Anyone who has hunted Arizona knows that it is not easy country. It is rock, rock and more rock. This unit was volcanic in nature, so it was all kinds of different sizes of rock, and every single one tends to roll. After 4 days of leather stretching in this stuff, my tendon was a little sore as I headed for bed. I had been religiously icing every day, but this time I fell asleep. I knew I had a made a mistake once I woke up and found it grossly swollen. I couldn't take even half a step.
Decision time. Do I still go out and hold everyone else back on the chance to take a bruiser bull? Or do I step up and admit that I shouldn't be doing anything but chill out for the day?
Sometimes you have to swallow your pride and do what's right. I went to the boys and told them that I couldn't hike today; I was asking to cause permanent damage if I tried. They took one look at my ankle and agreed.
The boys left without me, but I knew they would be back by noon because David had a boat to deliver today. I began an icing and stretching regimen through the morning, but was really kicking myself because the weather was just atrocious. Blowing snow, cold temps. Great stalking weather.
Eventually I decided to talk a small walk, because keeping the tendon stretched seems to help. Since the vehicles were gone, I headed into town for breakfast. The weather was miserable, and I was beginning to worry about the guys. The road to Good Heavens Hole was not the greatest, and it looked to be really snowing hard on top of the mountain.
Breakfast found me visiting with some locals, and wouldn't you know it, both were retired officers; in fact, one was the former Chief. We had a wonderful conversation over coffee well into mid-morning, and I learned a lot of local history about the area, the problems Arizona is having with illegal aliens, and just 'stuff'. I also gleaned some good information on where the elk might go after this storm.
I returned to the motel and found that the boys were still not back. Now I was starting to really worry. I hoped they were late coming in because someone got a big ole' stinky, and not because they were stuck. Sooner or later, I heard the trucks pull up.
Looking out the window, I saw TINES. Woo!! Somebody scored, yeah!! I gimped my way out to the truck and saw a really nice bull in the back.
"What do you think?" I heard from behind me. Turning around, I see Paul and start laughing. "Beautful bull!" said I, then pointed out that some scope bit him on the face.
He was still bleeding. We all laughed, because apparently this is not the first time he had fought with his scope and come away the loser!
I was just tickled for him. He and David shared the story with me while we worked on caping the head.
David had gone back to the same point as yesterday morning and as the sun came up, spotted the bull in it's bed. He said it was really cool the way the sun lit him up, and he spent a while just watching him be a bull. Then he grabbed Paul and they put together a cross-canyon shot of some pretty good distance. The bull ended up sliding down into a horrible spot, but once the Sherpa Team descended upon it, the work and packout went well.
The best part, according to Dan? "We get the afternoon off!!" Yup, it was time to celebrate. One down, two to go. It was time for PIE.
We talked over the hunt so far, and I shared the information I was given over breakfast. It was decided that everyone should just rest up. (That really meant me, I know they were just being good guys). Dan mentioned that on the ranch upon which he guides in Colorado, the average is one bull for every 2.5 days of hunting.
Looked like we were on track. Now all I needed to do was get this tendon in shape for some more rock crawlin', so I continued my icing/stretching/walking regimen into the evening. It was looking much better and I was confident that I could be back at it for Day 4, which began early...and cold!
Groan. With wind, too that made the chill factor below zero.
We were headed back to Bull Pocket for the morning. On the way in, David suddenly stopped. To our left, we could hear hoof on rock. We knew it was elk, there were no range cows in this area. It seemed to be walking parallel to us, so we angled off slowly as the sky lightened. David finally got a look at it, and could see horn, but not how big.
Soon we settled back into our rimrock perch and the game began. I was so glad to be wearing my wool today, that wind was just brutal. My boogers froze, I kept icing up my bino's, and I absolutely dreaded the moment I might have to water the bushes.
See, you guys don't have it so bad.
I had to get up and move around, and the minute I walked away I heard David hissing at me to get back, because Team 2 had a bull spotted we needed to look at. We hustled over to them, and I took a look through the scope.
MASS. My heart pounded. "That's him, boys, that's my bull". I have always let my heart decide my animal, and mine was beating out of my chest. He was one canyon away, but if we could get to the next rim, he would be within 400 yards. Team 2 would stand by in preparation for retrieving pack frames from the truck.
