I arrived 2 days prior to the season for some scouting and at first light I watched a couple of really nice bulls on private land near "little green valley" bugle their heads off. Fifteen minutes after first light they moved off of the private land and headed into the hills to bed for the day. I left the valley and walked into an area called Indian Gardens. They were also bugling heavily in this area. As I moved up a ridge, I heard something coming my way as a medium sized bull chase a cow and calf past me at about 10 yards. I thought, "wow, they were really close". As I turned to head back up the ridge I saw a young, 4 point bull coming from the same direction but a little higher up the hill and he was walking right toward me! I thought, "he'll see me in a second and stop"... At 10 yards I thought, "he'll stop any second now"... At five yards I thought, "why hasn't he stopped"... At two yards, I thought, "oh @$%#". He finally stopped directly in front of me close enough I could have smacked him in the nose. Literally, he was two feet away as we eyed each other. I was frozen with fear of being trampled or gored. I saw him start to reach out to sniff this strange looking tree stump and then thought better of it. Instead, he whirled and was gone. That was by far the closest I have ever been to a live elk! The smile on my face would later have to be surgically removed.
The next morning, glassing at little green valley turned up the same two smoker bulls I had seen the day before and they left the meadow in the same manner as they did the day before. There was more bugling in Indian Garden. Opening morning arrived and everything went silent. I would say it's uncanny how they seem to know when the season opens... or it could be all the morons out all night spotlighting all over the unit that tipped them off. Either way, the first day was basically a bust. The second evening I had my first encounter. A couple of friends I had met while scouting (Brent and Joe) were bugling at each other trying to stir things up when a bull started bugling about 15 minutes before the end of shooting light. I moved closer while Brent kept him talking (a deadly tactic we have used in the past). I got to within 50 yards of the bull but was losing light fast. I hid behind a 5 foot Christmas tree and waited. He was moving past me on his way to Brent, way too close. As he passed my hiding spot within 20 feet, I finally got to see he was a decent 6 point. I decided he was plenty big enough and slowly turned to draw a bead on him but he caught my movement and buggered out of there. VERY EXCITING ENCOUNTER! I was pumped to say the least!
The next morning I had heard a few bulls bugle sparingly and had seen a really nice 6 point about a mile away moving through the brush. That evening (day 3) I was sitting on a rock pile not far from Little Green Valley about a half mile from where I had seen the big 6 point that morning. About an hour before dark, I heard some rocks clatter and saw a cow on the adjacent hillside 200 yards away. I moved to get a better view and saw several cows slowly moving across the hillside so I knew there had to be a bull coming. I worked my way down my hill to get into a better position and was successful in cutting the distance to 150 yards. On my way down the hill, I had gotten a good look at the bull and he was a shooter (mature 5 x 6 with a medium size rack). I steadied the crosshairs and pulled the trigger... click instead of boom... Never has that muzzleloader failed to fire in the 10 years I've had it... very strange. So I pulled another primer out of my pocket, steadied the crosshairs and pulled the trigger... click. What the #$@%. I repeated this process 7 or 8 times while the bull stood out there, oblivious to the danger. Actually, he was never in any danger unless I had tried to sneak close enough to whack him over the head with my useless gun. All of the primers I had with me were no good. He walked away never knowing how lucky he was... When I returned to camp, I pulled a primer from the box in my truck, aimed into a creek bank behind camp and pulled the trigger... BOOM! It's possible, I might have cursed a few times. Apparently, primers in one's pocket are rendered useless due to moisture from sweating??? There's no other explanation except it just wasn't that bullsí day to go. Anyway, after purchasing some brand new primers, and finding a better place to carry them, I was ready to close the deal. On the morning of day four, I had an encounter with a bull while Brent was calling behind me again but he just wouldn't commit and all I could see what his rack (medium sized 5 x 6).
The following morning was Tuesday (day 5) and my last to hunt as I was expected to be at work on Wednesday and had a 13 hour drive ahead of me. I arrived an hour before shooting light and was planning to make my way past little green valley in the dark and be on my rock pile at first light. As I made my way in the dark, there were 2 bulls bugling every few minutes, one from the meadow (private) and the other from the hillside across the meadow from me. I crept forward, well away from the edge of the meadow using the darkness and brush to conceal my movement. Finally, I was able to take a position that would allow me a shot at the bugling bull on the hillside when the sun rose. As light trickled into the valley, I realized there were cows feeding just 40 yards from my perch and knew my positioning was perfect. I still couldn't see the bull across the valley but he sounded mature and since it was the last day, I wasn't in a position to be too picky. The wind was blowing directly from me to the cows, so I was glad I had taken the time to complete my daily ritual of washing off with scent free wipes, slathering myself in scent free lotion and spraying my clothes in scent free spray. Many don't believe you can fool an elk's nose but those cows never smelled me and they were directly down wind. I was content to wait this bull out knowing he would have to show himself at some point. Twenty minutes after shooting light officially started, he decided it was time to head into the hills and started gathering his cows. There were some trees between us so I didn't have a clear shot but patiently waited for him to clear the trees. Within minutes, he was pushing his cows across the public land portion of the meadow so I stopped him with a single cow call and squeezed the trigger. This time the gun fired and he was down within 100 yards. He's not a giant, but a mature herd bull was all I was hoping for from the beginning. He was technically a 5 x 6 because his fourth on the left side was broken off from fighting. I'm thrilled with this bull and with the experiences I enjoyed In Arizona. I really feel like I milked every last bit of adventure out of this hunt considering I filled my tag with only hours to spare. Although there was a fair amount of cussing, I believe the adversity I encountered only made the success that much more satisfying. I can't wait to draw in Arizona again!
"Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud"