from 2 years ago.
Round No. 1
We felt fortunate that four of us drew archery elk tags in northern Arizona in 2004, and we spent several weekends scouting the area. We were hunting unguided on public land and decided to use ground blinds. I set up a blind with my brother-in-law, Tom McClain, on the back side of ridge where there was lots of elk sign. On opening morning, I had a spike bull walk up within 20 yards of my blind before being scared away. I didn’t have a minimum-sized elk I was looking for, but I wasn’t going to shoot at the first elk I saw.
I returned to my blind the next morning and watched as several cows and a big bull walked about 150 yards from my blind. I didn’t want to ruin the chances for Tom, so I stayed put and thought about moving my blind a little closer to where I watched these elk after the activity slowed down. The elk were actively bugling in the morning, but there were several hunters in the area trying to spot-and-stalk hunt by calling. After the morning hunt, I talked to Tom about where I watched the elk cross and we both decided to relocate our blinds for the next morning’s hunt. The afternoon once again proved to be a tough hunt and nobody was getting close to a bull.
It didn’t take long for me to appreciate my new hunting spot. Shortly after sunrise, a single cow with a large trailing bull came through my area. They were only 30 yards away but never slowed below a jog. The bull was closely following the cow, and she was leaving in a hurry. I tried to think of a way to catch them but decided it was early and the best thing I could do was stay put. Thirty minutes later I was rewarded for my patience.
From the same direction as the previous two mornings, a cow emerged from the trees and walked parallel to my position about 30 yards away. I repositioned myself and drew my Martin bow and watched intently as four cows emerged, followed by a bull elk. I released and watched as the arrow hit the bull slightly lower than where I wanted. The bull ran off, and I spent the entire day with my hunting partners tracking the animal. Unfortunately, we didn’t recover the animal until the following morning. We were within 40 yards of the bull the day before, but he made an abrupt turn to bed down in some thick cover and we missed finding him.
It was a great relief to find the bull the next morning; he was a true trophy in every sense of the word. He was a huge-bodied 6x6 and grossed 312 Pope and Young Club points. I couldn’t have been happier with my success. I carried a smile on my face for weeks just thinking about my hunt. A couple of days later, Tom tagged a 5x5 bull elk from the same blind, which only made the trip that much more memorable.
Round No. 2
I knew we were going archery elk hunting in Arizona again, but I didn’t know where or whether we’d get bull tags. I guessed we would draw cow tags, but was surprised to learn that we were hunting bulls in the same unit as we did in 2004.
I had scouted the area and freshened up my blind from 2 years ago, and I still liked the location and the elk sign in the immediate area. I watched a small bull and some cows about 70 yards away, but still never got a shot opportunity on any elk. That all changed for me on the final morning of the week-long hunt.
I was sitting in the blind 30 minutes after daylight when I saw elk legs through the trees to my left. I could see the rack of a bull emerging over the top of a large bush; I drew my Hoyt and waited for the bull to step clear of the tree. I made some noise to get him to stop and released my arrow. I heard the arrow hit him before he ran off, and quickly cow called and watched as he stopped and looked back for a moment before walking away. I waited for 30 minutes before trailing him into the trees, and I was relieved to find my second bull from the same blind only 100 yards away. He was not as large as my first bull, but definitely a trophy.
I can’t explain how blessed I am to have harvested two bull elk in Arizona. It amazes me to this day to think that they both were taken from the same ground blind 2 years apart—on public land. And they say lightning never strikes the same place twice!