Booger Canyon. You know the place. Everyone has got one. If not, then you dream about one. Itís that wild hunting Mecca thatís a booger to get into, a booger to get out, itís so dark and deep that only the booger man would live there. Yet all the big boys go there when they get boogered.
So there I was, several days into my northern Arizona archery bull hunt and standing on the edge of Booger Canyon. I couldnít help but smile as I listened to bulls entering this no manís land from all directions. Many of those bulls were hiding there because of the pressure I had applied. I had been hunting the first of the hunt with my brother-in-law, Mel Raney. The rut was in full swing and we had taken full advantage of it. Up until that point I had walked away from literally dozens of bulls. Twenty-three of those bulls, I had drawn on, sighted in, and then let down. The biggest of those would score in the high 340s. I had set my sights on something older and more mature that would score over 350 inches. Although his 20 inch swords and 15 inch fifths made him look very impressive I could see the youth in his face. I figured him for a four year old, and though mature, not the maturity that I was looking for. I had chances on two other bulls that definitely fit the bill. Due to the slightest unseen obstacles those two hogs were still walking around. Mel, having drawn and let down on at least 15 bulls himself wasnít able to join me on that day.
There were definitely easier places to pack out a bull than the depths of Booger Canyon, but thatís where the bulls were. So for the second time that season I bailed off into the black abyss. Much the same as before, the elk reached their bedding areas and shut up before I could get close enough. This time, however, the trails to their beds were well used and pounded to dust. So many elk had been recently using the area that the trails were very well groomed. Dozens of them intertwined making beautiful shooting lanes through the dark timber. I snuck away from the sleeping herds and waited out the day on their back trail. Through out the day, occasional sleepy bugles drifted through the canyon. However, when evening arrived it was deathly silent. I snuck closer to where I had left them and let out a locator bugle. That was all it took to get them going. At least a dozen bulls lit up and they were already heading my way. The first bull got past me. He was so far in front of the others I figured I had time to go check him out. The bull was moving fast and seemed to be alone. The silent trails allowed me to close the distance at a dead run. I approached within 70 yards and then I hit him with a cow call. His reaction was promising. He stopped, bugled at me, then waited for me to come to him. When I didnít show myself he turned back and continued on his way. His actions were typical of an older, wiser bull giving me hope that he might be a shooter. I took off after him. I again closed the distance within 70 yards and then hit him with another cow call. This time, however, I kept on running. When the bull stopped to look back I was able to slip right around him. He bugled his disgust at the invisible cow and then again continued on his way. I saw the bull coming at 45 yards. With his 20 inch thirds and a 22 inch eye guard, I recognized him as an old herd bull I had seen earlier in the hunt. Although he wouldnít score as well as the other two bulls I had shot at, he definitely fit the bill. The big bull stopped broadside at 20 yards and roared one last bugle. Perfect! I thought. I sent my arrow on a split second flight deep into the bullís chest. He crashed away leaving me to listen to the rest of the herd. I found the beautiful animal one hundred yards down the trail. After appropriate thanks and a tricky photo session I got to work skinning and quartering.
When I finished I cleaned up and assessed my situation. It was an hour after dark, I was three miles of dark, blown down timber away from my truck, and I had a big bull down in the bottom of a place that I called Booger Canyon. I laughed knowing what was in store for the next day.
A really good friend, Ryan Sandall and I, returned the next day to retrieve the bull. True to Booger Canyon the carcass had been visited by a bear. He had buried the cape and rib cage but hadnít touched the meat. We packed the boned out meat and antlers ĺ of a mile uphill to a game cart, then two miles downhill on the cart to the truck. My hunt was truly a Booger Canyon experience. My bull definitely fit the mature bill. In fact, with teeth worn flat to the gums, he was over the hill by several years. His rack was big heavy and beautiful, I had easily surpassed my goal and hunt expectations. And I canít wait to once again get the chance to stand on the edge of Booger Canyon and listen to the bugle of a mature bull echo through the dark timber.