Bailing off the rim, Team 1 quickly found ourselves battling our favorite friends, Holly and Laurel. Those girls had been beating the snot out of us for days, and we decided at this moment that we hated them. HATED THEM!!! It took some doing, but we finally got into the bottom.
Then we heard it. A CHUFF! chuff chuff chuff. CRAP!! BEAR!! We were nearly at a run, and all we saw of him was a big black butt running down the canyon, thank heavens.
David was rock-hopping and I was running like mad to keep up. Tendon be damned, I'm going to get my bull!! We neared the next rim, and paused below to catch our breath. Slowly we crawled over the top:
Gone. As in, nowhere to be seen, zip, zilch, nada. What the ??
The wind was being squirrely, maybe he winded us. David went left and I went right, both looking directly into the bottom. Dangit!! Where was this bull??
Never thought a Coue's buck would help find a elk bull, but he did. David saw the buck staring hard to his right, followed the direction of the stare and saw the bull standing in the trees. I crawled over to him and laid down underneath a juniper. The sun was coming up, I had only moments before it would be right into my scope.
"Range?" I asked him. It was so cold that the rangefinder would only range to about 450, and the bull was a bit further. But he was moving, too, there was no way I was going to shoot at a moving bull at that range.
Finally he stopped. I held the 450 hashmark upon his chest and squeezed the trigger. We heard the bullet hit home, but the bull had no reaction. I was not happy with my position, and tried adjusting. Unfortunately I also violated Rule #2 of firearms safety. The second shot was pure accident, but since I was only moving my body and not my gun, I'll be danged if that second round didn't go right through his shoulder.
The bull spun and began to come downhill. I knew he was hit hard, but he was headed for the Hole. I hit him again and he stopped. The final round I put in his spine, and he dropped. We later ranged back to the shooting tree. 470 yards! I was so totally stoked, that is the longest shot I've ever made on an animal, love this new scope!
David and I exchanged high-fives, I think he was as excited as I!! Faintly from the first rim I could hear the boys cheering.
"Sherpa 1 to Sherpa Team", David said into the radio.
"B...B...D, request Sherpa Team assistance". He actually giggled while saying that. Logan busted for packframes, while the rest of the team met up and headed our way.
We climbed across the bottom and to the bull. The mass was incredible, and he has some neat little bumps on his fronts. In fact, he had a split g-2 on one side that had broken off. Light colored, he was clearly a resident PJ bull.
My first PJ bull ever! I was so dang excited!! Remember the 'wowie-wowie moment'? This was another, only more deliberate:
It was time to go to work. Now, let me tell you what-I have not had a Sherpa Team before, and certainly not one with a taxidermist and professional guide. They made very short work of this bull, and before I could snap my fingers, quarters were on packframes and we were ready to start the march out.
I had to beg just to carry out the antlers. I know the guys were taking good care of me, but I felt like I was getting a free ride, so I strapped 'em on the Badlands and took my time, as we had some challenging terrain ahead.
There is NO WAY I could have done this with my bunged up ankle. Talk about dedicated Sherpas.
One last look back, and me, my shadow and my bull left this now special place and slowly walked the final mile to the truck.
Now, I do have to admit that I was party to a pretty funny, albeit somewhat mean practical joke. Paul was packing out my cape and some meat. He had trouble folding up the cape to get it to fit in his pack, so the guys wrapped it up good-
AROUND A 15 POUND ROCK.
He packed that rock all the way back to the truck. So when I got back, I asked him if I could see the cape so I could see exactly where that second shot had hit. In the meantime, I stood far enough away to avoid the violence sure to come.
The look on a friend's face when he realizes he packed a rock for miles: PRICELESS!!
After a well-deserved lunch and moving elk parts back to storage, we decided to take the afternoon off and do some more truck scouting in a totally different area. Guess what we found? Yup, elk.
We also something interesting out on a fin.
What do you think it is? I think lookout, the guys think it has some ceremonial significance. The crazy part about it is that we could not figure out how the builders even got out there, let alone carried the rocks to make it. More secrets never to be known.
We headed back to town, where I was taking Team Sherpa to a fine steak dinner.
Dan said we really screwed up his statistical analysis by taking 2 bulls in 2 days. I don't think a guy with a shirt like this should even say such things.
I think Dan is good luck, and I hoped we blew his stats out of the water by taking a third bull in the morning, because we had elk spotted and plans made.
It was Blank's turn, and we were going to do everything we could to make his hunt a screaming success.